In theory, it should be easy to move the cursor in text on an iPad or iPhone—just tap where you want the cursor to go, or press and hold until the magnifying circle appears over the cursor and then slide it around. In reality, it’s often fussy and annoying because our fingers are a lot wider than the cursor itself. Starting in iOS 9, Apple came up with a better solution—trackpad mode—and in iOS 12, the company extended it to devices that lack 3D Touch.
In trackpad mode, you turn the onscreen keyboard into a virtual trackpad. Just as on a Mac laptop, moving your finger around the virtual trackpad moves the cursor in the text above. How you invoke trackpad mode differs slightly between the iPad and iPhone.
Trackpad Mode on the iPad
On an iPad, open any app that allows text input, like Notes, and bring up the keyboard. Touch the keyboard with two fingers, and you see the letters disappear from the keyboard as it switches to trackpad mode. Immediately swipe your fingers (or just one, you can lift the other up) around to move the cursor within the text. Or, for the new approach, touch the Spacebar and pause briefly to switch to trackpad mode.
You can also select text in trackpad mode. If you start with two fingers, instead of swiping immediately after entering trackpad mode, pause with your two fingers down briefly, which causes iOS to switch to selecting text. Then move your fingers around to change the colored selection. If you start with one finger on the Spacebar, position the cursor where you want it and then tap anywhere on the grayed-out keyboard to start selecting.
For easier selection of chunks of text, put the cursor in a word, let up, and then tap once with two fingers to select the word around the cursor, twice to select the sentence, and three times to select the entire paragraph. To expand or contract the selection, keep your fingers down and drag the selection cursor. To deselect text, tap once on the keyboard with two fingers.
You can use trackpad mode even if you have an external keyboard attached. Tap in a text input area, place two fingers anywhere in it to engage trackpad mode, and then move your fingers to reposition the cursor (again, you can lift one finger up after you start). To select text, put the cursor inside a word, release your fingers, and tap once to select the word, twice for the sentence, and three times for the paragraph.
Trackpad Mode on the iPhone
Before iOS 12, trackpad mode on the iPhone worked only on models that supported 3D Touch, which eliminated the iPhone 5s and earlier and the iPhone SE. iOS 12 added another approach, which is good because 2018’s iPhone XR also lacks 3D Touch.
To engage trackpad mode on an iPhone that supports 3D Touch, press firmly on the keyboard with one finger—you’ll feel the iPhone’s Taptic Engine simulate the feel of a click. Keep your finger down to move the cursor around. Apple’s new approach to invoking trackpad mode works on all iPhone models—touch the Spacebar and pause briefly to switch to trackpad mode. In either case, if you need more room, you can move your finger off the keyboard image right onto the text.
On 3D Touch iPhones, to select a word, relax your finger pressure slightly without removing it from the screen, and then press again. It’s quite similar to the feel of clicking on a MacBook trackpad. You can even double-press—again, with a slight relaxing of the finger first—to select the current sentence and triple-press to select the entire paragraph. Keep dragging after selecting to select more text by the word, sentence, or paragraph.
When using the Spacebar approach to invoking trackpad mode, you can still select text. As on the iPad, position the cursor where you want it and then tap anywhere on the grayed-out keyboard to start selecting. The two-fingered tapping on the normal keyboard that works on the iPad doesn’t work on the iPhone, unfortunately.
Trackpad mode takes a little getting used to, but it’s so much better than the previous selection methods that it’s worth making yourself practice until it becomes second nature.
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.
iPad mini lovers, rejoice! If you’ve been holding onto an aging iPad mini because of its small size, you’ll be happy to learn that Apple has at long last released a new 7.9-inch iPad mini with modern-day technologies. Joining it in the lineup is a new 10.5-inch iPad Air that turns out to be a retooled iPad Pro for a lot less money.
iPad mini Gains A12 Bionic Chip and Apple Pencil Support
It has been hard to recommend the iPad mini 4—last updated in September 2015—for several years now because its hardware was increasingly long in the tooth, and Apple hadn’t seemed enthused about updating it.
That has all changed with the fifth-generation iPad mini, which boasts the same speedy A12 Bionic chip that powers today’s iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max. It provides over three times the performance as the iPad mini 4’s A8 chip and graphics that are nine times faster. The other huge change is that the iPad mini now lets you use the $99 Apple Pencil for drawing, taking notes, and more. Note that the iPad mini supports only with the first-generation Apple Pencil, not the second-generation model that’s specific to last year’s iPad Pro models.
Another welcome, but less notable, changes include a screen that is 25% brighter, displays more colors, and supports Apple’s True Tone technology for matching the color temperature of the screen to the light in your surroundings. The Wi-Fi + Cellular model of the iPad mini also now supports faster gigabit-class LTE connections and the improved Bluetooth 5.0.
The basic specs of the rear-facing camera on the new iPad mini haven’t changed—it’s still an 8-megapixel camera—but it likely takes better photos and videos thanks to the A12 Bionic chip’s computational photography capabilities. Plus, the front-facing FaceTime HD camera can now capture 1080p video at 30 frames per second for better FaceTime calls.
You can order the iPad mini now in silver, space gray, and gold. For 64 GB of storage, a Wi-Fi–only model costs $399, whereas a 256 GB model is $549. Adding cellular connectivity bumps the prices to $529 and $679.
iPad Air Lowers the 10.5-inch iPad Pro Price with a Less-Capable Camera
Despite its name, the new 10.5-inch iPad Air has far more in common with the now-discontinued 10.5-inch iPad Pro from 2017 than it does with the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 from 2014.
