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

Tips & Tricks

Aerial Screensavers on the new Apple TV

The aerial screensavers available on the new Apple TV make for a refreshing change from the photo-based screen savers of prior versions; currently Apple offers up 34 different screensavers covering five specific locations around the world: China, Hawaii, London, New York, and San Francisco. Rather than storing the screensavers permanently as part of tvOS, the Apple TV downloads new screensaver footage from Apple’s servers on a schedule. If you find that your screensavers are getting stale, you can increase how often the Apple TV downloads new content from Apple’s servers by going into the Apple TV Settings app and choosing General, Screensaver.

Reducing loud sounds on the new Apple TV

Another small new feature added by Apple in the new fourth-generation Apple TV is the ability to adjust the dynamic range of your audio input. This is particularly useful for watching TV later at night, or anytime you prefer to use lower volume levels so as not to disturb others — it enhances detail such as spoken dialogue, while softening music and other loud background noise.

Changing the name of your Apple TV

While your new Apple TV would have prompted you to give it a name during the setup process, if you were in a hurry to get going you might have just selected a default name like “Apple TV” without giving it too much thought. However, if you want to choose a more descriptive name — particularly useful if you use AirPlay and have multiple devices around the house — you can easily go back in and change it to just about anything you want.

Skipping backward and forward on the Apple TV

With the Siri Remote’s touchpad for the fourth-generation Apple TV, some of the traditional navigation features from the prior Apple TV are not necessarily obvious right out of the gate. For example, on older Apple TV models you can skip back or forward a few seconds by holding down the FF or RW buttons on the Apple Remote, but of course these buttons are missing from the new Apple TV, which now requires you to do this by manipulating the touchpad instead.

Placing apps in the top row on the Apple TV

Although Apple TV users have been able to reorder their app icons since Apple TV Software Update 5.1 three years ago, Apple traditionally always treated the top row of icons – Movies, TV Shows, Music, Computers, and Settings (and later iTunes Radio in the U.S.) – as immutable; even if you preferred to use other services, you were always stuck with those five in the top row.

Checking your Siri Remote battery level

The Siri Remote on the new fourth-generation Apple TV incorporates a rechargeable battery, and Apple promises “months” of battery life on a single charge, at least for whatever the company considers “typical use.” You shouldn’t need to charge your remote often, but if you’re curious to check how much battery life is remaining, you can do this by going into the Apple TV Settings and selecting “Bluetooth” under “Remotes and Devices.”

Your Siri Remote will be shown on this screen with a battery indicator showing how much juice is left. Of course, you can plug the remote in at any time to charge it up — just use a Lightning cable with a USB wall charger or a port on your computer. It will take about 9 hours to reach a full charge, but the good news is that you can also still use it while it’s charging back up.

Switching between apps on the new Apple TV

With the advent of the App Store for the Apple TV, Apple’s new tvOS borrows some user interface features from its iOS cousin, including the concept of a “Home” button and screen, as well as the App Switcher for quickly navigating between apps and closing them if necessary. You can bring up the App Switcher with a double-tap of the Home button; the user interface should be familiar to anybody who has ever used an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

In the App Switcher, you can of course use the touchpad to swipe between open apps, and dismiss or close an app simply by swiping up on the touchpad, much like you would in iOS. tvOS apps also remain suspended in the background much like they do on iOS, so you can use the Home button to pull up the App Switcher or return to the Home screen and still pick up right where you left off when you go back to your app — as long as tvOS can keep it in memory while you’re running other apps.

Sorting iOS Notifications Chronologically

Although you’ve been able to set your notifications to sort by date since the Notification Center first debuted back in iOS 5, all this option actually did was sort your apps by the date the last notification was received, grouping each notification under app-specific headings. Unfortunately, this didn’t provide an entirely chronological view of your notifications, since apps that had received several notifications over the course of a day would still have those older notifications grouped with it, above whichever app had displayed the second-most recent notification, and so forth.

