How to Get Custom Alerts for Email from Your VIPs

Few people get so little email that they want an iPhone notification for every message that rolls in. But many of us have just a couple of people—our personal VIPs—whose messages are important enough to warrant an alert. If that’s true for you, and you want to know right away when your boss or your spouse or your child sends you a message, set up VIP Alerts. In Mail in iOS, in your Mailboxes list, tap the i button next to the VIP mailbox. If necessary, use the Add VIP link to pick your VIPs from your contacts, and then tap VIP Alerts to jump to the screen of Settings > Notifications > Mail > VIP. Once there, you can choose a banner style, alert sound, and other notification-related settings.

(Featured image by Noelle Otto from Pexels)

Make a Backup before Upgrading to Catalina or iOS 13!

Confession time. If there’s one topic we can’t stop talking about, it’s backups. Backups are essential, since no one can guarantee that your Mac or iPhone won’t be lost or stolen, be caught in a flood from a broken pipe, or just fail silently. It happens.

You should have a good backup strategy that ensures backups happen regularly, but it’s not paranoid to make double extra sure when you’re doing something that’s more likely to cause problems than everyday activity. And by that we’re thinking about upgrading to a major new operating system, such as macOS 10.15 Catalina or iOS 13.

The reason is simple. As much as Apple tests the heck out of these upgrades, so many files are in play that all it takes is one unexpected glitch to render the entire Mac or iPhone non-functional. Wouldn’t you like to be able to revert instantly if something does go wrong?

Mac Backups before Upgrading

On the Mac side, most people should be using Time Machine. It ensures that you can not only restore your entire drive if necessary, but also easily recover a previous version of a corrupted file. The other advantage of having Time Machine backups (and a bootable duplicate, discussed next) is that you can use either to migrate all your apps, data, and settings back to a new installation of macOS, should that become necessary.

As useful as Time Machine is, a bootable duplicate made with SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner is the best insurance right before you upgrade to Catalina. If an installation goes south, you can also boot from your duplicate and get back to work right away.

Finally, although it’s not directly related to backing up before upgrading, we always recommend an offsite backup made via an Internet backup service like Backblaze. This is because a fire or flood would likely destroy your backup drive along with your Mac.

So please, back up your Mac before something goes wrong. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get started, and we’re happy to help.

iOS Backups before Upgrading

Although upgrade-related problems are less common with iPhones and iPads, they can still happen. It’s more likely that you’d drop your little friend accidentally while juggling groceries or forget it after your workout at the gym, but regardless, a backup ensures that you don’t lose precious photos if you’re not using iCloud Photos or My Photo Stream, and backups make migrating to a new device like a fancy new iPhone as painless as possible.

With iOS, though, you don’t need extra software or hardware to make a backup. Apple provides two ways of backing up your iPhone or iPad: iTunes and iCloud. We generally recommend backing up to iCloud if your backups will fit in the free 5 GB of space Apple provides or if you’re already paying for more iCloud space. If you’re not a fan of the cloud or don’t have space, there’s nothing wrong with iTunes backups, though they’re a bit fussier to set up and manage.

There’s also no harm in using both, with iCloud for nightly automatic backups and iTunes for an extra backup just before upgrading to iOS 13 or to a new iPhone or iPad. A second backup can be useful—we’ve seen situations where an iPhone would refuse to restore its files from iTunes but would from iCloud.

To back up to iCloud, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup, turn the switch on, and tap Back Up Now. For backups to happen automatically in the future, you must have sufficient space in your iCloud account (you can buy more), and your device must be on a Wi-Fi network, connected to power, and have its screen locked.

To back up to iTunes, connect your device to your Mac via a Lightning-to-USB cable, launch iTunes, and click the device icon to the right of the media menu.

Then, in the Backups section, click the Back Up Now button. If you’re prompted to encrypt your backups, we encourage you to agree since otherwise your backup won’t include passwords, Health information, or HomeKit data. For automatic backups via iTunes, select This Computer. After that, every time you plug into your Mac, it will back up.

