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Tips & Tricks

Using Double Tap to Control Play/Pause on AirPods

Apple’s wireless AirPods automatically pause music playback when one or both of the buds are removed from your ears during use. But if you’d prefer to control play/pause with touch controls without having to remove AirPods from your ears, Apple has given users a way to do so. While your AirPods are connected, go to Settings > Bluetooth on your iOS device and touch the “i” to access the information screen for your AirPods. On that screen, you’ll be able to change a number of settings, including the Double-Tap controls. AirPods are set by default to control Siri with a firm double tap — here, you can switch the setting to Play/Pause instead.

In switching this setting, users are giving up immediate double tap access to Siri. However, that tradeoff is somewhat mitigated if you’re using an iPhone 6s or later, or a 9.7” iPad Pro. Those devices allow anytime use of “Hey Siri,” which means it can still be easy and convenient to access Siri hands-free, as long as you’ve allowed use of “Hey Siri” in Settings — and as long as you’re close enough to your iPhone. Some users of the newest Apple devices may find this option makes more sense.

Optimizing iTunes Media Storage in macOS Sierra

If you’re a Mac user with a large iTunes video library and limited storage space, you might appreciate a new feature in macOS Sierra that lets iTunes automatically take care of leaving those videos you’ve watched up in the cloud to free up space on your Mac’s hard drive. A new option, Automatically delete watched movies and TV shows, can be found in the Advanced section of your iTunes preferences, and it’s pretty self-explanatory; when enabled, you basically give iTunes permission to automatically clean up any movies or TV shows you’ve downloaded from the iTunes Store once you’ve watched them.

Keeping the Christmas Tree Lights On with HomeKit

If you’ve got more than a couple of lights tied into your HomeKit system, you’ve probably gotten accustomed to using Siri commands like “Turn off the lights” when you’re leaving home, going to bed, or just otherwise want to de-illuminate your home. Of course, in that case, this time of year you’re probably going to be tempted to plug your Christmas tree or other holiday lights into a HomeKit-compatible plug so that you can control them using Siri and HomeKit automation. It’s a great idea, but suddenly you might find yourself avoiding Siri commands to turn all of your lights off at home, or in a given room if you still want to leave the Christmas lights on.

Preserving Camera settings in iOS 10.2

Released earlier this week, iOS 10.2 adds a small enhancement providing users with more control over how the Camera app behaves between launches. Up until now, the Camera would always revert to defaults whenever you returned to it, but a new group of settings in iOS 10.2 now allows you to preserve the last state of certain Camera settings.


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Preserve Settings under Photos & Camera in the iOS 10.2 Settings app includes three new toggles that let you choose: whether the camera saves the last capture mode (e.g. Video or Square) rather than returning to Photo, whether the last used Photo Filter is retained across launches, and whether Live Photo is automatically reset back to ON when you return to the app.

Choosing iPhone Flashlight Brightness

If you’re using a 3D Touch-capable iPhone, with iOS 10 you can now choose from three different intensity levels for the LED flashlight by using a 3D Touch gesture on the Control Center button.

To do this, swipe from the bottom of the screen to bring up Control Center, and use a 3D Touch press on the flashlight button and you’ll get a menu with options for Bright, Medium, or Low light. You can access this menu to change the setting regardless of whether the flashlight is already on or not, and your iPhone will remember the last setting you used when you next toggle the flashlight on again.

Tracking Your Sleep in iOS 10

Although the iPhone’s Clock app doesn’t often see many changes, Apple snuck an interesting new feature into iOS 10 that allows your iPhone to perform basic sleep tracking without any additional accessories. In the app, you’ll find a new Bedtime section that lets you set up bedtime reminders and wakeup alarms that work separately from the normal clock alarms.

Showing Holiday Memories in iOS 10 Photos

If you’ve got a few years of photos available on your iPhone, the new Memories feature in the iOS 10 Photos app can be a great way to go back and relive significant events from past years. Photos will go back and automatically scan through your photo collection for groupings of photos by people and places and put them in collections, and Apple has even put the intelligence in place to figure out holidays — based on your home country — and organize your Memories accordingly by paying closer attention to photos around those times of year, and putting appropriate titles on them.

If you’re not seeing holiday memories and you think you should, check the setting for Holiday Events under Photos & Camera in the iOS Settings app. Also be sure that your regional setting, found under Settings, General, Language & Region is set to the correct country — which holidays are selected are based on this setting.

