6 iPhone 4 tips

Get more from your iPhone 4 by turning on character counts in text messaging, changing fonts for readability, avoiding the "Death Grip," and more.

Turn on character counts in text messaging.

To keep track of text message character counts, go to Settings -> Messages -> Character Count, and flip the switch to "on." When you type a text message, you'll see a character count. The character count started when I got to 30 characters in a quick test.

Make notes, text messages, and address book entries easier to read by making the font bigger.

Change the font in Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Large Text.

The Accessibility controls have a couple of tricks for everybody, not just disabled people. For example, you can zoom the screen, set mono audio for occasions when you're using only one earbud, and VoiceOver lets you control the iPhone without looking at it. You can even shut off the screen entirely.

Search Wikipedia and Google using Spotlight.

To get to the Spotlight screen, swipe right from the home screen. From there, type to search the contents of your phone. Scroll down to the bottom of the results to see entries for searching Google and Wikipedia.

Set Bing as your default search engine.

Go to Settings -> Safari -> Search Engine and set your default search engine. Choose between Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Bing is new.

"My iPhone has a yellow spot on the screen. What can I do to get rid of it?"

There have been some reports of yellowish discoloring on iPhone screens. Some people say the yellow fades away late on the first day they have the iPhone. So wait and see if it goes away on its own. If it doesn't, call Apple to complain -- and let me know. Leave a comment below.

"My iPhone 4 loses signal strength sometimes for no apparent reason. What's going on and how to I fix it?"

Well, AT&T has notoriously poor service in many areas, so you might just have to live with the problem, or get a new phone.

Or you could move to somewhere with better AT&T service. It's fine here in San Diego, where I live -- and the weather's great too. Still, that might be a drastic solution to solving your iPhone reception problem.

However, you may be experiencing a known bug that some people are calling the "Death Grip." The problem: The iPhone antenna is embedded in the strip around the body of the phone, and holding the antenna with your hand can disrupt the signal. This is true for any antenna, but it's a particular problem with the iPhone because of the antenna placement.

Apple confirms the problem, and says you can avoid the bug by holding the iPhone in such a way that you're not gripping the lower left corner of the phone, writes my colleague Gregg Keizer. Either that, or get an iPhone case.

It seems to be a rare problem -- most people are reporting significantly better phone service with the iPhone 4 than with previous models. Still, it's a significant design flaw from Apple.

For more of these tips, go to the articles where I got a few ideas: Macworld's David Chartier provided some and the New York Times's David Pogue suggested others.

Mitch Wagner

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is a freelance technology journalist and social media strategist.

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