iOS Tips

In this dept4 x 4, tips relating to Apple’s mobile operating system, which in all likelihood you already know, though I find occasionally the simple things can be overlooked. I’ve found the following very useful, or at least a more elegant and efficient way of doing certain tasks in iOS.

1. Close all tabs in mobile Safari

When clicking through links from various sources of information I am reading on my iPhone, I invariably end up with numerous tabs open in mobile Safari. Whilst they can simply be brought up in card view through the Tab icon (two overlapping squares in the bottom right corner of the screen) and swiped left to close individually, a more efficient technique is as follows:

  1. Tap on the ‘Tab’ icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen
  2. Tap on ‘Private’
  3. Tap ‘Close All’ when asked in the pop up
  4. Tap on the ‘Tab’ icon and tap ‘Private’ again (to exit Private browsing mode)
  5. Tap on ‘Done’

The above works for any number of open tabs, though I tend to use it most when there at least three or four open. More about Private browsing from Apple Support can be found here.

2. Turn off Flashlight from lock screen

The most common use I have for the flashlight on my phone is when I am delving deeply into an entanglement of cords, for example when switching peripherals on our home computer or television. The flashlight comes in handy in preventing me trying to ram a HDMI cable into a USB port.

After switching on the Flashlight function through Control Center, I lock my screen to avoid accidental taps. One tip I have found quite handy is tapping on the camera icon in the bottom right corner of the lock screen will turn off the flashlight. And yes, whilst I have Control Center access enabled for my lock screen, the above saves me having to swipe up to access Control Center, turn off the Flashlight and swipe down to close Control Center again. One tap is all it takes.

3. Power button phone shortcuts

With a call active on the iPhone, a quick press of the power button at the top of the device will end the call (note this will not work if you are in another App during the call or if an external ear piece/microphone is attached).

Although handy if your screen is unresponsive (ie severely cracked), I like this feature simply because of its ease of use. The power button also comes in handy for incoming calls, with a single press silencing the ringer (also stops vibration if in silent mode), or double press to send a call straight to voice mail.

4. iCloud Photo Sharing

Though probably a little more extensive than the quick use tips above, iCloud photo sharing (not to be confused with My Photostream) is a great way to give family and friends access to an album of photos without needing to message or email them to multiple people, or endlessly post to social media (aside from the fact they may not be photos you wish to share publicly).

Shared iCloud photo streams will support video (My Photostream will not), and the streams you create will be permanently stored (up to 100 streams with a 5000 photo limit per stream), rather than your last 1000 photos only, as is the case with My Photostream. More on this can be found on the Apple support page.

Shared iCloud streams are simple to set up:

  1. Access the “Shared” Tab at the bottom of the Photos app on your iOS device
  2. Tap the ‘+’ button to create a stream
  3. Name the stream
  4. Invite those you wish to share it with (sharing is optional, bypass by going straight to step 5)
  5. Tap on ‘Create’.
  6. Manually select photos to add photos to the stream.

Captions and comments can be added to photos by you or those who share the stream, and other members will be able to upload their own photos for all to see.

Overall, a great way to permanently store (and share) your photos by the power of iCloud.

Hopefully some or all of the four tips above will enhance your iOS experience, and finally, when next in the app switching view (after double clicking the home button), swipe on the row of icons along the bottom rather than the application panes for much faster scrolling.

Away we go with iOS 7…almost

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Today sees the release – and no doubt many a download – of iOS 7, the latest update and vastly overhauled version of Apple’s mobile software. There are numerous feature improvements that go beyond the most obvious, which is the ‘modernised’ user interface or ‘look and feel’ of the new system.

Of the many new features, I am most looking forward to Control Center (with many system settings now finally seeing the light of day, no longer requiring numerous taps to access), iTunes Radio, improved Notification Center, automatic app updates, intelligent data refreshing, better camera control, and improved photo management. However I am sure I will find compelling uses for many of the other new features I have read about or will stumble across along the way.

