The New York Times recently published a bombshell article revealing just how completely our every movement is tracked by companies in the business of selling our locations to advertisers, marketers, and others. Anonymous sources provided the Times with a dataset from a single location-data company that contained 50 billion pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans over several months in 2016 and 2017.
This data enabled the Times reporters to track numerous people in positions of power, including military officials, law-enforcement officers, and high-powered lawyers. They were able to watch as people visited the Playboy Mansion, some overnight, and they could see visitors to celebrity estates. Once they identified any particular phone, they could track it wherever it went. Imagine what that data could be used for in the wrong hands.
No one intends to let unknown companies track their locations constantly. But code built into smartphone apps does just that, often without our knowledge. Many of the apps that request access to location services have an entirely legitimate reason for doing so—for example, Google Maps can’t provide navigation directions unless it knows where you are. But others want location access for less practical reasons—do you really want to let a coffeeshop app know your location at every moment in exchange for the occasional free latte? And some apps—notably weather apps—may have a legitimate need for location information but use that data for far more than users expect.
Even if you’re not too perturbed about companies you’ve never heard of knowing your exact whereabouts at all times (mostly to serve you more targeted advertising), there’s no guarantee this data couldn’t fall into the hands of foreign governments, organized crime, or hackers willing to sell your movement patterns to an aggrieved employee, corporate spy, or jealous ex-lover.
Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Location Privacy
Luckily, Apple provides controls in iOS that let you limit your exposure. For most people, going completely dark isn’t realistic. Too many iPhone capabilities require location services, ranging from turn-by-turn directions, to geotagging photos, to using Find My to see if your kid has left the soccer tournament yet.
Nevertheless, going dark is a possibility: go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and disable the Location Services switch at the top. That turns off location services for all apps, although iOS will turn them back on temporarily if you use Find My iPhone to enable Lost Mode.
Here’s what we recommend instead.
Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and scroll down to see a list of every app on your iPhone that would like to know your location. (The same is true on the iPad, but fewer people use their iPads as much while out and about.)
For each app in the list, tap the app’s name to bring up the Allow Location Access screen, which has up to four options:
Never: Prevent this app from ever determining your location.
Ask Next Time: The next time the app wants permission to track you, make it ask again.
While Using the App: Allow the app to track your location as long as you’re actually using it.
Always: Let the app track your location at all times, even when you’re not using it.
Tap one of the options to select it, and then tap Back to return to the list.
We can’t tell you exactly how to configure each app since everyone has a different set and different levels of privacy worry. However, here is some advice:
Apps and other entries from Apple are generally safe because Apple has an extremely strong privacy stance and excellent security against hacks. But, down in System Services at the bottom, we’d turn off Location-Based Apple Ads and Popular Near Me—even if Apple is collecting this data anonymously, it’s still being used to sell things to you, not to provide useful services to you.
For most apps, change the Allow Location Access setting to Ask Next Time to force each app to prompt you again. If it asks at a point where it’s reasonable that it would need to know your location, such as Yelp wanting to show you nearby restaurants, grant it. If you don’t understand why it’s asking, or if the request seems weak (“To show you which wines are available for purchase in your area.”), deny the request.
With apps that obviously need location services, such a parking app that needs to know which area you’re in, change the setting to While Using App and see if that meets your needs.
Only if you clearly need to allow a particular app to track your location in the background—turn-by-turn navigation apps are the most common—should you change that setting to Always. Almost no apps should be given such power, and many won’t even provide the option.
There’s one unusual item in the list: Safari Websites. It’s a master switch that lets Web sites loaded in Safari ask for your location. That’s probably not a major privacy concern, but few Web sites provide sufficiently useful location-based features (mostly for finding nearby chain store outlets) that it’s worth bothering.
In the end, go with your gut. If thinking about a particular app or company potentially recording your location constantly gives you the creeps, turn it off and either find an alternative or do without. Legislation may be the only solution in the end, but for now, we can take steps like these to protect ourselves.
Accidents, particularly those involving automobiles, are all too common, and while no one plans to be in one, you can prepare for the eventuality. If you end up in a state where you can’t speak with emergency responders or are too shaken up to share your details clearly, your iPhone can provide them with essential medical information. Emergency responders are trained to know how to access these details.
