Understanding Touch ID on iOS

Touch ID is one the more innovative things to come to iOS. It’s not just for unlocking your device. It also lets you make payments, authenticate a purchase in the App Store, and as of iOS 11 grant trusted access to a computer you connect your device to. Where Touch ID is incredibly powerful and convenient to use, it can be a security risk too. Touch ID is much easier to use to unlock a phone then say entering the passcode. If we’re talking about legal rights, you can’t be made to give up your passcode but you might coerced to use your Touch ID. Fortunately you can disable Touch ID from the lock screen in iOS.

Open the Settings app and go to Emergency SOS. Turn off the ‘Autocall’ option. That’s all. Now, whenever you need to disable Touch ID from the lock screen, simply press the power button five times in quick succession.

You will see the following screen. You can tap ‘Cancel’ if you have the time or you can do nothing and the screen will dismiss itself. After that, if you try to use Touch ID to unlock your phone, it won’t work. You will need to enter your passcode to get to your phone. Once you enter the passcode though, Touch ID can be used to unlock your phone again.

If you have the ‘Autocall’ feature enabled and don’t want to turn it off you can still use this feature but with extreme caution. Clicking the power button five times will automatically initiate the emergency call. If you aren’t experiencing an emergency then you have to cancel the call before the timer runs out. If you think you won’t be able to cancel it then it’s best to turn off your phone.

When you turn off your phone, and turn it on again, Touch ID is disabled by default. You will have to enter your passcode to unlock it. This might be a slightly inconvenient way to disable Touch ID but if you’re in a hurry, it works. Yet another alternative way is to use the wrong finger to unlock your phone. After five consecutive failed attempts to unlock the phone, Touch ID will be disabled.

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Facebook’s Updates It’s Look

Facebook’s mobile apps are getting a new look, though blink and you might miss some of the changes.

The most obvious update is coming to comments, which now look a lot more like a conversation in your average messaging app rather than than a series of posts. This falls in line with Facebook’s recent desktop tests, which display comment threads a bit more like group chats.

The idea is to make comments a bit more readable, and make it easier to see who’s replying directly to another person.

Facebook might also be trying to subtly make conversations with strangers a bit more friendly. The text bubble’s resemblance to a messaging app could make it feel more like you’re actually having a personal conversation with participants, rather than replying to a random internet thread.

Less obvious are the changes to the News Feed. Facebook is using a brighter shade of blue and has increased color contrast overall to make text more readable. The link previews are slightly larger – they now take up the entire width of your screen – and the Like, Comment, and Share buttons are now larger.

Throughout the new design, Facebook has also replaced it’s silhouette style icons with more iOS-like wireframes – for better or for worse. I like them, but your mileage may vary.

There are also other small tweaks like a more prominent back button and the ability to see where a link will take you before clicking on it.  The whole shebang looks a fair bit more like Instagram now.

Oh, and Facebook pulled a Twitter, switching perfectly fine square profile photos for circular ones.

Facebook will be rolling out the new design “over the coming weeks,” so you may not see it just yet. The new look certainly isn’t the most dramatic overhaul Facebook’s ever seen, but seems to mostly be for the better.

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New Google Earth on iOS

Google on Wednesday released its major Google Earth update for iPhone and iPad users.

The new version of Google Earth includes 64-bit processor support, a redesign, and its new Voyager feature for flyover views. Google is including 64-bit processor support just in time for iOS 11, which won’t support 32-bit apps.

Image result for google earth ios

Voyager allows users to interact with guided tours of popular tourist destinations and famous landmarks, providing more context of the location and the ability to virtually fly through it.

Google has included multi-day intineraries for 17 cities under the Travel category, including “Paris with Kids” and “Beyond the Beaches of Rio de Janeiro.” Google said there are more than 140 stories in eight languages available. Knowledge cards also provide interesting facts about a location.

The big Google Earth update was first available on Android and web browsers in April. For iOS users, the update is now available to download on the App Store.

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Microsoft Kill’s It’s Windows Keyboard for iOS

This is a sad day for me as another little piece of Microsoft’s Window Phone is being taken away.

