iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iOS and iTunes Tips & Tricks | iLounge

Tips & Tricks

Speeding up Apple Pay at checkout

Apple Pay is a pretty useful feature, especially when you keep your phone handier than your wallet, and you use it in tandem with other Wallet features such as scannable loyalty cards. That said, the NFC payments process is not always flawless, especially when you have to fumble with your iPhone to hit the Touch ID sensor while also lining it up properly with the contactless terminal. Fortunately, there are a couple of useful tricks to help speed up the process.

Choosing Sidebar Categories in iTunes 12.4

Now that iTunes 12.4 has brought the sidebar back, you can not only more easily navigate between different groupings of your media content, but you can also choose which categories you want to see. Hovering over the “Library” heading at the top of the sidebar will reveal an “Edit” button; click this and you’ll see all available categories — even some you may not have realized were there.

Placing a checkmark beside a category makes it appear in the sidebar, while removing the checkmark hides it. When you’re done customizing your sidebar list, simply click “Done” to return to the normal sidebar view.

Adjusting Artwork Size in iTunes 12.4

iTunes 12.4, released earlier this week, has taken steps to simplify the user interface a bit. Although most of the same options are still there, they’ve been moved around and a few have been enhanced a bit in the process. View options have been taken out of the location on the top-right drop-down menu and have returned entirely to the traditional View overlay dialog found in pre-iTunes 12 versions — accessible using the Show View Options or by simply pressing CMD+J.

Quickly unlocking your iPhone for Siri

For security reasons, when you make certain requests of Siri — such as checking your email or unlocking a HomeKit door lock — she’ll respond that you need to unlock your iPhone first, usually presenting you with the keypad, so you can either punch in your passcode or use Touch ID to authenticate. However, if you often find yourself making these requests, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a way to do it a bit quicker, as long as you’re using a Touch ID-equipped iPhone.

Accessing Apple Watch Glances with Siri

If you’ve got an Apple Watch on your wrist, you’re probably already familiar with Glances — those useful summaries of information from built-in and third-party apps. What you may not realize, however, is that you can call up specific glances by name with Siri — even glances that aren’t included in your list of active glances.

Using the iPhone as a remote camera with Apple Watch

If you’ve got an Apple Watch, you probably already know that you can use your wearable device as a camera remote to take pictures on your iPhone from your wrist, but you may not realize that it also makes a great way to keep an eye on what’s happening elsewhere in your home or nearby, directly from your wrist.

For example, you could leave your iPhone in a kid’s room to keep an eye on the youngsters while you’re busy with other household tasks, or check on the status of lights in the kitchen when trying to figure out which circuit breakers are which in the basement of your house. As the link between the iPhone and your Apple Watch is limited to the standard Bluetooth range of about 30 feet, you won’t be able to roam far, but it should work reasonably well in a small home or office setting.

Using photos for an Apple Watch Face

Apple provides some pretty nice built-in Faces for the Apple Watch, but if you’re really looking to give the Apple Watch your own personal sense of style, you’ll be happy to know that watchOS 2 lets you select one of your own photos to use as an Apple Watch Face. You can choose to either use a single photo (including Live Photos if you’ve got an iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, or iPhone SE), or choose to cycle through your entire synced photo album.

Using ‘Nearby’ on Apple Watch

While Apple’s watchOS 2.2 update wasn’t nearly as feature-packed as iOS 9.3 or even tvOS 9.2, it did offer up at least one particularly useful new feature: The “Nearby” feature from iOS 9’s Apple Maps comes not only to CarPlay, but also to the Apple Watch, once you’re running watchOS 2.2.

Using your iPhone’s flash LED for alerts and notifications

If you work or live in a noisy environment, have a hard time hearing your iPhone alerts, or simply want to take advantage of a cool iPhone case feature, you’ll likely appreciate the ability to have your iPhone light up its camera flash LED to let you know about incoming notifications. This feature is built into the iPhone, although it’s not located in an obvious place, as Apple designed it specifically for those users with hearing problems who may not be able to hear their iPhone ringing, even at the loudest volume. As a result, the setting lives not under Sounds or Notifications, where you might expect it to be, but in the Accessibility section, under Settings, General.

Syncing iTunes Store videos with older iPods

Although many users are likely focused mostly on HD videos these days, Apple has still been taking steps recently to increase the quality of the SD video content in the iTunes Store, pushing the envelope beyond what older traditional iPods can handle. If you’re still using an iPod classic or iPod nano for storing and watching videos, you may start running into an error message that “high-quality SD video is not compatible with this iPod” when you try to sync or transfer your videos.

