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.

What we can do today

There were indeed some interesting products featured at the recent 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Curved screens, wearables and fitness trackers people! All jokes aside, there are some very talented tech people in this world, designing some phenomenal things. I am not about to delve into specifics, as this post has another message. For some more in-depth views on CES:

Reiterating a sentiment I have conveyed in a previous post, amidst the lure of new gadgets (particularly with a new Apple Store about to open a block from my workplace) it is easy to forget the sheer power we all currently hold in our pockets (in my case an iPhone 4s) – on occasion I still marvel at the things we can do today with our mobile devices.

For example, my 50 minute commute yesterday consisted of catching up on information and articles through Twitter, my RSS Reader, and Zite. Picking up a copy (that is, a download to my Kindle cloud reader) of a new novel, watching the Season 4 trailer for Game of Thrones, electronically thumbing through a copy of one of my favourite magazines, and updating my family of goings on via Path and Instagram. A phone call, a couple of iMessages and clearing email whilst listening to some music completes the picture.

And that was without even needing to take out my iPad.

A timely thought given last week’s seventh anniversary of the introduction of the iPhone:

An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. An iPod, a phone…are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device. And we are calling it iPhone. Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.

– Steve Jobs

I am all for innovation, however don’t let anyone tell you what we can already do today isn’t amazing.

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:

Human for iPhone

Human4

Human is a recently released free app for iPhone that is designed to track and encourage users to achieve at least 30 minutes of physical activity or movement per day. It joins many other systems such as the Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Nike+ Fuelband, and apps like Runkeeper currently on the market, however the philosophy differs to these offerings. The overall philosophy behind Human is to provide simple, elegant and meaningful data about your daily activity entirely through your iPhone, with an emphasis on the health benefits of achieving at least 30 minutes of daily movement (The Daily 30).

Human was released in the App Store on August 31, with a further update on September 5, said to improve both movement detection/tracking and battery life – two critical features for the success of the app. Users of these types of products expect (and rightly so) accuracy of information without excessive drain on battery life. Having just activated my account, I have not yet had the chance to determine what impact the app has on battery life though it is something I will be monitoring. From the developers:

Human is a passive tracker, which means that the software runs in the background of your phone, and tracks your activity automatically. You don’t have to check-in, log, or record anything manually. We access your phone’s location services and sensors to achieve this. Our primary concern has always been tracking activities accurately without draining too much battery life.

Why Human?

My interest in Human came about as I spend the usual work week sitting at a computer (to the detriment of my overall health and productivity), however routinely walk when I get the chance, getting off the bus two stops early in the morning (after a 45–60 minute commute), with additional walks mid morning and at lunch time. I am keen to see how much of this incidental activity actually stacks up.

To do this, I require an app I do not have to think about, one that will provide accurate results, and equally as important, something that is visually interesting and thoughtfully designed. I have said this before and will say it again now and no doubt in the future, ugly apps have absolutely zero appeal to me, regardless of the feature set (though I acknowledge the eye of the beholder). Finally, I prefer not to wear any additional receiver on my wrist or anywhere else, so using my phone for the entire process also appeals to me.

Using Human

Once an account is set up, the app really is a set and forget system, though you are obviously required to have your phone with you for measurement to occur. Checking the app a few times today showed my progress towards the 30 minutes with an elegant dial, and upon tapping this, a timeline of activities so far (see below).

Human2

Activity is logged in various categories including walking, running, biking, and transport (vehicle etc). Upon reaching 30 minutes of activity in a day, users receive a push notification advising this has been achieved. This app is not filled with excessive statistical data, nor does it provide a timeline of all activity on launch – two positive features as far as I am concerned. If I’m after more specific details around an interval workout, I will continue to use Runkeeper, however as mentioned above, I am simply looking to assess my incidental activity over the course of the day. It doesn’t hurt to receive a pat on the back once you get there either:

Human3

The beauty of Human lies in its simplicity in both measuring your movement (which goes completely unnoticed, with nothing to wear, launch or log), as well as the flexibility in allowing input of various activities (30 minute gym workout for example) or changing those that may have been inaccurately tracked. For example, an 8 minute drive was today picked up as running, which was easily corrected, though may be worth keeping an eye on for accuracy. Reverting incorrectly assigned modes of movement is easily done, and does not require you to remember what the activity was, as it is visually represented on a map within the change screen. The usual sharing options to Facebook and Twitter are also available.

An article by The Verge compares the various systems currently available for tracking and measuring both overall activity and individual workouts, and other reviews of Human can be found at Techcrunch and again at The Verge.

I am looking forward over the coming weeks to see whether my intermittent walking affords the benefits I think they are, though regardless of whether I achieve “the daily 30”, they are certainly worth their ‘head clearing’ benefits. Given my son was with me today in achieving the daily 30, I wonder if we can claim 60 all up…

Human for iPhone is available free in the App Store now.