Tips & Tricks
- August 8, 2013
- Apple TV,
Earlier this year Netflix began gradually been rolling out a new, higher-resolution “Super HD” streaming option, providing higher-quality 1080p HD content for at least some subscribers. The catch? You must be using a supported device and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) must be part of Netflix Open Connect and provide you with a sufficiently fast Internet connection—at least 5Mbps.
The good news is that the third-generation Apple TV is in fact fully supported, but whether this will work with your ISP is another story entirely. You can easily check if your ISP is supported by visiting Netflix’s Super HD page, and if so you should see a “Super HD” logo appear on your Apple TV on any content available in the higher quality form. Many U.S. Netflix users on Time Warner, Comcast, and Verizon briefly saw the option appear last night, but it has since disappeared. This may be an indication that some of the major U.S. ISPs are beginning to roll the service out, however.
Although iOS does a reasonably good job of limiting which applications are allowed to continue running in the background and what they can do, sometimes even a legitimate background app can run away on you causing problems like excessive battery drain and possibly even unnecessary data usage. iOS only permits four types of third-party applications to run in the background at all: Voice-over-IP (VoIP) apps such as Skype, apps that play audio in the background, navigation apps, and Newsstand apps. Some other apps may also take advantage of the ability to continue running in the background to complete a task, but iOS itself limits these to a maximum of 10 minutes, after which the app will be summarily terminated by the operating system.
The most insidious of these are background apps that use the VoIP feature, since unlike audio and navigation apps, these don’t provide any obvious clues that they’re still running. Further, not all VoIP apps may be patently obvious; for example you may be surprised to know that Facebook qualifies as a VoIP app due to its new voice messaging features, and is therefore allowed to continue running in the background long after you’ve left the app. Facebook may in fact be the smoking gun in numerous recent reports of battery issues from iPhone users.
The good news is that you can easily terminate these background apps from the recently used apps list: Simply double-tap the Home button to bring the list up, and then tap and hold on any app shown in the list. The apps will start jiggling in the same way as reorganizing your home screen, and a red negative symbol will appear at the top-left corner of each icon. Simply tap on the red symbol to close the app, and it will stop running in the background. Be aware, however, that many VoIP apps will start to run in the background automatically if you restart your device, even though they are not shown in the recently used apps list, so if you think an app is causing problems, be sure to terminate it again after restarting your iPhone by running it at least once and then removing it from the recently used apps tray. Also keep in mind that the recently used apps tray is just that—a list of recently used apps; most of the apps shown here will not be running in the background at all unless they fit into one of the specific categories above.
The built-in Calculator app on the iPhone and iPod touch can be a handy way to quickly work out quick calculations, and the good news is that if you’re trying to calculate something that needs to go into an e-mail, text message, or elsewhere on your iPhone, the iOS clipboard is fully supported, although it may not be obvious. Simply tap and hold on the number and the usual context menu will pop up with a Copy option displayed. There’s also a paste option here too, so if you’ve got a number from an e-mail or message that needs to be entered into your calculation, you can simply paste it here rather than having to memorize it and key it in manually.
- July 30, 2013
From time to time, you may experience an intermittent problem with the App Store “Updates” screen on your iPad showing up blank, despite a badge counter that indicates that updates are available. Although there seems to be no consistent way to fix this problem, the good news is that if you’re looking to get a specific update quickly, or just want to clear the annoying badge count, you can work around it by going to the “Purchased” tab and updating your apps individually from there.
Apps that have updates pending will show an “Update” button beside them which you can tap on to download those individual updates. It’s not the most efficient solution, especially if you have a lot of apps, but it will work until Apple resolves the blank updates screen problem.
