Tips & Tricks
Built-in Spotlight search is one of the more powerful—yet widely overlooked—features of iOS. Sometimes, though, it can be a little too powerful—odds are you don’t really want to be search for Voice Memos at the same time you’re searching for an app that’s buried in a folder somewhere. That’s where today’s tip comes in. By opening the Settings app, tapping on General, and then tapping on Spotlight Search, you’ll be given a full list of everything Spotlight can search, with check marks beside everything it will search. Simply go through and tap on the stuff you don’t want it searching—Voice Memos, for example—to ensure that it’s unchecked, and use the “handles” on the right-hand side to change the order in which the results appear—by moving Applications to the top, for instance. In no time you’ll have a device-wide search that’s as tailored to your needs as the stuff you’re searching for.
If you’re anything like us, odds are you’re constantly using the “open in new tab” functionality of your desktop browser—but did you know you can do the same on your iOS device? In Safari, simply tap and hold on any link you’d like to open elsewhere, and tap the “Open in New Page” button on the slide-up that appears. Just be careful not to get too crazy, as you can only have so many open at once.
iOS typically does a pretty good job of handling multiple app downloads—but did you know that you can help the process along by picking a choosing which apps to download first? Simply tap on any downloading app to switch its status from “Waiting” or “Loading” to “Paused.” When you’re ready for its download to start, simply tap it again to add it back to the download queue. Now you never have to let a 100MB+ game download get in the way of a simple Facebook update again.
As our iOS devices become more and more powerful, they also end up holding more and more of our information — making it an even bigger pain to move from one to another. Thankfully, there’s a super simple way to make sure your newest device has all the info from your old one. As long as you’ve backed up prior your device to iTunes and your new device is running the same or later version of iOS, you simply plug in your new iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad into your main computer, select your prior device’s backup, and hit restore from backup—after it’s done syncing, you should have all the same preferences, settings, apps, and media as you had on your old device without needing to do a thing. For more information on migrating between iOS devices, see our August 26 Ask iLounge article.
While Apple’s pack-in chargers for the iPhone and iPad provide just the right amount of power for each device, charging iOS devices on desktops and laptops can be more of a crapshoot. Luckily, it’s not too hard to take control of the situation and ensure that your device is getting the juice it needs. If you’re having problems charging or upgrading your device on a PC, you’ll want to make sure it’s plugged in to a port on the machine—not a hub—and try to unplug any other unnecessary USB devices while you’re at it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, users of Apple’s Mac computers have things a little easier.
On Macs newer than 2007, all your USB ports should supply at least 1100 mA of charging power to any device—such as an iPhone or iPad—that needs it. The extra power is doled out on a first come, first served basis, so the first device you plug in is virtually guaranteed to receive the maximum amount of power, while later devices are less likely. If you have a Mac that was built this year, it might even support full 2.1 Amp fast charging of the iPad. Mac users also have a very simple way to check how much juice each device is receiving. Simply go the the Apple menu, select About This Mac, and hit the More Info… button, which launches System Profiler. From there you can select USB from the sidebar under Hardware, and select the device you want to check on. It’ll show you the Current Available, the Current Required, and the Extra Operating Current—by adding the Available and Extra Current together, you’ll get the current power output for that port. For more info, see this Apple Support document.
When Apple added PDF support in iBooks, it was a huge boon to users who hadn’t yet sprung for a standalone, third-party reader. But did you know that you can add files directly to this PDF library from Safari on the iPad? Simply open a PDF in Safari and tap the page - at the top you’ll see a button to “Open in iBooks,” which will automatically add the document to your library. Starting in iOS 5, you’ll also be able to take advantage of this feature on your iPhone or iPod touch, making the process of adding a PDF to your iBooks library far more streamlined.
If you’ve ever come across a box containing text, a map, or some other interactive element on a webpage in Safari on your iOS device, you may have noticed that when trying to scroll inside it with a single finger, you end up moving the entire page instead. As it turns out, Safari on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch does offer a way to do so: simply scroll inside the box as you’d normally do, but use two fingers instead one. Problem solved.
