Tag Archives: Apple

spam calls

Block Unwanted Calls, Texts, and Email

By Tracey Dowdy

Recently, I’ve been getting non-stop text messages addressed to someone named Alyssa, who is on her “last chance” to renew her warranty. They are as annoying as they are relentless. I’ve blocked the number and deleted the text without opening it dozens of times. 

I’m not alone. According to YouMail, there were over 58 billion robocalls in 2019. The scams are almost as plentiful as the calls themselves – you’ve won a Caribbean vacation, your PC has a virus, your identity has been stolen, you’ve been selected for a unique opportunity, or won the lottery. You may even get messages purporting to be from a government agency like the IRS. However, the IRS will not call, email, or text you – they communicate almost exclusively through snail mail. 

Wireless carriers are using SHAKEN/STIR technology to identify and block spam calls, on both their respective networks and between phone providers. 

Software giants like Apple have added features that prevent unknown callers from ringing you. Google has made its Call Screen feature more robust by routing suspicious calls to Google Assistant before your phone even rings. When Android 11 is released, it will Include even more robocall identification and prevention features beyond the default Android Phone app. 

If you’re receiving a lot of spam text messages, not just calls, you can forward the message to the number 7726 (spells SPAM). Though it doesn’t immediately prevent the number from texting you, it will allow your carrier to investigate and possibly intervene.

There’s no way to block every spam or robocall, but the FCC suggests taking the following measures to limit the number of calls you receive. 

  • Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize – let them go to voicemail.
  • Don’t answer calls from blocked or unknown numbers – this tells scammers your number is real, and they can then sell your number to another company, or begin targeting your number more often. 
  • Don’t assume an incoming call is from a local number just because it looks like it is. “Spoofing” technology allows scammers to trick your caller ID into displaying false information like a local area code.
  • Don’t respond to any questions that can be answered with a “Yes.”
  • If someone calls you and claims to be with ABC company, hang up immediately. Use the company’s website to find an official number and call them to verify.
  • If you answer a call and hear a recording such as, “Hello, can you hear me?” hang up.
  • If you’re asked to press a number before being connected to a representative, hang up.

All the major carriers offer some form of call-blocking technology, some free, some fee-based.

AT&T’s Call Protect app is available for iOS and Android. 

Verizon’s Call Filter app is automatically enabled for Android users on a postpaid plan. It’s built into most Android devices out of the box and is available in the App Store for iOS users.

T-Mobile’s Scam ID is free to all customers and includes Scam Block. To enable it, dial #662# from your phone.  

Sprint’s Call Screener Basic was recently launched with a free option for its customers. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

iMessage Tips and Tricks

I’ve been a loyal Apple cult member product user for many years, and hands down one of my favorite features is iMessage. Each software update improves its usability, but at the end of the day, it’s iMessage’s clean interface that makes it the simplest way to exchange texts with my family and friend iOS and Android users alike. 

One of my favorite features is QuickPath, which – to be fair – is a feature that Android users have had for almost a decade. QuickPath is a swipe keyboard that you can access directly from the iMessage screen. Previously, users had to open the keyboard options and toggle to swipe instead of type, but with iOS 13, QuickPath is native. Instead of tapping each key, simply drag your finger from one character to the next to spell out the text. Stop when you get to the end of a word, then start the next word. To insert a period, tap the space bar twice and start a new sentence. 

If you want to share your name and photo, Go to Settings > Messages > Share Name and Photo, then tap Choose Name and Photo. You then have a choice to select a photo to use or tap the ellipsis icon (…) to select an image from your library. Or, if you prefer, you can create your custom memoji – simply strike a (facial) pose and snap your photo as you would with any selfie. You can even add color or filter to your image of choice. You then choose if you want to use the image with your Apple ID and contact card and whether you want to automatically share this image with contacts only or have the app always ask whether or not to share it. If you select Name and Photo Sharing to Contacts Only, your new image is automatically shared with anyone you text but if you choose Always Ask, each time you compose a message a notice will appear at the top of the screen asking if you wish to share.

