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

Configuring Widgets in Notification Center

While the iPhone doesn’t offer the sophisticated widget system of the Android platform, there are three pre-defined widgets available in the Notification Center for weather, stocks, and Facebook/Twitter posting. The Weather and Stocks widgets will display information from the corresponding built-in apps, which you can open with a tap. The “Share Widget” includes options for posting directly to Twitter and Facebook and will only appear if you are signed into either or both of these accounts from the options in your Settings app—note that these have no connection to the individual Facebook and Twitter apps, but are instead tied into the integration built directly into iOS.

You can disable these widgets or change the order of them with a quick trip into the Notifications section in the Settings app. If you’re sorting apps “By Time” the widgets will always appear at the top, but you can re-order them in relation to each other; if you’re sorting manually, you can place them anywhere, even below any active notifications.

Improving security on App Store purchasing

If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch used by kids in your household, you may find Apple’s default password policy for in-app purchases to be less than ideal. By default, iOS only prompts for a passcode for App Store purchases after 15 minutes have elapsed since the last purchase, and no longer prompts for a passcode at all when installing previously purchased apps or updating apps that are already on your device. Fortunately, this can easily be changed by a quick trip into your device Restrictions, found under the General section in the main iOS Settings app. If you haven’t setup any parental restrictions on this device already, you’ll need to tap the “Enable Restrictions” button at the top and set a four-digit passcode that will be required to access the Restrictions settings in the future. Once you’ve done this, scroll down to the “Require Password” option and tap on it to change the setting from “15 minutes” to “immediately.” 

This will not only require a passcode to be entered for every purchase, regardless of how much time has expired since the last one, but will also require a passcode for installing previously purchased apps and updating existing ones—basically for purchasing or downloading any content from the App Store.

Adjusting Turn-by-Turn volume in iOS Maps

The introduction of turn-by-turn voice guidance to the Apple Maps app in iOS 6 was a welcome addition, but if you regularly listen to music or other audio from your iPhone while driving you may find the volume of the spoken directions doesn’t always match up well. Fortunately, Apple provided a way to adjust this separately from your main device volume—simply go into your Settings app and select Maps and you’ll find four options under “Navigation Voice Volume” to adjust between three different presets, or turn the voice off entirely if you’d rather just rely on the visual directions.

Waking up to Music on your iOS device

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The iPhone has included a Clock app with an alarm feature since it first debuted in 2007, however until recently the ability to wake up to a song from your music library has been conspicuously missing—a particularly odd omission considering that the older, traditional iPod models have supported this capability for close to a decade. The good news is that iOS 6 finally delivers this capability, if only partially; in the iOS 6 Clock app, you can now choose a specific song from your music library to play when a given alarm sounds, however support for starting an actual playlist remains absent.

To set this up, simply go into the Clock app and create a new alarm or edit an existing one and choose the “Pick a song” option for your alarm sound. This will open the music browser where you can either search for a specific song or browse through your library by artist, album, genre, or playlist.  As an added bonus, the Clock app will display a list of the most recent five songs that you have selected, allowing you to easily re-use them for additional alarms in the future.

Enabling Late Night audio mode

If you often listen to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch in very noisy or very quiet environments, you may be happy to know that iOS 6 now includes a new “Late Night” audio mode that can improve your listening experience. Somewhat oddly hidden with the equalizer settings under Music in the iOS Settings app, the Late Night setting compresses the dynamic range of audio output, basically reducing the volume of loud sections and increasing the volume of quieter ones. Further, unlike the other EQ settings, which apply only to music listening, “Late Night” actually applies to all of the sounds from your device, including videos and system sounds. Note that Late Night mode is not available on older device models such as the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and fourth-generation iPod touch.

Choosing where to place new Contacts

If you’re using more than one cloud service for contacts on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch—such as accounts for work and personal contacts—then you probably want to make sure that you’re creating any new contacts in the proper address book. In your Settings app, under Mail, Contacts, Calendars an option should appear in the “Contacts” section whenever you have more than one account configured for contact sync, allowing you to choose the default account where any new contacts you create should be placed. This will work for any contacts that you create from other iOS applications as well as contacts created in the Contacts app when more than one address book is selected. See Setting default account for new Contacts for more information.

