Tag Archives: iPhone

New Features Coming in iOS 14

By Tracey Dowdy

Hey kids, Apple’s doing it again. iOS 14, slated to be released this fall, comes with a whack of fun new features that will make you love your phone even more, and make Android users smile. More on that later. 

For me, one of the most exciting new features allows users to pin a conversation to the top of messages. If you don’t get a lot of texts in the run of a day, this may not seem important, but at a time when many of us are still at some level of quarantine and several states are rolling back re-opening plans, keeping in touch via text is more essential than it’s ever been. For me, having my family group text pinned to the top saves me scrolling through multiple texts from coworkers and friends. To pin a contact or conversation, swipe to the right across any thread. 

Not only can you pin a conversation, but you’ll also be able to tag someone in a conversation when you want to get their attention. This will transform the way we communicate in group texts and be a relief to everyone who hates group texts but doesn’t know how to escape without being rude or missing out on the occasional piece of useful information. You’ll also be able to reply directly to a message to create a sub-thread within the conversation to avoid blowing up everyone’s phones in the group. Although we’ve always had the option to start a separate message, this keeps it all within the same thread. To tag an individual, use the @ symbol just like you do on other platforms.

Not that most of us will be traveling abroad any time soon, but iOS 14 has a translation app built-in. Instead of using Google’s Translate app on your iPhone, a native app will convert text or hold conversations with someone who speaks a different language. Current languages include English, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian. 

Users have two options. Type the word or phrase you want to be translated, or tap on the microphone on the bottom of the screen to use voice-to-text. Once you’ve finished typing or speaking, the app will translate it to your selected language. I wish I’d had this in France when my Uber driver and I were on opposite sides of a busy street and couldn’t find each other. Though the word “ibis” is spelled the same in French and English, trust me, it’s pronounced quite differently. 

If you need more than the pronunciation of a word or to have a sentence translated quickly, turn the phone to landscape mode and tap on the mic icon. You don’t need to press and hold – the phone will continue to translate the conversation. 

iOS14 will finally allow users to add widgets to their home screen, a feature Android users have had since 2008. Widgets contain more information and are more functional than app icons, so Apple is pretty late to the party on this one. Instead of swiping to the left of the home screen, you can add them directly to your display. You’ll be able to choose from multiple sizes, and the intuitive Smart Stack widget will show you information from numerous apps when it thinks you need it. For example, it will bring up your calendar, the weather app, and drive time for your commute when you wake up. You can choose to continue to view widgets in Today View off to the left side of your main home screen, or, drag and drop a widget from the Today View onto your home screen.

A second “Android’s had that for years” feature is an app drawer that Apple calls App Library. The feature will auto-sort all your apps into folders, making it easier to find all the apps installed on your phone. To access, swipe left on your home screen, and choose one of three ways to find the app you’re looking for: 

  • Check in one of two folders at the top of the screen: Suggestions (recently used) and Recently Added (newly installed apps). Both will automatically update to adjust which apps are in either folder.
  • Search for your app by name in the search field at the top of the screen.
  • Tap to see an alphabetical list of your apps.

Bonus – App Library pairs with another new home screen feature allowing you to hide pages of rarely used apps.  

Finally, iPad’s popular video in picture-in-picture that creates a thumbnail image of a video that continues to play even when you’re on another app or screen is coming to your iPhone. The feature allows you to switch to a different part of your phone, without pausing or stopping your video. You can drag PiP around your screen, adjust the size of the video by pinching and zooming or even temporarily hide it off the edge of your screen. To exit PiP, tap the X to close. It works with FaceTime video calls and Apple TV, podcasts, Safari, FaceTime, iTunes, Home, and any third-party app that supports PiP on iPad. 

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.

