Tips & Tricks
One of the useful smaller features added in iOS 8 is the ability to quickly read and reply to your Messages directly from the new message notification that comes up.
When a new message comes in while you’re using your iPhone, the notification banner that appears can actually be “pulled down” to read the full message and quickly reply to it; simply tap on the banner and swipe downward to “pull” the banner down and the rest of the message text will appear (for longer messages), along with a reply field. Even if you don’t want to reply right away, this method has the advantage of allowing you to read the full text of longer messages. Be aware, however, that if you have Read Receipts enabled, doing this will mark the message as read, sending a “Read” notification back to the sender, even if you don’t open the Messages app.
This also works from the lock screen and Notification Center. Swipe right-to-left on the notification and a “Reply” button should appear that you can tap to bring up the reply view right away without the need to unlock your iPhone or go into the Messages app.
Note that if you have disabled Message previews, you won’t be able to reply from the lock screen, as this would reveal the content of the message. However, you can still use this quick reply feature from the Notification Center (once your iPhone is unlocked) or from the notification banner if a message comes in while you’re using your iPhone. Although the notification banner will still only say “iMessage,” pulling down on it will reveal the text of the message, saving you a trip into the Messages app if you’re curious to know what the sender has to say without having to interrupt what you’re doing.
While adjusting the volume on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is pretty obvious, you may not have known that Siri actually has its own, separate volume setting. This means that you can actually adjust Siri’s volume independently of the system volume, or the volume level used in other apps.
To do this, simply start up Siri by holding the Home button and then use the standard volume up and down buttons to adjust the volume. The standard volume adjustment overlay will appear, but you may notice that the number of bars shown will be different from whatever you’ve set on your iPhone home screen. Siri will remember this volume setting for you, allowing it to always respond at a fixed volume, regardless of wherever the system volume is set.
Did you know you can give you stored Touch ID fingerprints names? This can be helpful to keep track of which fingerprints have been assigned to which slots — especially useful as well if you’ve temporarily added somebody else’s fingerprint and want to keep track of it, or even if you just need to know which finger to delete so you can re-train it.
While Touch ID doesn’t really give you a way to do this while adding fingerprints, you can do it later simply by going into Settings, Touch ID & Passcode and then tapping on the fingerprint you want to assign a name to. Type in your name, tap “Back” and you’re done. On the other hand, if you want to simply delete the fingerprint entirely instead, you can just tap the “Delete Fingerprint” button that appears below the name field.
The new Predictive Text feature in iOS 8 can be useful for helping you quickly peck out sentences when working with one finger, however, sometimes the extra space above the keyboard just gets in the way. The good news is that in those situations it can easily be hidden or turned off entirely without having to resort to a trip all the way into your keyboard settings.
If you place your finger on the Predictive Text bar above the keyboard, and swipe downward, the bar can be dragged down into a hidden position. You’ll see a small horizontal line representing the hidden bar, and reversing the gesture by tapping and swiping back upwards will return the bar into view. Alternatively, if you’d rather switch the Predictive Text bar off entirely instead of just hiding it, you can tap and hold on the Emoji or language button near the bottom left corner of the keyboard to bring up the keyboard selection options, at the top of which will be a “Predictive” toggle; this mirrors the “Predictive” option found in Settings, General Keyboard.
Sometimes when you’re looking at a recent email it can be handy to be able to quickly refer back to earlier messages in the same conversation. While the “Organize by Thread” option (found in Settings under Mail, Contacts, Calendars) can be helpful if all of your messages are in the same folder, this is often not the case, particularly when it also involves messages you’ve sent, since these usually remain in the “Sent” folder for most users.
Fortunately, iOS 8 has a handy little feature that can be used to search out your Sent Messages and include them in the conversation thread. If you swipe right-to-left on an email message you’ve replied to (or an email that’s a reply to one of yours) and tap the “More” button, you’ll see a “Show Related Messages” button that appears with the rest of the additional options. Tap on this, and Mail will provide you with a conversation view of your correspondence with that person and anybody else in the thread. As an added bonus, it even notes which messages were replies or forwards, and who they were forwarded to.
Keep in mind that unlike the OS X Mail app, this doesn’t seem to work across your entire mailbox — it mostly seems designed to ferret out messages from your Sent folder.