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that we’re not talking about how to restore if something goes wrong during an upgrade. That’s because it’s impossible to predict exactly what might happen or what state your device will end up in. So if you’re unfortunate enough to have such problems—or to have some other catastrophic failure—get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

(Featured image based on an original by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash)

Some of Our Favorite Features of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13

Some of Our Favorite Features of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13

It’s hard to sum up iOS 13’s benefits succinctly because Apple has made so many improvements (we’ll get to what’s cool about iPadOS 13 later in the article). That means there’s something for just about everyone. Here are some of the changes we think you’ll most appreciate.

Better Text Handling

An area in iOS that has long begged for improvement is text handling. Although the familiar approaches still work, you can finally select text by merely tapping and swiping. Double-taps select recognized bits of text like phone numbers and addresses, and triple and quadruple taps select sentences and paragraphs. You can even move the cursor by dragging it into position.

iOS 13 also gains gestures for the familiar Cut, Copy, and Paste commands, along with Undo and Redo. To copy, pinch inward with three fingers; a second three-fingered inward pinch immediately after changes copy to cut. To paste, pinch outward with three fingers. For undo, swipe left with three fingers, whereas redo involves swiping right with three fingers.

Apple enhanced iOS 13’s QuickType keyboard with a feature long offered by independent keyboards: swipe to type. Called QuickPath, the feature lets you swipe your finger from one letter to the next without picking it up. You can switch between swiping and tapping whenever you want. It works only on the iPhone and the iPad’s new floating keyboard.

Close the iPad Bay Doors, Hal

Apple has implemented its new Voice Control system in iOS 13 as well as macOS 10.15 Catalina, and it’s impressive in both. Once you turn it on in Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control, you can use voice commands to switch apps, tap visible controls, and more. Plus, it lets you dictate text without invoking Siri.

The dictation now lets you delete text, replace text, and capitalize words, making it possible to edit what you’ve written without touching the keyboard. Voice Control may sound like it’s aimed at people who have trouble physically using iOS’s Multi-Touch interface, but it could be useful to anyone.

Files from Everywhere

Those who use an iPad for serious work will love the updated Files app, which brings much of the power of the Mac’s Finder to iOS. Most notably, if you have Apple’s Lightning to USB3 Adapter, Files offers support for USB flash drives, SD cards, and hard drives. Plus, Files can also now connect to SMB-based file servers on your local network.

You can create folders on the iOS device’s local drive and store files there, viewing them in grid, list, and column views and sorting by name, date, size, kind, and tags. Files also now lets you zip and unzip files. Oddly, Files also includes a document scanner that can create standalone files of scanned pages.

Dark Mode Migrates from Mojave

If you’re a fan of Dark mode in macOS 10.14 Mojave, you’ll be pleased to know that you can now switch to it in iOS too, or have it kick in only at night. Dark mode might even save some battery power on iPhones with OLED-based screens like the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max.

Photos Bulks Up

Apple added numerous features to Photos, refactoring its interface to match the update in Catalina. It now provides an AI-curated selection of photos displayed by Years, Months, and Days—complete with event titles—plus an All Photos grid that shows everything. Live Photos and videos play automatically (without sound) as you scroll.

Editing has improved significantly, with Photos now offering tools to boost muted colors, sharpen edges, reduce noise, adjust color temperature, increase image clarity, and add vignettes. You can control the intensity of any filter, or of the automatic Enhance adjustments. Plus, nearly all the editing you can apply to a photo, you can use to edit a video, and video edits are now non-destructive.

Apple beefed up the Camera app for recent iPhones, so you can adjust the position and intensity of the studio lighting in Portrait Lighting, and it also gains a new High-Key Mono effect.

