Tips & Tricks
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.
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.
- September 29, 2015
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.
- September 24, 2015
- Apple Music,
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.
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.
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!)
- September 3, 2015
- 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.
- September 1, 2015
- Apple Watch,
In many cases, it’s the little things with the Apple Watch that make life easier, especially for users who are always on the go with busy schedules. If you’re frequently hopping between meetings, you may find it useful to know that you can actually get directions to your next event right from the notification on your wrist. Simply force-touch on the alert when it comes up (or the appointment if you’re viewing it in the Calendar app) and you’ll see an option to get directions.
Tap again and the Watch Maps app will open up, ready to guide you to your destination. Of course you’ll have to ensure that you’ve entered locations for your meetings into your calendar events — but this is a good reason to do so.
- August 27, 2015
- Apple Watch,
Most of the watch faces on the Apple Watch include the ability to add a world clock display — a handy feature for travelers or anybody who needs to regularly keep track of the time in more than one city. To use the feature, you simply add additional world clocks in your iPhone “Clock” app and these automatically appear on the Apple Watch.
By default, the Apple Watch uses pre-determined abbreviations for each city, however you can customize these to whatever you want them to say by going into the “Clock” section of the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. This will bring up the list of cities configured in your main iPhone Clock app, and you can tap to change the abbreviation for any city to whatever you like — useful if you’d rather see time zone codes or airport codes, for instance.
- August 26, 2015
- Apple Watch,
The Apple Watch provides a cute way to respond to text messages from your wrist by sending back an emoji, with access to a large template of standard emoji icons and three animated ones — a heart, a smiley face, and a fist-pump.
What’s a bit less obvious is that you can actually change each of these animated emojis up by using the Digital Crown. Swipe to the one you like and then turn the Digital Crown to basically move through a variety of styles and facial expressions for each of the base three. Of course, if you still can’t quite say what you want with these, you can always pick a standard emoji, choose a pre-determined reply, or dictate a response into your wrist.
- August 20, 2015
- Apple Watch,
If you’re wearing your Apple Watch when a phone call comes in on your iPhone, you’ll be alerted on your wrist with options to either accept or decline the call, with the green accept button effectively taking the call right on the Apple Watch itself. For those who may not feel like talking into their wrist, however, there’s a slightly less obvious option that will let you answer the call on your iPhone, and in fact even help you get to it.
When a call comes in, simply swipe up on the Apple Watch face to reveal options to either “Send a Message” or “Answer on iPhone.” The first option behaves in much the same way as the equivalent option on your iPhone screen, however tapping “Answer on iPhone” will immediately answer the call, but place it on hold to wait for you to pick it up on the iPhone handset itself; a “ping” button even appears to help you track down your iPhone in case you’re not quite sure where you left it.
If you do inadvertently answer the call on your Apple Watch, you can also easily transfer it to your iPhone handset simply by swiping up on the Phone handoff icon that appears in the bottom left corner of the lock screen, or tapping on the green phone call status bar that appears if your iPhone is already unlocked.
- August 19, 2015
- Apple Watch,
The Apple Watch can be a great tool for keeping up with your messages on the go, but if talking into your wrist like a modern day Dick Tracy feels weird, you’re going to be limited to choosing from a list of canned responses. Fortunately, there are quite a few available and you can customize any of them to your liking by visiting the iPhone’s Apple Watch app.
To do this, go into the Messages section and tap on any of the replies listed under “Default Replies” and you can type in your own to replace the default. Entries you’ve added are shown in normal text, while default replies are grayed out. If you want to erase a custom reply and revert back to the default for that slot, you can tap to edit the entry and then hit the “X” button that appears at the right of the field to clear it out.
- August 18, 2015
- Apple Watch,
Although the Apple Watch doesn’t have a built-in Reminders app, you can still receive — and action — reminder notifications on your wrist, and can even set Reminders using Siri in much the same way as you would on your iPhone.
Activate Siri either by holding down the Digital Crown or raising the Watch to your wrist and starting with “Hey Siri” and then continue with a statement like “Remind me to…” You can even create location alerts (“when I get home”) or use more generic times (“tonight”). Siri will confirm the reminder, and when it’s time for it to go off, you’ll be alerted on your wrist and can choose to complete the task or snooze it for later.
Anybody who has ever lost contact or calendar items will appreciate a new feature that Apple has quietly added to iCloud. You can now restore individual iCloud Drive files or roll back to a previous set of contact or calendar data by logging into the iCloud web portal at www.icloud.com, selecting Settings and scrolling down to the “Advanced” section at the bottom.
The “Restore Files” option will allow you to restore any file deleted from iCloud Drive in the past 30 days. Each file is shown individually with the number of days remaining before it is permanently deleted. “Restore Contacts” and “Restore Calendars,” on the other hand, allow you to simply roll back entirely to a previous data set — there unfortunately isn’t any way to retrieve a specific individual contact record or calendar event. In fact, as the warnings on the “Restore Calendars” screen indicates, restoring to a previous calendar set will remove all sharing information, and cancel and re-send all shared appointment invitations, so the setting should be used with some caution. Mac users are likely far better off using Time Machine to restore lost Calendar or Contact dates. However, the iCloud options are useful as a last resort if no other backups are available.
If you’re looking for a single lost contact record, calendar event, or reminder, and have no other backups available, one workaround is to export your current contact or calendar data using the appropriate app. The iCloud Contacts web app allows vCards to be exported from its Settings menu (the gear icon in the bottom right), and you can export a single VCF file containing all of your contacts by selecting all of them before using the export option. For Calendar export, Mac users can use the native OS X Calendar app, while Windows users will have to resort to syncing data via Outlook or Windows Calendar. Once you’ve backed up your current data, you can then use the iCloud rollback to restore the previous data set and then reimport your contact and calendar data to merge it with the restored information.
