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Tips & Tricks

Changing the face image for people in Photos

Although the facial recognition features in the iOS Photos app are pretty great, you may not always like the picture it chooses as the “key” photo for a given person. Fortunately, there’s a way to select a different photo, but it’s until recently it’s been so well hidden in the Photos app that most people probably don’t even know it’s there.

To select a new key photo for a person, you must begin by going to the “People” album in the iOS Photos app and selecting the person whose photo you want to change the image for. At the bottom of that person’s photos, tapping “Show Faces” will zoom in on the person’s face in each photo. To set a new key photo, tap the “Select” button in the top right corner, find the photo you want to use and tap on it to select it, and then tap the sharing button. Scrolling to the right in the bottom row of icons should reveal as button to “Make Key Photo” that you can tap on to set the selected photo as the key photo.

Note that the “Make Key Photo” option will not appear if more than one image is selected. Further, until very recent iOS versions, it was necessary to be in “Show Faces” mode before selecting the photo in order for the option to appear, but now it will work in either mode as long as only a single photo is selected.

Handing off phone calls to Apple Watch

If you have an Apple Watch, you already know that incoming phone calls and FaceTime calls will ring on your watch alongside your iPhone, so you can answer the call and talk on your wrist, Dick Tracy style. Switching the call back to your iPhone once you’ve answered it is straightforward enough as well — simply tap the green bar that appears at the top of the home screen to open the Phone app and transfer the call to there in one fell swoop. What you may not know, however, is that you can also send calls in the other direction — transfer an in-progress call from your iPhone over to your Apple Watch.

Pairing your Apple Watch with a new iPhone

It’s September, and that means it’s iPhone upgrade season again. If you’re an Apple Watch user who has just picked up a new iPhone, it’s important to know that your Apple Watch has a particularly special relationship with your old iPhone, so you won’t just be able to backup your data from your old iPhone and then restore it to a new one without factoring your Apple Watch into the equation. Further, if you’ve purchased a new iPhone and a new Apple Watch, in most cases it’s not even worth pairing your new Apple Watch with your old iPhone; upgrade your iPhone first following the steps below, and then simply pair the new Apple Watch with the new iPhone.

Viewing and Managing all of your Apple devices in iOS 10.3

A new section added at the top of the Settings app in iOS 10.3 adds a handy single place for viewing a lot of the information associated with your Apple ID, including a single point of access for the iCloud, iTunes & App Store, and Family Sharing sections that were previously scattered about elsewhere. However, Apple has also added a few new features in this section to provide you with access to information that you could only find by logging into the iCloud or Apple ID web sites before.

Among this is a new section that displays all of the devices associated with your Apple ID, including not only your iOS devices, but also your Macs and any Apple Watch or Apple TV devices that you’ve signed into. This goes beyond just a list, however — tapping on any of these devices will bring you to a screen showing you more details. This includes a shortcut for Find My iPhone/iPad/Mac/Watch and whether it’s enabled or not and status of iCloud backups for iOS devices, followed by model, OS version, and serial number information. Devices that support Apple Pay will also show a list of the cards that have been added to each device, along with the ability to remove all of your cards from that device. It’s a handy way to keep track of all of your iOS devices, especially if you need to quickly find the serial number of a Mac or iPad that you don’t have with you, or want to remove your payment information when you’ve misplaced a device.

Capturing iOS and tvOS screenshots using your Mac

By now it’s pretty common knowledge that you can grab a screenshot from any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch simply by pressing the home and sleep/wake buttons simultaneously, saving a PNG image of whatever is on the current screen to your on-device photo library. While this works well enough in most cases, sometimes the necessary finger gymnastic can make it a bit tricky to capture more complicated screenshots, such as when playing a game or trying to capture a “peek” screen from a 3D Touch gesture.

Checking the Weather in the Maps app in iOS 10.3

If you’re a frequent Apple Maps user, you might appreciate a new little trick that Apple snuck into iOS 10.3. The iOS 10 Maps app redesign added a small indicator showing the current weather, but now in iOS 10.3 if you have a 3D Touch capable device you can view a weather forecast simply by pressing down firmly on the weather icon. A light press will let you “peek” at the current weather forecast, and if you press a bit harder it will take you over to the iOS Weather app.

What’s particularly useful about this is that the weather information will pertain to whatever area you’re viewing on the map, so while it’s only slightly faster for your home city than opening the Weather app or widget, it’s a particularly useful shortcut when you’re looking at a map view of another city.

Sharing HomeKit Access

Once you’ve started to deploy more than a couple of HomeKit accessories in your home, you’ll likely reach a point where you’ll want to ensure that your other family members can also access and control them. Fortunately, Apple has considered this in the design of HomeKit, and in fact has even improved these features with iOS 10 and tvOS 10.