How to Prepare Your iPhone For Sale or Recycling

By Tracey Dowdy 

The almost-annual release of a new iPhone is one of the most significant events in tech, often setting trends and becoming the phone that other tech companies try to emulate. If you’re looking ahead to the release of the iPhone 12 later this year, or if being quarantined with an older phone has you in the market for an upgrade, there are a few steps to take with your current phone before you trade it in, sell it, or turn it in to be recycled. Wiping your phone and rolling it back to its factory settings ensures that no one has access to the personal information or photos stored on your phone. 

The first step is to back up your phone. There’s nothing worse than following the steps to wipe your device and discovering you’ve lost your contacts, photos, or other relevant information. Back up your iPhone by connecting it to your MacBook or iMac and or use iTunes on a PC to back it up. CNET offers a full tutorial here.

The easiest way to back up your phone is through the cloud. Go to Settings > tap on your name > iCloud > iCloud Backup > Back up now. Depending on how long it’s been since your last back up, it may take a while, but it’s by far the easiest method. Pro Tip- make sure your phone is connected to Wi-Fi and a charger to keep the backup from failing because of a drained battery. 

The next steps are a little more tedious. 

  • Sign out of each app and service individually.
  • Delete email accounts from your device in Settings > Passwords & Accounts.
  • If you haven’t already, take out your SIM card. If your new phone comes with a new SIM card, destroy your old one and throw it away. If your phone has an eSIM, make sure you remove or deactivate it. 

Return your phone to its factory settings by following these steps: 

Go to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. 

Enter your phone’s PIN code along with your Apple ID password to delete the phone from your account. The screen will then go dark, and the Apple logo along with a progress bar will appear. As with a new iPhone, after it turns back on (it will take a few minutes), a screen with “Hello” in different languages will flash, indicating the reset is complete. 

Your phone is now ready to be sold or recycled. Have fun with your new one!

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.

Apps to Get Your Family Outdoors

By Tracey Dowdy

Using a smartphone or tablet doesn’t have to mean screen time or inactive play. Use these apps and websites to have real world adventures with your kids this summer and become amateur bird watchers, citizen scientists, and amateur astronomers.

Audubon Bird Guide

audubonThe Audubon Bird Guide has a catalog identifying over 800 birds with information on their appearance, habitat, behavior and migration patterns. Take the app outdoors and find Birds with eBird, a “free online program that allows birders to track their sightings, while other birders watch and search in real-time.” Amateur birders track their location, each bird they saw, how many of each species, where and how long they were outdoors, and then jump to the eBird website and click “Submit Observations” to upload their information. There’s even an un-official eBird challenge to submit at least one list a day for one year, even if you only bird watch for a few minutes.

Cost: Free
Availability: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon


Night Sky

night skyNight Sky takes the expanse of the night sky and puts it in your child’s hands. Just point your phone’s camera at the heavens and using geo-tracking, Night Sky will identify the stars and planets above your head. Use Stargazing Conditions to identify the best night to look for constellations and planets or combine Stargazing Conditions with World Traveler to see the conditions in an area you’re traveling to. The app includes music, sound effects, 3D Earth Mode, satellite tracking and you can connect with other star gazers through the Night Sky™ Community.

Cost: Free
Availability: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon


Meet the Insects

meet the insectsDid you know the animal with the most species on earth is insects? Well now you do! Meet the Insects is crammed with facts about every species you can think of, from butterflies to beetles. Choose Forest, Village and Water, or Grass editions to identify bugs in your backyard, on a camping trip or anywhere else you come across creepy-crawlies. Kids can learn more about each species through videos and photos, create a journal to keep track of what they’ve seen, or take a quiz to see how much they’ve learned.

Cost: $4.99 per edition
Availability: iTunes


Nature’s Notebook

natures notebookNature’s Notebook makes kids citizen scientists by having them create an account at usanpn.org and start logging their observations of the natural world around them. Kids choose an environment like a park or their backyard and then become amateur naturalists by recording the plants and animals they see as well as changes in behaviors and seasons. All their observations are logged in the Nature’s Notebook database which then helps scientists track climate change and animal behaviors around the globe.

