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[personal profile] thorfinn

There's been a new wave of people acquiring iPhones around me, either the 3GS or the 4. I have an older iPhone Fu post, but it's time for an updated version, more focused around usage tips and newer functionality that's available. This is a pretty long post, but do take the time to read it sometime, especially if you're new to the iPhone.

Also, if any of this post is confusing, tell me about it? I'm hoping that this is readable for non-geeks. :-) If there's something you don't understand, it's me, not you, please let me know so I can work out how to explain it better!

Usage Basics

Smartphone Security

Firstly, if this is your first "smartphone", please note, this thing is a small portable Internet Connected computer, not just a phone. As a result, you need to plug it into a real computer with iTunes installed on a regular basis to:

  1. automatically make a backup of your iPhone's data so it can be restored if something goes wrong;
  2. Check for software and security updates and install them on your phone.

For more info on computer security for non-geeks, see my post Computer Security Alerts for End Users - Be Alert, Not Alarmed. Also, I recommend against "jail-breaking" your phone unless you understand what it does and fully understand the potentially bad security implications of doing it. If you don't know what jail-breaking is, probably best to stay away from it.

In addition, do set a phone Passcode (or password if you want to be ultra secure - see Settings - General - Passcode Lock - Simple Passcode). It's going to have a lot of personal data on it, plus it's your phone, so requiring a passcode helps prevent others getting access to your personal data and phone if you accidentally lose the phone.


Secondly, after playing with it for a short while to get familiar with the relatively obvious things, go to Apple's iPhone Tips. That's pretty much the one-stop shop for all the iOS (Apple's Mobile Operating System - runs on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) interface features that aren't immediately obvious. Good information on things like rotation locking, camera focus control, etc. Some of this stuff doesn't apply to iPad yet, iPad is still on iOS version 3.2, iPhones/iPod Touches are up to iOS version 4.0.2.

A few things that page doesn't mention are:

  • Reorganising Apps: Once you have downloaded a number of apps, you'll probably want to move them around or group them in folders to make them easy to find. On the phone, you can touch-and-hold on an App's icon, which will start all your apps going wibbly wobbly, give them a little "X" to delete, and make them draggable. You can then drag them around and release to drop. Drop an app on top of another app to create a folder which you can rename. You can also do this quicker and easier in the iTunes "Apps" tab of your phone whilst it's plugged in. Note that you can pull apps on and off the bottom bar, so you can choose what you want as your "always available" 4 apps.
  • Multi-Tasking: The multi-tasking interface is brought up by "double press" of the home button. That brings up your recently-used apps at the bottom bar. Swipe left (touch left, drag right) to go to the "iPod Control". Swipe right (touch right, drag left) to see more recent apps. If you touch-and-hold, that will cause the app bar to go wibbly wobbly just like reorganising your apps. The little X icon causes an app to be removed from the "recent apps" and therefore to "quit" if it happens to be running in the background.
  • Voice Control: Hold down the home button to access Voice Control. See Apple's Voice Control Info for more details, but it's fairly self explanatory.
  • FaceTime: Wi-fi video calls, iPhone 4 only. See Apple's Face Time Info for how to try it. May not work with some wifi connections due to firewall issues. Works well for calling someone down the other end of the house actually. :-) I expect this will become available over 3G at some point, but data charges are still too insane and the Telcos are just not ready for it yet.
  • iPhone Settings: On the iPhone, go to the Settings app and look through it when you have some time. There's a lot of stuff in there that you may wish to configure, and it's also a centralised location for application configuration information. If you don't understand something, it's usually okay to leave the default setting there.
  • In App Purchasing: In addition to buying Apps, some Apps have the option of purchasing "upgrades" or "items" within the App to get you additional features or suchlike. I recommend turning this off unless you specifically encounter a situation where you need it. Settings - General - Restrictions - Allowed Content - In-App Purchases - "Off".
  • iTunes Configuration: Plug the iPhone in, select it in the left hand bar in iTunes, and go through the rather a lot of tabs that then pop up. There's a lot of configuration there for what you want to synchronise, etc. You can also right-click (or ctrl-left-click) the phone to bring up a little menu to take an immediate backup or similar. Double-click the "iPhone" label in the left hand bar and you can give your phone a nice name.
  • iTunes Synchronisation: I recommend turning off synchronising Mail and Calendar and Contacts using iTunes, and using Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts synchronisation on the iPhone directly instead. See the "Cloud Life" section below for details of that.
  • iTunes Library Apps Updating: Do regularly go to iTunes - Library - Apps - Check for Updates in order to update your applications to the latest versions.