This update also brings a further level of complexity in relation to which Apple devices will support which version of the operating system. A recent silent update on the App Store now sees older versions of the operating system able to download legacy versions of many apps, as this article in 9to5 Mac explains. Further information around device compatibility (and an excellent table on feature support) can be found in an article by Brock Kyle, and another at TUAW.

Incidentally it does not appear both devices I currently use (iPhone 4s and iPad 2) will support all iOS 7 features, for example Air Drop and some of the advanced camera and photo features are only available in later model hardware. It is also worth noting I must wait a little longer for iTunes Radio given it is initially US only.

What should you do before you install the update? I would suggest reading this summary from TUAW, and proceeding from there.

As I finish this brief post (which in Australia is the early hours of September 19), my iPhone 4s is showing an error on attempting to commence the update. This has been entirely expected as Apple’s servers are being repeatedly slammed by the combined weight of a highly anticipated, worldwide software rollout. Should you also be experiencing this (and judging by the comments on numerous internet sites many are), keep trying – it is only a matter of time, and in any event, at 728MB, the entire process won’t be quick.

Patience is a virtue.

New iPhone – you decide

Actual photo taken with iPhone 5s. Image courtesy Apple.
Actual photo taken with iPhone 5s. Image courtesy Apple.

So the announcement has now come and gone for the new iPhones. Do you have a decision to make? Perhaps it’s already made, and come September 20 you will be lining up for a shiny or colourful new device. Alternatively, you may be completely underwhelmed by the latest offering from Apple, though I expect millions won’t be, and sales demand will be as strong as ever.

Why you should(n’t) buy a new iPhone

I always find articles with these titles somewhat bemusing. What? You don’t actually know whether you want or need a new phone? Granted, most of us do not need a new phone, we just want a new one. Fair enough, go buy it. Your money, spend it how you like. By all means read about features, improvements, options (now iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c) and the like, though I do not believe the decision should really be that hard.

For me, I am currently in a contract, though my wife will soon be out of hers (both iPhone 4s models currently). Occasionally we swap phones depending on who might want or perhaps be better suited to a newer model. This time? We are not really sure as yet – did someone not just say the decision shouldn’t be that hard? Correct, and it’s not, however until our preferred carrier releases their plans/pricing, we will reserve our decision.

My Considerations

iPhone 5c
Firstly, the iPhone 5c is not for me for two reasons. Though it is no doubt a great phone, having a coloured phone is not my preference. Secondly, the fact that I do not like the additional thickness of a case on my phone, precludes the option to change this by covering the colour with a case. Though in saying this, there is an option for white.

There we go, 50% of the new product range ruled out. One key point here is that Apple have made it quite clear they will not compete on price. The iPhone 5c is basically a colourful iPhone 5, and unsurprisingly will essentially retail at similar prices, particularly on a 2 year contract. The idea here is simple – this is Apple, we make quality products that are worth paying a little more for. Some thoughts on this philosophy and the experience of owning such a product can be found in an excellent article by Ben Thompson on his blog stratechery.

iPhone 5s
So in considering the iPhone 5s, where do we start. For some, such as Shawn Blanc, a few key features such as the Camera, TouchID, and M7 Coprocessor are key considerations, and the article is a concise overview of the rationale on why this is the case.

I have linked to Shawn’s article, as it contains many similarities to my current thinking on the new features, though I also consider the new A7 chip with 64 bit architecture to warrant a mention for me. I think it is worthwhile upgrading every few years to a faster processor (and this one sounds pretty quick), though I would not really consider my current iPhone 4s to be slow in any way. Also, any improvement in 3G/LTE connectivity is always welcome.

