Loading the Stuff...

Quick Tip: Mute/Unmute a Call When Your iPhone is Locked

Phone App Icon

Phone ControlsIf you’re like me, you participate in conference calls with your iPhone. I frequently use headphones or a bluetooth headset during such calls. I hate when the screen locks, then it’s my turn to speak, and I fumble to get to the screen where I can unmute myself. Oddly, the iPhone doesn’t lock when the speaker phone is enabled, but using headphones will lock you out after a bit.

Here’s a tip to get to the mute toggle much quicker:

  1. With a call active, wake the screen on your locked iPhone.
    1. Owners of iPhone 6s and later phones can pick up the phone.
    2. Owners of iPhone 6 and earlier phones can press the Home button.
    3. Owners of iPhones with Touch ID (iPhone 5s and later) can press the Home button with a fingernail or a finger that is not programmed for Touch ID.
  2. Tap the phone number and timer area near the top of the screen.
    The phone call controls will appear without the need to unlock the phone.

Told you it was quick.

Missing Messages in the iOS Mail App

Missing Email MessagesAre you seeing an email message in your web-based email services, but you’re not seeing it on your iPhone or iPad’s Mail app?

Well, the solution is pretty simple but kind of a pain. You’ll need to delete the troubled account on your iPhone, and then re-add it. Here’s how:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Swipe down and tap Mail.
  3. Tap Accounts.
  4. Tap the account name with which you’re having trouble. For example, Outlook or Yahoo!
  5. Find and tap Delete Account.
  6. A confirmation will pop up from below. Tap Delete Account to confirm the action.

After a moment, the account will disappear from your iPhone. Now, add that account back to the iPhone.

  1. Go back to Settings.
  2. Swipe down and tap Mail.
  3. Tap Accounts.
  4. Tap Add Account.
  5. Tap the name of the service provider.
  6. Follow the prompts. Depending on the service provider, signing into the service will differ.
  7. Once that has been completed, tap the service’s name from the Accounts list.
  8. Tap Mail Days to Sync. Choose an option that fits your needs. I generally choose No Limit, but you might not need this.

You should be good to go.

App Pick: AnyList

AnyList

I heard about the AnyList app on the Daily Tech News Show podcast during the Today’s Pick section. I’d been looking for an updated app for syncing shopping lists for a while. I was skeptical, but AnyList’s features and its freemium model won me over. We’ve been using it for a while, and it’s working well.

Note: Currently, there are no Android or Windows Phone versions of AnyList.

Free Features

The basic features of AnyList should work for most. You can create and edit lists and synchronize them among your own devices. You can also share individual lists among other user accounts. This allows you to share with your partner without having to also share your account. Meanwhile, your partner can maintain her or his own separate lists.

The same list on two devices

The built-in database contains most grocery items, and you can add items if you prefer specific brands or product types (like Vanilla Oreos). As you type, autocomplete offers quick, tappable suggestions.

AnyList manages categories in groups. So Dairy, Meat, and Product are in the Grocery Category Group. And you can add categories and sort them as you see fit. For example, I added Coffee and then sorted it so it would appear after Breakfast & Cereal. And this edit is available to anyone with whom I share the list.

Thoughtful convenience features are also available. You can keep your device from powering off while AnyList is open. You can set to double-tap to cross off a list item which can prevent accidental cross-offs when your finger mindlessly touches the edge of your screen. And you can tweak the colors of individual lists to help visually differentiate them.

AnyList Complete: The Premium Features

The premium features are not overpriced. Individual accounts are $7.99 per year and Family accounts are just $11.99 per year for everyone. And the renewal is not automatic, so you stay in full control.

The cost entitles you AnyList for the Web (a nice web-based app) and a Mac app. You can use the iOS mobile app and desktop browser extensions to import recipes from popular websites. This allows you to manage the ingredients in your lists including recipe photos. There’s also recipe scaling and meal planning.

In case you just gotta have the exact item, you can add item photos to remove potential confusion.

Your lists, recipes, and associated photos are all backed up to the cloud. This helps get the premium elements onto new devices by just logging into your AnyList account.

You can configure badge counts and protect lists with passcodes. And if you’re wild about themes, you have more options with the premium services.

More Than Groceries

While I’ve gone on and on about the features for groceries and recipes, AnyList can manage, well, any list that you can think of.

Find out more at www.anylistapp.com.

Quick Tip: Text Replacement in iOS and Mac

Text ReplacementApple has baked in text replacement (aka, text substitution) in Mac OS X and iOS. This can take the drudgery out of typing frequent things like your email address whether on your Mac or iPhone (or iPad or iPod touch). You just need to know it’s there and how to configure it. Both of which are simple.

