How to Check Battery Levels on Your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods

Apple’s Batteries widget

Apple’s Batteries widget is a little known but highly useful tool for quickly assessing which of your small Apple devices is lowest on power—something you may wish to do when traveling with only one charging cable. To access it, switch to Today view on the iPhone, accessible by swiping right on the Home screen or Lock screen. If the Batteries widget isn’t already there, scroll to the bottom, tap Edit, and tap the green + button to the left of Batteries in the list. Of course, if you just want to check the battery status on one device, that’s possible too. It’s easy to figure out how much power remains in your iPhone’s battery because of the indicator at the top right of the screen (swipe down on it to invoke Control Center and see the percentage on the iPhone X and later). On the Apple Watch, swipe up on the screen to see its battery percentage in Control Center. For AirPods, open the case and wait for the pop-up to appear on your iPhone’s screen.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

5 Reasons Why You Should Be Using a Password Manager

Password Manager

We often recommend using a password manager like 1Password or LastPass, but we’ve gotten a few questions asking why we’re so adamant about this. Lots of people think that all they need to do to keep their online accounts secure is create a single password with some numbers, often switching a lowercase L with a 1 and a capital E with a 3. And that’s for accounts people care about—for those that they don’t see as important, they’re likely to use a simple password like their child’s or pet’s name. Plus, most people don’t think they have much to protect or that they would be targeted by hackers, so they reuse the same password across multiple sites.

Guess what? Such an approach is extremely dangerous on today’s Internet. First off, no one is explicitly targeted. The bad guys get passwords by stealing them by the millions from Web sites with lax security. Then they use sophisticated hardware that can try over 350 billion passwords per second to decrypt as many of the stolen passwords as possible. All passwords under 13 characters can be cracked easily by such hardware.

Next, imagine you have a password on a shopping site whose passwords are stolen. The attackers can log in to that site, change your shipping address, and order items with your stored credit card. But they won’t stop there. They’ll use automated software to try that username and password combination on lots of other high-profile sites: Google, Apple, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, many banks, and so on. If they can get in anywhere, they’ll take over the account and exploit it in any way they can, which could involve stealing money, ordering goods, or using it to reset passwords and lock you out of other accounts. It can get ugly fast.

Use a password manager to generate, store, and enter strong passwords, one for each site, and you’ll never have any of these problems. A sufficiently strong password (16 characters minimum, but we recommend 20 when possible) will withstand cracking efforts for centuries, and if you have a different password for every site, even one password being compromised won’t expose any of your other accounts to abuse.

Here then are five reasons for using a password manager:

  1. Generate strong passwords: A password should be random, or it should be a long collection of words (think 30+ characters). Password managers can generate such passwords for you, so it’s easy to make a new one for each Web site.
  2. Store passwords securely: If you’re going to put all your eggs in one basket, you want that basket to be well protected. Password managers employ their own strong encryption and various other techniques to ensure that your passwords are safe.
  3. Enter passwords for you: No one can remember and type long, random passwords, but having a password manager enter the password for you is even easier than typing a weak password. Log in faster than ever before!
  4. Audit existing accounts: Password managers learn the credentials you use for existing accounts, and they can tell you which passwords are weak and which have been reused.
  5. Access passwords on all your devices: It’s even harder to type passwords on an iPhone or iPad, but good password managers have apps for mobile devices that sync with your password archive so all your passwords are available whenever you need them.

There are many different password managers, but for most people, there are three main choices. If you use only Safari on the Mac and in iOS, Apple’s built-in iCloud Keychain feature may be sufficient.

If you’re mostly an Apple user but also need support for Windows and Android, or if you want to share some passwords with family members or your workgroup, 1Password is the best choice. It costs $3 per month for an individual or $5 per month for a family, with team and business accounts as well. 1Password also offers add-ons for non-Apple browsers like Chrome and Firefox.

And if 1Password is too expensive, or if you’re platform agnostic, LastPass offers a solid set of features for free. Additional features and password sharing cost $3 per month for individuals and $4 per month for families, and again, team and enterprise accounts are available.