Setting up Mail Notifications for individual accounts

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If you use both work and personal e-mail accounts on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, iOS 6 has introduced a useful feature allowing you to now configure your notifications separately for each of your accounts, along with separate notification settings for your VIP list. To set this up, simply go into the Notification section of your iOS Settings app, and choose the “Mail” option, where you should see an entry for each of your configured e-mail accounts as well as for your VIP list; selecting an entry will take you to the standard iOS notification settings, allowing you to customize whether notifications appear in the Notification Center and/or the lock screen, choose to show badges, banners or alerts, and set a new mail notification sound for that particular account. This feature is particularly useful when combined with the VIP list as you can limit high priority alert sounds and lock screen notifications to only e-mails from your important contacts.

Setting up a VIP list in Mail

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If you receive a lot of e-mail, it’s important to be able to quickly filter out the important messages from the chaff. iOS 6 introduced a new VIP list feature that allows you to create a list of your important contacts that can then be used to prioritize notifications and filter your inbox to only see mail from those Very Important People. You can easily add a contact to your VIP list by tapping on the From address in an e-mail message and selecting the “Add to VIP” button at the bottom of the contact card. Once you have one or more entries in your VIP list, a new “VIP” virtual folder will appear in the Mail app right below the Inbox which you can access to display only the messages received from those who are on the list. VIP contacts are also indicated by a star beside each message, in place of the blue dot for unread messages, or as a hollowed-out star for read items. As an added bonus, if you’re syncing your Contacts using iCloud, your VIP list will also sync with your other iOS 6 devices and Macs running OS X Mountain Lion.

Display Owner Contact Info on Lock Screen

Although iOS doesn’t specifically provide an “Owner Information” feature, if you’re concerned about losing your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch you can easily create your own version simply by using a custom lock screen wallpaper. Simply take your favourite wallpaper image and load it up in Photoshop or a similar image editing tool, and add whatever text you want, such as a name or contact number. Be sure to place the text within the general center area of the image so that it doesn’t get obscured by the lock screen banners and controls, and then save the file, transfer it into your iOS Photo library via either iTunes or simply e-mailing it to yourself, and set it as your lock screen wallpaper. An elegant but simple solution that allows you to get as creative as you want and displays your contact information front-and-center.

Disabling Notifications for Individual Passbook Passes

Apple’s Passbook app is great for letting you store a digital wallet for everything from your Starbucks card to your airline boarding pass, and by default includes location- and time-based notifications, allowing passes to come up automatically when you’re near your favourite store or your event is about to start. While you can easily turn these notifications off globally via Settings, Notifications in the way as for any other iOS app, what happens if you prefer to receive notifications from certain important passes—such as your airline ticket—while preventing notifications from appearing when you happen to walk by a local movie theatre? The good news is that you can do this right on the pass itself—simply open Passbook, select the pass, and tap the small “i” button in the bottom right corner to virtually flip the pass around and display additional details. Among these will be a Show on Lock Screen option which you can toggle off to prevent that particular pass from displaying time- and location-based notifications.

Resetting the Advertising Identifier in iOS 6.1

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Since the release of iOS 6.0 last fall, Apple has gradually begun changing the rules for in-app advertising and device identification, transitioning developers to a new “Advertising Identifier” in place of the older, permanent Universal Device Identifier (UDID). iOS 6.0 introduced the ability for users to opt out of this new form of tracking entirely via a rather obscure option tucked away at the bottom of the About screen in the Settings app. With iOS 6.1, users now have an additional option that can be found here—Reset Advertising Identifier—that can be used to generate a new, unique Advertising Identifier for your device. This can be useful for those users who may not mind targeted ads or other forms of device tracking but may wish to effectively “start over” with a new unique advertising ID.

