If you’ve resisted requiring a password on your Mac after it wakes up or comes out of the screen saver because it’s too much work to enter repeatedly, an Apple Watch can make authentication much easier. In previous versions of macOS, just wearing an unlocked Apple Watch is enough to enter your Mac’s password; in Catalina, the Apple Watch can also enter your password when prompted by apps. First, make sure your Apple Watch has a passcode (in Watch > Passcode), is on your wrist, and is unlocked. Then, in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General, select “Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac.” From then on, most of the time your Mac or an app wants your password, your Apple Watch will provide it automatically. (This feature requires that the Mac dates from mid-2013 or later, that all devices use the same iCloud account, and that the Apple ID uses two-factor authentication instead of two-step verification.)
Is your Apple Watch failing to turn on its screen when you raise it, display notifications from your iPhone, or even update the time zone? watchOS has four modes accessible from Control Center (swipe up from the bottom of the screen) that are useful but can cause confusion if you forget to turn them off:
- Silent Mode: In Silent mode, your Apple Watch won’t make any sounds, but will provide haptic feedback you can feel on your wrist.
- Theater Mode: When in Theater mode, your Apple Watch not only turns on Silent mode, it also keeps the screen dark unless you tap the screen or press a button.
- Do Not Disturb: As with Theater mode, enabling Do Not Disturb turns on Silent mode and prevents notifications from lighting up the screen.
- Airplane Mode: Invoking Airplane mode turns off the Apple Watch’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, and the cellular radio if your watch supports that. Without Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the watch can’t communicate with your iPhone and will thus miss notifications and time zone changes.
If you use Apple’s AirPods, you’re probably a fan. But if you haven’t tried them, you may not realize what you’re missing. They pair quickly and reliably with all your Apple devices, provide excellent audio quality, and sit comfortably in most people’s ears (more so than the wired EarPods). The AirPods are Apple’s most popular accessory—the company sold 35 million in 2018.
Apple has now unveiled the second-generation AirPods, the first hardware update since its initial release in December 2016. A new Apple-designed H1 chip designed for headphones provides faster connections, more talk time (up to 3 hours), and the convenience invoking Siri with “Hey Siri.” (With the first-generation AirPods, you can configure a double-tap to bring up Siri—when the AirPods are active, look in Settings > Bluetooth > AirPods.)
The new AirPods still cost $159 with a standard Lightning-based charging case, but Apple has also introduced the Wireless Charging Case, which is bundled with the new AirPods for $199 or available separately for both the first- and second-generation AirPods for $79. The Wireless Charging Case works with any Qi-compatible charging mat. It features a tiny LED indicator light on the front of the case to show the case’s charge status.
Attend any live theater presentation, and someone will ask the audience to silence their cell phones. But what about your Apple Watch? You don’t want it lighting up or making noise during the show either. To ensure that doesn’t happen, swipe up on the face to display Control Center, and then tap the theater masks icon to enable Theater mode (you may have to scroll down to see it). That automatically turns on Silent mode and prevents the screen from lighting up unless you tap it, press a button, or on the Apple Watch Series 2 or 3, turn the Digital Crown. To leave Theater mode after the performance, tap the masks icon in Control Center again.
You’re out to lunch with tech-savvy friends, one of whom picks up the check and says, “Just send me your share via Apple Pay Cash.” Say what?
Apple Pay Cash is Apple’s new person-to-person payment service, designed to make it easy for individuals to send and receive money. It’s perfect for repaying a friend who buys concert tickets or a relative who picks up some groceries for you. Or rather, it’s perfect if your friends and relatives use iPhones with iOS 11.2 or later—for green-bubble Android acquaintances, you can instead rely on cross-platform services like Venmo, Circle, and Square Cash. Here’s how to start using Apple Pay Cash.
First, if you haven’t yet enabled Apple Pay, go to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay > Add Credit or Debit Card, and follow the prompts to add at least a debit card. You’ll also need two-factor authentication turned on in Settings > Your Name > Password & Security—regardless of Apple Pay, two-factor authentication is essential for security. With Apple Pay enabled, tap Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay > Apple Pay Cash and run through the setup process. You might also be asked to verify your identity after setup—it’s necessary to send or receive more than $500 in total.