If you’ve had the need to use Find My iPhone to locate your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad even a single time, you know the outstanding utility of this feature. Once limited to paying MobileMe customers, it’s now free for all iPhone 4, fourth-generation iPod touch, and iPad users, and will continue to be when Apple makes the transition over to iCloud. If you haven’t yet set it up on your device, here’s how to do so.
Open up the Settings app, then tap on Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and tap Add Account. Choose MobileMe, then use your Apple ID—it can be the same one you use for the iTunes Store, or a separate ID, if you have one—to sign up. Don’t worry if you’re not a MobileMe subscriber—logging in with a non-MobileMe ID will still give you access to the following screen, on which you can toggle the feature on and off. Turn it on, and you’ll be able to login on the web or from another iOS device using the same login and track, lock, remotely wipe, or just display a message or play a sound on your device.
- August 11, 2011
Ever wonder why your iPhone vibrates whether or not it’s set to silent mode? The answer lies in a simple setting that—depending on the number of calls you have coming in—might be able to eke out a little extra battery life throughout the day. To change this, open up the Settings app, then tap on Sounds. On that page you’ll see two on/off toggles labeled “Vibrate”—one under Silent, and one under Ringer and Alerts. Simply go down to the latter one and make sure it’s set to off, and from then on your phone won’t vibrate unless it’s set to silent mode, saving you an extra bit of battery life and potentially saving it from rattling around and falling on the floor.
Over the years, Safari on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch has become more capable, incrementally gaining features from its desktop counterpart. One of those features—AutoFill—can come in extremely handy, but doesn’t necessarily get used a lot because it’s not turned on by default. To add this trick to your mobile web browsing arsenal, open the Settings app, tap on Safari, and then tap on AutoFill. On the screen that appears, you’ll need to turn Use Contact Info on, Names & Passwords on—if you want—and tap the My Info area to select your own entry from your list of contacts, letting Safari in on specifics like your address, phone number, and other details it can use to automatically populate forms, saving you time and frustration.
- July 21, 2011
Ever receive a text from someone that was mysteriously cut off at the end, only for the rest to appear later in a separate text—or worse yet, receive the end of a text before the beginning? That happens when you run over the limit of 160 characters that some carriers use to keep SMS messages small. For iPhone owners using iOS 4 or later, there’s a simple way to ensure that you won’t be joining the broken text crowd. Open the Settings app, tap on Messages, and make sure that the slider for Character Count is turned on—and that’s it. Once you hit 30 characters when composing a message, a counter will appear overtop the Send button, letting you see how many characters you’ve used, and thus letting you figure out how many you have left.
- July 19, 2011
Ever noticed that when you receive a call on the iPhone and it’s on, you get two options for dealing with the call—Answer or Decline—but if the phone is off, all you get is the slide to answer notice at the bottom? Believe it or not, you actually still have multiple options available to you. By tapping the volume or sleep/wake buttons, you can silence the ringer with ease. But if that’s not enough, simply tap the sleep/wake button twice in succession and it will have the same effect as tapping the Decline button, sending the caller directly to your voicemail system.
- July 14, 2011
With the announcement of the next-generation iPhone quickly approaching, now would be a great time to check on whether you’ll be able to qualify for the subsidized—or in layman’s terms, cheap—pricing. As it turns out, both AT&T and Verizon let you do that right from your phone. AT&T users will want to dial *639#, while Verizon customers can hit up #UPG—with either carrier, you’ll soon after receive a text message telling you whether you’ll be able to pick up the next iPhone on the cheap or whether you’ll be waiting for a while longer.
