It happens to the best of us, we become overwhelmed by notifications form your iPhone or iPad, particularly with chatty friends or apps. In iOS 12, Apple added a new feature and they are now grouping notifications into stacks so you no longer see an endless screen of alerts. To expand a stack of notifications on either the Lock screen or in Notification Center (to get to the Notification Center, swipe down from the top of the screen). From there tap the stack. Once you’ve expanded a stack, you can tap Show Less to restack it, tap the X button to remove the entire stack, or tap any individual notification to open it. By default, iOS 12 groups notifications intelligently, which might entail separate stacks for different Messages conversations, for instance. If that’s still too much, you can go to Settings > Notifications > App Name > Notification Grouping and tap By App to collect every notification from the app into the same stack.
If you’ve been using iOS 11 or an earlier version of iOS on your iPad, you probably know that you need to swipe up from the bottom of your iPad to get to the Control Center. This works the same on the iPhone prior to iOS 12. But with the iPhone X introduced last year, Apple changed that behavior, you needed to swipe down from the upper right corner of the iPhone X. With iOS 12, Apple brought the iPad in line with the iPhone X and the recently released iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen on the iPad now reveals the Dock, and if you continue swiping, the App Switcher. But no Control Center! To bring up Control Center, swipe down from the upper-right corner of the screen. If you need a reminder, use the Wi-Fi and battery icons as a reminder.
Are you feeling left behind because you don’t have the latest iPhone or iPad? Don’t, because Apple’s new operating system, iOS 12, promises to increase performance, particularly for older devices as far back as the iPhone 5s and iPad Air.
Also, iOS 12 offers more than just a speed boost. Sure there are some fun features, but iOS 12 helps you use your device less. That’s important, as it becomes increasingly obvious that many people spend more time than they’d like on addictive social media apps, games, and cat videos.
The big feature for helping you control device usage is Screen Time. Found in the Settings app, Screen Time reports on how much time you spend using different apps, how often you pick up your device, and how many notifications interrupt you. You can check it anytime and get weekly reports, and use this information to help you reduce undesirable usage.
In addition to viewing your time on your iOS device, Screen Time has two helpful options, Downtime and App Limits. With Downtime, you can specify a time period when you can only receive phone calls and use specific apps you set in Always Allowed. App Limits let you set how long you may use certain categories of apps.
Even better, you can set Downtime and App Limits for a child’s iPhone or iPad, ensuring that they can’t play games after bedtime or text their friends during dinner.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with notifications, especially if you have chatty friends in messaging apps. iOS 12 can reduce the impact of non-stop notifications. On the Lock screen, iOS 12 now groups message threads and multiple notifications from the same app. Tapping a group expands it so you can see the details.
Plus, with a feature called Instant Tuning, you can change notification settings for an app right from a notification – I love this new feature. Swipe left on a notification and tap Manage. Instant Tuning also lets you send notifications to Notification Center silently so they don’t interrupt you but are available later.
Do Not Disturb
In the “it’s about time” department, iOS 12 beefs up Do Not Disturb so it works more the way people do. When you bring up Control Center and force-touch or tap and hold on the Do Not Disturb button, it expands to let you turn on Do Not Disturb for 1 hour, for the rest of the day, until you leave your current location, or until a scheduled meeting is done. The beauty of these new options is that they disable Do Not Disturb automatically so you don’t have to remember—and potentially miss important notifications. Plus, a new Bedtime option in Settings > Do Not Disturb dims the display and silences overnight notifications until you unlock your device in the morning.
Another new feature, Siri Shortcuts, aims to help you use your device more effectively. As Siri learns your routines, it will start suggesting shortcuts for common actions, either on the Lock screen or when you pull down on the Home screen to search. You can see its suggestions in Settings > Siri & Search > All Shortcuts, and for those that seem useful, record a custom phrase that will start the shortcut. Plus, a new Shortcuts app that you can download from the App Store lets you create more complex shortcuts that can run multiple steps at once.
Those may be the most significant changes in iOS 12, but they’re far from the only ones. Here’s a sampling of other refinements you’ll notice:
- Apple has redesigned the iBooks app and renamed it Books. Look for a tutorial on this soon.