If you need help choosing among these three or setting them up, particularly in the context of a small business, get in touch with us. And if you’d like us to write more about each of these options, just drop us a note and we’ll see what we can do.

(Featured image by CMDR Shane on Unsplash)

Apple Issues Voluntary Recall for Some 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro Models

Heads up! If you’re using an older 15-inch MacBook Pro—the version with lots of ports that predates the current Thunderbolt 3 models—Apple has started a recall program to replace batteries that could explode and catch on fire. (We’re not kidding.) The affected MacBook Pro models were sold primarily between September 2015 and February 2017. To confirm which model you have, choose About This Mac from the Apple menu () in the upper-left corner of your screen. If you have “MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015),” enter your computer’s serial number on the program page to see if it is eligible for a battery replacement.  If it is included in the recall, shut it down and stop using it immediately! Contact us for a free battery replacement, and if you need any assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

MacBook Pro Recall

(Image courtesy of Apple)

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Catching up: New MacBook Pros, New iPod touch, OS Updates

Apple is well known for its splashy media events, now usually held in the Steve Jobs Theater at the company’s new Cupertino campus. But Apple reserves such events for major announcements. Smaller announcements, such as minor updates to particular product lines, operating system updates, or new repair programs, get only a press release, if that.

But just because a change doesn’t merit much fuss doesn’t mean it’s uninteresting—if you’ve been waiting for the right moment to buy a new Mac, for instance, an announcement of a small MacBook Pro revision might be exactly what you want to hear.

Here’s a roundup of Apple’s recent announcements in May 2019.

New MacBook Pro Models Feature Faster CPUs and New Butterfly Keyboards

Although Apple has a reputation for innovation, the company should also be lauded for its evolutionary changes, which are much more common. To wit, Apple quietly updated the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models equipped with a Touch Bar with faster CPUs while keeping the prices the same.

You can now buy a 15-inch MacBook Pro with the latest 9th-generation 8-core Intel Core i9 processor, making it the fastest MacBook Pro ever—the previous model offered only a 6-core processor. The 15-inch models also offer faster graphics processors as options.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro models didn’t receive the same level of changes, but they gained slightly faster 8th-generation Intel processors that provide minor performance improvements.

Both models now come with the fourth generation of Apple’s controversial butterfly keyboard. We’ll have more on that issue soon.

Apple Launches MacBook Pro Repair Program for “Flexgate”

13-inch MacBook Pros from 2016 are susceptible to a display-related problem the press has dubbed “Flexgate.” According to Apple, affected Macs exhibit one or both of these symptoms:

  • The display backlight continuously or intermittently shows vertical bright areas along the entire bottom of the screen.
  • The display backlight stops working completely.

The problem is related to a flex cable connected to the display that’s too short and too fragile; some repair experts have suggested that failure is inevitable.

If your 13-inch Mac is showing either of these symptoms, you can now take advantage of Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro Display Backlight Service Program to get a free repair. You can have your Mac fixed by Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider, and if you already paid for a repair, you can request a refund from Apple.

iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 Add New TV App; iOS 12.3.1 Fixes Calling Bug; macOS Addresses ZombieLoad

As you’ve no doubt noticed in your Software Update notifications, Apple recently updated all its operating systems: iOS 12.3.1, macOS 10.14.5, watchOS 5.2.1, and tvOS 12.3. If you’re already running iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 Mojave, it’s fine to update.

iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3 are notable primarily because they include a new version of Apple’s TV app. This app now provides access to “channels,” by which Apple means subscription-based streaming video services like HBO and Showtime. Apart from letting you subscribe to such services inside the app and playing content from them in the app, the new app looks and works much like the previous version. The new app will also support Apple’s original content on the Apple TV+ service later this year.

Shortly after iOS 12.3 shipped, Apple released iOS 12.3.1, which fixes a critical bug that could prevent your iPhone from making or receiving phone calls. So if you upgraded to iOS 12.3, be sure to update to iOS 12.3.1 right away.