If you want to run a search for something within your text history, it’s easy. From the main Messages screen, swipe down to reveal the search field at the top of the screen. Tap the box and the app will display several suggested items such as contacts, photos, locations, links, and attachments. Type a search term in the field and the results will list any related photos, conversations, etc.

The Info icon at the top of a conversation is linked to related content about that contact. Simply open a conversation, tap the individual’s name at the top of the screen, then tap Info. Then, swipe down to see photos, links, and other content associated with that person. To see it all, tap See All Photos or See All Links.

You can also ask Siri to announce your incoming text messages to you through AirPods (second generation), AirPods Pro, and certain supported Beats headphones. To turn this feature on, go to Settings > Siri & Search > Announce Messages and then tap Messages. Select whether you want messages announced from favorite contacts, recent messages, all contacts, or everyone.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Delete and Stop Sharing Voice Recordings with Amazon, Google, and Apple.

How concerned are you about your smart device randomly recording your conversations? Not to be an alarmist, but after revelations that “The ‘Big five’ tech companies – that’s Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft – have all been recording and listening to private conversations, all in the name of “improving services,”  you should be concerned. 

Of course, since they were exposed, Google, Apple, and Amazon have either suspended having humans review voice recordings or have begun allowing people to opt-in or out. 

If you have lingering concerns about your privacy, there are ways to prohibit strangers from listening to your voice commands and erase your interaction history from your Google Home, Amazon Echo, and HomePod. Here’s how:

Amazon

Earlier this year, CNET exposed Amazon for keeping transcripts of users Alexa recordings, even after the audio portion of the interaction had been deleted by the user. 

In the Alexa app, go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage Your Alexa Data. Then tap the toggle switch that says “Use Voice Recordings to Improve Amazon Services to Develop New Features.”

Google  

In September, Google agreed that it would no longer store recordings of users’ voices by default. Now users who engage with their Google Assistant will have to opt-in when setup their Google Assistant if they want to have their voice recorded or reviewed by human monitors through the Voice & Audio Activity (VAA) program.

Go to myaccount.google.com > Web & App Activity. Then, uncheck the box that says “Include voice and audio recordings.”

Apple 

Back in August, Apple announced it would no longer listen to Siri recordings without your consent, and they can only receive your audio data should you choose to opt-in. 

If you opt-in but later change your mind, go to your Settings > Privacy > Analytics and Improvements > Turn off Improve Siri & Dictation.

Delete your voice recordings

Amazon

Amazon offers two Alexa commands that allow users to delete voice transcripts by asking Alexa.  Say, “Alexa, delete what I just said,” or “Alexa, delete all my commands from today.”  

If you prefer to delete your entire history, open the Alexa app and go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Review Voice History > Delete All Recordings for All History.

Google

To delete your voice command history, go to myaccount.google.com > Data and Personalization > Web & App Activity > Manage Activity > tap the three stacked dots at the top of the screen > Select Delete activity by and choose from the options listed – all-time, last hour, last day, etc. Then tap Delete to confirm.

You can also tell Google to delete your entire voice command history by saying “Hey Google, delete everything I just said.” 

Apple

Apple’s iOS 13.2 update finally allows users to delete all of their recordings. Open your Settings > Siri & Search > Siri & Dictation History > and select Delete Siri & Dictation History.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Create and Customize Your iPhone’s Memoji

By Tracey Dowdy

 

Back in June, Apple introduced Memoji stickers you can use in your messages, comparable to those available from Snapchat’s Bitmoji. The stickers work in iMessage, as well as other services, like WeChat and work with any device with an A9 chip or later.

With the iOS 13 update – available now for iOS – user’s Memoji’s get even more diverse skin colors – including green – piercings, makeup, and you can customize your teeth with gaps, braces, or even missing teeth. You’ll also notice more accessories options, like hats, glasses, earrings, braces piercings, and AirPods.