To add a user to your HomeKit home from your iPhone, simply open up the “Home” app and tap the arrow in the top-left corner. On this screen you’ll see the name of your home, a listing of any of your Home Hubs, and an “Invite…” button. Tapping this allows you to invite anybody with an Apple ID to share control of your home, and if you’re using iCloud Family Sharing, the app will even helpfully offer up your list of family members to get you started. Note that if you’re managing more than one Home, each one gets its own sharing list, so you can let the whole family control the lights in your main home, while perhaps only allowing your spouse or partner access to the cottage.

Correcting your iPhone’s Pronunciation

We wrote a few years ago about how to help Siri recognize difficult names that you speak to your iPhone, but if you regularly use the voice features to have your iPhone read text to you, you may get annoyed with the constant mispronunciation of certain words — especially proper names, which are almost always tricky. Fortunately, there’s actually a way you can teach the correct pronunciation of certain words to your iPhone (or other iOS device).

Converting your child’s Apple ID into a Children’s Account

When Apple introduced Family Sharing in iOS 8, we mostly welcomed it as a great solution for those families trying to figure out the best way to share iTunes and App Store purchases among multiple family members. The new feature is especially useful for families with children, as each can have their own iCloud, iTunes, and App Store accounts, with their own passwords and preferences and purchasing capabilities that must be approved by the parent. However, one thing we ran into very early on with the new Family Sharing feature was that Apple didn’t appear to provide any means to convert an existing account into a child account. Let’s face it, until Family Sharing came along with its support for Children’s Accounts, the only way to create an Apple ID for a child under the age of 13 was to fudge the child’s birthday, and there are undoubtedly more than a few folks who took that approach just to make sure that their children could have their own parentally-supervised Apple IDs.

Of course, it seems that Apple has been tacitly aware of this all along as well, and although there are no obvious support articles or other instructions to walk you through the process, Apple has provided a loophole by which you can “come clean” and convert your children’s “teenage” Apple IDs into proper “Children’s Accounts” without having to set up entirely new Apple IDs for them. To start the process, first ensure that your child’s Apple IDs has been added to Family Sharing, and then log in to your child’s Apple ID on the web at appleid.apple.com and edit their account information to enter their correct birthday. As soon as you enter a birthday that places them under 13 years of age, you’ll get a prompt alerting you that parental consent is required, that this process will convert the account into a “children’s account” and an e-mail request will be sent to the family organizer.

Keep in mind that as the warning prompt suggests, this process is irreversible, and the account will be permanently converted to a children’s account until the child reaches 13, based on the new date of birth that you’ve entered. It’s also important to mention here that once you’ve completed this process, you won’t be able to change the date of birth without contacting Apple support, so double-check to make sure you’ve entered it correctly before continuing. Clicking “Continue” will send an email to the family organizer (which should be you in this scenario), although until it’s been approved, the request can still be cancelled.

An e-mail should appear in your inbox shortly asking for your approval to update your child’s birthdate and change their account into a children’s account.

Clicking the “Approve Request” button will take you to the Apple ID sign-in page in your web browser of choice, and once you’ve signed in you’ll be shown the birthday change (where you’ll have another chance to correct it if needed) and a Parent Privacy Disclosure and will need to confirm the change by entering the security code from whichever credit card is assigned to the primary payment method for your family; the payment verification method is more or less the same procedure required to set up a children’s account from scratch, as detailed in Apple’s knowledgeable article on Family Sharing and Apple ID for your child.

Once you’ve approved the request, your child’s date of birth will be updated and their Apple ID will be irrevocably converted to a children’s account and associated with your family. Children’s accounts must be associated with a family until they’re 13 years of age, however Apple has provided a way to transfer children’s accounts between families should you ever need to do so.

Avoiding lens switching when shooting video on the iPhone 7 Plus

The dual lens system on the iPhone 7 Plus is a pretty useful feature — you get the benefits of an 2X optical zoom whenever iOS decides it’s appropriate — but unfortunately due to the differences between the two lenses in both aperture and physical position, this can cause a “glitch” in your video if your iPhone switches to or from the second lens as you’re zooming in or out. The good news is that Apple has tucked away a setting that will allow you to avoid this problem by preventing the iPhone from automatically switching lenses during video recording.