- July 12, 2011
If you’ve had your iPhone for very long, odds are you’ve noticed that it isn’t shy about reminding you that you’ve got an incoming text or MMS message that you haven’t gotten around to looking at—a problem that can sometimes lead to you thinking you have more messages than you really have. There’s a simple way to take control of this potentially aggravating feature, however. Open up the Settings app, tap on Messages, and then tap on Play Alert Tone. From here, you can bring the number of times it will alert you down to once or twice, or crank things up ‘til it’s going off 10 times for each text, or enough to make you sound like the most popular person in the room.
If you’ve ordered something online, odds are you’ll get a shipment notification via email—and that means it’s likely to show up in Mail on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Luckily, Apple’s latest versions of iOS can automatically parse UPS and FedEx tracking numbers, giving you fast access to the whereabouts of your latest arrival. To take advantage of this feature, simply find the tracking number in the email, and tap and hold until an option to Track Shipment appears, and tap on that to be taken to the courier’s tracking page. It’s a lot easier for the anxious than trying to copy and paste the number every time. Trust us.
The ability to take your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad into an Apple Store for service is great—but handing over all of your personal info? Not so much. If you’re getting your iOS device replaced, selling it, or simply handing an older model over to a family member, you’ll want to get all your contacts, calendars, and other personal data off the device—and luckily, there’s an easy, built-in feature in iOS for doing exactly that. Open the Settings app, tap on General, and scroll to the bottom of the screen until you see the button for Reset. Tap on that, and then tap Erase All Content and Settings. The device will have you verify that this is what you want to do—you are erasing everything, after all—and will then do its thing, rebooting afterwards into the same state it was in when you first took it out of the box.
- June 30, 2011
Being able to dial your iPhone using nothing but your voice is one of the coolest tricks of iOS’ Voice Control feature, and it works great most of the time. Sometimes, though, it can get hung up on hard-to-pronounce names—let’s use Samir Nagheenanajar as an example. To help Voice Control recognize his last name, all you need to do is open the Contacts app, tap on Samir’s name, and tap Edit. Down at the bottom of the page, you’ll see an option to add a field. Tap on this, select Phonetic Last Name, and type in something along the lines of “Na-ghee-na-na-jar”, then tap the done button. For contacts with a difficult first name, you’d use the same steps, but select Phonetic First Name instead. Before you know it, your iPhone will know how to say your friends’ names better than you do.
- June 28, 2011
Ever launch a game or start to watch a video and realize that you could stand to lower the volume, only to be thwarted when you start hitting the iPhone’s side volume buttons and see the “ringer” designation? We sure have. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Simply open up the Settings app, tap on Sounds, and look under Ringer and Alerts. You’ll see a volume slider, and then a toggle for “Change with Buttons,” which you’ll want to switch off, and voila—no more misunderstood taps on the volume controls. After all, if you really want to turn your ringer down, odds are you want your phone in vibrate mode—and there’s already a switch for that.
Whether it’s an unresponsive device, an upgrade gone bad, or some other sort of software-based gremlin, sometimes you literally have to force iTunes to recognize and restore your iOS device. Short for Device Firmware Update, DFU mode is a last resort for bringing misbehaving units back to working order—and here’s how to trigger it.
To start, you need to have the device plugged into your computer via USB, and then turn it off. Once it’s completely powered down, press and hold both the sleep/wake and Home buttons for ten seconds. After ten seconds, release the sleep/wake button but continue to hold the Home button down until you see a pop-up alert from iTunes telling you that it has “detected an iPhone/iPad/iPod touch in recovery mode,” and that it needs to restore the device before it can be used. If your device starts up normally without seeing this pop-up, simply try the process again—sometimes it takes a couple tries. And if that doesn’t work, well, there’s always the Genius Bar!
For those of you with smaller hands, you may have noticed that it’s not always easy to reach the back button on iPhone and iPod touch Music app’s Now Playing screen when you’re holding the device one-handed. Luckily, Apple has built-in another form of navigation: simply swipe to the right on this screen and the app will return to the menu you were last looking at, letting you easily choose another song. It’s not the most complicated tip, but if you ever need it, it sure comes in handy.
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