Similarly, it’s worth updating to macOS 10.14.5 to protect against a security vulnerability called ZombieLoad, and if you’re still running 10.12 Sierra or 10.13 High Sierra, be sure to install Security Update 2019-003 for the same protection.

New iPod touch Gains the A10 Chip and a 256 GB Configuration

Finally, Apple showed a little love to the littlest iOS device, the diminutive iPod touch. In the new model, Apple swapped the old A8 chip for a faster A10 chip that promises up to twice the performance. That added performance enables the new iPod touch to support Group FaceTime calls and enhanced augmented reality (AR) games.

The only other change in the iPod touch is that Apple now sells a 256 GB configuration for $399, joining the 32 GB configuration at $199 and the 128 GB configuration for $299.

(All images courtesy of Apple)

Try an iCloud Link for Faster, Easier Photo Sharing

It’s easy to share a single photo from your iPhone or iPad with a friend, but if you want to share a bunch of photos or lengthy videos, sending them in Messages or Mail might not work or could impact your (and your recipients’) data caps. In iOS 12, Apple added a clever feature that instead uploads the files to iCloud and lets you share a simple link that your recipients can use to view and download. Use this approach and your messages will send and be received faster and more reliably.

This feature requires that you use iCloud Photos (previously called iCloud Photo Library). If you’re not already set up with iCloud Photos, you can turn it on in Settings > Photos, but be aware that you will likely need to pay for more iCloud storage ($0.99 per month for 50 GB, $2.99 for 200 GB, and $9.99 for 2 TB). Your recipients don’t need to use iCloud Photos, though, and in fact, they can use any device or operating system.

Send iCloud Links

It’s easy to send an iCloud Link. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Photos app on an iPhone or iPad running iOS 12.
  2. In any view with multiple thumbnails showing, tap Select.
  3. Tap one or more photos or videos to select them.
  4. Tap the Share button.
  5. In the bottom row of icons in the Share sheet, tap Copy iCloud Link. You may have to scroll to the right to see it.
  6. After iOS prepares the items for sharing, it puts the iCloud link on the clipboard.
  7. Switch to whatever app you’re using to communicate and paste the link by pressing in a text area and tapping Paste in the control that appears. Messages will generate a preview thumbnail for you; other apps will display a Web URL to icloud.com.

Manage iCloud Links

By default, items you share via an iCloud link are stored for only 30 days. That’s a good thing—you don’t have to worry about things hanging around forever. However, it does mean that your recipients need to get around to viewing or downloading within that time. And what if you want to remove access before the 30 days are up? Plus, what if you want to send the iCloud link to another person—how do you get it again?

Here’s the trick. In Photos, tap For You, then tap your collection under Recently Shared to open it. Then tap the blue more button in the upper-right corner to display a menu with two options:

  • To get the link again to send to another person, tap Copy iCloud Link.
  • To remove the files from iCloud, tap Stop Sharing.

Receive iCloud Links

When someone sends you an iCloud link, opening it is as simple as tapping or clicking the link, just like any other Web URL. (As with other Web links, if you’re receiving an iCloud link in Messages, you’ll see a thumbnail preview instead of the URL.)

If you’re receiving the iCloud link on an iOS device, tapping it opens the collection in the For You tab of Photos with a convenient Add All button for bringing the photos into your own library. If you don’t want all of them, you can instead tap Select to pick a few.

However, opening the iCloud link on a Mac or any other device opens it in a Web browser, with a Photos-like display. By default, all the photos are selected, although you can click the blue checkmark for any one to deselect it or click Deselect All. Clicking the round spot where the checkmark was selects an image again. Once the photos you want are selected, click Download.

Alternatively, if you just want to look at the photos online, click any photo to expand it. All the other photos appear in a scrolling bar below, and you can click them or use the arrow keys to navigate through them.

So next time you have some photos to share and don’t want to waste bandwidth or mess around with shared albums, try sending an iCloud link instead!

