3 hidden iOS Settings you need to know

Apply these oft-overlooked iOS settings to better control your privacy and extend your data limits

Apple, iOS, iOS 10, iOS 11, iPhone, iPad, hidden features
Adam Patrick Murray

These iOS Settings are often overlooked, but once you get to know them you can control your privacy and extend your data limits.

Wi-Fi settings

Wi-Fi Assist helps you enjoy a better connection by using your mobile data network to supplement a patchy Wi-Fi connection.

This is fine when you have data bandwidth to burn, but it isn't great at all when you are coming close to the end of your data allocation. You don’t want to pay a surcharge, do you? You don’t have to—just remember how to control the feature.

So, where is it?

Open Settings>Cellular and scroll to the bottom of the next page—keep scrolling through the long list of all your apps and their mobile data permissions. You’ll find Wi-Fi Assist near the bottom of the page, toggle it to green (on) if you want to use it. If you don’t want to use it, toggle to off (white). When it is enabled, Wi-Fi Assist will automatically use mobile data to help boost your connection.

[Also read: 50+ essential iOS 10 tips you’ll use every day]

Background App Refresh

New in iOS 11 is a feature that lets you fine-tune how your apps update themselves. Open Settings>General>Background App Refresh> Background App Refresh and you’ll see three choices:

  • Off
  • Wi-Fi (the new option)
  • Wi-Fi & Mobile Data (usually on by default).

This is a big improvement because it means you can set your apps to refresh in the background only when you are on Wi-Fi, which should help you preserve data bandwidth and battery life.

This also means your Mail, other regularly updated information and apps will be automatically brought up to date whenever you get onto a Wi-Fi connection. It’s a useful addition some may have missed. Here are some other ways to manage cellular data bandwith.

Location data

Location Services are useful. They allow apps and websites to use information about your approximate location to deliver relevant information to you, such as travel directions.

What’s less widely known is that iOS gathers and stores information about your most frequently visited locations. This helps it to figure out what you need to know, but it is possible that you don’t want a record kept of some of the places you frequently go—particularly if you work in an industry in which security and privacy matter. You can get rid of the location information your device gathers about you in a relatively hidden setting.

So, where is it?

Open Settings>Privacy>Location Services

Scroll way, way down the page past the list of all the apps you use and the access to your location data you have agreed to provide those apps (you may want to take a look at all of these). Look to the bottom of the list for "System Services."

Tap System Services and in the next page, scroll down a little to find Frequent Locations. Tap this.

Once you reach the Frequent Locations page, you may want to spend a moment wondering why it took so many steps to find that page. But it took a while to get there, so we had probably best press on.

You can stop your device from gathering Frequent Locations data on this page. You can also review all the different places you’ve been in your History section. Tap on any of these to see more information about where you have been, including a neat map. You can’t get rid of locations on an individual basis, but you can tap Clear History… to delete them all, and then disable the feature.

Be warned: Disabling Frequent Location may impact some of the features you may use. You won’t see estimated travel times in Today view, for example. Apple also says this information is not shared with Apple or stored online; it’s all kept on your device.

I hope you enjoyed exploring these lesser known Settings. Take a look at the 50+ best features in iOS 11 for even more tips.

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