How to Automatically Dial an Extension on the iPhone

talking around the globe

erhui1979/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

We've all had to use our iPhone to call a friend or colleague whose phone number includes an extension. It's annoying and slow to wade through phone trees, wait for their recorded messages, and push buttons. And watch out if you enter the wrong extension by mistake. You have to start all over.

You can avoid all of this hassle by using a hidden trick built into every iPhone. Thanks to this not-very-well-known feature of the iPhone's Phone app, you can program phone extensions for the contacts stored on your iPhone. When you do this, extensions are dialed automatically. You never have to worry about hitting the wrong numbers in a phone tree. And, if you dial into the same conference call numbers regularly, you know how much time this will save (did you know you can make free conference calls on the iPhone? Learn how here). 

How to Save Phone Extensions in Your iPhone Contacts

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Tap the Phone app (or Contacts app) to open it.

  2. Find the contact you want to add a phone extension to by browsing or searching your contacts.

  3. When you find the contact you want to add the extension to, tap it.

  4. Tap the Edit button in the top right corner of the screen.

  5. Tap the phone number you want to add the extension to.

  6. If the contact already has a phone number, skip this step. If they don't, add the phone number.

  7. Tap the +*# button at the bottom left of the screen.

  8. A set of new options will appear on the screen. Make sure the cursor is at the end of the phone number (with no space after the phone number) and then tap Pause.

  9. Pause adds a comma after the phone number. After the comma, add the extension you want to automatically dial.

  10. Tap Done to save your changes.

Phone systems treat the comma that you added to the phone number as a pause. This means that your phone calls the main phone number waits a short time (for the phone system to offer you options), and then dials the extension automatically.

Advanced Tips for Automatically Dialing Extensions on the iPhone

  • Make the Pause Longer: The steps listed above are best if you know that the phone system you're calling has only a few options or that they are spoken quickly. If the options are spoken more slowly and you want to add extra time before your iPhone dials the extension to make sure the phone system sends you to the right place, you can add more than one pause to the number. To do that, just tap the Pause button in step 8 multiple times. This adds a comma to the phone number each time you tap the button, giving you more time before the extension is dialed. Add as many pauses as you need to match the timing of the phone system.
  • Dealing With Differing Wait Times: If you don't know how long the pauses should be, or if the phone system has different wait times at different stages, you can add a different kind of pause in step 8 above. In that case, tap the Wait button instead of pause (this adds a semicolon instead of a comma to the number). When you call the phone tree system and it reaches the Wait, tap the dial button again to dial the extension saved in the contact. This isn't quite as good as having it dialed automatically, but at least you don't have to remember it and won't end up in the wrong part of the phone system.