iPhone 4 Case Program

Due to "antennagate", if you buy an iPhone 4 before 30 Sept 2010, you are entitled to a free case (Apple iPhone Case Program Info). The actual iPhone 4 antenna story is that with no case and with your thumb on the gap, the antenna is still as good as iPhone 3G.

That said, a case is good anyway for protection. I've drop-kicked my old 3G across a road, and without a case, it would've taken serious damage. With the case, no problem. For details and reviews of the free cases you can choose between see: iLounge: iPhone 4 Case Program or Macworld: Free iPhone 4 Cases.

Telco/ISP Fu

If you received your iPhone from a Telco in Australia, it comes network-locked so you can't take it anywhere else. Fortunately, thanks to the fact that we have very good consumer protection laws, provided you got it on a post-paid plan, you can ring up your carrier and tell them to remove the network-lock from your phone. They are required to do that for free - some of them may try to charge you a fee, don't let them. Threaten them with an ACCC complaint if they try.

Depending on your plan, you may or may not have "tethering" available to you. If you do, you can turn it on and off on the phone in Settings - General - Network - Internet Tethering. (That option isn't visible if tethering is not available to you on your carrier's plan). If it's on, simply connect your phone to your laptop whilst you're out and about, and voila, your laptop is internet connected.

Settings - General - Usage tells you how much mobile data you're using, go to that screen and hit "Reset Statistics" at the start of your billing period, so you can check if you're going to go over. Your carrier usually has some kind of website where you can go to check your data usage. If you're with Optus, get the "My Account Optus" app. The "Consume" app for the phone also lets you get much of this data.

Get Wi-Fi on your home internet connection (and please secure it with a password), and configure your phone to use that when you're at home, to save on mobile data usage.

Cloud Life

There are two main options for synchronising data on your phone with your computer (particularly calendar and address book). The first option is to synchronise using iTunes - this means the information is compared when you plug your iPhone into your home computer, and updates are shared only at that time.

The second option, if you want changes to your data to be synchronised without needing to plug the phone into your computer, and you want access to email from anywhere, you will need to set up a "Cloud" service. This service will use the internet to synchronise your data, but it will use your phone plan's internet data allowance to do so. You will also need to set your home computer to synchronise with the "Cloud" service.

There are essentially two available to you:Google or Mobile Me.

I'm actually using Google for Mail and Calendar; and Mobile Me for Address Book, Find My iPhone and iDisk; but there's no real reason to use both.

Mobile Me is quite good, and the major point-of-difference is the "Find My iPhone" web service, where you can log in and make your iPhone beep even if it's on silent, see where it is on a map, send it a message, and potentially remote-wipe it if you want to do that. It's pretty good insurance if you're the sort of person who might leave their phone somewhere accidentally. If you choose Mobile Me, I'll let you sort that out the cloud life, Apple gives you pretty good instructions, I think.

If you're starting fresh and/or don't want to spend money, I recommend using GMail and Google Calendar and GMail Contacts, as they are free and also work just fine.