Memojis are another attempt by Apple to personalize your device in an attempt to make it stand out among the competition.  While Samsung phones also have AR Emoji avatars users can create, the 3D renderings were off-putting to some users, and Samsung downplayed the feature when it launched its Galaxy S10 phones. Google has yet to come out with its own competitor for Memojis, though many customers use third-party apps like Bitmoji. Memoji avatars are embedded into the new iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Max Pro, and with the update, you can use your Memoji in iMessage, FaceTime, Notes, and Mail, and many other of your favorite apps.

To personalize your Memoji, in your Messages app, tap the Memoji icon, select the three-dots and then tap New Memoji. If you already have a Memoji, you can edit, duplicate or delete it. Plus, users now have the option that instead of using an emoji when messaging friends, you can use personalized Memoji stickers. Once you design your Memoji, your iPhone automatically creates a sticker pack for you.

You can find your Memoji stickers in the Messages app, Mail app or if you’re using another app, tap the emoji icon and your Memoji stickers will show up on the left.

To create your Memoji:

  • Open Messages and tap the textbox to start a new message, or go to an existing conversation.
  • Tap, then swipe right and tap New Memoji
  • Customize the features of your memoji — like skin tone, hairstyle, eyes, and more
  • Tap Done

For more complete instructions on how to create your Memoji, click here or here.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Boost Your Phone’s Data Connection or Signal Strength

By Tracey Dowdy

If you have you ever been in an area where your device shows plenty of signal strength, but you can’t get pages to load, messages won’t send, photos don’t download, you know how frustrating it can be. There are any number of reasons your phone seems “stuck” – sometimes it’s the carrier, sometimes it’s the phone itself.

Of course, everyone’s go-to hack is to turn on Airplane mode for a few seconds, then turn it back off, but times when that’s not enough, there are other options.

To quote our favorite IT guy Roy, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Remember, your phone is a handheld computer, so restarting it works for all the same reasons restarting your laptop can resolve issues. You can get similar results by taking the SIM card out and putting it back in place while the phone is turned on. Use the tool that came with the phone, or if that’s nowhere handy, use an unfolded paper clip. Heads up, iPhone XS, XS Max, XR or Pixel 3 users, your SIM card is embedded in the hardware, so this isn’t an option for you.

If you’re still having trouble, either Apple or Android’s support pages may be your next stop. Both allow you to type in the issue you’re having and will direct you to a list of possible solutions, or prompt you to engage with a support team member either through Live Chat or phone call.

Apple’s support page for iPhone does highlight two features that may save you the trouble of waiting for Live Chat or a phone call. Carriers regularly update their settings, and it’s essential that you keep up with them, just as it is with updates to your phone’s software as it optimizes your connectivity. To see if you’re due for an update, open Settings > General > About on your phone. If there’s an update to be installed, you’ll be prompted to download it.

As something of a last resort, you can refresh your network settings.  I say as a last resort because refreshing also means you’ll have to reset all your saved Wi-Fi passwords, VPN connections and any custom APN settings for users on carriers that require additional setup. If you have those passwords saved and are okay with the other set-up steps, go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings. Once you confirm your selection, the phone will restart. Don’t forget to reconnect your phone to your home and work Wi-Fi networks.

Finally, as a last last resort, you can contact your wireless carrier. Sometimes signal issues can be traced to a cell tower being down in your area, the fiber optic cable may have been damaged in a storm or by construction crews, or perhaps there’s not adequate coverage in your area. If this is the case, you may need a network extender that will boost the signal and act as a mini cellphone tower.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Change Your Default Privacy Settings

By Tracey Dowdy 

In a recent article, Washington Post technology columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler asked, “It’s the middle of the night. Do you know who your iPhone is talking to?”

In the story, Fowler outlines a problem most iPhone users aren’t even aware of, that being the volume of data-mining that occurs while you – and your phone – are asleep. “On a recent Monday night, a dozen marketing companies, research firms and other personal data guzzlers got reports from my iPhone. At 11:43 p.m., a company called Amplitude learned my phone number, email and exact location. At 3:58 a.m., another called Appboy got a digital fingerprint of my phone. At 6:25 a.m., a tracker called Demdex received a way to identify my phone and sent back a list of other trackers to pair up with.