Microsoft is removing Word Flow from the App Store. This means that the critically acclaimed keyboard app will no longer be available to iOS users who haven’t already downloaded it. And those that have face the prospect of Word Flow never being updated again. Because that’s how Microsoft rolls.

Having failed with their “Windows Phone” Microsoft began releasing several apps including Word Flow for iOS. Word Flow being a keyboard app designed to replicate the Windows Phone typing experience on your iPhone. Microsoft released Word Flow in April 2016, and gave it a major update adding GIF search and other features in August 2016. You can check out my April 25, 2016 review of Word Flow here.

Now, Microsoft is delisting Word Flow on the App Store. This means that while existing users will be able to carry on using Word Flow (without any future updates or support) new users are being denied the opportunity to try Word Flow out for themselves.

On the Microsoft Garage website, Microsoft describes the Windows Phone keyboard app as “an iOS app with a blazing fast keyboard that comes with search (GIFs, restaurants, and more), free customization options and includes Arc mode for comfortable one-handed typing.”

That one-handed typing is what separated Word Flow from the crowd. Once you got the hang of it Word Flow could speed up your typing, and all while leaving one hand free for other things.

Microsoft is advising Word Flow users to download SwiftKey instead because the former acquired the latter in early 2016. And this acquisition is probably why Microsoft is killing Word Flow in the first place. Let’s just hope the one-handed typing feature now makes it into SwiftKey.

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Apple Releases iOS 10.3 Update

Today Apple rolled out iOS 10.3.3 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch on Wednesday. While the update itself is little more than a collection of bug fixes and security improvements, there’s a chance that this could be the last major iOS 10 update with iOS 11 deep in development and set to release to the public in September.

On the whole, iOS 10.3 wasn’t a major upgrade for the mobile operating system. In fact, the most substantial upgrade was invisible, as Apple replaced the HFS+ file system with the new Apple File System (APFS). Other additions include the Find My AirPods feature, a new Podcasts widget and updated app transition animations that you may or may not have even noticed.

If you recall I had upgraded to the iOS 11 Public Beta last month but after about two weeks I downgraded back to iOS 10 dues to countless issues.

I recommend you go over to Settings – General – Software Update and upgrade your iPhone, of course if you have an iPhone.

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iOS 11 Beta – Not Ready for Prime Time

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the iOS 11 public beta. As always I installed a beta from a popular OS (iOS & Windows) so you don’t have to. In respect to Public Beta of iOS 11 I decided to run the operating system on my iPhone, which has turned out to be a terrible decision.

I’ve been running it for a little over a week now, and what a painful week it has been.

Image result for ios 11 public beta

Yes, iOS 11 brings with it a number of improvements, mostly in the form of user interface tweaks such as an improved Control Center, and a raft of new features such as screen recording and augmented reality support.

But the iOS 11 public beta also brings with it a lot of pain and suffering.

Now before you start bashing at your keyboards yelling at me – telling me about how this is a beta and that’s to be expected from a beta, take a deep breath. I have been running beta versions of Windows and iOS for years. So – yes, I know it’s a beta, and I went into this with my eyes fully open.

For a public beta, this release is really – really flakey and temperamental, and the worst I remember from Apple in years. Not only is it buggy, crashy, and incredibly slow, but a lot of stuff is also badly broken. I’ve seen a whole host of bugs, ranging from Control Center bugs, notification bugs, camera bugs, and Wi-Fi, cellular, and Bluetooth all seem unstable in this release. One major problem is that text messaging crashes often while typing. Talk about frustrating!

I wouldn’t call any of the bugs show-stopping, but it definitely feels like death through a thousand cuts.

It also breaks apps. I don’t mean the old 32-bit apps that have been on the chopping blockfor some time, but apps that worked fine under iOS 10 are really buggy under iOS 11. Crashes are way up, and I’m also seeing a lot of weird UI bugs, even in well-established apps such as Google Chrome.

Even browsing with Google Chrome is currently broken.