If you want to use your iPhone for getting walking directions around town, both Apple’s and Google’s Maps apps have you covered, although traditionally you’ve pretty much had to either wear earphones or pay close attention to your iPhone to know when and where to turn if you’re traveling through an unfamiliar neighborhood. The good news is that Google Maps has quietly added a haptic feedback feature to its iPhone Maps app that will provide vibrations to let you know not only when to turn, but which direction to turn in: three vibrations for a left turn, two vibrations for a right turn. There are no specific settings in the Google Maps app for this — it’s automatically enabled when you’ve started walking directions — however you will need to ensure that your ringer switch is set to silent and that the in-app “Mute” option is disabled (simply turn down your volume if you don’t want to hear the spoken directions going off in your pocket).
Of course, if you’re planning on getting an Apple Watch, you’ll be able to take advantage of haptic feedback on your wrist from Apple Maps to notify you of upcoming turns. However, Apple hasn’t (yet) seen fit to add this feature to the iPhone itself. For those who either may not be interested in Apple’s wearable, or are simply stuck waiting until later this year for their Apple Watch to arrive, Google Maps can definitely fill in that gap for now.
If you find yourself getting a lot of random iMessages from strangers, a new feature in iOS 8.3, released earlier today, allows you to easily filter these out of your main Messages list and block notifications from them.
You can enable or disable this feature with a quick trip into the Messages section of your iOS Settings app. Simply look for the “Filter Unknown Senders” option and toggle it on. Once enabled, go into your Messages app and swipe downward to see the selection buttons for “Contacts & SMS” and “Unknown Senders.”
Keep in mind that, as the button labels imply, this feature only works for iMessages from unknown senders — those not in your Contacts list. SMS messages will still be shown in the main “Contacts & SMS” view, regardless of whether they were sent by a known sender or not. Should you decide that you’d simply rather have everything back in one list, you can toggle this feature back off again by going back into Settings, Messages to return to the pre-iOS 8.3 behavior.
Here’s a fun little feature you can find in the iOS 8 Maps app: 3D Flyover Tours. Available for select major cities, the 3D Flyover Tour feature takes advantage of Apple’s 3D imagery to provide an aerial tour of key landmarks in each city, from Toronto’s CN Tower and New York’s Statue of Liberty to London’s Buckingham Palace and Paris’ Eiffel Tower, it’s a fun way to see the sights right from the comfort of your iPhone, and a neat way to show off Apple’s aerial imagery views.
To access the feature, first specifically search for the city by name — simply being somewhere in the city won’t suffice — and then tap the “Start” button that appears beside the “3D Flyover Tour of City” banner at the top of the screen.
The tour will begin in a full-screen mode to give you the best view possible, and as you stop at each location, the name of the location will be shown and the camera will pan around the building or landmark before taking you off to the next one. To return to normal map mode, you can tap the screen once to bring up the menu and navigation bars, and then you can either tap the “End Flyover Tour” or tap in the search bar and enter a new location.
If you find yourself regularly participating in ongoing email conversations, you may find it handy to get more proactive notifications when somebody sends a reply in an existing thread. iOS 6 introduced a “VIP List” feature that lets you get notifications when messages come in from specific people, but that’s not always useful if you only want to enable notifications on an ad-hoc basis, so the Mail app in iOS 8 takes this a step further with the ability to enable notifications for a specific thread.
Typically, this is done when sending a message, and is simply a matter of tapping the small bell icon that appears to the right of the subject line once you’ve placed the cursor in there. You’ll see a pop-up confirming that this is what you want to do, and then once you’ve sent the message, any replies to that message will automatically trigger the “Thread Notification” — a separate set of notifications, much like the VIP list, that can be configured in your Notification Center settings — this means that thread replies can trigger a different alert sound and bring up lock screen and banner notifications.
If you’ve forgotten to enable a Thread Notification for a message you’ve already sent, or want to add one to a message you’ve received (in case somebody else replies to a group discussion, for instance), you can do this by tapping on the flag button in the lower-left corner of the message window, and then choose the “Notify Me…” option.
Messages that have Thread Notifications enabled will show the small bell icon by the sender’s name in the message list, by the subject line in the message, and in the gray heading bar of a threaded conversation view. Should you decide you no longer want to receive these notifications, you can toggle them off in much the same way as turning them on: tap the flag button when viewing an individual message in the thread, and tap “Stop Notifying.”