The setting is called “Lock Camera Lens” and you can find it in the Photos & Camera section of the iOS Settings app, under Record Video. This setting only takes effect when you’re actually recording a video, and when enabled, the iPhone will keep on using whichever lens you started recording with. This means that in most cases you’ll simply be relying on digital zoom rather than optical, however if you begin recording a video while zoomed in to beyond 2X, you may not be able to zoom back out, as you’ll already be using the 2X lens. Keep in mind, however, that there are a number of factors that iOS uses to determine whether it should use the optical 2X lens or simply rely on digital zoom, such as in lower light conditions where the faster primary lens has an advantage, so you won’t always see the impact of the “Lock Camera Lens” setting, but at least you’ll be comfortable knowing that you won’t accidentally run into any jarring transitions while recording video on your iPhone 7 Plus.

Plugging your iPhone in silently

If you’ve ever tried to tiptoe into your bedroom late at night without waking up your spouse, you’ve probably cringed when you’ve had to plug in your iPhone, only to hear it chirp or buzz as it vibrates to acknowledge the charging connection. Fortunately, it turns out there’s a handy, albeit it less than obvious way to prevent this: For whatever reason it turns out that if you simply swipe to the camera from your lock screen before plugging your iPhone in, it will not emit any sound or vibration at all. The Camera app will stay open, of course, but you can easily return to the normal lock screen once your iPhone is plugged in by pressing the home button. [via iPhone in Canada / Business Insider]

Filtering Explicit Language in Siri

If you’ve got kids at home with their own iPad or iPod touch, it won’t be long before they figure out that they can have a chat with Siri, and unfortunately while Siri’s voice recognition is pretty good, it can’t always keep up with the developing language skills of a young child. So it’s not surprising that sometimes Siri won’t quite be able to accurately transcribe what they’re trying to say, but sometimes Siri can get it embarrassingly wrong, throwing up words that you might not be ready to explain the meaning of to your kids.

Fortunately, there’s an option tucked away inside the Restrictions settings found on every iOS device (and even the Apple TV) that can tell Siri to filter out any explicit language it hears. You can find it in the iOS Settings app, under General, Restrictions. By default, this option is switched on, meaning Siri allows for explicit language in queries (although she will still scold you for using it sometimes). Turning this option off won’t prevent Siri from responding to explicit language queries, but it will censor any inappropriate words that it transcribes. A second option in this screen also allows you to prevent Siri from going out and searching the web — probably also a good idea if you want to prevent Siri from inadvertently bringing up inappropriate websites when it misunderstands a search request.

Quickly marking your current location in Apple Maps

The new Maps app in iOS 10 will automatically keep track of where you parked your car (provided you have a Bluetooth or CarPlay connection to it), but there are also times when it’s handy to just quickly mark your current location so that you can easily find your way back to it later. If you have a newer iPhone model with 3D Touch capabilities, there’s actually a really quick way to do this hidden right behind the Maps app icon on your home screen.

Just push firmly on the Maps icon, and you’ll get the upcoming destinations widget along with an option to “Mark My Location.” Tap on this and Maps opens right up with a pin dropped onto the map wherever you happen be standing. The marker will stay in place — so you can find it or get directions back to — it until you specifically clear it by using a swipe-to-delete action in the locations list or 3D Touching on it and choosing “Remove Marker” from the pop up menu.

Finding Flagged or Unread Messages in all Mailboxes

While iOS 7’s smart mailboxes and the new message filters in the iOS 10 Mail app are great for finding flagged and unread items in a single folder such as your inbox, they’re less useful for those situations where you’ve archived a flagged message or filed it away in another folder. Fortunately, the iOS Mail app has a pretty robust search feature borrowed from its bigger brother on macOS, including the ability to search for message status in addition to message content.

Scrolling up to the top of your message list in any mailbox reveals the search field, and if you tap on this you’ll immediately see predefined “Suggested Searches” for unread messages, flagged messages, messages from VIPs, and messages with attachments. Tapping on any one of these immediately initiates a search for messages matching that specific criterion, and if “All Mailboxes” is selected at the top of the screen, the search will go through not only the currently selected folder, but every folder in that particular account to ferret out those messages. You can even combine these searches by typing in the other terms you want to use — for example, tap on “Flagged Messages” to start a search for all flagged messages, and then type in “Attachments” and tap on “Messages with Attachments” at the bottom of the “Suggested Searches” list and your results will be filtered to include only those messages that are flagged and have one or more attachments.

Using 3D Touch to view notifications in folders

If you’ve got an iPhone 6s or later model, there are actually a lot of neat little tricks hidden behind 3D Touch gestures. While you probably already know that 3D Touching on a normal app icon will show a menu of actions for many apps, sometimes along with a widget in iOS 10, there’s actually a useful 3D Touch feature for folders as well.

Although in most cases, 3D Touching on a folder will just give you a “Rename” option, if you have one or more apps in a folder that are showing a notification, you’ll also see a list of those apps, providing you with quick shortcuts to go right into them to deal with the notifications. This can be especially useful if you have a folder with a lot of apps, as it’s much faster than swiping across multiple pages to try and figure out which icons are showing notification badges.