Apple includes a “Learn More” link at the bottom to provide more information on this feature, explaining that advertising networks are not yet required to use the new iOS 6 Advertising Identifier feature, and hence the use of the word “Limit” rather than “Disable” or “Opt-out,” suggesting that it will not yet completely eliminate ad tracking, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction if you’re concerned about this. Apple has begun transitioning developers away from using the UDID, and is expected to prevent third-party access to it entirely at some point, requiring developers to use the new user-controlled Advertising Identifier if they still wish to identify specific devices in their apps.

Removing downloaded iTunes Match tracks in iOS 6.1

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If you’re an iTunes Match user, you may be happy to know that with yesterday’s release of iOS 6.1, Apple has returned the ability to not only download individual tracks from iCloud on-demand, but also to manually remove specific tracks or even entire albums and artists from your local device storage. Although this capability was present in iOS 5.x, it disappeared with the release of iOS 6.0 for unknown reasons.  Now in iOS 6.1, however, if you’re low on capacity and want to free up some additional space by removing your downloaded tracks, simply choose a track, album or artist from the appropriate listing and swipe left-to-right to bring up a “Delete” button.  The local copy of the track(s) will be removed from your device, but will remain available in your iCloud-based library for future access.  Note that the delete button is only available when accessing song listings from outside of a playlist.

Be sure to check out our article, Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 6.1 for all the details.

Making Siri work again when it’s “having a problem”

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Siri can be a very useful virtual assistant, but unfortunately its reliance on Apple’s servers to translate your requests means that it doesn’t always work when you’re on the fringes of network coverage or moving between a Wi-Fi and cellular network—such as when you’re leaving the house. Further, Siri will generally only tell you that it’s “having a problem” without being particularly helpful at explaining what it’s problem actually is, but it’s most often related to an error communicating with Apple’s servers—due to either a poor network connection on your end, or a problem on Apple’s. It’s also not uncommon for Siri to get hung up on a bad connection and refuse to handle requests even after your device has returned to a good network connection and everything should otherwise be working fine. If you notice that Siri is repeatedly not responding to requests even though you have a good connection, you can easily give it a nudge simply by toggling Airplane Mode ON on your device, waiting a few seconds, and then toggling it back OFF to reset your network connection, toggling Siri itself off and back on again, or in a worst-case scenario, simply turning your device off and back on. We’ve had more luck flipping either Siri or the phone on and off than using Airplane Mode, as there is clearly a bug that’s specifically hanging the Siri app. While these are not ideal solutions, they can help get Siri up and running again in a minute as opposed to thinking that it simply isn’t working for an hour.

Archiving or Deleting Messages in Mail

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If you’re using a Gmail or iCloud account in the iOS Mail app, you actually have the option of choosing to have the standard Trashcan button either delete messages or archive them. While the default behaviour for the button can be configured in the Mail account settings to archive instead of delete—in which case it will display as an archive bin rather than a trashcan—you can also override the behaviour on a per-use basis simply by tapping and holding your finger on the button for about a second; a pop-up menu will appear with both Delete and Archive options available. This works when viewing an individual message as well as when performing an archive or delete operation on multiple messages. Of course, this won’t work if the messages you’re working with are already in your iCloud Archive or Gmail All Mail folder, and sadly it also isn’t available for other types of Mail accounts—even if you have an Archive folder in your mailbox.

Quickly accessing Drafts in Mail

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You’re probably already aware that you can save any partially-composed e-mail messages as drafts in the iOS Mail app—these messages go to a “Drafts” folder on your device and you can find them there simply by accessing it via your folder list.  However, iOS 6 adds a cool new hidden feature that allows you to access any of your draft messages more quickly, right when composing a new message. Simply tap and hold on the Compose button in the bottom right of the Mail app and a quick list of all available drafts in your mailbox will appear, along with a button at the top to create a new message should you choose to do that instead. You can even swipe-to-delete from here to remove any drafts that you no longer need.

Temporary Location Sharing in Find My Friends

Apple’s Find My Friends is a useful app for sharing your location with close friends and family members, but it can also be used for temporarily sharing your location with groups of people that you may not want tracking for on a normal basis, such as when travelling with friends or coordinating a meetup somewhere.