Cost: Free
Availability:  iTunes, Google Play


Leafsnap

leafsnapThe Smithsonian Institution, University of Maryland and Columbia University have combined forces to create Leafsnap. Users take photos of leaves and through visual recognition software, Leafsnap identifies the tree species. The app has beautiful, high quality images of leaves, flowers, fruits, petioles, seeds, and bark found in the Northeastern United States and Canada.

Cost: Free
Availability: iTunes

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.

 

 

‘I’ll Take That To Go’: Rating the Top Fast Food Apps

By Tracey Dowdy

Because we live in a world where a Drive Thru is no longer fast enough, fast food restaurants have taken things to the next level, introducing apps to get you in and out more quickly without compromising customer satisfaction. It’s all about creating and maintaining that customer base, so alongside offering healthier food options and rewards programs, they’ve developed apps designed to save time and money and keep you coming back for more.

But not all apps are created equal. Depending on your priorities and preferences, some are definitely better than others.

burger kingThe Burger King app is straightforward and user friendly with easy to find to find locations, nutrition information and plenty of coupons. Mobile payment is an option via PayPal, BK® Crown Card, or a Virtual Card, so you can order, prepay and pick up your order fuss-free. The downside to the app is that prices are not listed and Value Menu items are scattered throughout their respective categories, so eating on a budget or trying to stay under a specific dollar amount can be tricky.


mcdonaldsThe McDonald’s app lets you view the menu but lacks the option to order online. The biggest draw is the number of coupons. Once you’ve created an account and chosen your local “home base” restaurant, the app will send you offers like BOGO’s or dollar-off coupons which is convenient considering the app doesn’t list prices and, like Burger King, value menu items don’t have their own listing. Because you can’t order online, the app primarily functions as a handheld menu and coupon resource.


taco bellTaco Bell may not be everyone’s top choice but their app is one of the better options in the fast food game. Menu items are presented with prices and with photos, because really who can remember the difference between a gordita and a chalupa? Pre-payment is available via credit or gift cards and nutrition information is easily accessible. Perhaps the best feature is that once you check out, the app asks if you’re picking up in-store or via drive-thru. Once you’re within a specific distance of the location, check in and they then prepare your order. Walk in, wait for your name to be called, and voila! fast fast food.


wendys1Unlike some of the other fast food burger options, Wendy’s doesn’t ask you to create an account or choose a “home base” location but brings up menu options and nutrition information right away. The “Right Size” value menu is easy to find, another option McDonalds and BK fail to offer. One unique feature is the option to donate to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption from within the app. The biggest drawback with the Wendy’s app is that mobile ordering is limited to Phoenix, Portland, Austin and Columbus municipal areas only and mobile payment is limited to those participating locations.


dominoes1Dominoes hands down has the best fast food app out there. Create an account at Dominoes.com and complete your profile with details like your favorite pizza, pick up or delivery, address and credit card information. This information creates your “Easy Order,” which is accessible from whatever digital platform you choose to order from, and that’s an extensive list. Users can order on their smartphone via SMS or by tweeting the pizza emoji to #Easyorder or to @Dominos and then confirming the order by Twitter direct message.

Users also have the option to order through Samsung Smart TVs, Ford Sync, Apple Wear, Android Wear or Pebble smartwatches, and Dominos own native mobile app. The app offers both national and local coupons and payment options include cash, credit, debit or Domino’s gift card.


All the fast food apps listed above are available for iPhone and Android.

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.

App Review: Highlights Every Day

When my daughter was in Kindergarten, there was a LOT I didn’t know. Sometimes asking other parents was simple enough depending on the opportunity and I was constantly looking for recommendations on great books to read to her and with her.

When my daughter moved into 1st grade her amazing teacher, Mrs. Arone, introduced us to Highlights Magazine, which served the dual purpose of suggesting great books for kids her age while also donating some for use in the classroom. We loved getting the magazine and picking more than a dozen books from the list for us to read at home. It felt very much like a curated list of great reads, which saved us time for more nighttime reading before sleep.

