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

Receiving Message Notifications from only your Contacts

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For certain services iOS 6 now allows you to restrict your alerts to only users that are already in your contact list. By default, new Messages, Game Center requests and Shared Photo Stream alerts will appear whenever anybody sends you a request or invitation using any of those services, however if you find yourself getting bombarded with alerts from total strangers you can easily turn these off now with a quick trip over to the Notifications section in your Settings app. Simply choose the appropriate service—Messages, Photos and Game Center all support this feature—and scroll down and choose “My Contacts Only” under the Show ... Alerts from heading. Note that this will not prevent you from receiving messages from any other user—they’ll still be in the appropriate apps waiting for you—but you won’t receive an alert unless the sender is already in your iOS Contacts.

Using Do Not Disturb in iOS 6

The iPhone has generally taken a very straightforward approach to handling alerts, eschewing complicated schedule and profile setups in favour of a simple hardware Ring/Silent switch, a practice also somewhat followed with the iPad. The idea here is simple: Leave the switch in the “ring” position when you want to hear sounds and move it to the “silent” position when you want alerts to either vibrate or make no sound at all. Unfortunately, while easy this approach has had its limitations: Even in “silent’ mode your iPhone will vibrate in most cases, and the screen will light up when notifications and alerts come in. In iOS 6 Apple has addressed this by creating a true “Do Not Disturb” feature that can be toggled on demand and/or set to a daily schedule. At its most basic, turning on Do Not Disturb is simply a matter of going into your iPhone Settings app and toggling the option found there. When enabled, your device will suppress all alert notifications—sounds, vibrations and screen illumination—whenever the screen is already off; calls will be sent directly and quietly to voicemail and notification messages will stack up on the lock screen without waking up your device’s screen. By taking a quick trip into your Settings app and selecting Notifications, Do Not Disturb, you can also configure your iPhone to automatically enable this mode based on a daily schedule and determine which phone calls will still be permitted to ring through.

Note that alarms set in the Clock app will still sound even when Do Not Disturb is enabled. Also, notifications and phone calls are handled normally when you’re actually using your device (i.e. if the screen is on), regardless of the Do Not Disturb setting.

Enabling Parental Controls in iBooks

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With the release of iOS 6, Apple has expanded its parental controls feature to encompass iBooks content, albeit in a more limited fashion than for other types of content. While a mandatory rating system does not exist for books, options can be found under Settings, General, Restrictions to disable access to the iBookstore entirely or simply prevent the downloading of books containing explicit sexual content. The first option allows access to the iBooks app for reading existing content while preventing users from purchasing or downloading any new iBooks directly on their device. Disabling explicit sexual content will disallow purchasing, previewing and sharing any books marked as containing explicitly sexual content—the buy and sample buttons will be disabled, no sharing link will appear, and a generic book image will be displayed in the iBookstore rather than the original book’s cover image. With iBooks 2.2 and higher these controls will also hide any explicit books already stored on the device.

Reordering iOS Calendars

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Although iOS 6 still doesn’t allow you to reorder the individual calendars on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch directly, there is a handy workaround if you’re syncing with iCloud. Simply log into your account on the iCloud web site at http://www.icloud.com and select your Calendar from the list of options that appear. In the web-based calendar list you will be able to drag and drop calendars to reorder them and changes made here will propagate to your iOS devices. If you’re using OS X Mountain Lion you can do the same thing from the Calendars app, but OS X Lion users will likely find that changes to the calendar order in iCal don’t always sync to your device properly, so doing this from the iCloud.com web calendar is generally the more reliable option. Further, this is the only option available to Windows users, as the calendar ordering in Microsoft Outlook does not sync to iCloud at all.

Replying to Phone Calls via Messages

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One of the handy new features for iPhone users in iOS 6 is the ability to decline an incoming phone call while replying to the caller with a text message or iMessage such as “I’ll call you later.”  When a call is coming in, simply swipe up from the bottom-right corner, tap Reply with Message and then choose from one of three pre-defined messages for a quick reply or tap “Custom” to write a custom message on the spot. You can also pre-define any of the three static messages yourself by going into your Settings app, and selecting Phone, Reply with Message. Three text entry fields are displayed with the defaults in faded text—simply tap on any of the fields to enter your own pre-defined message or tap on the “X” beside an existing entry that you’ve already customized to clear it and return to the default message.

