Tips & Tricks
Siri can be a very useful virtual assistant, but unfortunately its reliance on Apple’s servers to translate your requests means that it doesn’t always work when you’re on the fringes of network coverage or moving between a Wi-Fi and cellular network—such as when you’re leaving the house. Further, Siri will generally only tell you that it’s “having a problem” without being particularly helpful at explaining what it’s problem actually is, but it’s most often related to an error communicating with Apple’s servers—due to either a poor network connection on your end, or a problem on Apple’s. It’s also not uncommon for Siri to get hung up on a bad connection and refuse to handle requests even after your device has returned to a good network connection and everything should otherwise be working fine. If you notice that Siri is repeatedly not responding to requests even though you have a good connection, you can easily give it a nudge simply by toggling Airplane Mode ON on your device, waiting a few seconds, and then toggling it back OFF to reset your network connection, toggling Siri itself off and back on again, or in a worst-case scenario, simply turning your device off and back on. We’ve had more luck flipping either Siri or the phone on and off than using Airplane Mode, as there is clearly a bug that’s specifically hanging the Siri app. While these are not ideal solutions, they can help get Siri up and running again in a minute as opposed to thinking that it simply isn’t working for an hour.
If you’re using a Gmail or iCloud account in the iOS Mail app, you actually have the option of choosing to have the standard Trashcan button either delete messages or archive them. While the default behaviour for the button can be configured in the Mail account settings to archive instead of delete—in which case it will display as an archive bin rather than a trashcan—you can also override the behaviour on a per-use basis simply by tapping and holding your finger on the button for about a second; a pop-up menu will appear with both Delete and Archive options available. This works when viewing an individual message as well as when performing an archive or delete operation on multiple messages. Of course, this won’t work if the messages you’re working with are already in your iCloud Archive or Gmail All Mail folder, and sadly it also isn’t available for other types of Mail accounts—even if you have an Archive folder in your mailbox.
You’re probably already aware that you can save any partially-composed e-mail messages as drafts in the iOS Mail app—these messages go to a “Drafts” folder on your device and you can find them there simply by accessing it via your folder list. However, iOS 6 adds a cool new hidden feature that allows you to access any of your draft messages more quickly, right when composing a new message. Simply tap and hold on the Compose button in the bottom right of the Mail app and a quick list of all available drafts in your mailbox will appear, along with a button at the top to create a new message should you choose to do that instead. You can even swipe-to-delete from here to remove any drafts that you no longer need.
Apple’s Find My Friends is a useful app for sharing your location with close friends and family members, but it can also be used for temporarily sharing your location with groups of people that you may not want tracking for on a normal basis, such as when travelling with friends or coordinating a meetup somewhere.
To share your location temporarily, simply download and install the Find My Friends app, sign in with your Apple ID and password and then choose the “Temporary” button from the bottom menu bar. From here you can add the addresses of your temporary sharing group and specify when you want location sharing with this group to end. You can even setup more than one temporary location sharing group, and as an added bonus, Find My Friends provides quick links for sending an iMessage to the entire group. When an event expires, it will simply disappear from the list, along with any users who were added as part of that group.
- December 20, 2012
iTunes has long offered a basic feature for identifying duplicate tracks, however when iTunes 11 was initially released, many users were surprised to find the feature had gone missing. Regardless of whether this was intentional or an oversight on Apple’s part, it quickly returned the feature in an update to iTunes 11.0.1. If you’re missing the Show Duplicates feature, be sure you’ve upgraded to the latest version of iTunes, and then take a look on the View menu. The feature itself works in much the same way as in prior iTunes versions, filtering your list view down to only suspected duplicate tracks and then letting you deal with this information as you see fit. Keep in mind that for music tracks, however, this is based only on the track name and artist, so if you’re a collector who wants to keep multiple, complete albums you may find that you always have duplicates in your library as far as iTunes is concerned. When viewing duplicates, a status bar appears at the bottom of the iTunes window to remind you that you are in this mode, along with a “Display all” button that can be used to return to the full track view.
The long-awaited Google Maps has finally arrived for the iPhone and iPod touch. Like most of Google’s “free” apps, however, it comes with the price of encouraging you to offer up your location data to Google in exchange for access to the company’s excellent mapping service. While Google Maps should prompt you on first run as to whether or not you want to participate, if you missed that screen in your rush to get right into the app and explore, you may have a hard time figuring out exactly where the option is afterward. The good news is that the option is still in the app, however Google seems to have buried it in a pretty obscure location that most users may find challenging to locate.
To turn off Location Data Collection in the new Google Maps app, first go into the application’s settings by selecting your user profile via the small person icon in the top-right corner of the main screen followed by the gear icon that appears in its place on the user profile screen. From here, you need to go into About, terms & privacy and then one more level down from there into Terms & privacy, where the Location data collection option will appear.
- December 11, 2012
iTunes 11 introduces a new “Live Search” feature that is designed to allow you to search across your entire iTunes library when entering information in the Search field in the top-right corner of your iTunes window. As useful as this may be for some situations, not everybody will necessarily be a fan of the new search style, particularly as it can be somewhat slower with larger libraries. The good news is that if you find the feature more annoying than useful, you can very easily turn it off: Simply click on the magnifying glass in the search field, and a drop-down menu will appear with an option, enabled by default, to Search entire library. Click on this option to turn it back off, and iTunes will return to the search behaviour found in previous versions, allowing you to filter only the displayed category rather than showing results from your entire library. As a bonus, you can easily tell which mode is enabled from reading the background text in the search field; the word Search will be followed by Library when the full “live search” is enabled or the current category name (e.g. “Music”) when using the older style filtered search.
- December 6, 2012
iTunes 11 introduces a significantly new user interface design, with the long-standing left sidebar essentially replaced by a set of drop-down menus. If you’re more comfortable with the classic sidebar, however, the good news is that you can very easily turn it back on simply by going to the View menu and choosing the Show Sidebar option. This returns you to a somewhat more traditional iTunes interface, along with the added bonus that the colourful pre-iTunes 10 icons have returned. Note that the UI in this mode is actually a hybrid of the standard iTunes sidebar with the newer iTunes 11 layouts in the main panel, so you won’t get everything back from the classic interface, but it should definitely be a big help for experienced users having difficulty finding their way around the new version. Note that the status bar can also be toggled back on from the View menu if you’re wondering what’s happened to the totals previously found at the bottom of each screen.
By now most iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users are probably aware that you can configure a four-digit passcode on your device to protect it from unauthorized access. For more security-conscious users, however, iOS also provides the ability to use a longer, alphanumeric passcode. To set this up, simply go into the Settings app, and select General, Passcode Lock and toggle OFF the Simple Passcode option. When entering a new passcode, you will be presented with the standard iOS alphanumeric keyboard instead of the simple numeric PIN pad, both for setting your passcode and for unlocking it when you access your device.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- November 1, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- October 9, 2012
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).
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