Want to Make Your iPhone and Apple Watch Easier to Read?

If you have 20/20 vision or are still wondering why your parents have reading glasses, count yourself lucky. But if you’re like many people—over 60 percent of the population by some estimates, including most people over 45—reading the tiny text on your iPhone or Apple Watch might be impossible if you don’t happen to have the right pair of glasses handy.

What we really want is a screen that corrects automatically for its user’s individual vision problems—research into such technology has taken place at UC Berkeley and the MIT Media Lab, but real-world products are probably years off. Until then, those of us who need a little help seeing our screens will have to rely on features Apple has built into iOS and watchOS. Try these options:

Increase Text Size

Although not every app supports it, Apple has a technology called Dynamic Type that lets you set your preferred text size. In Settings > Display & Brightness > Text Size, you’ll find a text size slider, and you can see how it affects text in the iOS interface by moving around in the Settings app or looking at Mail.

If you want a size even larger than is available from the Text Sizes screen, you can get that in Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Larger Text. Turn on Larger Accessibility Sizes, and the size slider adds more options.

Bold Text

Sometimes, the problem isn’t so much the size of the text, but how light it can be. In Settings > Display & Brightness, there’s a switch for Bold Text. Turn this on, and all the text on the iPhone will become darker and easier to read.

Where Bold Text really shines for many people is on the Apple Watch. You turn it on in the Accessibility settings in the iPhone’s Watch app. It does require restarting your Apple Watch, but that’s a minor inconvenience. As you can see in the normal (left) and bold (right) examples below, enabling Bold Text can make a real difference when reading text on your wrist.

Display Zoom

If you have difficulty with aspects of the screen other than text, you can use iOS’s Display Zoom feature to expand everything by a bit. The trade-off is that you’ll see less content on the screen at once, of course, but that’s a small price to pay if it makes your iPhone easier to use.

Display Zoom is available on every iPhone since the iPhone 6s except the iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone 11 Pro.

To enable Display Zoom, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > View. Once there, you can compare three sample screens—most notably, you’ll lose a row of icons on the Home screen when zoomed. If you think zoomed view will be easier to read, as in the right-hand screenshot below, tap Zoomed and then tap Set. Your iPhone has to restart, but it’s quick. Unfortunately, if you decide to switch back to standard view, you may need to rearrange your Home screen icons again.

Zoom

The iPhone’s full Zoom feature is particularly useful in two situations. First, it’s easy to invoke and dismiss if you need a quick glance while wearing the wrong pair of glasses. Second, if Display Zoom doesn’t magnify the screen as much as you need, the full zoom may do the job.

Turn it on in Settings > Accessibility > Zoom and zoom in by double-tapping the screen with three fingers. By default, the Zoom Region is set to Window Zoom, which gives you a magnifying lens that you can move around the screen by dragging its handle on the bottom.

Tap the handle to bring up controls that let you zoom out, switch the region to Full Screen Zoom (which can be harder to navigate), resize the lens, filter what you see in the lens (such as grayscale), display a controller for moving the lens, and change the zoom level. To get back to normal view, double-tap with three fingers again.

The Apple Watch features a cut-down set of zoom controls that you can access in the iPhone’s Watch app, in Accessibility > Zoom. All you can do on the Apple Watch is double-tap with two fingers to enable or disable zoom, or drag with two fingers to scroll around while zoomed. Honestly, it’s pretty tricky on the tiny Apple Watch screen, but if you need it, you need it.

So, if you want to be able to use your iPhone and Apple Watch more easily when your reading glasses aren’t handy, try the features described above and find the right mix for your eyes.