Sometimes you may find that you’ve over-customized your Home Screen layout on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and want to get a fresh start, or perhaps you’ve let your kids play with your device, and are having a hard time finding your apps any more. The good news is that iOS offers a very simple way to return to a default, flat Home Screen layout so you can start from a known position and then re-organize again from there. Simply go into your iOS Settings app and choose General, Reset and select the option to “Reset Home Screen Layout.” You’ll be asked to confirm, after which all of the built-in apps will return to their default positions on the first page with all of your third-party apps organized alphabetically on subsequent pages. You’ll lose all of your folders in this process, but if things are messed up to the point where you want to reorganize from scratch, this can often be a far easier way to go than digging around inside folders to figure out where specific apps have actually gone.
iOS device users have been able to share photos and videos from the Camera Roll since the very first iPhone was released in 2007, however this feature has traditionally required the user to start in the Photos app to select the items they want to share and then create an entirely new e-mail message from there with the photos attached. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t work particularly well if you’ve already started writing an e-mail message and then later decide that you want to add one or more photos to it. While the iOS clipboard would allow you to copy and paste photos, switching back and forth between the Photos and Mail apps can still be a bit cumbersome.
Fortunately, iOS 6 adds the ability to attach photos and videos directly into an e-mail without having to actually leave the Mail app at all. Simply tap and hold on an empty spot in the message to bring up the context menu and then tap on the right arrow to reveal an “Insert Photo or Video” option. This will bring up the in-app photo browser from which you can choose a photo to insert directly into your e-mail right at the current cursor position. Not only does this save you a trip over to the Photos app, but you can also attach as many images as you like and place them wherever you want in your message simply by repeating the process to add more images.
Although Apple’s Find My Friends is a handy way for you to share your location with a group of friends on an ongoing basis, the built-in Maps app actually provides an easy way to quickly share your current location with anybody via Messages, Twitter, or Facebook. Simply tap on the blue dot for your current location in the Maps app, and then tap the blue arrow on the right to get more information on your current location, from where you can access the “Share Location” option to send out your current location via Messages or post it on Twitter or Facebook. This can be a handy way to let your friends know where you when planning a meetup.
- July 16, 2013
iTunes provides a list of Internet Radio stations that can be found in the “Radio” sub-section under the “Music” section, however this list is by no means comprehensive, and you may find that it doesn’t include all of your preferred online radio stations. Although you can’t actually modify this list, the good news is that you can easily create a custom playlist containing your own personal selection of stations, from just about any open and unprotected Internet audio source. Simply copy the URL to your clipboard and then choose Open Stream under the File menu and paste the URL into the dialog box that appears. A custom playlist named “Internet Songs” will be created automatically the first time you do this, and any subsequent streams will simply be added to this playlist.
If you’ve set up Game Center on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you may find that you get inundated with random friend requests from time to time, especially if you’ve chosen a particularly common nickname. The good news is that iOS 6 introduced the ability to deal with a large number of Friend Requests all at once; simply scroll down to the bottom of your list of requests, and choose either “Accept All” or “Ignore All” to quickly clear the list. This can be handy when you haven’t checked Game Center in a while, and of course you can still accept friend requests on an individual basis and then use the global option at the bottom to simply clear out the rest. Further, if you don’t want to receive Game Center friend requests at all, you can go into General, Restrictions in the iOS Settings app and turn off “Adding Friends” entirely.
If you have a lot of iOS apps that regularly generate notifications, you may find it helpful to choose the order in which these notifications appear in your iOS Notification Centre. To do this, simply go into the Notifications section in the iOS Settings app, ensure the “Sort Apps” option is set to “Manually” and then tap the “Edit” button in the top right corner; you can then use the icons to the right of each app to drag and drop them further up or further down in the list. The order in which notifications appear in the actual Notification Center will mirror whatever arrangement you specify here, allowing you to ensure that more important notifications such as missed phone calls, e-mails, and messages get priority placement over less critical items such as game updates.
Note that this method also allows you to move your Weather and Stocks widgets below actual notifications if you prefer. Alternatively, you can choose “By Time” from the “Sort Apps” button to override your specified ordering and simply have the most recent notifications always displayed at the top; in this case the Weather and Stocks widgets will always appear at the top of the notification center, in that order.