- April 3, 2015
While the trick of using a custom lock screen image to display emergency contact info has been around since even before the iPhone existed, not everybody necessarily wants to clutter their lock screen with this information. The good news is that Apple now provides support for doing this in a slightly more usable way as part of the new Health app in iOS 8. Opening up the Health app will show a “Medical ID” button in the bottom right corner, in which you can fill in vital statistics such as name, photo, birthdate, medical conditions, notes, allergies and reactions, medications, blood type, weight, height, and several emergency contact names and phone numbers.
A “Show When Locked” option at the top of the screen allows you to ensure that this information is accessible when your iPhone is locked. Swiping to the passcode entry screen and tapping “Emergency” will show a “Medical ID” button in the bottom left corner below the keypad that can be used to bring up this information even when your iPhone is locked, and calls can also be placed directly to the emergency contacts by tapping on them, even when the iPhone is otherwise locked. Note that the “Medical ID” button isn’t the most discoverable, so if you have any serious medical conditions or are concerned about this information being accessible, it might still be a good idea to customize a wallpaper to at least tell users how to find the “Medical ID” section in the event of an emergency.
- April 1, 2015
While being able to make exposure adjustments on your iPhone camera has been around since iOS 5, this option was limited to relying on the iPhone’s automated sensors for judging the optimal exposure; you could tap on a location to make the iPhone meter exposure based on that spot, but that was about as far as your adjustments went. Even third-party apps that provided exposure control had to use workarounds to accomplish this, instead of being able to adjust the exposure directly at the camera sensor level.
The good news is that iOS 8 introduced the ability for a whole bunch of camera settings to be manually controlled, although most of these are only available through developer APIs, allowing third-party apps to let you take over and do things in an almost “full-manual” mode. While the built-in Camera app doesn’t provide all of this functionality, Apple has hidden away a manual exposure control option, allowing you to adjust the exposure to your preferences.
To do this, tap on the camera window in much the same way as you would to set the exposure metering point, and then release your finger and tap again in the exposure metering frame that appears. You can then slide your finger up and down to set the exposure value manually — you should see a small starburst to the left of the exposure frame that will slide up and down a vertical line illustrating your exposure settings as you slide. In this case, much like the normal exposure metering feature, the setting will only be maintained for as long as lighting doesn’t dramatically shift, so if you move the iPhone to another scene, the camera will return to the default automatic weighted exposure mode. If you want to lock in your manual exposure settings, however, you can also do this in much the same way as before: tap-and-hold on the camera window until you see “AE/AF Lock” appear at the top of the screen, then release your finger and tap-hold-and-slide to adjust the locked exposure setting.
If you’re a heavy Safari user on iOS, you may find yourself bookmarking pages or adding them to your Reading List — or even your Shared Links — on a fairly regular basis. iOS 8 offers a slightly streamlined way of doing this without having to go through the Share Sheet. Simply tap-and-hold on the Bookmark button while viewing a page, and a menu will pop up, offering options to Add Bookmark, Add to Reading List, and — if available — Add to Shared Links.
While this may not seem all that much more difficult than simply opening the Share Sheet and tapping the option you want, one of the big advantages is that with all of the new iOS 8 Action Extensions available, you can more easily prioritize other app extensions by putting them at the left side of your Share Sheet while still retaining quick and easy access to the built-in “Add” actions. While you can’t switch these actions off in your Share Sheet entirely, you can pull up the settings by tapping “More” at the right hand side of the action extensions. From there, simply drag the actions down to the bottom to keep them at the end and out of the way.
When iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks debuted about two years ago, one of the smaller features that made its way into Safari was support for “Shared Links” — an aggregate of all of the links in the user’s Twitter feed that could be accessed from a third panel over from the Bookmarks and Reading List sections. While the feature received little fanfare even then compared to the overall UI design and other sweeping changes, when iOS 8 came along, Apple even more quietly snuck in support for adding RSS feeds into the Shared Links section. Although RSS — short for Really Simple Syndication — has gradually started to fall by the wayside with the advent of social media services such as Twitter, many people still find it to be an indispensable way to keep up with headlines from their favorite news sites, and iOS 8’s integration of RSS into Safari can provide a nice lightweight alternative for those who might not really need all of the features in a dedicated third-party newsreader app.
Adding an RSS feed into Safari’s Shared Links section is actually really simple, although it’s somewhat hidden as the button for this feature only appears when visiting sites where an RSS feed is actually available. When you’re on such a site, an “Add to Shared Links” button will appear as an action in the lower row of the iOS 8 Sharing Sheet; tapping this will add the RSS feed published by whatever site you’re on right into your Shared Links section, where articles will appear in stream with your Twitter feed, if enabled.