Google Cloud Setup Details
  1. If you don't already have mail and calendar set up, do that at and respectively.
  2. See GMail Managing Contacts Help for setting up GMail Contacts. Make sure you upload or enter all your existing contacts to there before you try and synchronise things.
  3. Follow this help page on Enabling IMAP in Gmail to turn on IMAP.
  4. Set up your iPhone using instructions from here Mail, Calendar, & Contacts: Set Up Your Apple Device for Google Sync Help
  5. Set up your computer to sync your email using IMAP too: GMail IMAP help
  6. And for syncing your Calendar to your computer too: Google Calendar Sync Help
  7. And if you're using a Mac, Apple Address Book Google Contacts Sync Help tells you how to synchronise your Address Book to Google Contacts. I'm not sure if there's anything available under Windows to synchronise the computer's address book directly to Google Contacts (someone let me know if there is).

Websites to find Apps at

There are quite a few more, but these two are the best in my opinion:

App Recommendations

These are not links, just search for them in the iTunes Store interface or the App Store on the phone. I'll put a "$" next to the non-free apps. These are primarily Apps I use regularly or have used, so this is not comprehensive coverage.

  • $ Pkt Weather (Australian Bureau of Meteorology backed, includes radar views, push notifications)
  • $ OzWeather (Another australian weather app)
  • $ RainRadar AU (The BoM Radar)
  • Melbourne Coffee Review (For finding the Truly Important Thing In Life)
  • Beanhunter (For finding the Truly Important Thing In Life)
  • AroundMe (many categories of stuff)
  • Urbanspoon (specifically restaurants)
  • Take Me To My Car (parking location rememberer)
  • iParkit (parking location rememberer)
  • ParkPatrol (parking location rememberer and crowd-sourced inspector alerts)
  • Show The Loo (public toilets in Australia near you)
  • tramTracker (dingding!)
  • CoDriver from CarsGuide (great GPS based speed warning, trip tracking, etc. You'll need a windscreen mount (such as the one I bought from
  • 13CABS (Order a cab, watch it come to you live)
  • Metlink Melbourne (a bit of a monolithic application, but comprehensive Melbourne Public Transport timetables)
  • Here I Am (quickly send a pre-configured email with google map link)
  • Google Mobile App (everything google here)
  • Free Wi-Fi Finder (list of free wi-fi spots)
  • Wi-Fi Finder (list of non-free wi-fi spots)
  • Layar ("augmented reality" nearby stuff overlay)
  • $ Lonely Planet Guides (more than one app, geographic location specific)
  • $ TomTom (the GPS Navigator - if you go outside of network access and want a navigator, this does the trick. You may want the TomTom external cradle if you have the 3GS for better GPS, the iPhone 4's GPS is a little better and the Tom Tom cradle doesn't fit.)
  • Twitter (there's others, but this is the official one, I'm @thorfi there)
  • Facebook ( is me)
  • Fring (variety of chat protocols, and a VoIP client if you have a VoIP service)
  • Skype ( I am thorfy there)
  • Bump (for exchanging data)
  • AIM Lite (make sure you get the official one)
  • MSN Messenger (again make sure you get the official one if you want to)
  • PingChat ( my ID is thorfi)
  • Livejournal ( I'm thorfinn there)
  • Flickr (official upload app)
  • GorillaCam (Alternate photo taking application, few different options to the Apple one)
  • CameraPlus (Alternate photo taking application, few different options to the Apple one)
  • $ Color Splash (Photo colour fiddling)
  • Remote Live Camera (bluetooth camera sharing)
  • $ iMovie (Apple iMovie, iPhone 4 only)
  • Whole Foods (recipe database - US based)
  • (Australian recipe database)
  • Poh's Kitchen (Recipe database, videos from the show, suchlike)
  • ShopShop (very simple and easy to use shopping list utility)
  • Wikiamo (Wikipedia browser with cache)
  • Australia Post Mobile (official Aus Post app)