- July 4, 2013
Most iTunes users probably already know that you can edit information for multiple tracks simply by selecting them all and choosing File, Get Info. However, this only works if you need to apply the same information to all of the selected tracks. If you’re updating tracks individually, such as to correct song titles or track numbers, you’ll find the multiple item editor to be less useful. However, iTunes does offer a useful shortcut for quickly moving between tracks without leaving the edit window. Instead of clicking “OK” when you’re finished editing the information for a selected track, you can use the buttons found in the bottom left corner of the editing window to simply pull up the information for the next or previous track, and better yet, iTunes provides shortcuts for these buttons: CMD+N and CMD+P respectively on a Mac, or ALT+N and ALT+P in iTunes for Windows. If you simply organize your tracks in the order you want by sorting or placing them into a playlist, with these shortcuts you can quickly move through them and update your info like a pro.
- July 2, 2013
AT&T iPhone users can now receive Emergency Alerts and Amber Alerts in the iOS Notification Center, courtesy of a recent carrier update. You can toggle these on or off from the Notifications section in the iPhone Settings app; the two new options appear at the bottom of the list of notifications. These will likely be enabled by default, but in some cases you may need to toggle them OFF and back ON again before you actually start receiving alerts. Alternatively, if you are receiving alerts that you don’t want, you can just as easily toggle them OFF from here and leave them that way.
- June 27, 2013
Although iTunes has a feature for automatically fetching album artwork, there are likely going to be times that you’ll still want to add artwork manually to your tracks, especially for more obscure tracks that you’ve imported from your own collection. Unfortunately, with the redesign of iTunes 11, the long-established artwork pane in the bottom left corner disappeared, and with it one of the easier shortcuts for adding and removing album artwork. Fortunately, however, all is not lost, and you can still add artwork to multiple tracks through the track info dialog box. Simply select one or more tracks and choose Get Info from the iTunes File menu. If you’re working with a single track, you’ll need to switch to the “Artwork” tab, while with multiple tracks selected, an “Artwork” section will appear in the main Info tab. From here, you can drag and drop an image in from Finder or Windows Explorer, or paste an image in from the clipboard using CTRL+V (Windows) or CMD+V (Mac). As an added bonus, the clipboard options also work to copy artwork from other tracks; simply open the track info, highlight the artwork, and use CTRL+C/CMD+C to copy the selected image to the clipboard, after which you can easily paste it to one or more additional tracks using the method above.
- June 25, 2013
Apple has made it pretty straightforward to make a conference call with your iPhone, but you may not know that you can also easily drop a party individually without ending the call entirely or put other calls on hold to have a sidebar conversation. Tap the arrow button that appears to the right of the names when you’re on a conference call and you’ll see a list of all of the parties in the call. From here you can tap the red hangup button to drop an individual party and return to your original call or tap on the green “Private” button to place the other parties on hold and speak to only one person; when you’re in a private conversation the “Merge Calls” button will reappear to bring everybody back together.
These features are particularly handy when you consider that the iPhone isn’t limited to just three-way calls; barring any limitations your carrier may impose, the iPhone actually lets you have up to five other parties in a conference call. Be careful, however, as most carriers will charge you any applicable airtime and long distance for each party in a conference call.
- June 20, 2013
- Apple TV,
This week Apple released another Apple TV Software Update adding five more content providers for users in the U.S., including HBO GO, WatchESPN, Sky News, Qello, and Crunchyroll. However, if you’re not already an HBO or ESPN cable subscriber or a fan of music videos or Japanese Anime, you may find these new icons do little more than clutter up the nice Apple TV main screen. The good news is that you can reorganize these icons to move them farther down or even hide them from the main screen entirely. To reorganize the icons, simply highlight the icon you want to move and hold down the center button on your Apple Remote until they all start jiggling; you can then simply use the direction arrows to move the icon almost anywhere else you want, although the first row is fixed—you can’t move icons into or out of this area. Hiding icons uses a different method, requiring a quick visit into your device’s Parental Controls. Simply go into Settings, General, Parental Controls, scroll down to the list of items at the bottom and set each one to “Hide” to make them disappear from your Main Menu entirely. You don’t even need to actually enable the parental controls simply to hide items from here, although doing so will allow you to set rating restrictions for iTunes content and leave certain items visible but passcode-protected. Note that the Movies, TV Shows, Computers and Settings items in the first row cannot be hidden.