Oh, and before you ask, battery life is terrible.

It seems app developers are going to have to do a lot of work to make their offerings ready for iOS 11. And they only have a few weeks to do it.

If you are still desperate to try out the iOS 11 beta and don’t have access to an old device that you can sacrifice, I strongly recommend taking many precautions, which will protect your data and also give you a way back to iOS 10 if you decided you’ve had enough. However I strongly recommend avoiding this public beta.

But my advice for now is that unless you’re a developer, just steer clear of iOS 11 for now. It’s just not worth the headache, and will just leave you feeling sad, angry, or frustrated.

Apple has a lot of work to do ahead of the September release.

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iOS 11 Arrives on My iPhone!

The moment I have been waiting for is finally here. iOS 11 public beta 1 has been released, which means I was finally able to install it on my iPhone. It was fairly effortless to upgrade to iOS 11 from my existing iOS 10.3.2 installation.

As always I am placing my iPhone at risk so you, my dedicated readers don’t have to. What will the new iOS bring to your iPhone? Here is what I have found since I updated mine with the iOS 11 Beta.

Image result for ios 11 public beta

What Does iOS 11 Change?

The iOS aesthetic has undergone some major changes over the years, but that’s not really the case here if you’re using an iPhone. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a difference until you swipe up in search of that flashlight. The iOS Control Center no longer looks like a handful of pages with quick options; it’s a more condensed cluster of buttons and controls that you can finally customize. I appreciate Apple squeezing all of this functionality into one place; it generally works well, and if your iOS device supports 3D Touch, you can press on these icons to access more controls. That said, I’ve already screwed up my screen brightness while trying to close Control Center maybe a thousand times, and I’m not sure I love the look either.

You can also view all your recent notifications from the home screen just by swiping up from your lock screen, which is nice if you need to get caught up on things quickly. That said, if you’re a digital pack rat (like me) and never clear your notifications, this is a great way to see iOS lag.

You’ll also see a big focus on big text: It’s meant to be clear and visually punchy, but if you didn’t like the Apple Music redesign, you’re probably not going to like this either. That bold approach is used everywhere to some extent, from the Messages app to your list of albums in Photos. The best new example, however, is the revamped App Store. It’s not just a place with lists of apps (though those still exist) — it’s more curated, and there’s a strong editorial bent. Featured apps get miniature articles (crafted with help from the developers), lots of big imagery, and more video to help explain what makes them so special. It kind of feels like Apple squeezed a teensy blog into the App Store.

And for the first time, games and apps are kept separate from one another. Sifting through these distinct lists is definitely more convenient than before, but it mostly benefits developers. With these lists now separate, apps won’t get pushed down in the Top Paid and Free lists by whatever the buzzy game of the moment is.

A Smarter iOS

Apple’s pushing the concept of “intelligence” really hard with this release. With Core ML, developers will be able to weave machine learning features into their apps, and hopefully make them more responsive to our desires and behaviors. Too bad none of those apps are ready yet. There’s still one concrete example of Apple’s pronounced focus on intelligence here, though: Siri.

For one, it sounds profoundly more natural than before. There are still small tells that you’re talking to a collection of algorithms, but the line between listening to Siri and listening to an actual person is growing strangely thin. (You’ll notice the improved voice in other places too, like when Apple Maps is giving you directions.) Hell, Siri even sounds good when you ask it to translate something you’ve just said in English into Spanish, French, German or Chinese.

It’s also able to act on more unorthodox requests like “play me something sad,” which happens to launch a playlist called “Tearjerkers.” And if you’re tired of hearing Siri altogether, you can now type queries and commands to it instead. Unfortunately, you’ll have to disable the ability to talk to Siri in the process. Ideally, Apple wouldn’t be so binary about this, but there’s at least one workaround. Worst-case scenario, you can enable dictation for the keyboard, tap the button and start chatting with it.

If some of this sounds familiar, that’s because Siri actually has a lot in common with Google Assistant. While the feature gap between the two assistants is closing, Google is still better for answering general-purpose questions. Apple’s working on it, though. The company says Siri now pulls more answers from Wikipedia, which may be true, but you’ll still just get search results most of the time.