Mac OS X

  1. Click System Preferences.
  2. Click Keyboard.
  3. Click the Text tab.

To create a new replacement, click the plus-sign (+) under the list.

To edit an existing replacement by clicking once to highlight the row then click onto the text in either the Replace or With cells to change them.

You can delete a replacement by clicking to highlight the row and then click the minus-sign () at the bottom of the list to delete that item.

iOS

  1. Tap the Settings app.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Keyboard.
  4. Tap Text Replacement.

To create a new replacement, tap the plus-sign (+) in the upper right corner. Under Phrase type the long text string (like your email). Under Shortcut, enter the short text string that will invoke the replacement action. Then tap Save.

To edit an existing replacement, tap the row. Then, like described above, edit the Phrase and Shortcut and tap Save.

To delete a replacement, swipe your finger to the left on a row to expose the red delete button. Tap Delete.

Digital HD Movies and Your Options

Digital HD banner with several digital movie service icons above it

I’ve been thinking a lot about digital movies recently, and what are truly the best options and ways to manage it all. Unlike buying digital music nowadays, digital movies are still controlled by digital rights management (DRM). While the iron-fisted approach to music DRM ultimately was its undoing, movie DRM seems to be much more liberal. However, it’s still very confusing. Doing research on this subject, I concluded that it would take a long boring article to fully explain the concepts. But I won’t. This is the quick introductory version with a concise bottom line to get you started.

Should You?

Should you abandon your physical media collection for digital copies? Lifehacker offers a great article on the subject. Read it and decide for yourself.

Sources

When I say “sources”, it’s a loosely defined term. The key concept is that these sources manage the digital rights over the movie titles. Sources include Apple’s iTunes, Amazon Video, Disney Movies Anywhere, and UltraViolet. Most of these sources also sell movies, but UltraViolet does not. UltraViolet exclusively manages DRM among several services.

Services

Services sell movies and allow you to stream and download them. You can buy digital movies from many sources like iTunes, Amazon Video, Disney Movies Anywhere, Flixster, FandangoNOW, Vudu, and several others. You can also redeem digital HD codes included with Blu-ray and DVD media which usually direct you to a single redemption source’s web site.

Sharing

Some sources allow sharing your digital collection. I was only able to find that Vudu offers the ability to share, but there might be others.

Playback

Services allow you to view your collection on a wide variety of devices like your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and mobile phone. You can download the movies to the mobile devices for offline playback which is terrific for long plane flights or staying within mobile data caps.

Depending on your desktop computer, your streaming video quality might be limited. Without an HDCP connection to your monitor, you will not be allowed to stream high definition (HD) versions of the movie. You’ll be limited to standard definition (SD). Also, downloading to your desktop and laptop will likely require DRM software from the service.

Best Intersection of Services

Here’s where you’ll need to understand how services can and cannot work together. Amazon and Apple are pretty much isolated from what I can tell. If you buy a title from those sources, you can only watch them from those respective sources. Surprisingly, Disney plays well with several other services, including iTunes. But iTunes titles won’t show up in Disney Movies Anywhere. UltraViolet-managed titles work among affiliated services which exclude iTunes and Amazon.

Confused yet?

So here’s my bottom-line recommendation: Vudu.

Vudu works with Disney and UltraViolet. Vudu also shows both of those collections in its web site and mobile apps. Playback on your TV will require the Vudu app. That app can be found in Roku streaming devices as well as built into some smart TVs. The Vudu app is not included with Apple TV. At least not yet. You might have some success with iOS AirPlay, but AirPlay is not built into the Vudu iOS app’s video player.

Unfortunately trade-offs are unavoidable. But you can get a nice Roku streaming stick for $50. Sometimes less if you keep an eye out for deals.

I hope this helps get you started with digital movies in the smoothest possible way.

Post Script

I forgot to include Google Play in this article. Google’s service also seems to be isolated like Apple and Amazon.

Please comment if you have any information or experience to add.

iPhone Tip: Unique Ring and Text Tones

iOS Sounds Icon

While most of the ringtones and alert sounds in iOS are pleasant (Owl City is rumored to have developed several of them), you might find some utility by having specific sounds for specific contacts.

Thankfully, the process is pretty simple.

First, get to your contacts. There are two ways to do this. You can open the Phone app and then tap Contacts in the navigation bar at the bottom. Or you can just find and tap into your Contacts app.