Now, fast-forward a few years, and yes, there is an app for that! Highlights Every Day can be downloaded on your iPhone or Android device and it has been reimagined as an all-new digital experience. It features hundreds of fun facts, puzzles, jokes, quizzes, videos, stories and a lot more.

If you have kids between the ages of 6 and 12 they can learn about the world around them and enjoy hundreds of activities with a new issue delivered EVERY DAY!

Hidden-Pictures-app-store

Specific features include:

  • Exclusive videos, including joke reels, animated learning clips and Ask Highlights Kids shorts
  • Engaging stories, poems and reading activities
  • Skill-building Hidden Pictures® puzzles, mazes, word clues and more
  • Fascinating interactive quizzes
  • Hundreds of activities — there’s always something new to play

The app is available for phone and tablet and it is a great way to keep kids entertained with content that is safe and also educational in a fun way.

Pricing:

  • Monthly subscription: $7.99/month (or just 23¢ per day for 5 new daily activities)
  • Free 30-day trial

Download on iTunes here: http://bit.ly/1Tcg7sy

Download on the Android Play Store here: http://apple.co/1XsWsEV

What are some of your favorite resources for young children?

The Online Mom received a promotional fee for participating in the Highlights Every Day program

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.

How To Extend the Battery Life of an iPhone or iPad

By Tracey Dowdy

There’s few things that strike fear in my heart more than the dreaded “10% Battery Remaining” notification popping up on my iPhone. Despite the fact I work from home most days and spent the first 30 years of my life without a cell phone, that message gives my heart a little flutter.

Every time Apple releases an iOS update they tweak usage a little, so it’s a good idea to review your settings to make sure you’re getting the most out of your battery. There are a few simple fixes you can make from your Home Screen: disabling Bluetooth and Air Drop, lowering the brightness of your display, turning off Wi-Fi or switching to Airplane mode if you’re travelling. Your phone’s antenna is constantly looking for Wi-Fi service and switching to flight mode can save significant battery power.

Here are few other tips to get the most life out of your iPhone and iPad battery charge.

Switch to Low Power Mode. When your phone reaches 20% power you automatically get a pop up giving you the option to switch to Low Power Mode. Apple says it will provide up to 3 hours of additional battery life. When it’s active you don’t have access to Hey Siri, Mail fetch, background refresh, automatic downloads and some visual effects but you can easily switch in and out of Low Power Mode if you need any of those features. You can switch to Low Power Mode even if your battery isn’t at 20% or lower if you know it will be a while before you can charge again.

Delete the Facebook app. Facebook got into some hot water last year when it was reported they had apps running in the background even when the app wasn’t in use or Background Refresh had been disabled. They reportedly fixed what they called a “glitch” but there still seems to be issues. A report in The Guardian states that deleting the app and accessing Facebook through Safari can add 15% to your battery life. To see how much power it uses, go to Settings>Battery and check the Battery Usage. The app used a whopping 38% of my battery in the past 24 hours. That’s a big number.

Review Your Notifications. Every time your phone gets a Notification it wakes your phone for 5-10 seconds. That can add up if you have Notifications enabled for a lot of your apps or even one or two apps that send frequent Notifications. Go to Settings>Notifications and then select which apps you want Notifications from.

Turn Off Location Services. Many apps use location services and while it makes sense for Maps to know where I am, it doesn’t make sense for IMDB. Go to Settings>Privacy>Location Services and toggle off for each app that doesn’t need to know where you are.

Turn Off Auto-Updates. One handy new feature in iOS 7 was an auto-update so that your apps are always current when you open them. Again, this means your phone is pulling battery power for them even when those apps aren’t in use which means draining your power. Go to Settings> iTunes & App Store>Automatic Updates and select what needs auto-updating and which you prefer to update manually.

A final tip, Apple recommends draining the battery to zero every once in awhile such as every 4-6 weeks. Calibrating your battery allows the device to estimate its battery life more accurately and though it won’t make your charge last longer if you’re down to 5%, it will extend the lifespan of the battery.

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.