More important, the underlying intelligence that makes Siri work has been woven into other apps. Siri can help suggest stories you might be interested in inside the News app, and if you register for an event within Safari, Siri will add it to your calendar.

Going Social with iOS 11

Sometimes I wonder why Apple doesn’t just go all out and create its own social media service. Then I remember it did. It was called Ping, and it flopped hard. So it’s a little worrying to see Apple bake a stronger social element into Apple Music. At least the company’s approach this time is based on delivering features people actually use. In addition to creating a profile (which only partially mattered before), you can now share your playlists and follow other users. Sound familiar? Well, it would if you were a Spotify user. Apple’s attempts to stack up more favorably against major social services doesn’t end here, either.

With the addition of new features, iMessage has become an even more competent competitor to apps like Line and Facebook Messenger. You want stickers and stuff? Apple made it easier to skim through all of your installed iMessage apps, so you can send bizarro visuals to your friends quickly. You’ll get a handful of new, full-screen iMessage effects for good measure, and it’s not hard to see how the newfound ability to send money through iMessage itself could put a dent in Venmo’s fortunes.

And then there’s the most social tool of all: the camera app. The all-too-popular Portrait mode has apparently been improved, though I’ve been hard-pressed to tell the difference. (It’ll officially graduate from beta when iOS 11 launches later this year.) You’ll also find some new filters, but the most fun additions are some Live photo modes. You can take the tiny video clip associated with a Live Photo and make it loop, or reverse itself, or even blur to imitate a long exposure. Just know this: If you try to send these new Live Photos to anyone not on iOS 11, they just get a standard Live Photo.

iPad Focus

The new update brings welcome changes to iPhones, but it completely overhauls the way iPads work. This is a very good thing. Thanks in large part to the dock, which acts similar to the one in macOS, they’re much better multitaskers. You can pull up the dock while using any other app to either switch what you’re doing or get two apps running next to each other.

Just drag an app from the dock into the main part of the screen and it’ll start running in a thin, phone-like window. Most apps I’ve tested work just fine in this smaller configuration, since they’re meant to scale across different-sized displays. And you can move these windows apps around as needed. To get them running truly side by side, just swipe down — that locks them into the Split View we’ve had since iOS 9.

Having those apps next to each other means you can drag and drop images, links or text from one window into the other. This feels like a revelation compared with having to copy and paste, or saving an image to your camera roll so you could insert it somewhere else. Now it just needs more buy-in from developers. Literally all I want to do sometimes is drag a photo from the new Files app into Slack to share it, but that’s just not possible yet.

Oh, right, there’s a Files app now. It’s another one of those things that do what the name implies: You can manage stuff you’ve saved directly on your iPad, along with other services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Those third-party integrations are sort of theoretical right now, though: Dropbox sync isn’t ready yet, and navigating your Google Drive doesn’t really work the way it’s supposed to. It’s a great idea in concept, and I can’t wait to try it when it actually works.

When you’re done dragging and dropping, one upward swipe on the dock launches the new multitasking view. The most annoying part of this new workflow isn’t how your recent apps are laid out as a grid instead of the usual cards. No, it’s that you can’t just swipe up on those cards to close an app like you used to; you have to long-press the card and hit a tiny X to do that. I get that it’s more akin to the way you delete apps, but the original gesture was so much more intuitive and elegant. Otherwise, sifting through open apps to pick up where you left off is a breeze.

That said, it’s odd to see the Control Center to the right of those app windows. Having all these extra control toggles shoved into the side of the screen looks kind of lousy to me, but don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of thoughtful touches on display here. Consider the new on-screen keyboard: Instead of tapping a button to switch layouts for punctuation and numbers, you can just swipe down on a key to invoke the alternate character. I still haven’t gotten completely used to it, but I’m much faster than I was on day one. Hopefully, your muscle memory resets more easily than mine. The Notes app also has been updated with the ability to scan documents on the fly, which has already made my life easier when I’m filing work expenses.