You’re ready to customize the sounds.

  1. Find the contact to which you’d like to assign a specific ringtone or alert sound, then tap that entry in the list.
  2. In the upper left, tap Edit.
  3. Scroll to find the settings for Ringtone and Text Tone. Chances are it says “Default”.
  4. Tap “Default” for either Ringtone or Text Tone. This will open the tone selection screen. Note that the Default tone name appears followed by the other available tones.
  5. Choose the sound you wish to assign to the contact. Tapping individual tone names from the list will place the checkmark next to the name and play the tone. Tapping a bunch of these in succession will probably draw the attention and ire of those around you, so be considerate.
  6. Tap Done when you’re happy with your choice.

Non-Obvious Features Hidden in Your iPhone

Hidden FeaturesBack in 2007, Apple revolutionized the smart phone industry with the iPhone. And at that time, the phone’s operating system was refreshingly simple. Since that time, the operating system (now called iOS) has become much more complex with a simple-looking interface. Some of the best features are hidden in that simple-looking interface.

Here are a few tips to expose some non-obvious functionality that you might be able to adopt into your daily usage.

App Switcher

Double-press the Home button and then use two fingers on two apps (one finger each) and swipe upwards to close both with one gesture. This requires a bit of practice and dexterity, but it works.

Calculator

Turn the phone to landscape orientation (sideways) to expose the built-in scientific calculator.

To backspace (delete) a digit that you’ve entered, just swipe left or right across the number string.

The calculator in portrait mode limits numbers to 9 digits in length. Turn to the landscape, scientific mode to work with larger numbers.

Camera

When set for taking a photo, press and hold the shutter button for burst mode. This takes several photos per second. This is great for those action moments to get the perfect picture of the winning goal, touchdown, or slide into home plate.

While taking a video, notice the white circle within a circle. Tap that during the video recording session to take a still photo. While this isn’t hidden per se, it’s kinda hiding in plain sight.

You can activate the photo shutter with the volume keys on the side of the phone. You can also do this with the volume buttons on the EarPod headphones. This is good if you ever use the phone on a tripod and long shutter exposures (you’ll need a third-party app for long exposures, many of which are free).

Find the Owner

Press and hold the Home button and ask “Who owns this phone?” You’ll get contact information that should help you return the phone.

Flashlight

If you have the flashlight on and the phone auto locks, you can simply swipe up on the lock screen’s camera icon and the light will go off. This is probably more of a tip than a feature.

Mail

There are many hidden ways to view your email messages. Navigate to your list of Mailboxes, then tap Edit. You might find the ability to view only Flagged or Unread messages helpful. Also in this edit mode, you can reorder you mailboxes to have your primary service at the top of the list.

Messages

When you’re not in the Messages app and you receive a new message as a banner notification at the very top of your screen, you can swipe down while it’s visible to respond to the message without going into the Messages app.

Phone

On the Keypad screen, tap the green call button to display the last dialed number. Don’t worry, it won’t automatically call it.

Photos

In the Albums view, long press the plus sign to be offered to create a new folder or a new album.

Reachability

[For iPhone 6 and later] From anywhere except the lock screen, lightly double tap (not press) the Home button. The top half of the screen will drop to the lower half allowing your finger to reach the items. Double tap again for the screen to return to normal.

Safari

From the carousel view of open windows, tap and hold the plus sign to view a list of recently closed browser tabs.

Quickly request the desktop version of a website by pressing and holding the reload icon in the URL bar. If you have a content blocker enabled, you can also choose to reload a page without the blocker temporarily disabled.

Spotlight

Spotlight appears when you swipe downward on any home screen (but not swiping down from the screen edge which shows Notification Center). It’s also available when you swipe to the left from the first home screen. It shows a search box, app suggestions, and (sometimes) news.

Enter a simple math problem to get the solution.

Type in a measurement or currency to get a conversion.

System

Clear iOS cache by tapping any single tab icon 10 times in the following Apple apps: Apple Store, Podcasts, Music, Game Center, and Phone. For example, tap the For You icon in the music app 10 times. Don’t expect any confirmation for this action. I guess you just have to have faith.

To clear iOS RAM, press and hold the Power/Sleep button until the Slide to Power Off prompt appears. Then press and hold the Home button until you’re returned to your home screen.

Touch ID

[For iPhone 5s and later] In the Setting app, navigate to Touch ID & Passcode. Now place a registered finger on the Home button. The entry under which that finger is registered will highlight while the finger rests on the button.

