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

Tips & Tricks

Using SMS Character Count to avoid split texts

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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.

Declining a call from a locked iPhone

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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.

Checking your upgrade eligibility from iPhone

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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.

Toning down new message alerts on iPhone

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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.

Tracking packages directly from Mail in iOS

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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.

Erasing your iOS device without a computer

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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.

Helping Voice Control along with Phonetic Names

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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.

Getting specific with the iPhone volume buttons

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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.

Putting an iOS device in DFU mode

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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!

Navigating the Music app with one hand

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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.

Getting rid of Wi-Fi network pop-ups on iOS

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Today’s tips is aimed at the urban dwellers. Do you frequently notice that your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad is asking you to join random, unknown networks while you’re walking, riding, or even just sitting at a nearby café? Unless you like these interruptions, there’s an easy way to rid yourself of these annoying notifications. Simply open the Settings app, tap Wi-Fi, and set the “Ask to Join Networks” slider to off. Now your device will only connect to networks that it’s previously connected to—like the ones at your home and work—unless you open that same Wi-Fi menu and manually look for a new connection. It can be a little less handy, but it’s also a lot less aggravating.

Quickly add apps, content to iOS devices

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More than likely you’re accustomed to using iTunes’ tabbed device management interface for handling what apps, music, videos, and other media you want on your devices. But did you know that you can add just a few items quickly and easily without ever having to change those settings? Simply drag-and-drop any app or content you want from your iTunes library to the iOS device’s listing in the sidebar. iTunes will automatically add it to the device—assuming there’s enough available space—even if you’ve got automatic syncing turned on.

Setting up Automatic Downloads in iOS and iTunes

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Announced this week as part of Apple’s new iCloud service, you can now set your iOS devices and iTunes to automatically download new purchases made on other devices. On your iOS device running 4.3.3, go in to the Settings apps and tap on Store. Right at the top, you’ll see slider toggles for turning Automatic Downloads of Music, Apps, and Books on and off. In addition, there’s a separate option below that on 3G-enabled devices that lets you decide whether you’d like them to download purchases over the cellular network when you’re away from Wi-Fi.

In iTunes 10.3, the process is just as simple. Open the iTunes > Preferences… menu, click the Store tab, and then click the three check boxes for the Automatic Downloads of Music, Apps, and Books as you’d like. From now on, whenever you purchase a song, app, or book on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or home computer, you’ll find it waiting for you the next time you use one of your other devices.

Downloading past iTunes purchases to your iOS device

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As you might have heard, Apple has announced iTunes in the Cloud, allowing users to download past iTunes Store music and music video purchases directly to their iPhones, iPads, or iPod touches, free of charge. If your device is running iOS 4.3.3, simply open the iTunes Store app and look at the bottom row of tabs. You should see a new tab called Purchased, from which you can access and download all your past iTunes Store music purchases. You can look for specific songs by searching, browse past purchases via Recent Purchases or Not On This iPhone automatically-populated lists, or browse by artist. When you’ve found the song or album you were looking for, simply tap the cloud download button to the right of the listing. Just remember that if you’re on 3G, these downloads will count against your data limit, so try to stay away from grabbing up album after album until you’re back on Wi-Fi.

Grabbing screenshots on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

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Whether you’re a designer trying to get a mobile layout pixel-perfect, a frustrated customer needing to document some strange behavior for the folks at the Genius Bar, or a wordsmith wanting to memorialize your latest Words With Friends achievement, you’re going to need a screenshot. Luckily, every portable iOS device has a super-simple way to capture whatever’s happening on your screen. Simply push the sleep/wake and Home buttons simultaneously, and you should see the screen flash, accompanied by the familiar camera snap sound—provided your device has a built-in speaker. This trick works anywhere in the OS—including when an app is running—and you’ll find the resulting image in your Camera Roll, where you can access and share it just like any other photo you’ve snapped.

Getting the most out of iOS’ software keyboard

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When Apple CEO Steve Jobs first unveiled the iPhone, he made a point to highlight the device’s software keyboard, which allowed it to adapt to different uses, unlike the hardware keyboards popular at the time. Well, this adaptability can also make typing on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad faster. When typing an uppercase letter, for instance, you can use a single “tap and slide” motion from the shift button to the letter you need; the same “tap and slide” maneuver can be used when typing a number or symbol. When you’re typing in a web address, tap and hold on the “.com” button to access other frequently used top-level domains such as .net, .edu, and .org, and if you’re typing on the iPad, you can swipe up on the exclamation point/comma or question mark/period button for quick access for an apostrophe or quotation mark, respectively. While they’re not exactly game-changers, these simple tips can save you a few extra taps—and with them, extra seconds—every single day.

Turning on Home Sharing for iPod, iPhone, and iPad

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Apple’s cloud-based music service might be just around the corner, but in the meantime, you can have complete access to your iTunes library on any iOS 4.3 device via your home’s Wi-Fi network by setting up Home Sharing. In the iTunes Preferences window, make sure you have Sharing turned on, then go to the Advanced menu and turn on Home Sharing. Once that’s done, go to your iOS device’s Settings app, tap on iPod, and scroll down to the Home Sharing section, then enter the same Apple ID and password that you used to setup Home Sharing on iTunes. From then on, whenever you access the iPod app while connected to your home network, you’ll see an option for Shared under the More tab. Select your library, and you’ll have full access to every song, album, and playlist you’ve got, turning every iPod/iPhone/iPad speaker in the house into a mini music server. Note that if you have a second-generation Apple TV, you can likely skip the iTunes steps and go straight to your portable device.

Bookmarks for iPhone, iPod touch + iPad

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If you’re new to iOS—or just a casual user—you might not know that the Safari browser on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad has bookmarks just like the one on your PC or Mac. To access them, simply tap on the open book icon—located at the bottom of the screen on iPhone and iPod touch, and in the top bar on the iPad. A list of links and folders will appear, headlined by your browsing history. If you’ve chosen to sync your bookmarks through iTunes (handled in the Info tab for your device) or via MobileMe, all of the bookmarks from your Mac or PC should be there as well. To add a bookmark, simply tap the action icon and select Add Bookmark; this should sync back to your computer upon your next sync, or over the air if you’re a MobileMe subscriber.

Sharing a Contact in iOS

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It’s inevitable: at some point when you’re out and about with a group of friends, someone will need an email address, phone number, or some other piece of information about someone else, and you’ll have it sitting right on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Luckily, there’s a simple and easy way to share this information, and it doesn’t involve a pen and a cocktail napkin. In either the Contacts or Phone applications, tap on the contact whose information you need to share, and scroll down to the bottom until you see the “Share Contact” button. On the iPhone, you’ll have your choice of sending the info via email or MMS—the latter super handy for sharing with friends that also have iPhones—while iPad and iPod touch users can ship the info out via email.

Please visit our Tip of the Day sponsor PowerSupportUSA.com for more information on their iPod/iPhone/iPad cases and films.

Adding a website to your iOS Home screen

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Have a website or web app that you find yourself using a lot? Give it the same stature as your real, native apps by adding it to your Home screen. To do so, simply tap the action button—the box with the arrow pointing out of it—and tap the option to “Add to Home Screen.” This will bring you to a page where you can give your new direct link a personalized name, and then simply tap the “Add” button in the upper right hand corner to complete the process. Once a website has been added to your Home screen, you can move it around just like any other app—including putting it in a folder—and it can be removed from the Home screen using the same process you use to delete an app.

Please visit our Tip of the Day sponsor PowerSupportUSA.com for more information on their iPod/iPhone/iPad cases and films.

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