(Featured image by Bogdan Cheșa on Unsplash)


Two Quick Tricks You Can Use with the iOS Space Bar

Sure, you know that the Space bar in the iOS virtual keyboard types a space character. But did you realize that if you tap it twice, it inserts a period? (Probably, but if not, now you do.) That’s to make it easier to provide proper punctuation, which will have the added benefit of irritating your kids when you text them. Even better, if you touch and hold the Space bar in iOS 12 or later, that invokes the trackpad mode that lets you move the insertion point around in your text. It’s way easier than previous methods of navigating in text and makes it so you can more easily edit what you write. Which, as a bonus, will also bug your kids.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Rearrange Icons on Your iPhone or iPad Home Screens More Easily

If you have lots of apps on your iPhone or iPad, rearranging their icons on your Home screens by dragging from page to page is tedious. Although the new App Library promised for iOS 14 later this year will help you find apps, rearranging them will still be a manual process. To make organizing your Home screens easier, try using the Dock as a temporary shelf. Touch and hold on any icon and then tap Edit Home Screen (or just start dragging) to start all the icons wiggling. Then, navigate to your rightmost Home screen and drag one icon off the Dock temporarily. Now, for other icons you want to move between screens, drag the icon to the Dock, swipe quickly to view the desired screen, and then drag the icon off the Dock into the position you want. When you’re done, put your original Dock icon back and swipe up (on Face ID devices) or press the Home button (on Touch ID devices) to stop the icons from wiggling.

(Featured image by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels)

Prevent Unsightly Tab Buildup in Safari on Your iPhone and iPad

Whenever you tap a link to open a Web page on your iPhone or iPad, it automatically opens a new tab. Having hundreds of tabs open won’t cause any problems but can make working with tabs clumsy. You can close all tabs—touch and hold the tab button and then tap Close All X Tabs—but you might prefer to prevent them from building up in the first place. To do that in iOS 13, navigate to Settings > Safari > Close Tabs and choose from Manually, After One Day, After One Week, or After One Month.

(Featured image by StartaĂŞ Team on Unsplash)

How to Back Up an iPhone or iPad with Your Mac Running Catalina

One of the most significant changes in macOS 10.15 Catalina was the breakup of the long-standing iTunes app into separate Music, Podcasts, and TV apps. But what about backing up iOS devices, which you also used to do in iTunes? In Catalina, Apple moved this function into the Finder. So if you’ve upgraded to Catalina or bought a new Mac that comes with Catalina, here’s how you can continue to back up your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch in the Finder.

One note first. If you haven’t been using iTunes to back up, manage, and sync media to your device from your Mac all along, we don’t recommend that you start now. Although Apple continues to make these capabilities available for those who need or prefer them, the company focuses most of its efforts on cloud-based services like iCloud Backup, Apple Music, and iCloud Photos. Plus, many of Apple’s apps, like Books, Calendar, Contacts, Podcasts, and TV, can sync their data among all your Apple devices through iCloud. We’re focusing on backup here—for more details about manually syncing media to your iOS device, check out Take Control of macOS Media Apps, by Kirk McElhearn.

Initial Connections

As when you were using iTunes, you’ll need to connect your iOS device to the Mac with a USB cable, either a USB-to-Lightning cable for most devices or a USB-C cable for recent iPad Pro models. When you plug your device into your Mac, it should appear in a Finder window’s sidebar. However, it may not show unless you open Finder > Preferences > Sidebar and select CDs, DVDs, and iOS Devices. (And if it still doesn’t appear, restart your Mac.)

The first time you connect an iOS device to your Mac, you’ll need to establish a trust link between the two devices. That requires that you select the iOS device in a Finder window’s sidebar, click a Trust button that appears, click Trust again on the device itself, and then enter the device’s passcode. This is all very sensible since it prevents someone from stealing your iPhone and connecting to their Mac to read its contents.

Back Up Your Device

Once you’ve jumped through the necessary security hoops, select your device in a Finder window sidebar to view the General screen, which has an interface that’s eerily reminiscent of iTunes. Here’s where you’ll find backup controls, along with a button that lets you update your device’s version of iOS and (not shown) a variety of other general options. Again, we’re focusing on backup here.