Be sure to check out Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of Apple TV 5.3 for more information on what’s new in the latest Apple TV update.
- June 18, 2013
The search field in the top-right corner of the iTunes window is a handy way to find content in your own library, but did you know that you can also quickly search the iTunes Store directly from this field? Simply enter your text in the search field and hold down the OPT key (Mac) or SHIFT key (Windows) when pressing RETURN and you’ll be automatically taken to a results page in the iTunes Store. This can be particularly useful when you’re trying to determine if you already have something in your library, as you can search for it locally first, and then use the OPT/SHIFT trick to continue your search in the iTunes Store. The best part is that this works regardless of whether you’re using the newer Live Search feature or have opted to disable Live Search and use the older style iTunes search filtering.
Apple provides each iCloud user with 5GB of free storage for iOS device backups, application documents and data, and iCloud e-mail, but if you have multiple iOS devices, or keep a lot of photos and videos in your camera roll, this can quickly fill up. Further, if you’ve recently upgraded to a new iOS device, the backup from your old device may still be laying around in your iCloud account, taking up additional space. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to see what’s taking up space in there and clear it out. Simply go into your iOS Settings app, select iCloud and then Storage & Backup, and then Manage Storage. This will show you first a list of all of the backups stored in your iCloud account for each of your devices, along with the device name, followed by a list of apps storing data in iCloud. You can tap on any of these items to see more information; backups provide a button to delete the entire backup, while application data will provide a list of items that can be deleted individually by using a swipe gesture or tapping the “Edit” button in the top-right corner.
While iTunes Match is a great way to have access to your entire music library from anywhere with an Internet connection, some users with large libraries may be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of content displayed in the iOS Music app. If you find that even with iTunes Match you still confine your listening to a specific set of playlists, you can easily download that content onto your device for offline listening and then go into your iOS Settings app and switch OFF the option to “Show All Music” found under iTunes & App Stores or Music. This will limit the content displayed in the Music app to only those tracks that have actually been downloaded onto your device, providing you with a much more manageable library to navigate through. Should you want to download additional tracks or browse your entire cloud-based library in the future, you can bring your full iTunes Match library back simply by going back into the Settings to toggle this option ON again.
- May 30, 2013
Although iOS tries to turn phone numbers in many apps into clickable links, this doesn’t work everywhere, and can be especially troublesome for “vanity” phone numbers such as 1-800-MY-APPLE. In these cases, however, you can take advantage of a hidden feature in iOS and simply paste your number right into the Phone app from the iOS clipboard.
Simply copy the number to the clipboard as you normally would, and then open the Phone app to the “Keypad” section and tap and hold on the blue phone number display section above the keypad and the standard “Paste” option should appear. As an added bonus, when pasting in a vanity phone number, it will be converted to its numeric form with the original alphanumeric version displayed in a smaller font below. Note that this also works in the other direction—a phone number already displayed in the Phone app can be copied TO the clipboard using the same standard tap-and-hold gesture.
If you’ve been thinking of using FaceTime over a cellular data connection, you may find it useful to keep an eye on how much data a given FaceTime call actually consumes. When Apple added the ability to use FaceTime over Cellular in iOS 6, it also quietly introduced data usage indicators to the Recent Calls list in the Phone and FaceTime apps. To see how much data a FaceTime call has used, simply go into the Phone app on your iPhone or the FaceTime app on your iPad or iPod touch and tap the blue arrow beside the recent call entry to open the detail view; the amount of data used by the FaceTime call will be shown in parentheses beside the call duration.
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- How do I share one iCloud Photo Library within a family?