Bringing up Wallet from the iPhone lock screen

In addition to renaming Passbook to the more appropriate name of Wallet, iOS 9 now makes it even easier to access your Apple Pay and other cards while your iPhone is locked. Simply double-tap the home button, and it will come up and be ready to go. Of course, you’ll still need to authenticate Apple Pay transactions using Touch ID, but the rest of your cards will be readily accessible for scanning without having to unlock your iPhone and open the Wallet app.

Annotating PDFs and images in iOS 9 Mail

A subtle new feature that’s been added to the built-in Mail app in iOS 9 allows you to mark up PDF and image file attachments. With the built-in markup editor you can add lines, shapes, arrows, and even drop in your signature. As an added bonus, if you’ve created signatures in Preview on your Mac they’ll be automatically synced via iCloud (providing you’re signed into the same iCloud account on both devices) and available to use in the markup editor.

Saving and Sharing Visual Voicemail Messages

When Apple debuted Visual Voicemail on the original iPhone in 2007, it introduced a whole new way to deal with voicemail messages, making the process about as seamless as working through an email inbox. Now iOS 9 takes these capabilities a step further, allowing you to not only browse through and listen to your messages, but to easily save and share them right from the Phone app.

When viewing your voicemail messages on your iPhone, you’ll see the standard “Share” button now appears in the top right corner right beside the info button. Tapping on this brings up the standard iOS Share Sheet, where you can share your voicemail message via email or iMessages, save it to the new iOS 9 Notes app, or even export it right into your Voice Memos app, Dropbox, Google Drive, or any other supported third-party app.

Adding links to Reminders in iOS 9

With iOS 9 you can now create reminders that are linked to content in other applications, such as a web page, email, contact, conversation in messages, or location in maps. Even better, many third-party apps also provide support for the same feature, allowing you to set reminders directly from those apps and then link back into where you were in the app, such as editing an image in Pixelmator, being reminded about a reading item in Pocket, or saving and pulling up a calculation in PCalc. Many of these links will even work on OS X El Capitan, provided you have the corresponding app installed on your Mac.

Enabling iCloud Drive app in iOS 9

Although Apple first debuted iCloud Drive in iOS 8 last year, it was implemented merely as a hidden file system designed to be used only within apps specifically designed to support it; unlike on OS X Mavericks, there was no iOS-based option to directly browse through your iCloud drive, making it a completely impractical replacement for something like Dropbox or Google Drive. The good news is that Apple has opened this up with iOS 9 by adding a standalone, built-in iCloud Drive app, providing direct access to everything you have stored in iCloud Drive, along with some basic file organization and sharing features.

Going back to a four-digit passcode in iOS 9

One of the smaller security features touted by Apple in the iOS 9 update was the move to requiring six-digit passcodes, rather than the default four-digit option that’s been around since the iPhone first debuted. While complex alphanumeric passwords have been available in iOS for years, most users found them to be too much trouble, so Apple reasoned that going from a four to a six-digit passcode was a more sensible compromise for improving security, particularly in an era of Touch ID devices, where the passcode rarely needs to be entered anyway.

The good news, however, is that while Apple encourages people to use a six-digit passcode by presenting it as the default option when setting up a new iOS device or even updating to iOS 9, you’re by no means limited to this option, and in fact iOS 9 now offers four different passcode/password configurations, rather than the four-digit code vs. password choice from prior versions. The option is a bit more hidden than it used to be, however; if you visit the Touch ID & Passcode section in the iOS Settings app, you’ll notice the former “Simple Passcode” option is nowhere to be found. Instead, a small blue link appears when you go to change your passcode, offering you the ability to switch to one of the other options: Custom Alphanumeric Code, Custom Numeric Code, 4-Digit Numeric Code, or 6-Digit Numeric Code (note that the current option isn’t shown here, as that’s what you’re already using).