- August 13, 2015
- Apple Watch,
The Apple Watch is a somewhat private device by its very nature, since it sits on your wrist, so having Messages and other notifications appear with full detail is probably not going to be a problem for most users, particularly since notifications are only received when you’re actually wearing the device. If you’re looking for a bit more privacy, however, Apple does provide the option of suppressing notification details until you actually tap on the Apple Watch screen.
To do this, simply go into the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, select Notifications from the main menu screen, and toggle “Notification Privacy” ON. With this setting enabled, you’ll still get notifications for things like Messages and emails on your wrist, but the text and other details won’t be shown until you actually tap on the screen, shielding them from curious onlookers.
- August 12, 2015
- Apple Watch,
By default, the Apple Watch is setup to sync Do Not Disturb status with your iPhone, meaning that when it’s enabled on either device — whether you do it manually or it kicks in on an automatic schedule — it’s enabled on both. While this can be handy if you find yourself toggling it on and off frequently, some users may prefer to maintain separate Do Not Disturb settings for each device, particularly when you consider that the Apple Watch doesn’t display notifications anyway once you’ve taken it off your wrist to go to bed.
Fortunately, it’s easy to unlink the two settings. Just go into your Apple Watch app on your iPhone, select General, Do Not Disturb and turn the “Mirror iPhone” option OFF. Once you’ve done this, the Do Not Disturb setting will need to be enabled on each device individually, and the Apple Watch will never go into Do Not Disturb mode on any kind of a schedule, even if one has been set on the iPhone. If you later decide you want to go back to keeping the settings mirrored, you can return to this same screen to re-enable the setting.
- August 11, 2015
- Apple Watch,
The Apple Watch is a pretty cool device, but much like other iOS devices and even your Mac, there may be times when apps misbehave or aren’t working quite the way you expect them to. While Apple has made the process of forcibly terminating apps pretty straightforward on the iPhone and iPad — just open up the app switcher and swipe the offending app away — when you want to forcibly quit something on the Apple Watch, the process is a bit more obscure, involving button presses that hearken back to the days before the iOS App Switcher.
If you find an app on your Apple Watch becomes unresponsive, or doesn’t open properly, simply hold down the side button while the app is running until the Power/Lock options screen appears, and then release the side button and hold it down again until you return to the home screen — you should see the last view of your app briefly appear before zooming back out to the sea of home screen icons. You should then be able to simply restart the app again from the home screen as you normally would.
- August 7, 2015
- Apple Watch,
Although Apple’s expected to release a new Apple TV this fall that will likely include a touchpad remote, if you have an Apple Watch, you can get a similar effect with your Apple TV right now. The Apple Watch includes a built-in Remote app that’s similar in concept to the one you can put on your iPhone or iPad, although like most Apple Watch apps, it’s somewhat more limited in scope.
The pairing experience isn’t entirely consistent yet either, with some users requiring the old-school four-digit code pairing technique, while others have all of their Home Sharing devices magically show up just as they do in the iOS Remote app. If you’re in the latter category, you’re pretty much good to and there’s not much more to the process, but if you find your Apple Watch wants you to add a new device manually, you’ll need to take that four-digit code and pay a visit to Settings, General, Remotes on your Apple TV, where your Apple Watch should appear. Select it from there, enter the code, and your Apple TV should show up on your Apple Watch. Keep in mind that you’ll still need to have your iPhone handy and joined to the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV—the Apple Watch doesn’t have Wi-Fi so it uses the iPhone as a gateway.
Once you’re paired and connected, your Apple Watch effectively becomes a touchpad for your Apple TV, allowing you to navigate menus and play and pause content right from your wrist. It doesn’t do much more than the Apple Remote does, but it’s kind of cool to be able to do use it as a touchpad and can be a quick way to pause a movie if you can’t quite remember where you left the remote and don’t feel like digging through the sofa cushions.
- August 6, 2015
- Apple Watch,
While Apple promises that most users should be able to get at least a day of usage out of the Apple Watch, real world mileage may vary. Fortunately, Apple had the foresight to include a “Power Reserve” mode to prevent you from being completely stranded without a watch—you’ll at least be able to tell what time it is, even if you can’t use the other features of your Apple Watch.
Your Apple Watch will start offering to put itself into Power Reserve mode when your battery drops below about ten percent, and will kick into this mode automatically if the battery drops to a level where it can no longer sustain the Apple Watch in full power mode. However, if you know you’re not going to need the more advanced features of the Apple Watch for a while and want to save power for later, you can kick in Power Reserve mode manually either by enabling it from the Battery Glance that can be found by swiping up on the clock face, or by holding down the side button and dragging the Power Reserve slider to the right. In Power Reserve mode, your Apple Watch is basically powered down, but like an old-school LED watch it will still display the time for six seconds if you press the side button. To get out of Power Reserve mode—assuming you have enough battery—simply hold down the side button for a few seconds until the Apple logo appears indicating the Apple Watch is powering up again.
- August 5, 2015
- Apple Watch,
You likely already know how to capture screenshots on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, but did you know you can also grab a shot of whatever is on your Apple Watch screen? The same two-button idea applies as on Apple’s larger iOS devices: Simply press down both the Digital Crown and the side button simultaneously and the screen will briefly flash white and you should hear a shutter sound effect. The screenshot itself gets transferred directly into the Photos app of your paired iPhone, where it will also be synced to any other devices sharing the same Photo Stream or iCloud Photo Library, if those features are enabled.
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