Apple has clearly taken the iPad Pro and modernized it with the current A12 Bionic chip, gigabit-class LTE, eSIM, and Bluetooth 5.0. But to cut $150 from the iPad Pro’s $649 starting price, Apple replaced the iPad Pro’s rear-facing camera with a less-capable model and traded the quad speaker system for stereo speakers. That’s not to say that the iPad Air’s rear-facing camera is a problem—it’s the same 8-megapixel camera as in the iPad mini—it’s just not at the level of the 12-megapixel camera that was in the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.
Like the old iPad Pro, the iPad Air supports the first-generation Apple Pencil and the original $159 Smart Keyboard (again, not the Smart Keyboard Folio for the 2018 iPad Pro models).
As with the iPad mini, Apple offers only two tiers of storage, 64 GB for $499 and 256 GB for $649, and the cellular option increases the pricing to $629 and $779. The color choices are again silver, space gray, and gold.
Apple’s slate of iPads makes a lot of sense now, with this new fifth-generation iPad mini and third-generation iPad Air joining the sixth-generation iPad and the 11-inch iPad Pro and third-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
If you want small, get an iPad mini. If you want cheap, buy the iPad. If you’re looking for a bigger screen or Apple keyboard (the Smart Keyboard is excellent), go for the iPad Air. And if you have the budget, the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models are fabulous. Apple has a helpful online comparison tool, or feel free to ask us what we’d recommend for you.
Here is a trick for enabling caps lock when typing in iOS. The Caps Lock key on Mac keyboards often feels extraneous, since it’s easy enough to hold the Shift key while typing multiple capital letters for acronyms like HIPPA or when you want to shout GET OFF MY LAWN! But if you need to do that on an iPhone or iPad, it’s annoying to keep tapping the Shift key to switch to the uppercase keyboard for each letter. Luckily, Apple has baked a time-saving trick into its onscreen keyboard. Tap the Shift key twice in a row to lock it on, type the letters you need, and tap it again to unlock it. Notice that when Shift is locked on, a horizontal line appears beneath the arrow on the Shift key.
It’s a constant refrain in many homes—a kid clamoring to use an iPad or iPhone to play games, watch videos, or chat with friends. As a parent, you know too much screen time is bad, especially when it affects homework or family dinners. At the same time, an iOS device may be essential for communication and schoolwork.
In iOS 12, Apple introduced Screen Time, which shows how much time you spend on your own device, and helps you control your usage—see our recent article for details. But Screen Time also has parental controls. They’re best managed with Family Sharing from your own iOS device, so if you haven’t already done so, tap Settings > YourName > Set Up Family Sharing and follow the instructions. (You can also set up Screen Time directly on the child’s device—tap Use Screen Time Passcode to set a passcode that prevents the child from overriding limits.)
With Family Sharing set up, go to Settings > Screen Time and notice your children’s names in the new Family section. Tap a child’s name to set Screen Time limitations and restrictions on their iOS devices. Initially, Screen Time walks you through an assistant that explains the main features and helps you set some basic limitations. It also prompts you to create a four-digit parent passcode, which you’ll need to adjust settings in the future or override time limits.
Subsequently, when you tap your child’s name, you’ll see Screen Time’s standard sections for Downtime, App Limits, Always Allowed, and Content & Privacy Restrictions. For a full explanation of the first three, see our previous article; we’ll focus on what’s different for children and on Content & Privacy Restrictions here.
Downtime is useful for blocking all device usage during a time when your child should be sleeping, doing homework, or just not using the screen. You can set only one time period, so if you want to control usage on a more complex schedule, you’ll need to do that in another way.
For a child, the Downtime screen has a Block at Downtime option that you must enable to actually block access to the device during the scheduled time. If it’s off, and the child tries to use the device during that time, they’ll be able to tap Ignore Limit just like an adult can. That might be appropriate for a teenager who may need to check email late at night to find details for tomorrow’s sports practice. With Block at Downtime on, however, the only override is with the parent passcode.
As our previous article noted, App Limits specify how long a category of apps—or a specific app—may be used each day, with the time resetting at midnight. For children, you might want to try restricting nothing for a week, and see what apps they’re using and for how long. Then have “the talk” about appropriate use of digital devices and agree on limits.
You can tap Customize Days to allow more time on weekends, for instance, and you can exempt an app from all limitations in the Always Allowed screen.
Once your child hits an app limit, Screen Time will block them from using the app, with the only override being your parent passcode.
Content & Privacy Restrictions
Here’s where you’ll find all the previous parental controls, which let you turn on a wide variety of restrictions. To get started, enable the Content & Privacy Restrictions switch. There are three basic sections here:
- Store and Content Restrictions: Use these to control app downloading and deletion, what sort of content can be downloaded from Apple’s online stores, whether or not Web content should be filtered, and more.
- Privacy Restrictions: The entries here depend on what apps are installed, but the main question is if you want to allow location sharing.
- Allow Changes: These items relate to settings on the iOS device itself. You might want to disallow passcode and account changes, and volume limit changes, if you’ve set a maximum volume in Settings > Music > Volume Limit.
At the top of its main screen for the child, Screen Time reports on usage for both the current day and the last 7 days, showing a graph of screen time by hour or day, with color coding to indicate which app categories were in use. Review this report regularly to see if you need to adjust the Downtime or App Limit settings. Your child can also check the same report directly on their device in Settings > Screen Time.
Screen Time’s controls are good but not perfect. Enterprising kids have discovered workarounds such as changing the device’s time setting and deleting and redownloading apps. So don’t see Screen Time as a guaranteed technological solution—it’s just another tool in your parenting toolkit.