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

Tips & Tricks

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.

Switching between apps on the new Apple TV

With the advent of the App Store for the Apple TV, Apple’s new tvOS borrows some user interface features from its iOS cousin, including the concept of a “Home” button and screen, as well as the App Switcher for quickly navigating between apps and closing them if necessary. You can bring up the App Switcher with a double-tap of the Home button; the user interface should be familiar to anybody who has ever used an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

In the App Switcher, you can of course use the touchpad to swipe between open apps, and dismiss or close an app simply by swiping up on the touchpad, much like you would in iOS. tvOS apps also remain suspended in the background much like they do on iOS, so you can use the Home button to pull up the App Switcher or return to the Home screen and still pick up right where you left off when you go back to your app — as long as tvOS can keep it in memory while you’re running other apps.

Sorting iOS Notifications Chronologically

Although you’ve been able to set your notifications to sort by date since the Notification Center first debuted back in iOS 5, all this option actually did was sort your apps by the date the last notification was received, grouping each notification under app-specific headings. Unfortunately, this didn’t provide an entirely chronological view of your notifications, since apps that had received several notifications over the course of a day would still have those older notifications grouped with it, above whichever app had displayed the second-most recent notification, and so forth.

Bringing up Wallet from the iPhone lock screen

In addition to renaming Passbook to the more appropriate name of Wallet, iOS 9 now makes it even easier to access your Apple Pay and other cards while your iPhone is locked. Simply double-tap the home button, and it will come up and be ready to go. Of course, you’ll still need to authenticate Apple Pay transactions using Touch ID, but the rest of your cards will be readily accessible for scanning without having to unlock your iPhone and open the Wallet app.

Annotating PDFs and images in iOS 9 Mail

A subtle new feature that’s been added to the built-in Mail app in iOS 9 allows you to mark up PDF and image file attachments. With the built-in markup editor you can add lines, shapes, arrows, and even drop in your signature. As an added bonus, if you’ve created signatures in Preview on your Mac they’ll be automatically synced via iCloud (providing you’re signed into the same iCloud account on both devices) and available to use in the markup editor.

Saving and Sharing Visual Voicemail Messages

When Apple debuted Visual Voicemail on the original iPhone in 2007, it introduced a whole new way to deal with voicemail messages, making the process about as seamless as working through an email inbox. Now iOS 9 takes these capabilities a step further, allowing you to not only browse through and listen to your messages, but to easily save and share them right from the Phone app.

When viewing your voicemail messages on your iPhone, you’ll see the standard “Share” button now appears in the top right corner right beside the info button. Tapping on this brings up the standard iOS Share Sheet, where you can share your voicemail message via email or iMessages, save it to the new iOS 9 Notes app, or even export it right into your Voice Memos app, Dropbox, Google Drive, or any other supported third-party app.

Adding links to Reminders in iOS 9

With iOS 9 you can now create reminders that are linked to content in other applications, such as a web page, email, contact, conversation in messages, or location in maps. Even better, many third-party apps also provide support for the same feature, allowing you to set reminders directly from those apps and then link back into where you were in the app, such as editing an image in Pixelmator, being reminded about a reading item in Pocket, or saving and pulling up a calculation in PCalc. Many of these links will even work on OS X El Capitan, provided you have the corresponding app installed on your Mac.

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