Tapping on one of the options will change the passcode or password setting screen to use that format, so you can return to a four-digit passcode if that’s what you prefer, or if you want to get even more secure but don’t want to deal with a fully alphanumeric password, iOS 9 also offers the option of a “Custom Numeric Code” — you’ll get the numeric keypad instead of the full keyboard for passcode entry, but you can enter a string of numbers as long as you like.

Engaging Low Power Mode in iOS 9

The new “Low Power Mode” in iOS 9 is a pretty handy way to extend your battery life when you’re on the go; by throttling down your device’s CPU and suspending all background activity it lets you gain two to three extra hours in a pinch. You can turn it on manually by going into Settings, Battery or your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch will offer you the option to turn it on as part of the warnings you get when your battery drains to 20 percent, and again when it hits 10 percent (assuming it’s not already on). When Low Power Mode is engaged, the standard battery icon will turn yellow to remind you that you’re in this mode.

You can also leave your device in Low Power Mode when charging it back up, however it gets shut off automatically once you reach an 80 percent charge. You’ll get a lock screen notification when this happens, and if you like, you can re-engage Low Power Mode right from the lock screen by swiping right to left and tapping “Enable Again.” This can be useful if you’re in a hurry for your iPhone to charge up, as leaving it in Low Power Mode will let your device charge faster by consuming less power while it’s charging.

Adjusting video recording quality settings in iOS 9

When Apple introduced 60 fps video recording on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, it helpfully added a setting in iOS 8 to toggle it on and off. With the higher resolutions now offered by the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, iOS 9 expands these settings to provide even further control over both the recording resolution and frame rates.

Canceling your Apple Music subscription

While it’s been a fun ride, the three-month free trial of Apple Music is coming to an end on Wednesday, Sept. 30, after which users who haven’t specifically opted out of the service will automatically be billed for their first month of service. If you’ve signed up for the free trial but don’t want to actually start paying for Apple Music, you’ll need to ensure that you’ve disabled auto-renewal in your iTunes account.

Saving to PDF in iOS 9

One of the more subtle new features in iOS 9 is that you can now leverage Apple’s built-in iBooks app to save documents and web pages into PDF files. To access this, bring up the normal iOS 9 Share Sheet — the same one you would use to share something to Twitter or Facebook — and scroll over to the right side of the list and a “Save PDF to iBooks” option should appear.

Selecting the option will open iBooks and the document or web page you’re sharing should appear there as a PDF file in your iBooks library. From there you can organize it into a collection, print it, or send it out via email. Note that if you don’t see the “Save PDF to iBooks” option, tap “More” and ensure that it’s switched on in the list of sharing options. If it doesn’t appear in the “More” section, this means that the content type you’re sharing can’t be saved as a PDF.

Sending iMessages with Return in iOS 9 when using an external keyboard

A small but welcome enhancement in iOS 9 now allows you to use the “Return” key on an external keyboard to send messages, saving you the trouble of reaching for the screen to tap the “Send” button. Since most text messages don’t normally cross multiple paragraphs, this can help you keep a conversation going more fluidly, although OPT+ENTER can still be used to enter a new line if you want to do so. This also mirrors how the OS X version of the app works, providing more continuity when moving between your Mac and your iOS device. Best of all, even though the iPad got most of the new keyboard enhancements, this particular change works on the iPhone and iPod touch as well (thanks to Brad Joiner for the tip!)

See when messages were received on an Apple Watch

Due to the limited screen space, the Apple Watch adds timestamps to your messaging conversations far less frequently, so it may not be clear just by glancing when a given message was actually sent or received. Fortunately there’s an easy way to check this out, and it works the same way as it does on your iPhone.

When viewing the message list, pull any conversation bubble to the left and you’ll see the timestamps displayed beside each message indicating when it was sent from your Apple Watch or received by it. You can still scroll up and down through the conversation, and releasing your finger will pop back to the normal view.

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