Tips & Tricks
- February 12, 2013
The physical hardware switch located in the top-right corner of the iPad and iPad mini has had a somewhat checkered past; while it now defaults to being a mute button, when the original iPad was first released with iOS 3.2 the button was actually used only as an orientation lock, a behaviour that remained in place until iOS 4.2 permanently changed it back to a mute function and then iOS 4.3 gave users a choice. Out of the box, the button works in the same way as on the iPhone and iPod touch—muting all alert sounds such as mail and calendar notifications. Unlike the iPhone and iPod touch, however, you can actually reassign the function of this button to an orientation lock, useful for using your iPad to read or watch videos when lying on your side in bed, for example. To do this, simply go into the Settings app on your iPad, choose General and look for the section labelled “Use Side Switch to” and choose your preferred function. A button can also be found on the multitasking/widget bar that will automatically be set to the other option, so if you choose to reassign the Lock Rotation function to the switch, the widget bar will contain a Mute button.
Keep in mind as well that the “Mute” option—regardless of whether it’s assigned to the switch or the button bar—mutes alert sounds, which are separate from other sounds such as music and video playback. Similarly, turning down the volume using the buttons on the side of the iPad will not silence alerts such as push notifications, calendar alarms and new incoming mail messages.
Apple’s Passbook app is great for letting you store a digital wallet for everything from your Starbucks card to your airline boarding pass, and by default includes location- and time-based notifications, allowing passes to come up automatically when you’re near your favourite store or your event is about to start. While you can easily turn these notifications off globally via Settings, Notifications in the way as for any other iOS app, what happens if you prefer to receive notifications from certain important passes—such as your airline ticket—while preventing notifications from appearing when you happen to walk by a local movie theatre? The good news is that you can do this right on the pass itself—simply open Passbook, select the pass, and tap the small “i” button in the bottom right corner to virtually flip the pass around and display additional details. Among these will be a Show on Lock Screen option which you can toggle off to prevent that particular pass from displaying time- and location-based notifications.
Since the release of iOS 6.0 last fall, Apple has gradually begun changing the rules for in-app advertising and device identification, transitioning developers to a new “Advertising Identifier” in place of the older, permanent Universal Device Identifier (UDID). iOS 6.0 introduced the ability for users to opt out of this new form of tracking entirely via a rather obscure option tucked away at the bottom of the About screen in the Settings app. With iOS 6.1, users now have an additional option that can be found here—Reset Advertising Identifier—that can be used to generate a new, unique Advertising Identifier for your device. This can be useful for those users who may not mind targeted ads or other forms of device tracking but may wish to effectively “start over” with a new unique advertising ID.
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. Apple has begun transitioning developers away from using the UDID, and is expected to prevent third-party access to it entirely at some point, requiring developers to use the new user-controlled Advertising Identifier if they still wish to identify specific devices in their apps.
If you’re an iTunes Match user, you may be happy to know that with yesterday’s release of iOS 6.1, Apple has returned the ability to not only download individual tracks from iCloud on-demand, but also to manually remove specific tracks or even entire albums and artists from your local device storage. Although this capability was present in iOS 5.x, it disappeared with the release of iOS 6.0 for unknown reasons. Now in iOS 6.1, however, if you’re low on capacity and want to free up some additional space by removing your downloaded tracks, simply choose a track, album or artist from the appropriate listing and swipe left-to-right to bring up a “Delete” button. The local copy of the track(s) will be removed from your device, but will remain available in your iCloud-based library for future access. Note that the delete button is only available when accessing song listings from outside of a playlist.
Be sure to check out our article, Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 6.1 for all the details.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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