Renaming Albums in the iOS 10 Photos app

Creating Photo Albums and Shared Albums in the iOS 10 Photos app is relatively straight forward, but you may not have realized that you can also rename these albums directly on your iPhone or iPad, without having to take a trip over to the macOS Photos app or the iCloud.com web site.

It’s not obvious that you can do this as it’s hidden away behind a tap gesture that’s not entirely intuitive — while you probably already know that you can rearrange and delete albums from the main Albums and iCloud Photo Sharing views by tapping the “Edit” button in the top-right corner, once you’ve engaged editing mode, tapping on any of your album names will bring up the keyboard to allow you to edit the name of that album as well. The cursor will automatically be placed at the end of the name, and you can make any changes and simply tap the “Done” button on the keyboard to save them and return to the standard editing view.

Adjusting 3D Touch Sensitivity

Apple’s 3D Touch gestures which debuted with the iPhone 6s can be pretty useful for quickly cross-referencing information, calling up shortcut menus, and accessing rich notifications. However, since 3D Touch is a distinct gesture from merely touching and holding your finger on the screen, sometimes it can get a bit tricky to differentiate between the two, such as when trying to rearrange icons on the home screen as opposed to triggering shortcut menus.

Fortunately, Apple has provided a way to adjust 3D Touch sensitivity, hidden away the Accessibility section of your iPhone Settings app. Selecting 3D Touch from here provides three sensitivity levels that you can choose from based on how hard you want to press on the screen to trigger a 3D Touch action, and there’s even a helpful test area so you can try out the different settings. Also, if you find that 3D Touch just gets in the way and you’d rather not use it at all, a switch at the top allows you to turn the feature off entirely.

Changing iPhone volume using Siri

Apple designed its new AirPods to be pretty easy to set up and use, but one thing that’s clearly missing is the ability to change the volume using hardware controls without reaching for your iPhone. Fortunately, if you regularly use AirPods without an iPhone or Apple Watch within reach, you might find it handy to know that you can actually change your iPhone’s volume using Siri voice commands.

Simply tap on the AirPods to activate Siri, and then issue an appropriate command like Increase the volume or Turn the sound down and Siri will respond appropriately, although Siri seems to increase and decrease the volume in larger increments than using the hardware buttons on the iPhone. You can also ask Siri what the current volume level is, which will be expressed as a percentage. You can also ask Siri to set the volume to a specific percentage, which might be more useful once you’ve experimented a bit and become familiar with your preferred listening levels.

Using your iPhone as a Game Controller for your Apple TV

While the fourth-generation Apple TV supports a variety of MFi Game Controllers, most games can also still technically be played using the Siri Remote as well. However, in a lot of games you’ll probably find the Siri Remote too small and awkward to use as a game controller — especially in those cases where you’re expected to turn it sideways and use the accelerometer. While you can of course just go out and buy a game controller like the SteelSeries Nimbus, that’s not always an easy expense to justify if you’re just a casual gamer.

Fortunately, there’s another possible option, courtesy of Apple’s Apple TV Remote app. In addition to replacing your Siri Remote for normal Apple TV control and navigation functions, it can also double as a basic game controller. Load up the Remote app on your iPhone, and once you’re in a game, a game controller icon will appear at the top of the screen — tap on this and you’ll be taken into a landscape view with a touchscreen surface on the left and two game controller buttons on the right. While you still won’t get the full button support of a standalone game controller (and it’s not going to cut if for any games that now require game controllers), the larger iPhone still has a much better feel for gaming than the dainty Siri Remote.

Showing a Smart Folder in the iOS 10 Mail Widget

The addition of 3D Touch to the iPhone 6s has been a productivity boon for a lot of users, with information now more quickly accessible from the home screen and within key apps, and iOS 10 improved upon this by putting widgets directly behind key icons on the home screen, and expanding the menus. While most of these popup menus remain static, there are some minor things that can be customized in certain apps.

In the iOS 10 Mail app, for example, if you have a Smart Mailbox set up to appear in your mailbox list, this will automatically be displayed below the “Inbox” entry on the popup menu that appears when you 3D Touch on the Mail icon. While only one Smart Mailbox will appear on this menu, any one of them can be set to appear simply by placing it at the top of your mailbox list in the Mail app — iOS simply chooses the first enabled Smart Mailbox on the list and displays it on the popup menu.

Sadly, only the predefined Smart Mailboxes are supported here — even though you can add individual mailbox folders to the main list, they can’t be made to appear on the 3D Touch menu. Still, if you find yourself regularly looking at just flagged messages, messages from your VIP contacts, or messages with attachments in your inbox, it’s a useful shortcut.

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