Limiting Cellular Data usage in iOS 6

Perhaps in part to save users from receiving frighteningly large bills for cellular data usage, Apple has traditionally limited many of iOS’ higher-bandwidth features to Wi-Fi connections only. Examples of such restrictions include iCloud Photo Stream, the 50MB download limit for the iTunes and App Stores and until recently, FaceTime. In iOS 6, Apple has started to loosen some of these restrictions, allowing users to choose to allow certain services to use a cellular connection. These include iCloud Documents, iTunes (for iTunes Match and automatic store downloads), FaceTime, Passbook and Safari Reading List, and the controls to toggle cellular data off or on for each can be found both in their respective sections in the Settings app (e.g. iCloud, Safari, FaceTime) as well as in a single list under General, Cellular. Toggling the option OFF for a given service will limit it to transferring data only when a Wi-Fi connection is available. FaceTime can only be used via a cellular data connection on the iPhone 4S/5 and the third-generation or later iPad models. Also, while the main iCloud Photo Stream is still limited to Wi-Fi, Shared Photo Streams will work over a cellular data connection and cellular use can’t be disabled without turning off the Shared Photo Streams feature entirely.

Note that the default setting for most of these services is ON, so you may want to double-check that they’re off if you have a more limited data plan.

Hiding Purchased Books in iBooks 3

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iBooks 3 introduces a new Purchased Books feature that gathers all of a user’s iBooks that have been purchased from the iBookstore into a single collection for quick and easy access, allowing books not already on the device to be easily downloaded from iCloud at the tap of a finger. For users who may not want to see some or all of their purchases right in the iBooks app, however, the good news is that you can either turn this feature off entirely, or selectively hide individually purchased items from the Purchased Books collection. To disable the collection entirely, simply go into the iBooks section in your iOS Settings app and toggle off the option to Show All Purchases; the Purchased Books collection will disappear entirely, although you can still download your purchases via the iBookstore as you could in prior versions of iBooks.

On the other hand, if you simply want to hide one or more specific items from your previous purchases, you can go into your iTunes Store account, using iTunes on your computer, and hide it from the Purchased section in there. This works in much the same way as it does for apps, described in our Ask iLounge article on Deleting unwanted apps from iCloud.

Be sure to check out Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iBooks 3 for more on this and what else is new in Apple’s latest iBooks update.

Viewing download progress for iTunes Match, Podcast + iTunes U content

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Apple tries to make things magically “just work” in the background, insulating users from trivial details such as download queues. When downloading content from iTunes Match or in the new standalone Podcasts and iTunes U apps, users are shown little more than basic download progress indicators which provide information on the status of individual items but not the order in which they’re downloading or anything else that may be queued up in front of them. However, all of these apps are still technically downloading their content via the iTunes Store, so you actually can view the download queue simply by opening up the iTunes app on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad and looking at the Downloads section. This will show all content being downloaded in any of these three apps, alongside any music, movies or TV shows you’re downloading in the iTunes app itself of course. From here you can also pause any download in progress by tapping the pause button or cancel/remove it from the download queue using a standard swipe-to-delete gesture.

Sharing Photo Streams as a Web Site

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The new Shared Photo Streams feature in iOS 6 is a great way of quickly and easily sharing photos directly with friends and family directly into the Photos app or into iPhoto or Aperture on OS X. For those who don’t own a Mac or iOS device, however, Apple also allows you to publish your Shared Photo Stream as a public web album directly from your device. When creating a Shared Photo Stream, simply toggle on the Public Website option—you can even leave the “To” field blank if you only want to share your Photo Stream on the web. Once the Shared Photo Stream has been given a name and saved, simply tap on the blue arrow beside the Shared Photo Stream name to return to the sharing screen where you will see the URL displayed along with a Share Link button to easily allow you to send the link out to friends and family via e-mail, Messages, Facebook or Twitter.  The web version of the Shared Photo Stream uses a fixed Apple template that cannot be customized, with photos presented in a tiled view in order by date added to the Shared Photo Stream with the most recent at the top. You can also toggle the Public Website option on for any of your existing Shared Photo Streams or turn it off at any time if you want to make your Shared Photo Stream private again.

Downloading Genius Mixes from iTunes Match

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By placing a user’s entire music library in the cloud, Apple’s iTunes Match service makes the Genius Mixes feature particularly useful, since these mixes now have your entire music library to choose from without potentially taking up a lot of space on your iOS device—tracks are downloaded and played on-demand as you listen to a given Genius Mix. This works great if you’re on a good Wi-Fi or cellular data connection, but users who are frequently offline or have limited cellular data plans may find this option less appealing. Fortunately, the iPhone and iPod touch Music app do allow you to use your Genius Mixes offline, at least partially, by using any already-download portions of a Genius Mix and even allowing you to pre-download a Genius Mix on demand. Simply go to the Genius Mixes section in your Music app and you should see a small iCloud download icon in the top left corner of the screen. Tapping on this will download 25 selected tracks from the current Genius Mix, making them available for offline listening. The Genius Mix will also include any additional tracks that have already been downloaded to your device from other albums or playlists, or simply from normal listening; if the iCloud download icon doesn’t appear for a given Genius Mix, this means that there are already enough tracks on your device and there’s no need to manually download additional tracks to listen to the Genius Mix offline. Note that the manual downloading option is unfortunately not available in the iPad Music app.