Health Adds Cycle Tracking and Fertility

On the iPhone, the Health app at long last gains features related to cycle tracking and fertility. Using data entered or imported from a third-party app, Health can now predict the start and end of a woman’s next three cycles and provide a notification when her period is approaching. Similarly, it can predict fertility windows and pop up an alert when one is approaching. Cycle Tracking, a companion Apple Watch app, will make it easier to log menstruation and symptoms.

iOS 13’s Health app also now tracks headphone audio levels and alerts you if they reach dangerous levels. Another new Apple Watch app—Noise—listens to the ambient sound levels around you and warns you if they’re getting too loud.

Other iOS 13 Features

Those may be the big changes, but we can’t resist sharing some more subtle ones too:

  • Siri’s voice is now generated entirely in software, making it sound more natural, especially while speaking longer phrases.
  • The HomePod can finally recognize different voices, giving everyone in your family personalized experiences.
  • You can set the Phone app to accept only calls from numbers in Contacts, Mail, and Messages, sending all others—and robocalls!—to voicemail.
  • A Low Data Mode helps reduce data usage over the cellular network or specific Wi-Fi networks.
  • You can now pair two sets of AirPods to a single iPhone if you and a friend want to listen to the same movie or music.
  • A new machine-learning option can slow the rate of battery aging by reducing the amount of time your iPhone spends fully charged.
  • Do Not Disturb While Driving will no longer turn on when you’re using public transit.

 

iPadOS 13

Most features of iOS 13 apply to the iPad as well, apart from those that are iPhone-specific, like the Health app. But iPadOS 13 is a superset of iOS 13, so it adds features to the iPad.

It starts with a tighter icon grid on the Home screen to fit more icons, and in landscape orientation, the Home screen can show Today View widgets on the side.

Apple improved the iPad’s multitasking capabilities in iPadOS 13 too. You can have multiple apps in Slide Over—just swipe up to see all of them or swipe along the bottom to switch between them. The big win in Split View in iPadOS 13 is the capability to have multiple windows from the same app open simultaneously, and it’s also now possible to have a window from the same app open in multiple spaces. The updated App Switcher now shows all spaces (Split View combinations) too.

Safari has grown up in iPadOS 13, becoming a desktop-class browser. That means it works better with complex Web apps like Google Docs, Squarespace, and WordPress. It also offers per-site settings, the option to save a set of tabs as bookmarks, a download manager, weak password warnings, and 30 new keyboard shortcuts.

iPadOS 13 works with the new Sidecar feature in Catalina to let you use an iPad as a Mac’s second screen or graphics tablet (with an Apple Pencil). You can use it either to extend your Desktop or to mirror a Mac’s screen, and it works either wired or wireless.

Speaking of the Apple Pencil, Apple has made it more responsive, redesigned the tool palette, and provided a pixel eraser tool. You can also now use an Apple Pencil to take screenshots, and even capture and mark up an entire document, email, or Web page.

Phew! There’s a lot to like in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, but there’s also a lot to learn, so make sure you find some time to incorporate the new features into your usage.

(Featured image by Apple)

Want to Use Your Friends’ Nicknames in iOS? Here’s How

If you have a friend whom you refer to only by his nickname, it can be annoying to feel like you should use his proper first name when adding him to Contacts. Worse, then he shows up in Messages with a name you don’t recognize as easily. Here’s how to convince iOS to use his nickname instead. Open his card in Contacts, tap Edit, scroll to the bottom, tap Add Field, and tap Nickname. That puts a Nickname field at the top, under his proper name, for you to fill in. To get iOS to use it, go to Settings > Contacts > Short Name and enable Prefer Nicknames. From then on, you can enter your friend’s nickname instead of his proper name in apps like Messages and Mail, and iOS will also display it instead of his name everywhere.

(Featured image by Yuri Manei from Pexels)

Apple Event Recap: New iPhone 11, Watch Series 5, 7th-gen. iPad & more

The Scoop on the New iPhone 11, Apple Watch Series 5, 7th-gen iPad, and Apple Services

At its September 10th special event, Apple unveiled a slew of new products and services, including the iPhone 11, the Apple Watch Series 5, the seventh-generation iPad, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV+.