And all night long, there was some startling behavior by a household name: Yelp. It was receiving a message that included my IP address -— once every five minutes,” Fowler says.

Data mining is nothing new, but it’s becoming an increasingly bigger problem. Though Apple stated in a recent ad, “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone,” Fowler’s investigation proves that’s far from the truth. Another problem is that some of it is our fault. Charles Arthur points out that 95% of us don’t change any of the default settings on our devices, and how many of us take the time to read updates on Privacy Policies? It’s the Rule of Defaults. We’re just too lazy to try and Scooby-Doo the mystery.

Fowler published an excellent article last June that maps out how to start setting boundaries on all the information we willing hemorrhage into the ether via everything from our smartphones, laptops, tablets, and smartwatches to our smart home devices like Alexa, and our Nest doorbell.

If you’re wondering whether it’s worth the trouble to dive into the deep end and change those default settings, consider this, by default:

Fowler calls his suggestions “small acts of resistance,” but if The Handmaid’s Tale has taught us anything, those small acts of resistance are critically important. Blessed be.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Tips and Tricks for New iPad Users

By Tracey Dowdy

The iPad has been around for several years and like most devices, each generation adds new features and shortcuts.

Whether you’ve just purchased your iPad or you haven’t explored much, these hacks can help you make the most of your new tablet.

  • Play a video within a separate app. To watch a video or FaceTime while you browse another app, press the Home button. The video will shrink and drop to the lower right corner of your screen. Tap the Home button again to return to full-screen. Note: this functionality is app specific, not universal. (iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro only)
  • Zoom in and out. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom and make sure the slider is set to On to enable you to zoom in on specific areas of your screen.
  • Use Split View to run two apps simultaneously. Simply swipe in from the right side of the screen and one app will launch in Slide Over view. Tap the white handle that appears in the second app to expand it into a split-screen. (iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro only)
  • Customize accessibility features for users with visual or auditory impairment. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut to enable specific features immediately accessible by triple-pressing the Home button. Select Voice Over, Invert Colors, Grayscale, Zoom, Switch Control, or Assistive Touch.
  • Open a sidebar without leaving an app. This is one feature Android and Windows devices have offered for awhile and Apple is finally catching up. While one app is open, you can simply swipe right to the edge of your screen and a list of compatible apps will appear. Tap the one you want and it will appear alongside the app currently open. (iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro only)
  • Turn on Find My iPad. Go to Settings > iCloud > Find My iPad and toggle the slider to On. You also have the option to send location information to Apple if the battery is getting low. To find your iPad, log in to iCloud or open the Find My iPhone app on your phone. Remember, it uses your phone’s location services so it will let you know if the iPad is at your house, but sadly not where in the house.
  • Choose what appears in your dock. Siri is intuitive and learns the apps you use most, but you can go one step further and customize the six apps that appear in your dock. Hold down an app just as you would if you were deleting or moving your apps around and drag them to the bottom of the screen.
  • Use your iPad as a second monitor. (Available with some third-party apps) After installing third-party apps like Duet Display or Air Display, you have the option to connect your iPad to your computer and enable it to act as a second display.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Apple Introduces the iPhone SE

By Tracey Dowdy

In a world where bigger is better, Apple has once again flown in the face of convention and taken a step back with the iPhone SE.

Debuting at $399 for 16GB and $499 for 64GB, it’s the lowest price yet for an iPhone at launch, and though it looks like an iPhone 5s with its 4 inch screen, it’s really a scaled-down version of the iPhone 6 and 6s.

The SE includes familiar features like:

Apple’s A9 processor, described as “capable of gaming console-class graphics performance that makes games and other apps much richer and more immersive.”