Taking Right-to-Left Panoramic Photos

  • October 9, 2012

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If you have an iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 you can take advantage of a new iOS 6 feature that allows you to capture panoramic photos without the need to resort to third-party apps. The feature is only available for shooting in portrait orientation and can be accessed simply by tapping on the “Options” button at the top of the built-in Camera app and choosing “Panorama.” An overlay will appear on the screen to guide you in taking your panoramic photo, and you can simply tap the shutter button to begin and slowly pan the iPhone across your scene. By default, the panorama feature works left to right, but if you want to start from the opposite end, you can simply tap the arrow to reverse the panning direction and begin your panoramic photo on the right end of your scene (thanks to iLounge reader Thomas for pointing this out in the comments to Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 6.0).

Turning off Facebook Calendars and Contacts in iOS 6

Many Facebook power users will undoubtedly appreciate the new integration with the social network provided in iOS 6, which not only includes the ability to share items directly on Facebook, but also integrates your Facebook Contacts, Events and Birthdays into your iOS Contacts and Calendars app by default. However, what if you don’t want to see all of your Facebook friends in your iOS Contact list, or aren’t interested enough in upcoming Facebook Events to have them appearing in your calendar? Fortunately, it’s easy to turn them off: Simply go into the iOS Settings app, find the Facebook section, and toggle off Contacts and/or Calendar under “Allow These Apps to Use Your Account”—although this isn’t obvious with Calendars and Contacts mixed in with other built-in and third-party apps that simply post via Facebook, if these apps can’t access your Facebook account, then they won’t be able to access your Facebook Contacts or Facebook Events either, thereby disabling the Facebook integration in these two areas.

Helping Siri recognize difficult names

  • October 2, 2012

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Siri’s integration with your iOS Contacts can be very handy for placing calls, sending e-mails and messages and getting directions. However unless everybody in your address book has simple to pronounce names like “Bob Smith” it’s likely you’ve had less than satisfying results when trying to look up your friends by voice. Fortunately, there’s a fairly simple way to help Siri with hard-to-pronounce names—like Phil Dzikiy—simply by adding the phonetic pronunciation of each name directly to the Contact record. Simply open the Contacts app, tap on the person’s name and tap Edit. Scrolling down to the bottom of the page you should see an “Add Field” option, which you can tap on to see a list of additional fields that you can add to your contact record. For example, for Phil Dzikiy, you would choose Phonetic Last Name and type in something along the lines of “Dezeekee” and then do the same for the Phonetic First Name and enter “Fill.” As an added bonus, not only will this help Siri recognize your friends’ names better, but it should also help her with the pronunciation when the names are read back to you. Unfortunately, it’s worth mentioning that there is a small downside to this approach: the iOS Contacts app will sort your Contacts based on the Phonetic Names, when present, rather than the actual names, so this will affect the sorting of your Contacts, however that may be a small price to pay for accurate recognition of their names.

Reporting Problems in iOS 6 Maps

  • September 27, 2012

Apple’s new Maps in iOS 6 has received valid criticisms for a number of problems such as poor local search results. However, the new Maps app also allows users to quickly and easily report incorrect information back to Apple. For incorrect search results, labels, missing locations or problems with directions, simply tap on the curled page in the bottom-right corner of the main map screen and tap the “Report a Problem” link; for issues with a specific local search such as incorrect business information or location, a “Report a Problem” button appears at the bottom right of the information card. In either case, the Maps app will take you through a series of screens where you can provide more detailed information about the specific problem, such as adding a missing location, correcting an incorrect street name, filling in the correct business information, manually adjusting the pin for an incorrect location, or adding written comments as necessary.