And don’t forget about the Apple Pencil. It was always kind of a hassle going through multiple steps before I started writing a note — you had to unlock the iPad, open Notes and tap a button to enable pen input. Now I can just tap the lock screen with my Pencil and I’m already writing. Longtime readers probably know my handwriting sucks, but it’s generally clean enough for iOS to parse it, so I can search for things I’ve written straight from Spotlight. Tapping a result brings up my note, and, even in its unfinished state, it’s honestly a little crazy how fast Apple’s handwriting interpretation works. Then again, Apple is pushing on-device machine=learning processes like this in a big way, so if we’re lucky, behavior like this will be the rule, not the exception.

These are all valuable improvements, and I’m sure I’ll wind up using these features a lot. At this point, though, I still wouldn’t choose an iPad over a traditional notebook or convertible as my primary machine. The situation will improve as more app developers embed support for all these features into their software, but the foundation still doesn’t seem to be as flexible as I need.

Little Changes That Matter

As always, there are lots of little changes baked into these releases that don’t require a ton of words. Let’s see…

  • There’s a handy one-handed keyboard in iOS 11, but it’s disabled by default. I have no idea why.
  • When you’re on a FaceTime call, you can now take a screenshot of what you’re seeing without that pesky box with your own face in it.
  • Do Not Disturb While Driving is good at knowing when you’re using an iPhone in a car — just be sure to add a toggle for it in the Control Center for when you’re a passenger.
  • It’s basically impossible to miss when an app starts using your location: You’ll see a blue banner at the top of the screen telling you as much.

Even in its unfinished state, iOS 11 seems promising, especially for iPad users. I’ve always maintained that iOS 10 was a release meant to weave Apple’s sometimes disparate features and services into a platform that felt more whole. It was maybe a little unglamorous, but it was necessary. When iOS 11 launches in the fall, we’ll be able to get a better sense of its character and value.

 

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Sonic Heads to Your Smartphone

Following in the tradition of Nintendo – Sega is making a comeback, thanks to your smartphone. The legendary video games company has launched Sega Forever, which is devoted to keeping the Sega name alive long into the future. And what better way to do that than to reach back into the past and bring classic Sega games to your smartphone.

Sonic I didn’t realize how much I missed you. Welcome to my iPhone!

There was a time, not so long ago, when Sega was the biggest games company on the face of the planet. In terms of consoles, the Genesis was a major success. And then there are the famous characters, such as Sonic the Hedgehog.

And then Sega released the Dreamcast, a woefully underrated console, and the whole thing went belly-up. Sega still exists, and still makes arcade machines and games for other consoles. And now, thanks to Sega Forever,the old Sega magic is back. Its a little bit smaller but more mobile then ever before.

Keeping Classic Sega Games Alive Forever

Sega Forever is the new banner under which dozens of classic Sega games will be released on Android and iOS. The games will be be available as free to play with supported by ads and ad-free for a one time payment of $1.99 (per title).

Sega has kicked things off with five Genesis titles: Sonic the HedgehogComix ZoneAltered BeastKid Chameleon, and Phantasy Star II. New games will be launched every two weeks, with titles from the Master System, the Game Gear, the Saturn, and the Dreamcast still to come.

All Sega Forever titles will be available to play offline, with online leaderboards available for those who like comparing their talents with others. The older Sega titles will be brought to smartphones thanks to emulation, while the more recent titles will require full ports to iOS and Android.

My biggest complaint here is that the free ad-supported version is truly annoying. The ads are everywhere and very intrusive. If you want to truly experience that old Sega magic spend the $1.99 on the ad-free version.

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iPhone Battery Saving Tips

How is the battery on your iPhone? Do you find that it’s running out of power long before your day is done? This is one of the most common problems I hear. The first thing that most complainers of a “bad battery” state to me is that “I hope my battery isn’t going bad”. The good news is that very often it is not the battery that is bad – but a problem with one of the apps or settings on your phone.