When you’re done, you’ll end up with a new Apple Pay Cash card in the Wallet app. It’s a virtual card that stores money you receive and works like any other debit card for payments. If it doesn’t have enough money on it to cover a payment, you can choose any other debit or credit card you’ve added to Apple Pay. You can also add money to it or withdraw money to a linked bank account. You’ll want to use a debit card when adding money or paying beyond your balance with Apple Pay Cash, since then there is no transaction fee. A credit card incurs a 3% fee.
To send or request money via Apple Pay Cash, you use its Messages app, which is installed automatically. While in an iMessage thread (blue bubbles) with the person with whom you want to exchange money, make sure the app drawer is showing (tap the app button if necessary) and then tap the Apple Pay button in the drawer.
A panel appears with a dollar amount, + and – buttons, and buttons for Request and Pay. Use the + and – buttons to set the amount, or tap the dollar amount to show a keypad where you can enter an exact amount, with cents if necessary. Then tap Request or Pay to insert the transaction into the message. It won’t be sent until you tap the black send button, so if you change your mind, you can tap the little x to delete. Lastly, you’ll be prompted to verify the transaction in the usual Apple Pay fashion, which means authenticating with Face ID on the iPhone X or Touch ID on all other iPhones.
You can even use Siri to initiate transfers—“Send my mother $15.” or “Ask my sister for $4.99.” And if you have an Apple Watch with watchOS 4.2 or later, you can also send money from the Messages app, or send or request money via Siri. On the watch, double-press the side button to confirm the transaction.
Frankly, the only downside to Apple Pay Cash is that it works only within the Apple world. But as long as you want to exchange money with Apple-using friends and relatives, it’s fast, easy, reliable, and one less reason to visit the ATM.
It’s that time of year again, when many of us start wracking our brains for gift ideas for our loved ones—or for our own wish lists. If your special someone is an Apple user, we have a few suggestions.
Chargers, Cables, and Adapters, Oh My!
We know that giving someone a cable feels a bit like buying them socks, but Apple’s minimalist design and focus on USB-C and Lightning ports means that many users would appreciate extra cables or adapters. You’ll want to ask them what they find most annoying about their current cable situation—they might want an extra Lightning to headphone adapter, a USB-C to USB-A cable for connecting some peripheral, or an HDMI cable to run a big-screen TV.
Plus, giving someone a second iPhone, Mac, or Apple Watch charger could reduce battery anxiety or make it less likely that they’d forget to pack one while traveling.
Apple’s most surprising hit of 2017 was the AirPods, svelte wireless earbuds that pair quickly and seamlessly to all Apple devices logged in to the same iCloud account. They’re light, stay in the ear well, and are comfortable even for many people who couldn’t wear the wired EarPods. At $159, they’re not cheap, but they’re still less expensive than many competing wireless earbuds.
The only catch? Apple has had trouble making AirPods fast enough, so don’t assume you can buy a pair as a last-minute gift.
Apple always intended the Apple Watch as an iPhone accessory, so it makes a great add-on for any iPhone user who doesn’t already have their iPhone in hand most of the day. For most people, the $249 Apple Watch Series 1 is a fine gift, although the $329 Series 3 is faster and brighter, and doesn’t need the iPhone to track a run or bike ride via GPS.
Consider the $399 Series 3 with cellular access only if you’re certain the recipient will make use of the watch while out and about without the iPhone, since its data plan costs $10 extra per month.
And, if someone on your gift list already has an Apple Watch, a new band might make a great present—Apple offers a wide variety of attractive and comfortable bands.
Although it’s a few years old, the $149 fourth-generation Apple TV still makes a good present for anyone who watches TV shows and movies from Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, and other Internet streaming video services.
For most people, the $179 Apple TV 4K is overkill, since its support for 4K video and HDR color require a compatible 4K HDR TV purchased in the last year or so.
So stick with the previous Apple TV, and if you’re looking for a related stocking stuffer, search for silicone cases that protect the brittle Siri Remote and make it easier to orient in the dark.
Last, but far from least, if someone in your family has never tried an iPad or is limping along with one of the early models, the current fifth-generation iPad combines good performance and a gorgeous screen with a compellingly low price starting at $329.
At $399, the smaller iPad mini 4 doesn’t provide as much bang for the buck, but it could be the perfect present for a child.
Particularly when buying an iPad for a kid, a durable case is a must—perhaps suggest that as a gift idea to another family member.