Managing iOS device backups in iTunes

While iCloud backups provide a certain degree of convenience, many users will quickly go beyond the free 5GB of storage that Apple provides. Unless you’re already paying for more iCloud storage, or willing to shell out for a larger plan just for backups, you’ll be happy to know that iTunes still provides a handy alternative to keep your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch backed up to your Mac or PC, and in fact even has a key advantage over iCloud for transferring data to a new device.

Reducing Screen Motion on the new Apple TV

Apple’s tvOS for the new Apple TV takes a page from the UI design of iOS, adding motion effects that appear as you navigate through various screens. These are most apparent when using the Siri Remote, which will gradually shift the shading effect on the highlighted menu option or icon in the direction you swipe before actually moving the highlight over to the next option.

If you find this all to be a bit too much, or prefer a slightly more responsive interface, you can actually turn this off under Accessibility settings, in much the same way as on iOS. Go into the Apple TV Settings

menu, select General, Accessibility, and you’ll find the “Reduce Motion” option down near the bottom of the screen.

Customizing the appearance of Subtitles on the Apple TV

Did you know you can change the appearance of your subtitles on your Apple TV? While the ability to do this isn’t entirely new — it first came to the second- and third-generation Apple TV models two years ago — users of the new fourth-generation Apple TV may find it particularly useful now that subtitles are more readily available via Siri commands like “What did he just say?”

Using a Passcode for Purchases on the Apple TV

The lack of external keyboard and iOS Remote app support on the new Apple TV can seemingly make it burdensome to protect your iTunes Store account from unauthorized purchases — it’s easy to assume that you have to choose between either “swiping-and-tapping” in your entire iTunes Store password with every purchase or allowing the Apple TV to remember your password and let anybody with the remote in hand buy whatever they’d like. Fortunately, there’s a third option that may be a bit easier, at least when it comes to purchasing media content and apps.

The trick is to enable Parental Controls under Settings, General, Restrictions and set a four-digit passcode — a much easier sequence to key in than an alphanumeric iTunes Store password. Once you’ve done set the passcode, choose “Restrict” under the “Purchase and Rental” section and the Apple TV will prompt you for the four-digit code whenever you attempt to purchase or rent a movie, TV show, or app.

Aerial Screensavers on the new Apple TV

The aerial screensavers available on the new Apple TV make for a refreshing change from the photo-based screen savers of prior versions; currently Apple offers up 34 different screensavers covering five specific locations around the world: China, Hawaii, London, New York, and San Francisco. Rather than storing the screensavers permanently as part of tvOS, the Apple TV downloads new screensaver footage from Apple’s servers on a schedule. If you find that your screensavers are getting stale, you can increase how often the Apple TV downloads new content from Apple’s servers by going into the Apple TV Settings app and choosing General, Screensaver.

Reducing loud sounds on the new Apple TV

Another small new feature added by Apple in the new fourth-generation Apple TV is the ability to adjust the dynamic range of your audio input. This is particularly useful for watching TV later at night, or anytime you prefer to use lower volume levels so as not to disturb others — it enhances detail such as spoken dialogue, while softening music and other loud background noise.

Changing the name of your Apple TV

While your new Apple TV would have prompted you to give it a name during the setup process, if you were in a hurry to get going you might have just selected a default name like “Apple TV” without giving it too much thought. However, if you want to choose a more descriptive name — particularly useful if you use AirPlay and have multiple devices around the house — you can easily go back in and change it to just about anything you want.

Skipping backward and forward on the Apple TV

With the Siri Remote’s touchpad for the fourth-generation Apple TV, some of the traditional navigation features from the prior Apple TV are not necessarily obvious right out of the gate. For example, on older Apple TV models you can skip back or forward a few seconds by holding down the FF or RW buttons on the Apple Remote, but of course these buttons are missing from the new Apple TV, which now requires you to do this by manipulating the touchpad instead.

Placing apps in the top row on the Apple TV

Although Apple TV users have been able to reorder their app icons since Apple TV Software Update 5.1 three years ago, Apple traditionally always treated the top row of icons – Movies, TV Shows, Music, Computers, and Settings (and later iTunes Radio in the U.S.) – as immutable; even if you preferred to use other services, you were always stuck with those five in the top row.

Checking your Siri Remote battery level

The Siri Remote on the new fourth-generation Apple TV incorporates a rechargeable battery, and Apple promises “months” of battery life on a single charge, at least for whatever the company considers “typical use.” You shouldn’t need to charge your remote often, but if you’re curious to check how much battery life is remaining, you can do this by going into the Apple TV Settings and selecting “Bluetooth” under “Remotes and Devices.”

Your Siri Remote will be shown on this screen with a battery indicator showing how much juice is left. Of course, you can plug the remote in at any time to charge it up — just use a Lightning cable with a USB wall charger or a port on your computer. It will take about 9 hours to reach a full charge, but the good news is that you can also still use it while it’s charging back up.

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