Apple makes this possible via the Medical ID feature of the Health app, which you can use to record medical data and emergency contact information (this is sometimes referred to as “ICE information,” where ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency”). Once you’ve entered all this information, emergency responders can use your iPhone to learn about your medication allergies and other conditions, plus contact your family. This data could also help a Good Samaritan return a lost iPhone. (Unfortunately, the Health app isn’t available on the iPad.)
To set up or edit your Medical ID, follow these steps (in iOS 13; they’re slightly different in earlier versions of iOS):
Open the Health app and tap the Summary tab at the bottom.
Tap your profile picture in the upper-right corner.
Under Medical Details, tap Medical ID.
Tap Edit in the upper-right corner.
Make sure the Show When Locked switch is on.
Enter all the relevant details about your medical conditions, medications, allergies, and so on.
Specify one or more emergency contacts. These must be people in the Contacts app with phone numbers; if the right people aren’t there, add them first. You can’t select your own card in Contacts, so consider making one for a fake person called “If Lost, Please Call” and listing a different phone number at which you can be reached.
Hopefully, you’ll never have to use someone else’s Medical ID information, but you should know how to do so. You should also teach family, friends, and colleagues how to find and use this information. Should you come across a bicyclist who has had a bad crash or a similar situation, follow these steps:
With a locked iPhone that uses Touch ID, press the Home button to display the Passcode screen. For iPhones with Face ID, press the side button and swipe up from the bottom.
On the Passcode screen, tap Emergency in the bottom-left corner to move to the Emergency screen. If needed, call 911 from this screen by tapping Emergency Call.
Again at the bottom left, tap Medical ID to display the Medical ID screen, complete with all the details that person entered into the Health app.
From that screen, you can share the information with EMTs or other first responders so they’re aware of any serious conditions or allergies that would affect treatment. You can also call any emergency contacts listed by tapping their numbers.
Please, enter your medical and emergency contact details into the Health app right now, and spread the word to everyone you know. It could save your life, or help you save someone else’s!
By default, most iPhones and iPads ship with Apple’s tiny 5-watt power adapters. They work, but not quickly. However, the iPhone 8 and later, all models of the iPad Pro, and the most recent iPad Air and iPad mini models support fast charging when connected to higher wattage power adapters. You may have an older one of these around, or you can buy a new one. Apple has bundled with iOS devices or sold 10-watt, 12-watt ($19), and 18-watt ($29, USB-C) power adapters, and the company has also produced 29-watt, 30-watt ($49), 61-watt ($69), and 87 or 96-watt ($79) USB-C power adapters for Mac laptops. Plug your compatible iPhone or iPad into one of these chargers with an appropriate cable (for a USB-C charger, you’ll need a USB-C to Lightning Cable, $19), and it will charge significantly more quickly. Look for a wattage rating on the adapter itself, or multiply the output volts and amps together to get watts.
Let’s be honest—text editing in iOS has never been anywhere near as good as it is on the Mac. We may be more accustomed to our mice and keyboards, but the Multi-Touch interface has always been clumsy when it comes to text. Apple keeps trying to improve iOS’s text editing features, and iOS 13 (and iPadOS 13) brings some welcome changes in how we go about positioning the text insertion point, selecting text, and performing the familiar options in the Mac’s Edit menu: Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo/Redo. Has it caught up with the Mac yet? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, once you’ve learned the new techniques.
Note that these changes apply only to spots in iOS where you’re entering and editing text, not selecting and copying static, read-only text such as a Web page in Safari. And even when you are working on a Web page where you can enter and edit text, the site may override iOS’s text handling.
Insertion Point Positioning
Positioning the insertion point on the Mac is easy—you move the cursor to the right spot and click. In previous versions of iOS, you could tap to put the insertion point at the start or end of a word, or press and hold briefly to bring up a magnifying glass that let you put the insertion point anywhere, including within a word. It was slow and awkward, and made better mostly by trackpad mode, which you could invoke by long-pressing the Space bar.
iOS 13 improves positioning by letting you press and hold the insertion point to pick it up and then drag it to where you want it. This approach is much easier and more sensible than the previous method.
On the Mac, you can select text with multiple clicks, by clicking and dragging, or by using the keyboard. In iOS, however, text selection has always been tough—you could double-tap to select a word, but anything else required subsequent moving of start and end markers. (On an iPad with a keyboard, you could hold Shift and use the arrow keys too.)
Happily, iOS 13 improves text selection. To start, you can still double-tap to select a word, but you can also triple-tap to select a sentence (shown below) and even tap four times in quick succession to select an entire paragraph. Unfortunately, these selection shortcuts may not work in all apps, but you can always fall back on the previous approach.