You have two choices: storing the backups on iCloud or keeping them on your Mac. Apple has more information comparing the two, but here are the basics:

  1. iCloud backups: Assuming you have enough (or are willing to buy more) storage space in iCloud, select “Back up your most important data on your iPhone to iCloud.” Backing up to iCloud is the best option because it automatically happens once per day whenever the device is connected to power, locked, and on Wi-Fi—for us, that usually means during an overnight charge. Plus, if your Mac has a relatively small SSD, you may not have space to store the backups for a large iOS device. iCloud backups are highly secure and reliable, but there are those who don’t want to pay for sufficient iCloud space or don’t want their data in iCloud.
  2. Local backups: If you prefer, select “Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac.” Be sure to select “Encrypt local backup.” Otherwise, the backup won’t include saved passwords, Wi-Fi settings, browsing history, Health data, and your call history. And anyone breaking into your Mac could access everything else in your iPhone backup! When you select “Encrypt local backup,” you’ll be asked for a password—make sure it’s one you won’t forget.

If you’re going with iCloud backups, you’re done—backups will happen automatically. For local backups, however, click Back Up Now to initiate a backup. Backups can take quite some time—a circular progress indicator replaces the eject button next to the device’s name in the sidebar. That’s a hint that you shouldn’t unplug the device while it’s backing up.

In fact, you don’t have to choose between iCloud and local backups. Nothing prevents you from leaving the default set to iCloud (this mirrors the setting on the device itself in Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup) but occasionally connecting your device to your Mac and clicking Back Up Now to make a secondary local backup, just in case. That would be a sensible thing to do before switching devices or intentionally erasing the device for some reason.

Since iOS device backups can be quite large—up to hundreds of gigabytes—you may need to recover space used by backups for devices you no longer have. Plus, if you switch to iCloud backups at some point, there’s little point in devoting many gigabytes of storage to obsolete backups.

Click Manage Backups to see a list of backups. To delete one, select it and click Delete Backup. You can also Control-click any backup to delete it, archive it (which prevents it from being overwritten by future backups), or show it in the Finder. That last option is useful for determining the size of the folder containing the backup—select it in the Finder and choose File > Get Info.

Finally, backups are useful only if you can restore from them in case of problems. To do that from the Finder in Catalina, connect your iOS device and click Restore Backup. You can choose which backup to restore, if necessary, and enter the password you set for an encrypted backup. Restoring will likely take quite some time, depending on how much data needs to be transferred.

We’ll leave you with one last thought. An eject button appears next to your iOS device in the Finder window’s sidebar. You can click it to disconnect the device or, if there’s no other progress indicator there, just unplug the device.

(Featured image components by Apple)


Do You Know Who Can Track Your Location? It’s Worth Checking Periodically

Sharing your location works well when you’re out with friends or family and want everyone to be able to see where everyone else is. It’s easy to enable in various spots in iOS 13—in Messages, in Contacts, in the Find My app, and so on. You can share your location for an hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely, but beware of this final option. If you’re with a group for a weeklong trip, for instance, sharing indefinitely makes sense, but it’s easy to forget to turn it off, at which point those people can see where you are at all times. We recommend that you periodically audit the list of people with whom you’ve shared your location. To do so in iOS 13, open the Find My app, tap the People button in the bottom toolbar, and look through the list. For anyone you want to delete, swipe left on their name and tap the trash button.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

iPhone Not Charging Reliably? Clean Its Lightning Port with a Toothpick

If you’re plugging your iPhone in regularly but getting low-battery warnings when you shouldn’t, consider the possibility that something is preventing your iPhone from charging successfully while plugged in. If there’s no lightning bolt badge on the battery icon when the iPhone is plugged in, that’s a sure sign that no power is reaching the device. Another hint that failures could be happening intermittently would be a lack of charging in the Last Charge Level graph in Settings > Battery when you know the iPhone was plugged in. Luckily, the solution is often easy. Take a wooden (not metal) toothpick and gently poke around inside the iPhone’s Lightning port for pocket fuzz. You’d be amazed how much crud can end up in there. If cleaning doesn’t solve the problem and you use only a single Lightning cable to charge, try another one.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

How to Choose Between iCloud Photos and My Photo Stream

For quite a few years, Apple enabled users to download their iPhone or iPad photos to their Macs with a service called My Photo Stream. It wasn’t perfect, but it was free, and it did a decent job of ensuring that photos you took on your iPhone or iPad would end up on your Mac.