The company also said that iOS 13 and watchOS 6 would ship on September 19th, with iPadOS 13 appearing on September 30th and macOS 10.15 Catalina due sometime in October. Don’t feel the need to update to iOS 13.0 right away, though, since Apple also said that iOS 13.1 would arrive just 11 days later, on September 30th. It will contain some features that the company had to pull from iOS 13.0. Other features will continue to roll out throughout the coming months too.

This iPhone Goes to 11

After several Roman numeral years starting with the iPhone X, Apple has reverted to digits, introducing the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. These are more significant updates than last year’s models, thanks largely to additional cameras, two for the iPhone 11 and three for the Pro models.

The entry-level iPhone 11 improves on its iPhone XR predecessor with separate 12-megapixel Wide and Ultra Wide cameras that let you take wider shots without resorting to panoramas. iOS 13 uses computational photography with both cameras to enable the new Night mode, which combines multiple exposures for astonishingly better low-light photos.

The new front-facing TrueDepth camera is also now 12 megapixels, has a wider field of view for selfies, and supports Smart HDR for more natural-looking photos. It also now records 4K video at up to 60 frames per second and 120 frames per second with slo-mo.

Like the iPhone XR, the iPhone 11 has a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina screen, but it boasts increased performance with Apple’s new A13 Bionic chip. That makes Face ID up to 30% faster and lets it work better at varying distances and at more angles. Although there’s no 5G cellular support yet, the iPhone 11 does offer Gigabit-class LTE and Wi-Fi 6. For those who need multiple cellular plans simultaneously, it supports Dual SIM with eSIM.

The iPhone 11 features a case made of aluminum and glass that Apple claims is the toughest glass ever used in a smartphone. It can also theoretically withstand dunking in up to 2 meters of water for up to 30 minutes—don’t test that if you can avoid it. And the iPhone 11 comes in six colors, with prices starting at $699 for 64 GB of storage.

The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max take photos and videos to the professional level, supporting everything the iPhone 11 can do and adding a third Telephoto camera. Each of the three 12-megapixel cameras can record 4K video with extended dynamic range and cinematic video stabilization. You can switch between the cameras smoothly while filming video. The presentation even demoed a beta of the FiLMiC Pro app, which will let you record separate video streams from each camera at the same time.

For still images, the triple-camera system adds a Telephoto mode to the Wide and Ultra Wide modes in the iPhone 11, and iOS 13 utilizes all three cameras and computational photography to deliver even better results. For instance, Portrait mode can now switch between Wide and Telephoto framing to provide a wider field of view that’s great for group portraits.

Although the screen sizes remain the same as in last year’s iPhone XS (5.8 inches) and iPhone XS Max (6.5 inches), the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max sport new Super Retina XDR OLED-based screens that have significantly higher brightness and contrast specs. Physically, the new models are just a hair—almost literally at about half a millimeter—larger in every dimension than last year’s iPhones. Battery life is much better, with the iPhone 11 Pro lasting up to 4 hours longer than the iPhone XS and the iPhone 11 Pro Max besting the iPhone XS Max by up to 5 hours.

The iPhone 11 Pro models feature a stainless steel band and textured matte glass back, and they can handle being submerged in up to 4 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. We still don’t recommend testing this. Pricing with 64 GB of storage starts at $999 for the iPhone 11 Pro and $1099 for the iPhone 11 Pro Max. They’re available in four colors: gold, space gray, silver, and the new midnight green.

All the iPhone 11 models become available for pre-order on Friday, September 13th at 5 AM Pacific, and they’ll ship to customers and stores on September 20th. If you’re not overwhelmed by the new features, or just don’t want to pay that much, the iPhone 8 and iPhone XR remain available, starting at $449 and $599.

Apple Watch Series 5 Is Always-On

With the new Apple Watch Series 5, available for pre-order now and shipping on September 20th, Apple addressed one of the most common complaints about its wrist-based iPhone accessory. Now, instead of going black whenever you lower your wrist, the Apple Watch Series 5’s screen will merely dim, brightening back up as soon as you raise your wrist or tap the screen. That way you can read it without taking any particular action or waiting for it to light up. This change involved some impressive engineering since battery life remains at 18 hours in typical usage.

