Most iOS apps and many Web sites make phone numbers “hot” so you can tap them to call. But it’s not uncommon to run across a number that’s formatted oddly or broken across a line of text such that it can’t be recognized. Just because iOS can’t recognize it doesn’t mean you have to memorize the number temporarily or flip back and forth to the Phone app to type it in it. Here’s a workaround. Double-tap the start of the phone number to select it, and then drag the rightmost blue handle to extend the selection to the entire number. Tap Copy in the popover that appears to copy it. Then switch to the Phone app, tap Keypad at the bottom, and then tap in the blank white area at the top where typed numbers would appear. When a Paste button appears, tap it, and if the Phone app recognizes the number correctly, tap the green Call button to place the call.
When summer brings sunny days and rising temperatures, you may have ditched your business suit for shorts or skirts to stay comfortable, but your technological gear can’t do the same. And keeping your tech cool is about more than comfort—as temperatures rise, performance can suffer, charging may get slower or stop, various components might be disabled, and devices can become unreliable from the heat.
How Hot Is Too Hot?
You might be surprised by the recommended operating temperatures for Apple gear—whether you’re talking about an iPhone X or a MacBook Pro, the company recommends staying under 95° F (35° C).
Such temperatures happen regularly throughout the summer. Even in cooler climes, the temperature in a parked car in the sunshine can easily hit 130º F (54º C) in an hour and rise higher as time passes. And no, cracking the windows a couple of inches won’t make a significant difference. We hope you’re already thinking about that with regard to children and pets, but as you can see, tech gear should also be protected. Apple says its products shouldn’t even be stored—turned off—at temperatures over 113º F (45º C).
It’s not just cars you have to think about. Temperatures in homes and offices without air conditioning can also rise higher than electronics would prefer, and that’s especially true for computers that stay on most of the time and aren’t located in well-ventilated areas.
What’s the Danger?
First off, remember that all electronic devices produce their own heat on top of the ambient heat in the environment, so the temperature inside a device can be much, much hotter than outside. The CPU in an iMac can hit 212º F (100º C) under heavy loads.
Temperatures higher than what components are designed for can have the following effects:
- Chips of all types can behave unpredictably as increased thermal noise (electrons vibrating more) causes a higher bit error rate. Because electrical resistance increases with heat, timing errors can also occur.
- Lithium-ion batteries discharge well in high temperatures, but the increased rate of chemical reactions within the battery will result in a shorter overall lifespan.
- As devices heat and cool, the uneven thermal expansion of different materials can cause microscopic cracks that can lead to a variety of failures over time.
Some heat-related problems are temporary, so when the device or component cools down, it will resume working correctly. But others, particularly drops in battery life—are irreversible and particularly worth avoiding.
When a Mac gets too hot, it will spin up its fans in an attempt to keep its internal components cool. If your Mac’s fans are ever running at full tilt, first quit apps you aren’t using, particularly those that might be CPU-intensive and thus creating a lot of heat. If that doesn’t make a difference, restart it to make sure the problem isn’t some rogue process. If the fans come back on at full speed quickly, shut it down and let it cool off for a bit. In the worst case, an overheated Mac will start acting unpredictably or crash.
iOS devices don’t have fans, so they employ other coping mechanisms. If your iPhone or iPad gets too hot, the device will alert you.
Apple says you might notice some of the following behaviors:
- Charging, including wireless charging, slows or stops.
- The display dims or goes black.
- Cellular radios enter a low-power state. The signal might weaken during this time.
- The camera flash is temporarily disabled.
- Performance slows with graphics-intensive apps or features.
If you’re using Maps on an overheating iPhone for GPS navigation in the car, it may show a “Temperature: iPhone needs to cool down.” screen instead of the map. You’ll still get audible turn-by-turn directions, and the screen will wake up to guide you through turns,
How to Keep Your Tech Cool
For the most part, keeping Apple devices cool just requires common sense, since you’d do the same things for yourself.
- As Apple’s specifications recommend, avoid using devices when the temperature is over 95º F (35º C). If you can’t avoid it entirely, keep usage to a minimum.
- Don’t leave devices in cars parked in the sun for long periods of time. If it happens accidentally, let the device cool before using it.
- Provide good ventilation so air can cool the device. Don’t block ventilation ports in the back of desktop Macs, and don’t use Mac laptops in bed, propped on a pillow, or under the covers. It can be worth vacuuming dust out of ventilation ports every so often.
- Never put anything on the keyboard of an open Mac laptop.
- Avoid stacking things on top of a Mac mini.
- Monitor the temperature of server closets. If they get too hot, keep the door open, add a fan, or run the air conditioning.
Luckily, the temperatures that cause problems for Apple hardware aren’t terribly comfortable for people either, so if you’re way too hot, that’s a good sign your gear is as well.
Apple’s prices for Lightning, USB-C, and Thunderbolt 3 cables often seem high—$19 for a USB-C to Lightning cable or $29 if you want a 2-meter version? Unfortunately, when it comes to cables, you often get what you pay for. Happily, other reputable hardware manufacturers like Moshi make quality cables and often charge less than Apple. Moshi even offers a two-year no questions asked warranty on all of their products. We will even exchange a Moshi item purchased elsewhere their warranty is so comprehensive.
Stay away from the bargain basement prices from no-name Chinese manufacturers, and if you see a supposedly genuine Apple cable selling for a too-good-to-be-true price, consider the possibility that it’s counterfeit. Apple has even created a detailed page that explains how to identify counterfeit or uncertified Lightning accessories. Here at iStore we only sell Apple OEM and Apple Certified Lightning and USB-C cables, accessories and adapters, so you can rest assured that you are buying the highest quality cables for your devices.
