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You got a new iPhone 12 for the holidays — here are the first things you should do

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Key Points
  • You may have received a new iPhone over the holidays, so I'll show you some of the first things you should do to get started.
  • A lot of the tips here apply to older devices running Apple's latest iOS 14 software, which means you don't need an iPhone 12 for all of them.
  • Some tips include adding widgets to the home screen, clearing up app clutter and managing your 5G connection on the iPhone 12.

In this article

iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max
Todd Haselton | CNBC

You may have received a new iPhone over the holidays. Or maybe you bought one for yourself. If you did, there are a few tips and tricks you should know about that will help you get the most out of it.

A lot of these tricks are part of Apple's latest software, iOS 14, which means they don't just apply to the new iPhone 12 models. Aside from a couple of tips that are specific to the iPhone 12, they'll also work on other iPhone models, which means you can still try these even if you have an iPhone SE or an older model, like the iPhone 11.

Clean up all the apps cluttering your home screen

The App Library organizes all of your apps for you.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

A new App Library feature in iOS 14 helps get rid of all of the apps that clutter your home screen. Instead of seeing all of them, you can hide a bunch off in a side panel that you can search as needed. That means you'll have more room for widgets. (More on widgets in a bit.)

Here's how to set up App Library:

Make sure App Library is turned on. To do that:

  • Open Settings.
  • Tap Home Screen.
  • Check "App Library Only."

Next, you can turn off the pages all of your apps appear on.

To do that:

  • Tap and hold on the home screen.
  • Tap the gray bar at the bottom of the screen.
  • Uncheck the circles for all of your home screens with apps on them.

Now, the App Library will automatically store all of your apps to the right of your primary home screen.

Have fun with widgets

My clean home screen with widgets and just a few apps. Everything else I need is organized.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Widgets are little boxes that appear on your home screen and show you more information about an app. For example, you can see some of your most recent playlists or podcasts on Spotify and jump right into it again. Or you can see how far along your Apple Watch Fitness rings are, see highlight photos from Apple photos and more.

Most of Apple's apps have widgets, as do many major third-party apps, like Google. More apps are adding support all the time, so check your widgets menu regularly to see if your favorite app added support.

You can add widgets to your home screen by pressing and holding anywhere until the app icons start wobbling, then tap the + button on the top left. Tap an app and select a widget size and it'll appear right on your home screen.

How to turn 5G on and off (iPhone 12 models only)

The iPhone 12, by default, will save battery by switching between 5G and 4G LTE as needed.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple's new iPhone 12 models automatically switch between 5G and older 4G LTE networks to save battery life. But, sometimes the iPhone 12 will connect to a 5G network even if your existing 4G LTE network is faster. You may also want to stay on 4G LTE just to save battery life. You can toggle between 4G and 5G by doing this:

  • Open Settings.
  • Tap Cellular.
  • Choose "Cellular Data Options."
  • Pick "Voice and Data"
  • Choose from "5G Auto" (which automatically switches between 4G and 5G, depending on what you're doing on your phone), "5G On" (which keeps 5G on all the time) or "LTE" (which keeps 4G on all the time).

Pro tip: Use the SpeedTest app to see which network is fastest where you live.

Charge faster

Apple's 20-watt iPhone charger.
Apple

The new iPhone 12 models don't come with a charging brick that you plug into the wall. And your iPhone won't charge as fast as possible if you use the old, small 5-watt Apple charger that you might still have around the house from older Apple gadgets. You need to buy an 18-watt charger (or faster) if you want to be able to charge your iPhone 12 up to 50% in 30 minutes. I recommend Apple's $19 20-watt iPhone plug or Anker's similarly priced charging brick

Picture in picture

Using picture-in-picture on an iPhone running iOS 14
Todd Haselton | CNBC

This feature is fun. If you want to watch movies or TV shows from Netflix, Apple TV+ or other services, you can use a new feature called picture-in-picture. It's been around on the iPad and on Macs for a long time, but it's finally on the iPhone.

It lets you watch shows in a tiny box while you use other apps. It works with a bunch of apps including NetflixHBO Max, Hulu and Apple TV.

Here's what you do:

  • Open the app you want to use, such as Netflix.
  • Start playing a movie or TV show.
  • Swipe up from the bottom screen after it starts playing, as if you're closing the app.
  • The video will start playing in a small window on your screen.
  • You can resize the window by pinching or pulling it.
  • Tap the video again and select the resize button in the top-right to bring it back to full screen.

Group chats and threaded messaging

Messages in iOS 14
Apple

If you're like me, you may have a bunch of group chats with friends and family in iMessage. With iOS 14, you can pin those important group chats to the top of your messages list. It makes those chats easy to find whenever you want to jump back in. Just do this:

  • Open Messages on your iPhone.
  • Tap and hold a chat that you want to pin to the top of the screen.
  • Choose "Pin."

This also works with individual text message threads, not just groups. You can unpin a chat by tapping and holding one of them and choosing "Unpin."

Group chats also support threaded messaging, allowing you to reply to a specific comment in a chat. To do this, open a group chat, press and hold a message and choose "Reply."

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