Also new is a built-in compass that enables the Maps app to show which direction you’re facing to assist in getting started with navigation. It also powers a new Compass app that shows heading, incline, latitude, longitude, and current elevation, and the Workout app can report current elevation and elevation gain. You can add one of three new compass complications to some watch faces.

Finally, the Apple Watch Series 5 cellular models feature international emergency calling. If you have an accident or get into trouble while traveling, your watch can call the local emergency services via Emergency SOS or through fall detection, regardless of where you purchased the watch or even if you have a working cell plan.

The Apple Watch Series 5 is available in the traditional aluminum ($399) and stainless steel ($699) cases. For more money, Apple has introduced a new titanium case ($799) and brought back the white ceramic case ($1299). If you don’t need the ECG and fall detection features that the Series 5 retains from the Series 4, the aluminum Series 3 model remains available, starting at $199.

Seventh-Generation iPad Goes Semi-Pro

No one was expecting Apple to update its entry-level iPad, but the new seventh-generation iPadsweetens what is already the best deal in the Apple universe. Starting at just $329, the new iPad increases the screen size to 10.2 inches, up from 9.7 inches, and adds a Smart Connector that allows you to connect Apple’s Smart Keyboard to it. It’s a few millimeters larger and a few grams heavier, but nothing you’ll notice.

Otherwise, the seventh-generation iPad is similar to the sixth-generation model, with an A10 Fusion chip, 8-megapixel 1080p rear camera, and 1.2-megapixel 720p front-facing camera. It also supports the first-generation Apple Pencil for stylus input. Battery life remains the same.

It’s available for pre-order now and will ship on September 30th.

Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ Details Revealed

We focus on Apple’s computing and communications products and services, which is why we haven’t written much about the recent release of Apple Card, the company’s new credit card, which provides increased privacy protections and an excellent interface, but no export options. Similarly, we don’t expect to say much in the future about Apple Arcade, which is Apple’s new game subscription service, or Apple TV+, the company’s slate of original video content, both of which were unveiled at Apple’s event.

For completeness, though, we should note that Apple Arcade will cost $4.99 per month when Apple launches it on September 19th. You’ll get a 30-day free trial to see if a service that gives your family access to over 100 games across all your Apple devices is compelling.

Apple TV+ debuts on November 1st, and it too will cost $4.99 per month for access to all of Apple’s original content. It doesn’t include any back catalog shows and movies such as are available from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+. A 7-day free trial will be available, but if you buy a new iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or Apple TV, you’ll get a year for free.

Phew! So many announcements! Our take is that the seventh-generation iPad is a compelling buy for anyone who wants an iPad but doesn’t need the performance of the iPad Air and iPad Pro models. The always-on screen of the Apple Watch Series 5 is welcome if you’re in the market for a new Apple Watch, though it may not be worth upgrading if you already have a recent model. And the new iPhone 11 models look awfully nice for anyone who takes photos and videos. And, let’s face it, that’s most of us these days.

(Featured image by Apple)

Use AirPods to Improve Your Hearing

An ever-increasing number of people have hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise and age. If you’re in that group, but don’t yet need hearing aids, try using your AirPods to help you hear better in certain situations. iOS’s Live Listen feature uses your iPhone’s mic to pick up specific sounds and then sends that audio directly to your AirPods, helping you focus on what you want to hear. To enable Live Listen, go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls and tap the green + button next to Hearing. Then put your AirPods in, open Control Center, tap the Hearing button, and tap to turn on Live Listen. Fine-tune what you’re hearing by moving the iPhone closer to what you want to hear and pointing the mic at the source of the sound—pay attention to the sound level meter dots—and by adjusting the iPhone’s volume controls. To stop listening, tap Live Listen again or just remove your AirPods.

(Featured image by kyle smith on Unsplash)