To share your location temporarily, simply download and install the Find My Friends app, sign in with your Apple ID and password and then choose the “Temporary” button from the bottom menu bar. From here you can add the addresses of your temporary sharing group and specify when you want location sharing with this group to end. You can even setup more than one temporary location sharing group, and as an added bonus, Find My Friends provides quick links for sending an iMessage to the entire group. When an event expires, it will simply disappear from the list, along with any users who were added as part of that group.

Turning off Location Data Collection in Google Maps

The long-awaited Google Maps has finally arrived for the iPhone and iPod touch. Like most of Google’s “free” apps, however, it comes with the price of encouraging you to offer up your location data to Google in exchange for access to the company’s excellent mapping service.  While Google Maps should prompt you on first run as to whether or not you want to participate, if you missed that screen in your rush to get right into the app and explore, you may have a hard time figuring out exactly where the option is afterward.  The good news is that the option is still in the app, however Google seems to have buried it in a pretty obscure location that most users may find challenging to locate. 

To turn off Location Data Collection in the new Google Maps app, first go into the application’s settings by selecting your user profile via the small person icon in the top-right corner of the main screen followed by the gear icon that appears in its place on the user profile screen. From here, you need to go into About, terms & privacy and then one more level down from there into Terms & privacy, where the Location data collection option will appear.

Using a stronger passcode on your iOS device

By now most iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users are probably aware that you can configure a four-digit passcode on your device to protect it from unauthorized access. For more security-conscious users, however, iOS also provides the ability to use a longer, alphanumeric passcode. To set this up, simply go into the Settings app, and select General, Passcode Lock and toggle OFF the Simple Passcode option. When entering a new passcode, you will be presented with the standard iOS alphanumeric keyboard instead of the simple numeric PIN pad, both for setting your passcode and for unlocking it when you access your device.

Receiving Message Notifications from only your Contacts

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For certain services iOS 6 now allows you to restrict your alerts to only users that are already in your contact list. By default, new Messages, Game Center requests and Shared Photo Stream alerts will appear whenever anybody sends you a request or invitation using any of those services, however if you find yourself getting bombarded with alerts from total strangers you can easily turn these off now with a quick trip over to the Notifications section in your Settings app. Simply choose the appropriate service—Messages, Photos and Game Center all support this feature—and scroll down and choose “My Contacts Only” under the Show ... Alerts from heading. Note that this will not prevent you from receiving messages from any other user—they’ll still be in the appropriate apps waiting for you—but you won’t receive an alert unless the sender is already in your iOS Contacts.

Using Do Not Disturb in iOS 6

The iPhone has generally taken a very straightforward approach to handling alerts, eschewing complicated schedule and profile setups in favour of a simple hardware Ring/Silent switch, a practice also somewhat followed with the iPad. The idea here is simple: Leave the switch in the “ring” position when you want to hear sounds and move it to the “silent” position when you want alerts to either vibrate or make no sound at all. Unfortunately, while easy this approach has had its limitations: Even in “silent’ mode your iPhone will vibrate in most cases, and the screen will light up when notifications and alerts come in. In iOS 6 Apple has addressed this by creating a true “Do Not Disturb” feature that can be toggled on demand and/or set to a daily schedule. At its most basic, turning on Do Not Disturb is simply a matter of going into your iPhone Settings app and toggling the option found there. When enabled, your device will suppress all alert notifications—sounds, vibrations and screen illumination—whenever the screen is already off; calls will be sent directly and quietly to voicemail and notification messages will stack up on the lock screen without waking up your device’s screen. By taking a quick trip into your Settings app and selecting Notifications, Do Not Disturb, you can also configure your iPhone to automatically enable this mode based on a daily schedule and determine which phone calls will still be permitted to ring through.

Note that alarms set in the Clock app will still sound even when Do Not Disturb is enabled. Also, notifications and phone calls are handled normally when you’re actually using your device (i.e. if the screen is on), regardless of the Do Not Disturb setting.

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