When viewing the Shared Links section, a “Subscribe” button in the bottom right corner will allow you to view the feeds that have been added along with your Twitter accounts, and from here you can either remove feeds or toggle on or off any Twitter accounts that you want included or excluded from your Shared Links.
One final note to keep in mind, though: Since the “Add to Shared Links” button needs to detect an RSS feed in order to appear, sometimes you’ll need to wait until the site completely finishes loading before it shows up. So if it’s not appearing, wait a few seconds and try again. Also keep in mind that many sites don’t publish their RSS feeds via the mobile versions of the site — in this case you may need to ask Safari to request the desktop version before the option will appear to add it to your Shared Links.
If you’ve ever had to contact Apple for iPhone service, or had to call your cellular carrier to make changes to your account, you’ve probably been asked to provide a cryptic number to uniquely identify your iPhone. In Apple’s case, your serial number is used to track warranty service, and with your cellular carrier, your IMEI, or International Mobile Station Equipment Identity, is a number that uniquely identifies your mobile phone number on the cellular network. You can easily find these by going into your iPhone Settings app and choosing General, About, and then copying them to your iOS clipboard by tapping and holding on them, but this doesn’t really help if you need to access these numbers from a desktop computer, such as when you need to paste into an online form in a web browser.
The good news is that if you need to get at these numbers from your Mac or PC, there’s an easier way than emailing the number to yourself — as long as you’ve associated your iPhone to iTunes on your computer, you can find these numbers hidden away on your device’s “Summary” screen. The Serial Number is readily shown right beneath your iPhone’s phone number, but if you click on the phone number field, it will toggle between your phone number and your IMEI as well as your Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID), and SIM card’s Integrated Circuit Card Identifier (ICCID) with each click. Similarly, the Serial Number field can also show your Unique Device Identifier (UDID), Exclusive Chip Identification (ECID), and Product Type. You can right-click on any of these numbers to copy them to your clipboard, making it easy to grab them and paste them into any form where they may be needed, or easily read them off and recite them back to your carrier’s customer service provider without having to take your iPhone away from ear.
- March 25, 2015
While Passbook passes are usually pretty straightforward to install and use on your own device, sometimes it’s helpful to be able to easily share certain passes with friends and family members. You might want to share a loyalty card or Starbucks card with your spouse, for example. The good news is that a new feature in iOS 8.1 makes this even easier by adding AirDrop support, so you can basically now “beam” passes between multiple iPhones in proximity to each other.
To do this, simply open up Passbook, select the pass you want to share, and tap the Share button that appears in the bottom-left corner. A standard iOS sharing sheet will appear, with options for sending the pass out via Messages or Mail, and any AirDrop compatible devices listening nearby should also appear at the top. Notably, this not only includes iPhones, but also newer Macs.
Sharing a Passbook pass to a Mac will deposit it right into the OS X Downloads folder as a .pkpass file. Double-clicking on that file brings up a quick view of the pass, with options to add it to your Passbook if it’s not already there.
While you can’t do much else with passes directly on your Mac, the “Add to Passbook” option will transfer the pass to any iPhones that are synced with the same iCloud account. This works if you receive passes via email, or download them from web sites.
Although the iOS Mail app is great for its general simplicity in letting you view, manage, and send emails, the “single-window” design of iOS itself has traditionally created a workflow limitation that desktop mail users don’t normally encounter — the ability to flip back over to your mailbox to look things up while you’re in the middle of composing an email. Until recently, the only way to deal with this would be to save the current email in progress as a draft, go find what you want to in your mailbox, then bring up your drafts again and pick up where you left off. While there is a pretty fast way to access your drafts, this is more of a hassle than it needs to be.
The good news is that iOS 8 has added a nifty little feature to address this very issue. The New Message screen now opens up in what is basically a separate panel that you can move down and out of the way. To do this, simply tap and hold on the title of the new message panel and drag it down toward the bottom of the screen. You can either drag it part way down to “peek” at whatever was behind it — perhaps the e-mail you’re replying to or referencing — or drag it all the way to the bottom of the screen to park it down there, at which point you can browse your mailbox as you normally would, even changing folders or composing more new email messages. When you want to get the original message back, just tap on the title bar of the New Message panel where it’s resting at the bottom of the screen, and it pops back up, ready for you to continue right where you left off.