The challenge here is that you need to be a detective to figure out what is draining your battery. I have some things you can try if you are a victim of a “bad battery” on your iPhone.

Lets take a look at some things you can do to improve the battery life of your iPhone before you drop hard earned cash on a new one.

First head over to Settings > Battery and take a look at the Battery Usage list. Tap anywhere on the list to change it from showing percentages to also show you a breakdown of how much screen time and background time the running apps are taking.

What to do if your iPhone has a battery drain issue
Battery Usage screen in iOS

Remember that while some apps — the Music app for example — are designed to work in the background, most apps are not and could be the cause of the problem.

While you’re here also look to see if you have No Cell Coverage on the list. If this is responsible for high battery usage then you’ve found your problem — being out of cell coverage or in an area with poor coverage. If this figure is high, try putting the iPhone into Airplane Mode when cell coverage is poor (you can still turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth independently) and see if that helps.

If you notice an app with unexplained high background usage then you may have solved your problem. Go into Settings > General > Background App Refresh and turn off background refresh for that specific app.

After you’ve done this it is a good idea to check to see if the battery drain issue is any better by repeating the tests you carried out here. If things are now good, then you’re done. If things are better then look for another app that may be working in the background where it shouldn’t and switch that off too. And if things are no better, undo the change you made previously.

Push Email

Another feature that could be draining your battery is push email, which can actually prevent your iPhone from going to sleep properly.

Head over to Settings > Mail > Accounts > Fetch New Data and temporarily disable push and see if that helps. If you have multiple email accounts coming to your handset then you can click on them separately and disable push separately and see if that works.

I find that push works well for iCloud accounts but routinely causes problems with other third-party email providers.

Get your apps under control

Apps can have an indirect effect on battery life in a couple of ways.

  • Working in the background.
  • Popping up notifications

This is why you need to get your apps under control. Here are a few ways to do that.

  • Delete apps you are not using
  • For apps that you don’t use much, disable features such as notifications (Settings > Notifications), background refresh (Settings > General > Background App Refresh), and also location services (Settings > Privacy > Locations Services).

If all else fails…

If none of the above helped you narrow down the battery drain problem you are facing then you’re down to a few final options:

  • Wipe your iPhone and either reinstall everything from a backup (which risks bringing the problem back) or setting it up from scratch (which is time consuming).
  • Take your iPhone to an Apple Store and let the Geniuses attempt to fix it by laying their healing hands on it.
  • Carry a portable battery pack with you to recharge during the day. This can be a great cost saving solution that at least will allow you to save some time before going out any buying a new phone.

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BigKeys for Big Hands On Your iPhone

If you are like me you sometimes wish that either the keyboard on your iPhone was bigger or that your hands were smaller. While I can’t really help you with the size of your hands I can give you a tip how to make your iPhone Keyboard a little bigger.

Now that’s a keyboard I can work with!

If the size of the keys on the built in iPhone keyboard has ever caused you frustration I have an app for you try out.

Because iOS supports third-party keyboards there are a couple of good solutions out there for replacing the built-in keyboard. One of my favorite keyboards for the iPhone is Microsoft’s Wordflow. I have written about this nifty little keyboard a couple of times and you can check out those articles here if you are interested. However if all you really need is an app that gives you bigger keys on your keyboard I might just have a solution for you.

If you are looking to increase the size of your keyboard check out Big Keys. It’s an iOS app normally worth $2.99 but is free at the moment. Big Keys lets you increase the size of the keyboard keys. It works best in landscape mode but it does help in portrait mode as well.

How to Try out Big Keys

Download and install Big Keys from the App Store. You then need to add the app as a keyboard. Open the Settings app. Go to General>Keyboard, and add a new keyboard. From the list of keyboards, select Big Keys.

Next, open any app that you can type in. Tap the globe key and select ‘Big Key’ from the available keyboards to switch to it.

You will also need to open the app (it has it’s own icon) to customization the text & emoji sizes.

This app is not perfect but it is simple and may help if you have trouble with the keyboard size.

Good Luck if you give it a try!

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