One point on the M7 “motion” coprocessor, which is a dedicated tiny chip separate from the main A7 processor. I recently wrote an article on the app Human, which tracks movement and overall activity through the iPhone’s built in motion and location tracking services. That app has been deleted from my phone. Overall performance was good, however it sucked the absolute life out of my battery. The M7 processor aims to change all that, as Apple states:

It’s designed specifically to measure motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass — a task that would normally fall to the A7 chip. But M7 is much more efficient at it. Now fitness apps that track physical activity can access that data from the M7 coprocessor without constantly engaging the A7 chip. So they require less battery power.

Thanks Apple. Problem solved.

Conclusion

Whether to upgrade or not is simply a matter of having a look at the new features that may be relevant to you, and comparing the price point at which they are offered (don’t forget that come September 18 and iOS 7, everything will look new anyway – and this is free). Do you want it? Can you afford to have it? Often the former question is easier to answer than the latter, but that is up to you.

A bit of further reading if you like:

iFingerprint

English: Picture of a whorl fingerprint pattern
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do we really need a fingerprint sensor in the new iPhone?

Whether or not you believe the new iPhone(s) to be announced this week will actually have a fingerprint sensor is immaterial to this question. That decision has already been made at Apple HQ in Cupertino. My point is, what would we really use it for?

I have often thought about this, since the early rumours suggested the upcoming model would have this feature. Would a device with this type of technology really be more helpful, secure or efficient than one without?

Beyond the obvious secure unlocking of a device, where I do believe this would be extremely beneficial would be in some sort of partitioning of user accounts on an iPhone, or to secure certain applications that may contain sensitive information, whilst leaving the remainder of the device “open” as it were. I’m still not convinced how this would really work, however Craig Hockenberry has some thoughts on his blog, which provide a nice summary of what could occur should this feature be implemented on our iPhones, particularly with some form of iCloud integration. The article is worth reading if you are at all interested in this sort of thing.

I myself am not due for a phone upgrade this year, however my wife is, and I will be looking closely at whatever features appear on this new device once it is in our…ahem, her hands.

Time for an iOS app spring clean?

MyPhotoWall (1)

Post WWDC 2013, I wrote a little about the upcoming changes to iOS 7, including some of my expectations around the change.

As the public release of this next version of Apple’s mobile operating system looms closer, more and more information is coming to light on developer progress and approaches, including results from a survey by Twitteriffic developer Craig Hockenberry:

Of 575 valid responses, 545 developers indicated that they were working on an update for iOS 7. That’s an adoption rate of 95%!

In addition, from Macstories:

From what I’ve seen (and heard) so far, it looks like releasing new, paid, separate versions of apps for iOS 7 will be a common trend among developers.

In light of the above, it is probably an ideal time to do a spring clean of your apps, or at least consider what you are using and how. Will you be prepared to purchase a new, paid update for an iOS 7 optimised version of your favourite app?

For me, the answer is a resounding yes, particularly for any apps that are in heavy use in my workflow. Whilst at this point, the above is merely opinion on what may eventuate, those around and within the developer community would have a fairly good idea on what is to come.

Personally, I have no problem paying for an update to an app that takes full advantage of all that will be on offer in iOS 7, however I would have second thoughts with the apps I use less often. Remember, a paid upgrade will provide support to app developers for further enhancements, and may add to the likelihood your favourite app will stick around and see upgrades and added features in the future.

The second question then for me, is whether an upgrade to the operating system will bring me back to any of the native iOS apps. I am currently using third-party apps for email (Mailbox), calendar (Week Cal), notes (Drafts) and reminders (Due). Although it is unlikely we will see third-party apps able to be used as defaults, should there be a compelling reason for me to return to the native apps, I may do so. However the power of Drafts for example is unlikely to be surpassed by anything Apple would have to offer.

What drives me to change an app? Looks? Feel? Function? Primarily function, however I prefer not to use ugly or seemingly disjointed apps simply for one feature they may have above others. It probably comes down to a combination of each of these factors.

We’ll see in a month or two, however in the mean time, have a think about how your apps fit your workflow and consider what actions you may take once the iOS 7 upgrade reaches public release.