In fact, you can even open multiple New Message panels, and drag each one down to the bottom of the screen. If more than one has been hidden down there, tapping on them will bring up a Safari-like multi-panel view, allowing you to browse through each of your messages in progress, either bringing them to the forefront by tapping on them, or tapping the “X” to get rid of them in the same way as you’d dismiss a Safari window. There appears to be no practical upper limit to how many of these you can have open, either — we were able to open about 35 in our own testing before we got bored and simply gave up, idly wondering about the sort of person who might need to have so many messages in progress on an iOS device.
- March 23, 2015
While the button for sending audio messages in the iOS 8 Messages app is readily apparent, one feature that may not be so obvious is that you can actually record and send audio messages even more quickly by simply raising your iPhone to your ear. For this to work, you need to ensure that the “Raise to Listen” option is enabled under Settings, Messages and your iPhone screen must be on and showing an active iMessage conversation.
As the name of the setting suggests, this feature will also allow you to listen to incoming audio messages in the same manner, allowing you to effectively keep up a back-and-forth conversation without needing to worry about tapping on buttons. Note that Audio Messages are only available in iMessage conversations. In the same way that the audio button won’t appear in a standard SMS conversation, the raise-to-record feature won’t do anything either if you don’t have an actual iMessage conversation open on your screen. Your audio message should be sent out automatically once you take your iPhone away from your ear, unless it’s a really short message, in which case you’ll need to tap the “Send” button to confirm it, or the “X” to erase it — this is presumably to prevent sending of merely accidental recordings.
You probably already know that the photos you take with your iPhone are automatically tagged with the location where you took them, and this information is pretty clearly displayed in the “Moments” section of the new iOS Photos app above each grouping of photos. What you may not have realized, however, is that you can easily view this information on a map simply by tapping any of these headings with a location name.
This will take you to a map view that will show you thumbnails of your photos based on the location information stored in each. You can even zoom in and out from here, allowing you to view groupings of photos in more specific locations, and tapping on a thumbnail will bring you to a view of only the grouping of photos taken at that specific location.
While some may argue about the importance of locking your iPhone or other iOS device with a passcode, in this day of identity thieves and other ne’er-do-wells, it’s generally something we here at iLounge strongly recommend users do. In fact, if you’ve got a device with Touch ID, there’s really little good reason to not have a passcode, which was Apple’s primary motivation for introducing the feature.
While you probably already know how to set a standard four-digit passcode, you may not realize that it’s possible to use more complex alphanumeric passwords as well — a good security feature considering the number of brute-force attacks that can defeat relatively simple four-digit PINs. While having to enter a complex password each time you unlock your device would have been more cumbersome in the days before Touch ID, it’s much more practical now, as this is a password that you’ll need to enter far less often — usually only when you restart your device.
To enable a complex passcode, simply go into your iOS Settings app, choose Touch ID & Passcode, enter your existing passcode (if you’ve set one), and then scroll down and toggle OFF “Simple Passcode.” You’ll be prompted to change your old passcode as soon as you toggle this option off so that you can pick a more secure alphanumeric password.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll see that the iPhone unlock screen now presents a standard keyboard when you swipe to unlock your device. However, using a complex password doesn’t change the way Touch ID works — you can still unlock simply by holding your finger on your home button, so you’ll rarely even see the full-keyboard unlock screen. A more secure password, however, will make your iPhone harder to get into for anybody who doesn’t have their fingerprint registered on your device.
If you’re an active calendar user on iOS who relies on invitations and shared calendars, you may find it useful that iOS 8 now gives you more control over the notifications and alerts you see for different types of calendar activities. This means that you don’t need to have all of your normal event alerts, invitation alerts, and shared calendar changes notify you in the same way. While prior iOS versions gave you the ability to simply switch things like shared calendar alerts completely off, with iOS 8 you can now fully customize each of the different categories of calendar alerts.
Simply go into your Settings app and select Notifications and then Calendar. While the number of entries shown in the Notification Center is still set overall, you’ll see four subcategories for Upcoming Events, Invitations, Invitation Responses, and Shared Calendar Changes. Each of these allows you to customize whether they’re shown in the Notification Center or on the lock screen, as well as choose different notification sounds and alert styles — and whether that type of alert is represented by a badge count on the app icon. Keep in mind that the settings here will affect all of your calendars; if you’re looking for a way to turn off upcoming event alerts or shared calendar changes for only specific calendars, check out our other tip on Turning off alerts for individual Calendars in iOS 8.
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