Hiding Main Menu icons on the Apple TV

Apple has regularly added some great new categories of content to the Apple TV over the past two years, ranging from MLB, NHL and NBA sports options to Netflix and Hulu Plus. If you’re not a sports fan or subscriber to any of these services, however, you may find that the additional icons do little more than clutter up your Apple TV main menu screen. While the new Apple TV 5.1 Software Update now allows you to reorder these icons, you can’t easily remove them while reordering them. However, there is a useful trick to get rid of almost any item you don’t want to see on your main Apple TV menu screen by using the Parental Controls feature. Simply go into Settings, General, Parental Controls, scroll down to the list of items at the bottom and set each one to “Hide” to make them disappear from your Main Menu entirely. You don’t even need to actually turn on parental controls simply to hide items from here, although doing so will allow you to set rating restrictions for iTunes content and leave certain items visible but passcode-protected. Note that the Movies, TV Shows, Computers and Settings items cannot be hidden.

Be sure to check out Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of Apple TV 5.1 for more information on what’s new in the latest Apple TV update.

Disabling Ad Tracking in iOS 6

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As of iOS 6 Apple is gradually changing the rules for in-app advertising, forcing developers to replace the older Universal Device Identifier (UDID) tracking with a new “Advertising Identifier.”  The added bonus to this approach is that iOS 6 users now have the option of opting out of tracking for targeted ads, however Apple has made this feature less than obvious, hiding it away at the bottom of the About screen in the iOS 6 Settings app. To find the setting, simply open the Settings app, select General and About and then scroll down to the bottom and you should see an “Advertising” button right above “Diagnostics & Usage.” Tapping on this will take you to a page with a single ON/OFF toggle to Limit Ad Tracking. Apple includes a “Learn More” link at the bottom to provide more information on this feature, explaining that advertising networks are not yet required to use the new iOS 6 Advertising Identifier feature, and hence the use of the word “Limit” rather than “Disable” or “Opt-out,” suggesting that it will not yet completely eliminate ad tracking, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction if you’re concerned about this.

Be sure to check out Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 6.0 for more on what’s new in iOS 6.

Removing Devices from iTunes in the Cloud

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If you’ve subscribed to iTunes Match, or used any of your computers or iOS devices to re-download or automatically download purchased content, these devices become registered to your iTunes Store account. While there’s normally little need to worry about this, Apple does enforce a maximum limit of ten (10) devices that can be used to access iTunes in the Cloud with a single iTunes account, which can become a problem for larger families and those who regularly upgrade or replace devices. Fortunately, you can easily remove these devices from your account if you’ve hit the maximum or simply want to clean out devices you’re no longer using. Simply go to your iTunes Store account settings by selecting View My Account from the Store menu in iTunes, and then choose “Manage Devices” from the Account Information screen. This will display a list of all of the devices currently associated with your iTunes Store account for use with iTunes in the Cloud features with a “Remove” button beside each one. Keep in mind that removing a device in this manner does not automatically disable features such as iTunes Match on the device—you’ll still need to do that directly on the device.

Manually Backing up your iOS device

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With the release of iOS 6 scheduled for next week, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a current backup of your device before taking the update plunge. While most iOS updates install without any problems, preserving your existing data, making a backup is always a sensible precaution. iOS 5 devices can be configured to use either iTunes or iCloud for automatic backups, but not both. However, if you’re normally backing up to iCloud, you can still easily make a manual backup in iTunes any time you like; simply right-click on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch in the iTunes Devices list and select “Back Up” and iTunes will immediately make an on-demand backup of your device, even if you’re normally backing up to iCloud. Automatic backups to iCloud occur once every 24 hours provided your device is plugged in and on a Wi-Fi network, however you can also check the last backup time for your iCloud Backup and force a manual backup to iCloud as well by going into the Settings app on your device and choosing iCloud, Storage & Backup and scrolling down to the bottom.

Sorting and Filtering Apps in iTunes

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If you have a lot of apps in your iTunes library, it can sometimes be a challenge to keep track of them all. While finding an individual app is easy enough simply by using the search box, sometimes you may not know the name of the app you’re looking for, or you may simply want to browse through your list of apps by genre or see which apps have recently been purchased or updated. iTunes actually makes this pretty simple since the Apps section can be viewed and organized in the same manner as any other part of your iTunes library. Simply switch to a “List” view from the View menu, and you can sort on any column, add more columns, and even call up the Browser view to quickly filter by device type and genre.

Hiding Categories in the iTunes Source List

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The iTunes Source list on the left side of your iTunes window helps keep your content organized to make it easier to browse by content type, such as Music, Movies and TV Shows. However, not every uses every type of content, and there’s an easy way to hide those categories you don’t actually need to see.  Open your iTunes Preferences, and on the General tab you will see a list of checkboxes; simply uncheck the categories you don’t want to see in your iTunes Source list and they’ll vanish from view. These same settings can also be used to hide and display additional features such as Ping, iTunes DJ, Genius, and Shared Libraries.

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