Wallet

From the lockscreen, double press the Home button to open the Wallet app. THis gives you access to Apple Pay and supported payments and loyalty cards.

3D Touch

[For iPhone 6s and later] In Safari’s carousel view of open tabs, you can peek and pop any of the web pages. Press to peek. Press deeper to pop it fully open.

In Reminders, press a reminder to get a quick menu to add an alarm based on time or location.

Almost everything in the Music app supports peek and pop.

The drawing tools in Notes support 3D Touch. Deeper swipes make a darker, wider line.

Source: ArtKeele.com, BGR

Apple Music’s Biggest Problem

iCloud Music Library Raining on Apple Music

Apple Music has emerged as my favorite music streaming service … but it ain’t perfect. And the Achilles heel is iCloud Music Library.

iCloud Music Library is Seriously Flawed

I use playlists, and I have several filled with tunes that are not in my personal music collection. To enjoy this feature, I must have iCloud Music Library enabled. And for the most part, that’s fine. Until I want to listen to one of my own more obscure tracks.

In theory, iCloud Music Library will scan my collection and make all the matching tunes in Apple’s library available to me. If it can’t find a match a tune, then it uploads my own tune to make it available to me.

Big surprise! It doesn’t usually work.

Example 1: I have a track of the Olympic fanfare followed by Summon the Heroes. So the matching song in Apple’s cloud doesn’t include the Olympic fanfare (selfish Olympic rights holders?). So that is less than optimal.

Example 2 (but related to 1): I cannot just drag and drop my Olympic fanfare/Summon the Heroes track to my iPhone. That’s right! I can’t just attach it my my PC and use iTunes to copy over my preferred track (or any other track for that matter). I’m assuming Apple can’t fathom a world where any of their “solutions” would ever fall short of customer expectations. Perhaps, I’m expecting it wrong??

My Workaround

Okay, this scenario doesn’t really impact me very often, and I hate workarounds. But we live in a techie world, so workarounds are part of our worlds.

Settings Music

  1. On your iPhone, go to Settings/Music.
  2. Tap the toggle to turn off iCloud Music Library.
  3. Confirm that you wish to turn off that feature.
  4. Connect the iPhone to your computer and use iTunes to add your desired music tracks.
  5. On your iPhone, return to Settings/Music to enable iCloud Music Library.
  6. Confirm that you wish to Merge the media resources on your iPhone.

Hope this helps!

Siri: Apple Music’s Biggest Advantage

Apple Music

Having millions of songs available for your streaming pleasure is not a new concept. Spotify, rdio, and even Xbox Music Pass have offered this to subscribers for a long time. But this can be a double edge sword, especially when enjoying music on your mobile device.

I’ve used Spotify while driving. There have been times when I wanted to listen to a certain song or artist while in rush hour traffic, but I just cannot safely tap and type to search for what I want. So I don’t. Spotify is not allowed to integrate with Apple’s Siri, and the app itself does not have a voice command feature. And using voice dictation is still a clunky, distracting experience.

However, with Apple Music on my iPhone, I would be able to just ask Siri to play that song or artist. Very nice. And much safer for commuters around me, too.

Side Note: For what it’s worth, I think Apple Music’s second best advantage is the Family subscription offering. At $14.99 (in the United States) for six members, this is a tremendous value relative to subscription offerings from competing services.

Here is CNET’s helpful video with tips for Siri and Apple Music:

Back Up Apple Health Data (and Other Settings)

iPhone Backup

If you’re backing up your iPhone to iCloud Backup, then those backups are encrypted and include the Health app’s data.

If you’re backing up your iPhone to iTunes on your computer and you are not encrypting that backup, then your Health app data is not being backed up. And neither are your saved passwords, Wi-Fi settings, or Web site history.

While Apple doesn’t make this clear enough in my opinion, the fix is fairly simple.

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer
  2. Start iTunes if it isn’t running already.
  3. Select your iPhone in the iTunes interface.
  4. In the Summary panel for that iPhone, located the Backups section.
  5. Ensure that This Computer is selected.
  6. Click to place a checkmark in Encrypt iPhone Backup.
  7. Click Sync to initiate the backup.

IMPORTANT: During the sync process, you will be prompted for a password for your encrypted backup. Do not forget this password. You cannot recover the backup without the password.

Now check that your backup completed successfully.

  1. Click the Edit pull-down menu.
  2. Click Preferences…
  3. Click the Devices tab.
  4. Look for the entry with your iPhone’s name. Check that the date coincides with the most recent backup. And ensure that a lock icon is present on that line entry. The lock means that backup is encrypted.