  • A 12mp camera that offers the same high quality features as the 6s like 4K video, capability for low light selfies, Retina Flash, and optical image stabilization.
  • Apple Pay for secure purchases in stores and in apps.
  • Live Photos that turns your photos into a 3-second clip, capturing before and after the moment.
  • Version 9.3 of Apple’s iOS software with features like Night Shift and improved News and CarPlay.
  • An always-listening Siri means your virtual assistant is ready to serve you as soon as you say “Hey Siri!”
  • An aluminum body.
  • Available in Silver, Gold, or Rose Gold.
  • Wi-Fi calling.
  • Battery life of 13 hours of video playback.

Sure it doesn’t have some the features of the 6s like 3D touch, but that’s a feature most of us can live without. When it comes down to it, for most people the biggest difference is going to be the size. The A9 processor means you’re getting top-of-the-line Apple software, just in a smaller package. From a design standpoint, it’s more reminiscent of the iPhone 5 than the 6 or 6s, but it’s still a sleek, lightweight and beautifully designed phone.

The launch of the SE comes just months after the launch of the iPhone 6s and months ahead of the anticipated iPhone 7 this September. The more recent iPhones may offer larger displays but they come with a correspondingly larger price. For those accustomed to the 4-inch display, the opportunity to upgrade to a faster, more feature-packed phone with the same size screen at a significantly lower cost than the iPhone 6 (4.7-inch) and 6 Plus (5.5-inch) is a big draw. Plus, that $399 price tag makes it a full $250 cheaper than the iPhone 6s. That’s a lot of saving for not much screen loss.

So who’s going to buy the iPhone SE it? With so many of us using our phones to watch videos, who is going to opt for a smaller screen? When you consider that according to data from MixPanel, 35 percent of iPhone users are still using a 4-inch device, Apple is betting on quite a few.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

What to Expect from iOS 9.3

By Tracey Dowdy

Apple released the beta version of iOS 9.3 to developers in early January and those with access are starting to roll out their reviews. These are some of the features that are generating the most buzz as we wait for a final version of 9.3 to be released in the coming weeks.

As a chronic insomniac and someone who uses my phone or iPad later in the evening than I should, Night Shift has definite appeal. Going beyond “night mode” (white text on a black background vs. black text on a white background), Night Shift changes the colors on your display to “to the warmer end of the spectrum,” thus reducing the amount of blue light that tricks your mind into thinking it’s still daytime. Night Shift will kick in at sunset and turn off at sunrise based on your location. It’s likely to be an optional feature as there are obviously times you need to be awake and alert after dark.

Notes isn’t new but going forward it will be password or fingerprint protected, giving your memos an added layer of security. Apps like Evernote and Day One have offered this feature for awhile so it’s nice to see Apple catch up.

I have never been a fan of the News feature. Consequently, it’s in a folder labeled “Stuff I Never Use” on my phone only because it’s native and I can’t delete it. Apparently I’m not alone in my opinion. Apple has responded by redesigning News with features like inline video that allows you to watch without exiting your feed, landscape capabilities through the iPhone version, and more intuitive content in For You.

Likewise, HealthKit, another feature that hasn’t taken off the way Apple hoped it would, has been revised. Originally designed as a framework for all the third-party health related apps we use, iOS 9.3 will recommend HealthKit apps to install related to Weight, Workouts and Sleep. It will also include a section for Reproductive Health, something that was noticeably missing from previous versions. If you use an Apple Watch, it will also integrate the move, exercise, and stand data that’s collected.

CarPlay users will now see New and For You in the Apple Music app, and Maps now supports Nearby so you can easily locate gas stations, restaurants and parking.

The education features may be the most significant of all the updates and changes. Schools that use iPads in their classrooms will get an Apple School Manager portal to allow teachers, administrators and support staff to “easily reset passwords, audit accounts, create IDs in bulk, and create customized roles for everyone in the district.”

Teachers will now be able to see what their students are looking at on their individual iPads, as well as the ability to lock apps via Remote Control to help students stay on task during a lesson. Students can look forward to a new shared iPad feature that allows access to their unique content and lets them pick up right where they left off.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.