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

Tips & Tricks

Taking Photos while Recording Video

If you’re an iPhone 5 user, you get an additional small feature in the Camera app that you may not have noticed before—the ability to snap still photos while you’re also recording video. To use this feature, simply start recording video as you normally would and you’ll see a camera button appear near the video recording button. While recording, simply tap on this button to capture a still photo, and repeat as necessary; there is no specific limit to the number of photos you can capture while recording, but keep in mind that they will be taken at the same resolution and aspect ratio as your video—1080p for the rear camera or 720p when using the front camera. That’s basically 2 MP (1920 x 1080) or 0.9 MP (1280 x 720), depending on which camera you’re using; not all that big of a difference for the front camera, but considerably less than the full 8 MP quality that the iPhone 5’s rear camera is normally capable of. Still, it’s a great way to capture that cute moment that comes up while you’re recording video of your kids.

Renting movies in iTunes for more flexibility

Apple provides the ability to rent movies from the iTunes Store directly on any iOS device or the Apple TV, but you may not realize that not only can you rent a movie directly using iTunes on your computer, but that doing so actually gives you more options on where to watch it.  On any recent model iOS device, renting a movie directly on your device forces you to watch it only on that device—it can’t be moved or transferred elsewhere, although you can stream it to an Apple TV via AirPlay; similarly, renting a movie directly on your Apple TV will allow you to watch it on any Apple TV connected to the same iTunes Store account, but it can’t be transferred to an iPad or iPhone if you decide you want to watch it while travelling instead.  By comparison, renting a movie directly on your computer in iTunes bypasses these limitations—you can easily stream a rented movie to an Apple TV or move it to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.

You can rent movies in iTunes the same way that you would purchase content, and the same time restrictions apply. If you have any rented movies in your iTunes library, a new “Rentals” section will appear under Movies both in iTunes and on your Apple TV, and new options will show up in your device sync settings to allow you to transfer those movies to or from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

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

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

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

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.

Disabling SMS fallback for iMessages

Apple’s iMessage service can be very useful if you’re on a limited text messaging plan, since iMessages travel over the Internet, using your cellular data plan, rather than being charged at exorbitant per-message rates. When composing a text message, the iPhone Messages app looks up the recipient address to determine whether an iMessage or standard SMS message will be sent, and indicates this by the color of the Send button—blue for iMessage, green for SMS. Your iPhone will send messages via iMessage whenever possible, but will automatically “fall back” to sending a standard SMS message whenever the recipient can’t be reached via iMessage, such if they are out of data coverage. Fortunately there is a way to disable this feature, since it can otherwise result in unexpected SMS charges: Simply go into your iPhone Settings app, selecting Messages and toggle the option to “Send as SMS” to OFF. This will not prevent you from specifically sending SMS messages to folks who aren’t using iMessage at all, such as non-iPhone users, but will at least prevent your iPhone from unexpectedly racking up SMS charges when an iMessage can’t be used; instead the iMessage will just remain queued up until it can be delivered via the iMessage network.

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 iTunes in the Cloud Content

With the release of iTunes 11, Apple introduced much tighter integration between the content in your local iTunes library and your purchases available from iTunes in the Cloud. The new feature displays all of your purchases in a single, unified library view and allows you to stream any movie, TV show or music track directly from your purchase history instead of having to download it to your computer. This can be a great feature when working with limited disk space, but if you prefer to only see content that is actually stored on your computer, you can easily hide all of your iTunes in the Cloud content by going into your iTunes Preferences, and unchecking the “Show iTunes in the Cloud purchases” option found on the Store page. In this mode, you can still go into your “Purchases” section in the actual iTunes Store and specifically download content as you could in previous versions of iTunes, but you will no longer see all of your cloud-based content cluttering up your library.

Using Emoji in Messages on OS X

  • March 5, 2013
  • Mac,

You may already know how to enable the Emoji keyboard in iOS so you can use it in the Messages app on your iPhone or iPad, but did you know you can also access and use the same Emoji characters in Messages on OS X? In most Mac apps, including Messages, simply go to the Edit menu and choose Special Characters, or press OPT+CMD+T, to bring up the Characters pallet; you can access all of the same Emoji characters as on iOS, organized by category, simply by selecting “Emoji” from the menu on the left of this window. This feature is particularly useful for keeping a consistent chat experience if you use iMessage with Emoji and regularly switch between your Mac and iOS device.

Filtering Playlists with the Column Browser

If you’ve been using iTunes for a while, you’re probably already familiar with the Column Browser that can be displayed in the category listing views to help filter your music by Genre, Artist and Album. What you may not know, however, is that you can call up the Column Browser in any list view, including playlists. To display the Column Browser for whatever playlist you’re currently looking at, simply press CMD+B (Mac) or CTRL+B (Windows), or select View, Column Browser, Show Column Browser from the iTunes menu. Further, in addition to the default Genre, Artist, and Album columns, you can use the View, Column Browser menu to add more columns for Kind, Composer, Grouping, Category, Show, and Season, with up to six columns displayed at once; available columns are context-specific, but since playlists can contain any type of content, all nine options will be available when working in a playlist view. As an added bonus, iTunes stores the Column Browser settings individually for each specific playlist.