The problem with cheap cables is not just that they might break or wear out sooner, but that many modern cables carry power as well as data. When there’s sufficient juice flowing down those tiny wires, a short-circuit can fry hardware or in the worst cases, generate sparks, smoke, or even fire. Don’t misunderstand—fires aren’t likely, but over the years, there have been numerous headlines about fires caused by charging iPhones and Android smartphones. In fact, Target just recalled 90,000 Lightning to USB cables after 14 reports of the cables smoking, sparking, and igniting.
When it comes to damaging hardware, USB-C was a problem early on but is less so now, thanks to the efforts of Google engineer Benson Leung in 2015 and 2016. After a bad USB-C cable fried his Chromebook, he embarked on a one-man crusade to identify which USB-C cables were good and which were bad. He has moved on from that now, but in part due to his efforts, Amazon started prohibiting listings of USB-C cables and adapters that weren’t compliant with the USB-C specs. You might still run across bad cables that Amazon hasn’t yet identified, or dodgy cables sold through other retailers, but the danger is lower than it used to be, particularly with cables from name brands.
Lightning cables are incredibly common these days—you can buy them in gas stations and drugstores—and as with USB-C cables, you’ll do best if you stick with cables from brand name companies. You’ll pay more, but do you really trust electronics sold next to Twinkies and Slim Jims? It might be worth buying one in a pinch, but don’t rely on it.
Of course, even the best cables will fray and fail if you mistreat them. Follow this advice to ensure a long life for even heavily used cables:
- Don’t create sharp bends in the cable, especially near the connector. Sharp bends can eventually break the insulation and reveal the wires inside.
- When unplugging your device, pull from the plug instead of further down on the cord. That avoids stress near the connector.
- When coiling your cables, avoid wrapping them tightly around something that’s not round. A tight wrap can cause kinks that will degrade the wires inside.
- Don’t put heavy objects on cables, or sandwich them between a desk and the wall. Anything that compresses the cable can cause damage.
- iPhones may be fairly water resistant these days, but try to keep both the Lighting port and the cable’s pins clean and away from liquids because crud or a droplet could cause a short circuit. USB-C cables are less susceptible to such problems because of their metal jackets, but it’s still worth being careful.
- If a cable’s insulation ever breaks so you can see the wires inside, wrap it with electrical tape right away, and replace it as soon as you can.
In the end, the advice is pretty simple. Spend a little more on quality products from reputable manufacturers so you don’t have to worry about your $1000 iPhone XS being damaged by a $3 counterfeit Lightning cable.
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)
Have you ever gotten an emergency alert on your iPhone, telling you about an abducted child or public safety emergency? That’s the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system, at least in the United States, although some other countries have similar systems.
The WEA system enables authorized national, state, and local government authorities to send alerts about public safety emergencies to mobile devices in the affected area. Also included in the WEA system are AMBER Alerts designed to solicit public information when law enforcement is searching for a missing child. Some US states also broadcast Silver Alerts about missing adults, particularly senior citizens with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other mental disabilities. The alerts are always meant to be useful, either to you or to law enforcement working on a case.
Unfortunately, the alerts aren’t always helpful or well targeted. Worse, they break through the Do Not Disturb cone of silence, and there’s no way to change their tones. You might not appreciate being woken up at 2 AM to be told to look for a white Ford that’s potentially associated with a missing child. Plus, although the AMBER Alerts are generally popular with the public, research suggests that they’re largely ineffective.
More concerningly, the loud noise that accompanies the alerts can be dangerous, either to your hearing if you’re wearing earbuds when the alert comes through, or to your life if you overreact while driving.
In iOS 12 in the US, you’ll see three categories of government alerts at the bottom of Settings > Notifications: AMBER Alerts, Emergency Alerts, and Public Safety Alerts.
In most countries, Apple lets you turn off all three categories, but you could still receive so-called “Presidential Alerts,” which are meant to reach everyone in the country during a national emergency. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which manages the WEA system, tested the Presidential Alert system for the first time in October 2018.
What should you do? It’s entirely up to you, of course, but in most situations, it’s probably best to leave all three alert types enabled. If you find yourself being annoyed by repeated AMBER Alerts or Silver Alerts, particularly if you’re unlikely to be in a location where you could be helpful, you might want to toggle the AMBER Alerts switch off. But the Emergency and Public Safety alerts could be essential, especially if you’re in an area prone to hurricanes or tornadoes.
If you’ve already disabled the alerts because of poor targeting—being notified of something of concern only to people hundreds of miles away is just an interruption—you might consider turning them back on later this year, since the FCC requires carriers to improve the geo-targeting starting November 30th, 2019.
It’s maddening to want to read a serial number or other bit of fine print that you can barely see. But fret no longer—your iPhone or iPad makes a fabulous magnifying glass! Assuming Magnifier is enabled in Settings > General > Accessibility > Magnifier, you can bring it up by pressing the Home button (for Touch ID devices) or side button (for Face ID devices) three times quickly. If that’s too hard to remember, you can also add a Magnifier button to Control Center in Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls. The special camera viewfinder is zoomed automatically, but you can change the zoom level with the slider, tap the flash icon to turn on the LED light (if available on your device), enable a filter to change the color or contrast, or lock the focus by tapping the lock icon. You can also freeze the image by tapping the white shutter button, which is great for grabbing a picture of a tiny serial number on the back of some device (tap that button again to resume using Magnifier). To leave Magnifier, press the Home button or swipe up from the bottom of the screen.