(Featured image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay)

WWDC 2019 Recap – Here’s What’s Coming from Apple in 2019

At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2019 on June 3rd, the company unveiled the next versions of all its operating systems—macOS 10.15 Catalina, iOS 13 (and a new iPadOS), watchOS 6, and tvOS 13–along with the much-anticipated new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR.

Nothing that was announced will ship until later this year—probably September—but we wanted to give you a quick overview of what’s coming down the pike.

macOS 10.15 Catalina

With macOS 10.15, which Apple is calling “Catalina,” the company is working to bring macOS and iOS ever closer while preserving what makes the Mac special.

For instance, Catalina replaces the increasingly overloaded iTunes with three new apps that mimic those in iOS: Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. Reminders, Notes, and Photos also see significant enhancements that are mirrored on the iOS side, and a new Find My app on both platforms combines the capabilities of Find My iPhone and Find My Friends. Apple is even bringing Screen Time from iOS to the Mac to help you track and control your usage—and that of your kids—across all your Apple devices.

Some of these apps exist on the Mac thanks to Project Catalyst, an Apple technology that makes it easy for developers to convert iOS apps to the Mac. Apple used Catalyst internally last year to bring Home, News, Stocks, and Voice Memos to macOS 10.14 Mojave. This year, Apple is letting third-party developers use Catalyst, so once Catalina ships, we’ll see a flowering of new Mac apps coming over from iOS.

Another new technology, Sidecar, lets you use an iPad as a second screen for a Mac, either wired or wirelessly. Sidecar even enables you to use the iPad and Apple Pencil as a graphics tablet with apps that support such an input method. Two other new features will let you use a Sidecar-connected iPad to mark up any PDF or insert a sketch into a Mac document.

Catalina promises many more features, including some that will increase macOS security and others that will make the Mac much easier to use for people with disabilities. For instance, the new Voice Control capability lets you run a Mac (or an iOS device) entirely with your voice—it’s amazing.

If you’re running Mojave now, you’ll be able to run Catalina too since the system requirements remain the same.

iOS 13

With iOS 13, Apple appears to be focusing once again on performance and refinements. The company claimed we’ll see faster Face ID recognition, smaller app downloads and updates, and quicker app launches.

The most apparent new feature will be Dark Mode, which Apple is bringing over from Mojave. It displays light text on a dark background, which can be welcome when using an iOS device in a dark room without bothering others. It also may increase battery life on OLED-based iPhones like the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max. But keep in mind that research shows the human eye and brain prefer dark text on light backgrounds, so you may read more slowly and with less recall in Dark Mode.

Along with the apps mentioned previously that also improve in iOS, Apple said it has rebuilt Maps and its underlying database from the ground up, so you’ll see far more detailed maps, and you can zoom in for a street-level photographic view called Look Around.

Camera and Photos received attention as well, giving you faster access to effects and letting you apply effects to videos as well. You can even crop and rotate videos taken in the wrong orientation—finally!

Other improvements include a new Sign In with Apple option for signing in to apps using your Apple ID, full text formatting in Mail, shared folders in Notes, SMB sharing in Files, iCloud Drive folder sharing, and support for USB thumb drives.

In terms of system requirements, iOS 13 drops support for some older devices, leaving the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and SE as the oldest iPhones supported, along with just the newest iPod touch.

iPadOS

Joining Apple’s other operating systems this year is iPadOS, a superset of iOS 13 that provides additional iPad-only features. In some ways, it’s nothing new, since the iPad has always had unique features, but it shows how Apple wants to differentiate the iPad from the iPhone.

In iPadOS, the Home screen holds more icons in a tighter grid, and you can pin the Today View widgets on the side of the screen. Safari will be able to support complex Web apps like Google Docs, Squarespace, and WordPress, and it gains a download manager that lets you download files into the Files app.