Managing Bluetooth Contact Sync

iOS supports a handy feature known as the Bluetooth Phone Book Access Profile for transferring your contacts from your iPhone to a compatible Bluetooth device such as an in-car system, allowing for direct access to your contacts from you car’s dashboard. If you don’t want to transfer your entire contact list to your car, however, you can set which contact categories and groups are available in your Bluetooth device settings. Once you’ve paired your car kit or other Bluetooth device with your iPhone, simply tap on the arrow icon to the right of the device name in the Bluetooth devices listing to bring up additional settings for that device. If the device supports the Phone Book Access Profile, you will see an option here allowing you to enable or disable contact sync entirely; when enabled, additional options appear allowing you to control what groups of contact information are available to the remote Bluetooth device, including your phone favorites and recent calls lists, all contacts, or any specific contact groups you may have created.

Enabling Composers View in iTunes 11.0.2

Apple released a relatively minor update to iTunes 11 this week, delivering mostly performance and stability improvements but also including one other small feature—the Composers View—that may be of particular interest to classical music fans with large, well-organized libraries. The new view basically replicates the Artists View introduced in the initial release of iTunes 11, with a left-hand sidebar that allows you to browse music by composer instead. Since it presumably would not be of interest to everyone, however, Apple chose to leave it disabled by default, but if you have a use for it, you can easily go and turn it on yourself with a quick trip into your iTunes Preferences—a new “Show Composers” checkbox now appears on the General page to allow you to toggle the feature on or back off again.

For more information, check out our Ask iLounge article on Accessing Composers View in iTunes 11.0.2.

Choosing your preferred video resolution in iTunes

With the introduction of 1080p HD video support in iTunes last spring, in many cases users now have the choice of two different HD resolutions when purchasing and viewing content from the iTunes Store. While not everything is yet available in the higher, 1080p format, in those cases where it is you may still want to download or use the lower-resolution 720p version to save disk space or play back content on older, lower-performance PCs. iTunes provides two different settings for choosing your preferred video resolution; in your iTunes Preferences on the Playback panel, the “Preferred Video Version” allows you to choose which version to use for playback, subject to the availability of that version in your actual iTunes library. A similar setting on the Store page also allows you to choose whether to prefer a 720p or 1080p version when downloading videos from the iTunes Store.

It’s also worth mentioning that this setting affects which version gets re-downloaded when grabbing past purchases from your iTunes in the Cloud account, so you can actually switch this setting over and re-download a different HD resolution to keep both a 720p and 1080p version in your iTunes library—useful in cases where you may want to use the same content on iOS devices with different HD capabilities.

Forward all incoming phone calls to voicemail

The Do Not Disturb feature introduced in iOS 6 is a very handy way of essentially silencing your iOS device entirely. However, it doesn’t really provide an option for only preventing incoming calls while still receiving notifications for things like text messages and e-mail. If you’re in a situation where you don’t want to be disturbed by incoming phone calls but want to keep the rest of your notifications enabled and you’re on a GSM network, you can actually use call forwarding to simply send all of your calls straight to your carrier’s voicemail access number.

To enable this feature, you first need to find out which number is being used for your voicemail forwarding by going into the Phone app and dialing *#67# and pressing the “Call” button. Write the number down that appears here and then simply go into Settings, Phone, Call Forwarding and enable it using this number.  All of your incoming calls will be sent directly to your voicemail as long as Call Forwarding is enabled, and when you want to go back to receiving incoming calls normally,simply go back into your Settings app and toggle Call Forwarding back OFF. As an added bonus, the iPhone will retain the last number used for Call Forwarding, so when you want to send all of your calls to voicemail again, you can simply go back in and toggle the Call Forwarding setting back ON without needing to re-enter the number again.

For more details, check out this week’s Ask iLounge article on Sending all iPhone calls to voicemail.

Changing the iPad switch function

  • February 12, 2013
  • iPad,

The physical hardware switch located in the top-right corner of the iPad and iPad mini has had a somewhat checkered past; while it now defaults to being a mute button, when the original iPad was first released with iOS 3.2 the button was actually used only as an orientation lock, a behaviour that remained in place until iOS 4.2 permanently changed it back to a mute function and then iOS 4.3 gave users a choice. Out of the box, the button works in the same way as on the iPhone and iPod touch—muting all alert sounds such as mail and calendar notifications. Unlike the iPhone and iPod touch, however, you can actually reassign the function of this button to an orientation lock, useful for using your iPad to read or watch videos when lying on your side in bed, for example. To do this, simply go into the Settings app on your iPad, choose General and look for the section labelled “Use Side Switch to” and choose your preferred function. A button can also be found on the multitasking/widget bar that will automatically be set to the other option, so if you choose to reassign the Lock Rotation function to the switch, the widget bar will contain a Mute button.

Keep in mind as well that the “Mute” option—regardless of whether it’s assigned to the switch or the button bar—mutes alert sounds, which are separate from other sounds such as music and video playback. Similarly, turning down the volume using the buttons on the side of the iPad will not silence alerts such as push notifications, calendar alarms and new incoming mail messages.

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