Using your iPhone as a Magnifying Glass

There’s a useful new accessibility enhancement in iOS 10 designed to help those who have trouble seeing small print — this new feature turns the iPhone camera into a virtual magnifying glass. Although you’ve been able to use the built-in zoom feature in the normal Camera app in a pinch (no pun intended), the new Magnifier feature not only provides quicker access — only a triple-click of the Home button is needed — but allows for a tighter zoom for even stronger magnification, as well as other controls to toggle the flash on for illumination, and to adjust brightness and contrast. You can even access inverted and color-shifted views, which is useful for those with color blindness and other vision challenges.

Working with Threads in iOS 10 Mail

Apple has made some nice changes to the way that message threads are handled in the iOS 10 Mail app, replacing the prior message sub-list with an inline conversation view that users of alternative mail apps and platforms like Gmail will find far more familiar. In addition to presenting all of the messages in a single threaded view, in the Mail app now includes all of the messages in your entire mail account by default, rather than only those in the current mailbox or folder.

Of course, if you don’t like this fully threaded view there are still options to turn it off. The Mail section in the main iOS Settings app now includes a Threading section which, in addition to the global “Organize by Thread” option found in prior iOS versions, now also includes settings to sort threads in reverse chronological order, as well as turn off “Complete Threads” if you want to revert the pre-iOS 10 behavior of only showing messages from the current mailbox/folder in each thread. In the latter case you’ll still get the newer threaded view — there’s no way to go back to the old hierarchical message list design — but any messages that are not contained in the same mailbox/folder as the current message won’t be displayed.

Allowing calls and texts from specific contacts when Do Not Disturb is enabled

Although Apple has long allowed you to receive calls from specific contact lists when the Do Not Disturb feature is enabled, this applied only to incoming phone calls and required that you designate your exempt contacts as “Favorites” or organize them into specific lists.

With iOS 10, Apple has quietly added a small enhancement allowing you to designate individuals to bypass the Do Not Disturb setting for calls and/or texts on a per-contact basis. The option is somewhat hidden away in each contact screen under the Ringtone and Text Tone settings used to set custom tones and vibrations for calls and messages from each contact. When editing a contact, tap on Ringtone or Text Tone in the contact record; a new Emergency Bypass switch now appears at the very top of each vibration/tone selection screen, which can be toggled on to indicate that sounds and vibrations from calls or messages from that contact should come through even when Do Not Disturb is otherwise enabled.

Optimizing Music Storage in iOS 10

Prior to iOS 10, your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch would try to automatically maintain a minimum amount of free space by removing unnecessary files from local storage under certain conditions. Included in this list of “unnecessary” files were things that Apple reasonably deemed could be re-obtained from the cloud — including items in your iCloud Music Library. Naturally, many users found this inconvenient, and Apple has obviously heard their cries — in iOS 10 you can now either turn this feature off entirely or choose to ensure that a minimum amount of music remains on your device.

You can find all of this under a new Optimize Storage setting in the Music section of the iOS Settings app. There, you’ll find a switch that can be used to toggle the feature on; when it’s enabled, a list of minimum capacity settings will also appear. The settings will allow you to set the minimum amount of music that will be kept on your device when space runs low. Selecting None here is the equivalent of the standard behavior from prior iOS versions.

Disabling Home Control from the Lock Screen

While the new “Home” panel in the iOS 10 Control Center is a pretty handy feature for users with HomeKit accessories, it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s accessible by default even when your iPhone is locked. As with issuing Siri commands, HomeKit will still require authentication before controlling things like door locks, but if you want to ensure that other accessories like lights and thermostats can’t be controlled from the lock screen, you’ll be happy to know that you can disable Home control without having to deny lock screen access to the entire Control Center.

Enabling Message Effects with Reduce Motion enabled in iOS 10.1

When iOS 10 debuted with its new Message Effects animations, one slightly obscure requirement that tripped up many users was the need to have the Reduce Motion setting turned OFF for background and bubble animations to play back. Many users were initially confused as to why animations on received messages weren’t playing, nor could animations be sent in outgoing messages. Even those who figured it out were left with the uncomfortable choice of turning all motion effects back on systemwide, or living without the cool new iMessage animation features.

Fortunately, Apple addressed this in iOS 10.1, with a new “Auto-play Message Effects” setting in the Reduce Motion section (under Settings, General, Accessibility). This option only appears when Reduce Motion is enabled, and allows you to choose whether or not Message Effects will play automatically on incoming messages. Even when this option is disabled, however, messages will come in with a button allowing you to choose to manually play the animation; effects will no longer be entirely suppressed as they were in iOS 10.