Then Apple introduced iCloud Photo Library, later renamed to iCloud Photos, which is a full-featured cloud-based photo syncing service. However, because it stores all your photos in the cloud, most people need to purchase more storage from Apple to use it.

As a result, Apple has kept My Photo Stream around, at least for most existing users. (The company says, “If you recently created your Apple ID, My Photo Stream might not be available. If My Photo Stream isn’t available, use iCloud Photos to keep your photos and videos in iCloud.” Huh.) For those who have a choice, which should you use? (On the Mac, you make that choice in Photos > Preferences > iCloud; in iOS, look in Settings > Photos.)

Cost and Storage Details

The key advantages of My Photo Stream over iCloud Photos are that My Photo Stream is completely free and the storage it uses doesn’t count against your iCloud limits.

In contrast, Apple gives every iCloud user 5 GB of free storage, but that’s shared among all your iCloud services, like iCloud Drive and icloud.com email, so it disappears quickly. Most of us have more than 5 GB of photos anyway. You can purchase 50 GB for $0.99 per month, 200 GB for $2.99 per month, or 2 TB for $9.99 per month (prices vary slightly in other countries).

On a pure price basis then, My Photo Stream wins. However, it suffers from other limitations that make it less compelling:

  1. My Photo Stream stores your photos on your iOS devices in a lower resolution to save space and transmission time. On the Mac, however, your photos download in full resolution. In contrast, iCloud Photos lets you choose on each device whether you want original images or optimized versions to save space—full-resolution originals are always stored in iCloud itself.
  2. My Photo Stream manages only the last 30 days of photos and only the last 1000 photos. That’s fine for just transferring photos from your iPhone to your Mac for permanent storage, but your other devices will be able to display only your most recent photos. iCloud Photos stores all your photos as long as you have sufficient space.
  3. When you edit a photo while using My Photo Stream, the edits apply only to the photo you edited, not to versions synced with other devices. With iCloud Photos, all edits you make—on any of your devices—sync to all the rest of your devices.

Supported Formats

There’s another big gotcha with My Photo Stream. It supports only photos and images in JPEG, PNG, and TIFF formats, plus most raw formats. That doesn’t sound terrible until you realize that it doesn’t include Live Photos or any video formats. That’s right—My Photo Stream won’t sync your Live Photos or videos from your iPhone to your Mac at all! You’ll have to move them over manually in some other way.

In comparison, iCloud Photos supports the same still image formats as My Photo Stream and adds GIF, HEIF, and more raw formats, along with Live Photos. Plus, it supports MP4 and HEVC videos. In other words, iCloud Photos will sync all your images and videos, regardless of format.

Supported Devices

Finally, My Photo Stream works on the Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV, and with Windows-based PCs. iCloud Photos extends that list to include the Apple Watch and the iCloud.com Web site. Apple Watch support likely isn’t a dealbreaker for most people, but it can be useful to be able to see all your photos in a Web browser on any computer.

Making the Choice

Technically speaking, you can have both My Photo Stream and iCloud Photos turned on. However, if you’re using iCloud Photos, My Photo Stream doesn’t get you anything, so you should turn it off.

If you’re trying to save money and have more than 5 GB of photos, My Photo Stream works to bring most of your iPhone photos down to your Mac for permanent storage in the Photos app. Just beware that it won’t sync your Live Photos or videos, and any other iOS devices you have will be limited to seeing the last 30 days or 1000 photos.

For most people, though, iCloud Photos is the way to go. It’s easily worth $12 or $36 per year for 50 GB or 200 GB of storage, it syncs all your photos and videos among all your devices, and it even syncs edits.

