How to Use Control Center on iPhone and iPod touch

Control Center in iOS 11
iPhone screenshot

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.

Customizing Control Center in iOS 11​​​

Apple delivered a great update to Control Center with iOS 11: The ability to customize it. Now, instead of getting one set of controls and being stuck with them, you can add ones you find useful and get rid of ones you never use (from within a certain set, that is). Here's what you need to do:

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap Control Center

  3. Tap Customize Controls.

  4. To remove items already in Control Center, tap the red - icon next to an item.

  5. Tap Remove.

  6. Change the order of the items by tapping and holding the three-line icon to the right. When the item rises up, drag and drop it to a new location.

  7. To add new controls, tap the green + icon and then drag and drop them to the position you want. 

  8. When you've made all the changes you want, leave the screen and your changes are saved.

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.

On the iPhone X, Control Center has moved. Rather than swiping up from the bottom, swipe down from the top right corner. This change was made to put the Home button functionality at the bottom of the screen on the X.

Once Control Center is showing, here's what all of the items in it do:

  • 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.

In 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.

The iOS 11 version of Control Center has a number of other options. They're not enabled by default, but they can be added using the customization instructions above. These options are:

  • Accessibility Shortcut - If you've configured the Accessibility Shortcut, this button will reveal it with just one tap. 
  • Alarm - A shortcut to the alarm screen in the Clock app.
  • Apple TV Remote - Control your Apple TV from your phone.
  • Do Not Disturb While Driving - Reduce distracted driving by enabling Do Not Disturb, and turning off your screen, while you drive.
  • Guided Access - Lock down your iPhone to allow it to use only a single app or small set of features with this option.
  • Home - Control your HomeKit-compatible smart home devices.
  • Magnifier - Need to see things on your screen blown up to a larger size? This onscreen magnifying glass has what you need.
  • Notes - Access the built-in Notes app.
  • Screen Recording - Want to capture a video on everything happening on your screen. Just tap this button to start recording.
  • Stopwatch - Jump to the stopwatch screen of the Clock app.
  • Text Size - Adjust the default text size of the words on your screen with this option.
  • Timer - Jump to the Timer screen of the Clock app.
  • Voice Memos - Jump to the Voice Memos app to record your thoughts as sound files.
  • Wallet - Access the Wallet app, where credit cards for Apple Pay are stored, here.

The redesigned Control Center in iOS 11 puts all content back on a single screen.

Control Center and 3D Touch

If you have an iPhone with a 3D Touchscreen (as of this writing, the iPhone 6S seriesiPhone 7 series, iPhone 8 series, and iPhone X), a number of items in Control Center have hidden features that can be accessed by hard-pressing the screen. They are:

  • Networking - This panel contains multiple controls: Airplane Mode, Cellular Data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirDrop, and Personal Hotspot. One quirk is that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth don't turn off the features, just disconnects networks and devices. To truly turn them off you need to go into Settings.
  • Music - Access the scrubber bar, volume, and AirPlay settings.
  • Screen Brightness - Get more fine-grained control over the slider by enlarging it.
  • Volume - Like with screen brightness, the enlarged slider delivers more precise control.
  • 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. 
  • Home - ​Access your common Home scenes.

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.