Tips & Tricks
Apple hasn’t yet released its first point update to iOS 5, but when it does, you’ll be prepared to grab it without having to plug your device into your computer. When word drops that an update has been released, all you need to do is open Settings, tap on General, and tap Software Update. This causes your device to ping Apple’s servers, responding with a graphic showing the new update’s version number and brief release notes if one is available, along with an App Store-like install button. Tap it, and voila—you’ll have the latest update installed on your device before you know, all without plugging in a cord.
Among all the features and improvements in iOS 5, the revamped Notifications system—dubbed Notification Center—is one of the most anticipated and welcome. Like a lot of things, while it’s good out of the box, it can be even better if you take a little time to configure it to match your priorities and preferences. To do so, simply open the Settings app and tap on Notifications. You’ll be taken to a view that lets you choose how you’d like the apps to be sorted, and shows you which apps are in Notification Center and which aren’t. Tapping on any of the apps brings up a view with even more options, letting you decide whether it appears in Notification Center, how many updates to show if it does, what type of on-screen alert you’d like the app to present—you can choose between old-school, screen-blocking alerts, sleek, top-of-the-screen banners, or none at all—whether or not you want the red, numbered update badge to appear on the app’s icon, and whether or not its notifications appear on the lock screen. It might take a few minutes to get everything set up to your liking, but the first time a relatively minor notification comes in, appears briefly at the top of the screen—you can even swipe to the left on the banners to make them disappear more quickly—and leaves you, uninterrupted, right where you were, it’ll all be worth it.
If you’re a user of TextExpander on the Mac or iOS, you should be well-acquainted with the idea of typing a brief shortcut to get a large mass of text. For everyone else, iOS 5 now offers something similar, baked right into the OS and ready for use in any application. To get started, simply open the Settings app, tap on General, then scroll down and tap on Keyboard. At the bottom of that page you’ll see a section labeled “Shortcuts”, with the built in “omw” for “On my way!” shortcut listed, and an option to add new shortcuts. Tap this option and make as many as you’d like—just remember to use letter combinations that aren’t all that common. Once you’re finished, you can use the shortcuts in any app, anywhere you can type—the completed phrase will appear just like a spelling suggestion, meaning it takes only a tap of the space bar to complete, and can therefore save a lot of time and frustration.
Back in the early days of Apple’s media players—more specifically the iPod—choosing which capacity to buy was easy: if you had enough stuff to fill the smaller one, get the biggest one, and if not, perhaps the smaller one would do. In fact, that advice worked pretty well all the way up to the fifth-generation iPod, which added video—and therefore some very large new files—to the mix. Now, with everything from books, magazines, photos, videos, and apps taking up space alongside your music, choosing the right capacity is more confusing than ever—but we’re here to help.
Whether you’re planning to purchase a new iOS device or are simply chomping at the bit to install the latest version on your current device, there are some simple steps you should take to ensure that the transition goes smoothly. You’ll want to connect your device to your Mac or PC and do a complete backup and sync, making sure that you’ve got a copy of all your content, apps, and settings on your computer. You might also want to make sure you’ve written down or otherwise stored away any app-specific passwords you need, and if you’re thinking about signing up for iTunes Match, making a complete second copy of your music library couldn’t hurt, just on the off chance things go awry and iTunes decides that you don’t need those silly music files anymore.
Ever get a funny text you’d like to share with more friends, or a potentially distasteful message that you’d rather not have hanging out on your device? Messages will let you handle either situation quickly and easily. Simply navigate to the conversation where the message you want to share/delete is located, then tap the Edit button. You’ll see selection circles appear to the left of each message, letting you pick and choose which ones to send to your friends or send to the digital dump. The same Edit interface also provides you with a Clear All button in the upper left corner, in case you want to get rid of an entire conversation thread instead of just a message or two.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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