How to Use Control Center on iPhone and iPod touch

Control Center
The two Control center panels in iOS 10. Sam Costello

Control Center is one of the most useful hidden features of the iOS. It offers shortcuts to a ton of handy features on your iPhone or iPod touch (and iPad) no matter what you're doing on your device. Want to turn on Bluetooth? Forget tapping through menus; just open Control Center and tap a button. Need to see in the dark? Use Control Center to launch the flashlight app. Once you start using Control Center, you'll wonder how you ever got by without it.

Control Center Options

Control Center is enabled on iOS devices by default, so you don't need to turn it on—just use it.

There are two Control Center settings you may be interested in, though. To get to them, tap the Settings app and then Control Center. On that screen, you can control whether you can use Control Center even when your device is locked (I'd recommend it; there are lots of things you may want to do without unlocking your device, especially if you have a passcode) and whether you can reach Control Center from within apps (rather than having to go back to the home screen). Move the sliders to green to enable these options or to white to turn them off.

Using Control Center

Using Control Center is pretty easy. To reveal it, swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone's screen. You'll need to get as close to the bottom as possible; I've found it most effective to start my swipe slightly off the screen, right next to the home button.

Experiment with what works best for you. Once Control Center is showing, here's what all of the items in it do (see the image above; these explanations run left to right, top to bottom):

  • Airplane Mode - To turn on Airplane Mode, simply tap this icon. Airplane Mode is on when the icon is orange. Tap it again (so it turns black) to turn it off.
  • Wi-Fi - To enable your device's Wi-Fi connectivity, tap this icon. If you're not near a known Wi-Fi network, you'll see options for what network to connect to.
  • Bluetooth - Forget navigating through the Settings app to turn on Bluetooth. Just tap this icon to enable your device to connect to Bluetooth peripherals.
  • Do Not Disturb - Want to avoid calls and messages for a bit? Tap this icon to turn on Do Not Disturb. If you've already set up Do Not Disturb, this enables the settings you've already got.
  • Screen Rotation Lock - To prevent the screen from rotating when you turn your device, tap this icon.
  • Brightness - Use this slider to make your iPhone screen brighter or dimmer.
  • AirDrop - Tap this button to enable AirDrop file-sharing feature. When you enable this, you'll need to choose some options for who you want to share with.
  • Night Shift - Change the color warmth of your device's screen for better viewing at night by tapping this button. Only present on iOS 9 and up.
  • Flashlight - Need to get a better view of something? This app turns your camera flash into a bright flashlight.
  • Clock - This icon is a shortcut to the built-in iOS Clock app. This app lets you see what time it is in various cities, set alarms, and use a stopwatch or timer.
  • Calculator - Need to figure out the tip on dinner or do some quick calculations? Tap this icon to jump to the iOS's built-in Calculator app.
  • Camera - Need to snap a photo right away? A quick tap on this icon will launch the built-in iOS Camera app and you'll be ready to capture memories in no time.

As of iOS 10, Control Center has two panels of options. The first contains the options described above. Swipe right to left and you'll reveal the Music and AirPlay options. Here's what they do:

  • Music Controls - These buttons let you control the music playing on your device. The progress bar shows how far into the song you are and how much is left. You can drag the line in that bar to move within the song. The buttons underneath it let you move to the last song, play/pause, or move to the next song. The slider below that controls volume.
  • AirPlay - The bar along the bottom of this panel lets you use AirPlay to choose where the music is played. The default is the iPhone's built-in speakers or, if headphones are attached, those. But if there are AirPlay-compatible devices nearby, choose one to broadcast the music to them.

Control Center and 3D Touch

If you have an iPhone with a 3D Touchscreen (as of this writing, just the iPhone 6S series and iPhone 7 series), a number of items in Control Center have hidden features that can be accessed by hard-pressing the screen. They are:

  • Flashlight - Choose from Bright, Medium, or Low Light intensity for the flashlight.
  • Clock - Set a timer of 1 hour, 20 minutes, 5 minutes, or 1 minute from this menu.
  • Calculator - Copy the last result totaled in the app to paste into another app.
  • Camera - Shortcuts let you take a photo, record slo-mo video, record regular video, or take a selfie. 

Control Center in iOS 9 and Earlier

Control Center has been part of the iOS since iOS 7, but it hasn't always worked the same way. There are a few notable differences if you're running earlier versions of the iOS, including:

  • One panel - Prior to iOS 10, Control Center only had one panel of options.
  • No Night Shift - Night Shift isn't present on iOS 7 and 8.
  • No 3D Touch - The 3D Touch options mentioned above come with iOS 10, so even if you have a 3D Touchscreen, if you don't have iOS 10 you can't use them.

Hiding Control Center

When you're done using Control Center, hide it by swiping down from the top of the screen. You can start your swipe at the top of Control Center or even in the area above it. As long as you're going from top to bottom, it will disappear. You can also press the Home button to hide Control Center.