For selections of an arbitrary length, just press, pause ever so briefly to start selecting, and then drag to extend the selection. In other words, it’s as close to the Mac approach as is possible with the Multi-Touch interface. If the selection isn’t quite right, you can adjust the start and end markers.
Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo Gestures
Everyone knows Command-X for Cut, Command-C for Copy, Command-V for Paste, and Command-Z for Undo on the Mac. In previous versions of iOS, those commands were available only from a popover that appeared when text was selected, or (for Paste) when you pressed and held in a text area. The only command with a gesture, so to speak, was Undo. At the risk of dropping it, you could shake your iOS device to undo your last action. Not good.
iOS 13 introduces a variety of three-finger gestures to make these commands quick and easy to invoke. Note that you can use the entire screen for these gestures—it’s OK to make them with one finger over the keyboard.
Copy: To copy selected text, pinch in with three fingers, or, more likely, your thumb, index finger, and middle finger.
Cut: To cut (copy and then delete) selected text, perform the copy gesture twice in quick succession.
Paste: To paste the text you’ve copied at the insertion point, reverse the action—pinching out (spreading) with three fingers.
Undo: To undo a mistake, immediately swipe left or tap twice with three fingers. You can keep swiping or double-tapping to undo more actions.
Redo: To redo the action that you just undid, swipe right with three fingers.
Whenever you use one of these gestures, a little feedback badge appears at the top of the screen to reinforce what you just did.
If you can’t remember which direction to pinch or swipe, press and hold with three fingers anywhere for a second to see a shortcut bar at the top of the screen with icons for Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Redo.
Finally, instead of using Cut and Paste to move a swath of selected text, try dragging it to the new position.
Slide to Type
Various third-party keyboards have provided “slide-to-type” over the years, letting you type a word by sliding your finger from letter to letter on the keyboard without lifting it up in between. But switching to a third-party keyboard meant that you often gave up useful other features, like Siri dictation, so most people stuck with Apple’s default keyboard.
On the iPhone, iOS 13 now lets you slide to type on its default keyboard, and it works surprisingly well. In iPadOS 13, slide-to-type works only on the new floating keyboard you can get by pinching with two fingers on the default keyboard (pinch out with two fingers to restore the default keyboard). When you get to the end of a word, lift your finger to insert it, and then start sliding again for the next word. If you make a mistake, the suggestions above the keyboard often provide the word you want. You can switch between tapping (best for unusual words) and sliding on a word-by-word basis.
Make a mistake with sliding? By default, tap Delete after inserting a slide-to-type word to delete the whole word, not just the final letter. If you don’t like that behavior, turn off Delete Slide-to-Type by Word in Settings > General > Keyboard.
Do you use 3D Touch on your iPhone? From 2015 through 2018, every iPhone from the iPhone 6s through the iPhone XS supported 3D Touch, other than the iPhone SE and iPhone XR. With 3D Touch, you could (sometimes) press a control, and then press a little harder to make additional options appear. But because the 3D Touch hardware was expensive, it never made its way to the iPad or iPod touch. Apple replaced 3D Touch in the entire iPhone 11 line this year with the iPhone XR’s simpler Haptic Touch hardware that provides haptic feedback—the sensation of touching something—when you tap-and-hold (or long-press, if you prefer) on an object. With iOS 13, 3D Touch is gone, and almost everything it could do, you now accomplish with a tap-and-hold. So give it a try—long-press icons on the Home screen, panels in Control Center, messages in Mail, links in Safari, and a lot more.
Most people are probably waiting until September to buy a new iPhone, but Apple is laying the groundwork for making the migration from an old phone to a new one even easier this time around. In iOS 12.4, Apple introduced a new way to migrate your data directly from one iPhone to another. This is an extension of the iOS 11 Quick Start feature that helps you set up a new iPhone with settings from your current device. All you have to do is turn on the new iPhone and place it next to a current iPhone running iOS 12.4 or later. When you see the prompt asking if you want to set up a new iPhone, tap Continue and scan the animation on the new iPhone using the current iPhone’s camera. Then you have to enter your current passcode on the new iPhone and set up Touch ID or Face ID, and tap Transfer from iPhone. Well, that and you’ll need to wait a while for all the data to transfer. If you don’t see this Transfer Your Data screen for some reason, you’ll still be able to restore all your data from an iCloud or iTunes backup.