Quickly find the iPhone Settings you’re looking for

How can you find the setting you need out of the thousands on the iPhone? This article describes four methods.

There are a LOT of Settings on an iPhone

The very first step in adjusting an iPhone setting is finding the setting you want to adjust. This isn’t always easy, due to the overwhelming number of settings available. This article aims to help.

In the olden days (like on the original iPhone) there were just a few settings.

Original iPhone Settings screens.
Original iPhone Settings screens. Yes, three swipes and you’d seen everything.

Over the years, Apple’s added more and more features to the iPhone, and given us more and more control, until now we have a giant mess of Settings, which many people (including myself) find difficult to navigate. There are just too many settings, and the organizational scheme isn’t all that great. Trying to find the one you want, when you might not even know what it’s called, is hard.

LOTS of Settings screens on an iPhone XS with iOS 13
Twenty-nine settings screens on my iPhone XS under iOS 13. Click for a larger version!

Find the one you want by searching

The easiest way to find a setting is to let the iPhone find it for you. This is usually faster than paging through the Settings app, trying to locate something by eye.

There are two places to instigate a search: from within the Settings app, and from any Home screen.

Search in the Settings app itself

Step One is finding where to search. In the Settings app, scroll to the very top (here’s a shortcut) and there’s the Search box.

Enter some text and settings that match your search– or rather, settings that seem to have something to do with your search– will appear.

Searching in the Settings app for "Screen"
Searching in the Settings app for “Screen”

You don’t have to tap the blue “Search” button as the search is “live” but if you do tap it, the keyboard goes away and you’ll see more results.

Paths to settings highlighted in green
Searching in Settings for “Screen” after tapping the blue Search button

Some of the results are the names of the settings themselves, from the first page of the Settings app. Other results point to settings that are buried one or more layers deep. Look carefully and you’ll see the path to some of these are quite long.

Paths to settings highlighted in green
Paths to settings highlighted in green

Fortunately, all you have to do is tap and you’ll go straight to the setting you tapped, no matter how many layers down it is. No need to tap, scroll, tap, scroll, tap… just tap on the setting you care about and you go right there.

Here’s another search. This time I wanted to know how to turn on and off the keyboard click sounds.

Searching for "Click" in the Settings app.
Searching for “Click” in the Settings app

Search from the Home screen

You don’t have to be in the Settings app to do a search! You can be on any Home screen. Swipe down from anywhere NOT at the very top and you’ll get a search box similar to the one you saw in the Settings app.

Enter some text and right away you’ll get results. As before, no need to tap the blue “Search” button– this is also a “live” search.

Searching the entire iPhone for the word "Display"
Searching the entire iPhone for the word “Display”

This saves you the trouble of opening the Settings app first, although it is not nearly as robust. For example, searching for “click” only gets you a few items, and none is the one that controls the keyboard click. So, in practice you should use this kind of search only when you know the name of the setting and you just want to go there in a hurry.

Searching entire iPhone for "click." Not as many results as when we search the Settings app.
Searching entire iPhone for “click.” Not as many results as when we search the Settings app.

Let Siri find the Settings you want

Personally, I’d rather let Siri do it. You can say “Hey Siri, open the brightness setting” and up pops “Displays and Brightness.”

You can say “Hey Siri, make it brighter” and not only does the screen get brighter, but you get a little slider in case you need to fine-tune things.

Result of asking Siri to "Make it brighter."
Result of asking Siri to “Make it brighter.”

Here are some other things Siri can do. This list is far from exhaustive; try these but try asking her to do other things too. You never know!

  • Make it louder (it’s done, with a slider too)
  • Turn on WiFi (it’s done)
  • Show Safari Settings (you go straight to the Safari Settings
  • Show Cellular Data settings (you get a button to tap)
  • Open Accessibility settings (you’re taken to the Accessibility settings, and wow are there a lot of them!
Zillions of options under Accessibility in the Settings
Zillions of options under Accessibility in the Settings

Use the Control Center

The Control Center gives you quick access to a lot of settings. You can get to the Control Center on an iPhone without a Home button by swiping down from the upper right “ear” of the iPhone (this works on an iPad also), and by swiping up from the very bottom on an iPhone that has a Home button (hint: start with your finger on the plastic, to either side of the Home button, and swipe up from there).

Control Center, showing various settings (and extra stuff via customization)
Control Center, showing various settings (and extra stuff via customization)

You can customize the Control Center to hold the settings you care about, and you can have a lot more in there than the options Apple starts you with by default. Spend a few minutes setting up the Control Center and you can have several settings just a swipe and a tap away. Plus a flashlight, and an Apple TV remote, and a calculator, among others.

Even if you don’t customize you’ll have quick access to brightness, sound, Do Not Disturb, Airplane Mode, and more. But do customize. It’s easy and it really pays off.

For further iPhone Settings study

Want to know more about Settings on the iPhone? Watch my video.

All about the Settings on an iPhone.

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Christian Boyce

Author: Christian Boyce

Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone expert specializing in teaching people how to use Apple devices better, to get more done with them, and to have more fun doing it. He bought his first Mac (a Mac Plus) in 1986 and his first iPhone in 2007. He's written books and magazine articles, and given seminars at Macworld Expo, MacFair/LA, and the California Computer Expo. Over 30 years in the business.

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