Announcing Incoming Calls in iOS 10

With iOS 10, iPhone users can now choose to have their devices verbally announce the name or number when an incoming call comes in — an especially handy feature for hands-free situations where you aren’t able to easily glance at your iPhone when it rings.

The new settings can be found in the Phone section in the Settings app, under Announce Calls, and you can choose whether to always have incoming calls announced, or only have your iPhone announce calls when you have headphones plugged in or are connected to a vehicle via Bluetooth.

Turning off Read Receipts for individual conversations in iOS 10

There’s one other small but useful new feature in the iOS 10 Messages app that most people may have missed amidst of all the glitz and glamour of the shiny bubbles, stickers, and fireworks effects: you can now turn off Read Receipts for individual conversations. This is a huge boon if you like sharing read status with close friends and family but don’t necessarily want everybody to see when their messages to you have been read.

Displaying song lyrics on Apple TV

While you’re probably aware that Apple added lyrics support to Apple Music in iOS 10, what may be less obvious is that you can also view lyrics on your fourth-generation Apple TV, using tvOS 10. Once you’re playing a track, touch (not press) the Siri Remote touchpad from the Now Playing screen and you’ll get the same detail view as before, but if the song has lyrics associated with it, a second button appears at the top of the screen that can be used to bring up the lyrics for the current track.

Not every song in Apple’s Music catalog has lyrics yet. If you’re listening to a song that lacks listed lyrics, you can still add lyrics manually via iTunes on your Mac or PC if you wish. These should sync via iCloud Music Library and be available on your iOS devices and Apple TV.

Converting Live Photos to Still Images

Sometimes it’s easy to forget to switch off Live Photo mode on your iPhone 6s or iPhone 7, or maybe you have Live Photos that you’d rather just convert back to static, normal images. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to do this with an existing Live Photo in your Photos app, by either non-destructively editing the original photo, or duplicating a photo in iOS 9.3 or later.

To remove the Live Photo effect from an existing photo, simply go into “Edit” mode and tap the Live Photo icon in the top-left corner of the screen to toggle it off. Like any other edit, this is non-destructive and will not permanently remove the Live Photo effect — it essentially just switches it off while leaving the actual underlying Live Photo data intact. Alternatively, duplicating a Live Photo using the option in the Share Sheet’s Actions menu will provide you with a choice to either duplicate the Live Photo in its original form, or create the copy as a “Still Photo” — in the latter case, the new photo will have all Live Photo data removed entirely, and will simply be stored as a straight JPG image. You can then delete the original Live Photo version entirely if you no longer want to keep it around.

Duplicating a Photo in the iOS Photos app

One of the smaller features that Apple quietly snuck into iOS 9.3 is the ability to create a duplicate of any given photo or set of photos in the iOS Photos app. This can be done by selecting the photo(s) you want to duplicate, bringing up the iOS Share Sheet to see the sharing options, and looking for the “Duplicate” option in the lower actions row.

This creates an exact copy of the image, which can be useful if you want to apply edits while still keeping the original handy. As an added bonus, however, using the “Duplicate” option on a Live Photo will provide a choice between duplicating the Live Photo in its original form, or duplicating it as a still photo.

Adjusting Video Playback Quality to control data usage in iOS 10

If you stream video from the iTunes Store or Apple Music and you’re on a limited data plan, you may appreciate two new quality settings that Apple has added for the built-in Videos app in iOS 10, allowing you to control how much data is used when streaming video, in exchange for quality.

Found in the Videos section of the iOS Settings app, two Playback Quality options allow you to independently choose between “Good” (basically SD quality) or “Best Available” (full HD quality) for both Wi-Fi and Cellular data connections. Users on limited data plans will almost certainly want to stick with the “Good” setting for Cellular, at least, although if you’ve got an older device and aren’t concerned about HD quality, you can get some performance gains from using “Good” for Wi-Fi connections as well.

Choosing preferred Driving + Transit options in iOS 10 Maps

In addition to a whole new design, the Maps app in iOS 10 also adds more control over route options for driving or transit directions. If you scroll down to the bottom of the list of available routes when getting directions in Maps, you’ll see a link for Driving Options or Transit Options, depending on which mode you’re in.

Tapping on Driving Options will bring up switches that allow you to avoid toll roads or highways along your route, while tapping Transit Options allows you to select which types of transit vehicles you would like to include in your route, with options available for Bus, Subway/LRT, Commuter Rail, and Ferry. These options can also be found in the Maps section of the iOS Settings app, under Driving & Navigation and Transit.

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