(Featured image based on originals by Jon Tyson on Unsplash and OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay)


Did You Know You Can Save and Share Voicemail Files from Your iPhone?

For many of us, voicemail replaced answering machines, so we don’t think of voicemail messages as being something we can save or share. But on the iPhone, every voicemail message is just an audio file. If you want to retain a message for posterity or share one with a friend or colleague, you can do that easily. While viewing a voicemail message, tap the share icon to bring up an activity sheet. In it, you can save the file to any app that can handle audio files, or share the file with AirDrop, Messages, Mail, or the like.

(Featured image by Travis Zimmerman from Pixabay)

Use Guided Access to Let Kids and Others Use Your iPhone Temporarily

Let’s get one thing straight. You know that you should never, ever share your iPhone or iPad passcode with anyone you don’t trust implicitly, like a spouse or adult child, right? That’s because, with your iOS passcode, someone could change your Apple ID password, and if you use iCloud for email, completely steal or otherwise abuse your online identity. (Scared? Good. If you’ve given anyone your passcode, go change it right now. We’ll wait.)

So if sharing your passcode is such a terrible idea, how do you let someone else use your iPhone or iPad temporarily? Perhaps you want to let your kid play a game in the car while you focus on tricky winter driving. Or maybe you time running races with an iPhone app and want someone to do the timing without giving them full access to your iPhone. Whatever the reason you want to give someone limited access to a single app in iOS 13, the solution is Guided Access.

Enabling and Configuring Guided Access

To turn Guided Access on, navigate to Settings > Accessibility > Guided Access (it’s near the bottom), and flick the switch. While you’re here, check out the remaining settings:

  • Passcode Settings: Create a passcode for getting out of Guided Access here (it can be different than your normal one), and choose whether you can use Touch ID or Face ID to exit as well.
  • Time Limits: You don’t set time limits here, but you can set audio and spoken warnings before the time runs out.
  • Accessibility Shortcut: Enable this if you also use triple-click for another Accessibility Shortcut like Magnifier.
  • Display Auto-Lock: Choose how long the device can be inactive before the screen turns off. If the Guided Access user wakes up the device, they’ll still be in Guided Access.

With those settings configured, switch to the desired app and triple-click the side or Home button, and if necessary, tap Guided Access in the Accessibility Shortcut list. You can do five things:

  • Set session-specific options: Tap Options in the lower-right corner to access various switches. If they’re disabled:
    • Side Button or Sleep/Wake Button: The user can’t put the device to sleep.
    • Volume Buttons: The user can’t change the volume.
    • Motion: The screen doesn’t change from the orientation (portrait or landscape) it was in when you started Guided Access.
    • Touch: The user can’t do anything with the screen at all—probably most appropriate for letting a young child watch a video.
    • Dictionary Lookup: Prevents word lookups in some apps.
  • Set time limits: At the bottom of the Options list, tap Time Limit and set an amount of time after which the device can’t be used until you enter the Guided Access passcode.
  • Disable specific areas on the screen: Draw circles around parts of the screen you want to make off-limits to the user. After making a circle, you can move it by dragging it, resize it by dragging any of its handles, or remove it by tapping its X button.
  • Start/Resume Guided Access: In the upper-right corner, tap Start. If you haven’t yet set a passcode, you’ll be prompted to do that.
  • Exit the setup screen: In the upper-left corner, tap End.

Using Guided Access

Once you tap Start, iOS tells you it’s entering Guided Access and lets you use the current app with the restrictions you’ve applied. If you decide that the restrictions aren’t right, triple-click the side or Home button to return to the setup screen. When you’re done, tap Resume in the upper-right corner.

To leave Guided Access, triple-click the side or Home button, enter the passcode, and in the setup screen, tap End in the upper-left corner.

That’s it! Once you understand the various limitations of Guided Access, you’ll be able to turn it on and off quickly whenever you need to let someone use your iPhone or iPad for a while.

(Featured image by mohamed Abdelgaffar from Pexels)