  • Phone Aid (First aid info)
  • Dropbox (if you are not already using then you should be)
  • NetNewsWire (backed onto Google Reader)
  • SendStuffNow ( see for file sharing)
  • MobileMe iDisk (if you are using MobileMe then you can access your iDisk here)
  • Consume (logs into a whole bunch of websites and tells you what your usage caps are of stuff)
  • $ Circulator (Personal Lending/Borrowing tracking utility)
  • $ Sleep Cycle alarm clock (awesome for tracking your sleep quality)
  • Melbourne Water (melbourne water information)
  • My Account Optus (Optus my account application)
  • iBooks (ebook reader and shop)
  • Kindle (ebook reader and shop)
  • Stanza (ebook reader)
  • $ Goodreader (eBook Reader)
  • Shakespeare (the complete works)
  • Chronolite (configurable multiple timer utility)
  • OneTapDial (lets you add "Call/SMS Person" as home screen items)
  • A Free Level (a bubble level)
  • Flashlight. (Flashlight activator)
  • TouchMouse (by Logitech - use your phone as a touchpad for your computer)
  • QuickMark QR Code Reader (2D barcode reader)
  • iTranslate (translation utility)
  • Interpret (translation utility)
  • Units (conversion calculator, includes currency fu)
  • Convertbot (conversion calculator, includes currency fu)
  • Blizzard Mobile Authenticator (for World of Warcraft nerds)
  • Memory Sweep (in case you're curious what's running under the hood, or want to check your phone's RAM usage)
  • Sol Free Solitaire (basic solitaire games)
  • $ Chop Sushi! (essentially a 2d blocks puzzler, but very cute)
  • $ Warlords: Call To Arms (real time 2d-lanes tactical/strategic)
  • $ Plants vs Zombies (real time 2d-lanes tactical/strategic)
  • $ Space Miner: Space Ore Bust (asteroids/ship upgrade game with a cute plot)
  • $ Catan (The basic Settlers of Catan game, no expansions)
  • $ Carcassone (The tile game, including a solitaire mode and multiplayer)
  • $ Cluck It! (chicken crossing road - very hilarious and fun, Frogger style but much better)
  • $ Fantastic Contraption (the game of website fame)
  • $ Flight Control (finger trace land the planes - quick and fun)
  • $ Underworlds (basic Diablo type game - melee only)
  • $ Paper Toss (surprisingly fun game)
  • $ Strategery (hex based conquest game - there is a Strategery Lite)
  • $ Civilisation Revolutions (basic, but recognisable and still fun)
Musical Thingies
  • $ Midomi (what's that song that's playing?)
  • $ Shazam (what's that song that's playing?)
  • Zen Piano (1 octave piano with loudness controlled by tap strength)
  • Virtuoso Piano Free (piano with loudness controlled by tap strength)
  • iMaracas (shakeshakeshake)
  • Tuner440 (instrument tuner, including "free mode" with different notes)
  • inTune A440 (strobe tuner for A440 specifically - only)
  • Metronome (tick tock)
  • $ Ocarina (an ocarina!)
  • Remote (Apple iTunes remote controller)
  • $ Koi Pond (splash!)
  • $ Pocket Pond (splash!)
  • iStethoscope (badoump)
  • iSeismo (earthquake?)
  • Banner Free (big scrolly banner)
  • Labyrinth Lite (rolling ball maze puzzle)
  • Lightsaber (vrwoomp)
  • Zippo Lighter (fsshwwomp)
  • iNeko (meow, purr, zzzZZZ)
  • iDaliClock (yes, really, Dali Clock by jwz, ported by the man himself)
  • PwGen (Password Generator, useful for normal users, not just techies)
  • $ TouchTerm (SSH client)
  • $ iSSH (SSH client)
  • Net Utility (bunch of net utilities rolled into one)
  • Mocha Ping Lite (includes a handy ping-whole-subnet display)
  • Mocha RDP Lite (Windows Remote Desktop)
  • Mocha VNC Lite (VNC client - mac, linux, etc)
  • Speed Test (bandwidth speed tester)
  • $ WiFiFoFum (awesome WiFi scanner app - includes 2D radar view)
Computer/Math Nerd Utilities
  • UNIX Epoch (you too can know the number of seconds since 1970-01-05T00:00Z)
  • cmpxRPN (complex number and reverse polish notation calculator)
  • GraphCalc (Polynomial Graphs Curve OK)
  • PCalc Lite (alternative calculator)
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