Apple enhanced iPad multitasking so you can switch between apps in a Slide Over view, open multiple windows from the same app in Split View, and use App Exposé to navigate among your app combinations. Plus, text editing improves significantly, with direct access to the cursor and easier text selection, as well as new three-finger gestures for cut, copy, paste, and undo. The iPad even gets full-featured font management, and you’ll be able to buy fonts from the App Store.

iPadOS won’t work on many older iPad models, though it is compatible with all iPad Pro models, the fifth- and sixth-generation iPad, the iPad mini 4 and fifth-generation iPad mini, and the iPad Air 2 and third-generation iPad Air.

watchOS 6

With watchOS 6, Apple is working hard on health and fitness capabilities for the Apple Watch. The company has added a Noise app that can warn you when sounds approach dangerous levels and a Cycle Tracking app that helps women monitor their periods and predict windows of optimal fertility. And, the Activity app has picked up trending features so you can see how you’re doing across time in a number of health metrics.

Apple has also untethered the Apple Watch from the iPhone to an extent, allowing developers to create standalone watch apps that don’t require a companion iPhone app and opening an App Store for such apps that you can browse and search from your wrist.

Other new watchOS 6 apps include Audiobooks, Calculator, and Voice Memos. Plus, once you upgrade to watchOS 6, you’ll be able to choose from more faces and additional complications.

As with watchOS 5, watchOS 6 will work on all Apple Watch models other than the original unit, but not all features are available on all models.

tvOS 13

The big news for tvOS 13 is that it finally gets multi-user support, so everyone in a household will be able to have their own personalized experience. (Speaking of which, the HomePod will also support multiple users with iOS 13.)

Apple has redesigned the tvOS Home screen to show previews, added a slide-in Control Center like in iOS and watchOS, and updated the Music app to show lyrics in sync with the currently playing song. The screensaver also goes under the ocean so your cat can be entertained by all the fish.

Finally, in a move that will significantly enhance the forthcoming Apple Arcade game subscription service, both tvOS and iOS will support the Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4 game controllers.

Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR

Although the Worldwide Developer Conference is mostly about Apple’s operating systems, the company took advantage of the keynote to show off the completely redesigned Mac Pro and its companion screen, the Pro Display XDR. The technical specs of both are astonishing—Apple has done what looks like a fabulous job of designing the most modular, flexible, and powerful Mac ever, combined with a display that competes against reference monitors costing tens of thousands of dollars.

The Mac Pro will rely on Intel Xeon W processors with 8 to 28 cores, and you’ll be able to configure it with up to 1.5 TB (that’s terabytes!) of RAM. It has eight PCI Express expansion slots, into which you can install MPX modules that contain up to four AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards for massive number crunching performance. Another slot can hold Apple’s new Afterburner accelerator card for ProRes and ProRes RAW video acceleration, and a half-length slot contains Apple’s I/O card with two USB-3 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and to 10 Gb Ethernet ports; there are two more Thunderbolt 3 ports on the top of the case. Storage starts at 256 GB of SSD and goes up to 4 TB.

All this fits into a stainless steel frame with an aluminum case that lifts off to provide access to all sides of the Mac Pro. It has a massive 1.4-kilowatt power supply and relies on three fans and a blower to keep the unit cool. It even has handles on the top and optional wheels in case you need to move it around regularly.

Accompanying the Mac Pro will be Apple’s first monitor in years, the Pro Display XDR. It’s a 32-inch 6K screen that supports P3 wide and 10-bit color that can display more than 1 billion colors accurately. It’s also incredibly bright and can sustain 1000 nits of full-screen brightness or peak at up to 1600 nits.

If your eyes glazed over reading those specs, this new hardware isn’t for you. Apple is aiming it at high-end professionals, the sort of people who happily spend many thousands of dollars on new hardware to enable faster video editing, data processing, or other performance-intensive tasks. The base-level Mac Pro will start at $6000, and the Pro Display adds another $5000. Even the Pro Stand (which provides tilt and height adjustment, plus rotates to portrait orientation) for the Pro Display costs $1000, so a tricked-out Mac Pro setup could easily exceed $20,000. So no, this is not a Mac for “the rest of us,” but it’s great to see Apple ensuring that the most demanding Mac users can stay on the platform.

(All images courtesy of Apple)