- The News, Stocks, and Voice Memos apps also received redesigns, Stocks and Voice Memos are now available on the iPad, and all three have made the jump to the Mac in Mojave, with their data synced via iCloud. Look for tutorials on these soon as well.
- A new Measure app uses augmented reality to help you measure objects in the real world.
- In Settings > Battery, iOS 12 shows graphs of battery usage and activity for the last 24 hours or the last 10 days.
There’s an Internet saying: “If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” The point is that, if you’re getting a service for free, the company providing it sees you not as a customer, but as a product to sell, generally to advertisers.
This is how Google, Facebook, and Twitter operate. They provide services for free, collect data about you, and make money by showing you ads. In theory, the more that advertisers know about you, the better they can target ads to you, and the more likely you’ll be to buy. Personalized advertising can seem creepy (or clueless, when it fails), but it isn’t inherently evil, and we’re not suggesting that you stop using ad-supported services.
This ad-driven approach stands in stark contrast to how Apple does business. Apple makes most of its money by selling hardware—iPhones, Macs, and iPads, primarily. Another big chunk of Apple’s revenue comes from App Store and iTunes Store sales, iCloud subscriptions, and Apple Pay fees. Knowing more about you, what Web pages you visit, what you buy, and who you’re friends with doesn’t help Apple’s business, and on its Privacy page, Apple says bluntly, “We believe privacy is a fundamental human right.”
Of course, once your data is out there, it can be lost or stolen — in June 2018, a security researcher discovered that the online data broker Exactis was exposing a database containing 340 million records of data on hundreds of millions of American adults. Ouch!
Let’s look at a few of the ways that Apple protects your privacy.
Siri and Dictation The longer you use Siri and Dictation, the better they work, thanks to your devices transmitting data back to Apple for analysis. However, Apple creates a random identifier for your data rather than associating the information with your Apple ID, and if you reset Siri by turning it off and back on, you’ll get a new random identifier. Whenever possible, Apple keeps Siri functionality on your device, so if you search for a photo by location or get suggestions after a search, those results come from local data only.
Touch ID and Face ID When you register your fingerprints with Touch ID or train Face ID to recognize your face, it’s reasonable to worry about that information being stored where attackers—or some government agency—could access it and use it for nefarious purposes. Apple was concerned about that too, so these systems don’t store images of your fingerprints or face, but instead mathematical signatures based on them. Those signatures are kept only locally, in the Secure Enclave security coprocessor that’s part of the CPU of the iPhone and iPad—and on Touch ID-equipped laptops—in such a way that the images can’t be reverse engineered from the signatures.
And, of course, a major goal of Touch ID and Face ID is to prevent someone from violating your privacy by accessing your device directly.
Health and Fitness People with medical conditions can be concerned about health information impacting health insurance bills or a potential employer’s hiring decision. To assuage that worry, Apple lets you choose what information ends up in Health app, and once it’s there, encrypts it whenever your iPhone is locked. Plus, any Health data that’s backed up to iCloud is encrypted both in transit and when it’s stored on Apple’s servers.
App Store Guidelines A linchpin in Apple’s approach to privacy is its control over the App Store. Since developers must submit apps to Apple for approval, Apple can enforce stringent guidelines that specify how apps can ask for access to your data (location, photos, contacts, etc.). This isn’t a blanket protection—for instance, if you allow a social media app Facebook to access your contacts and location, the company behind that app will get lots of data on your whereabouts and can even cross-reference that with the locations of everyone in your contact list who also uses the service.
In the end, only you can decide how much information you want to share with the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and only you can determine if or when their use of your details feels like an invasion of privacy. But by using Apple products and services, you can be certain that the company that could know more about you than any other is actively trying to protect your privacy.
Unfortunately data breaches have become commonplace. Online thieves are constantly breaking into corporate and government servers and making off with millions—or even hundreds of millions!—of email addresses. In some case these thieves will also get other personal information like names, physical address, and passwords.
This may not seem like a big deal – who cares if someone reads the local newspaper under your name? But since many people reuse the same passwords across multiple sites, these thieves will take that password and test it against other sites, possibly getting into other sites of yours that are more personal.
Password security hasn’t always been a big deal on the Internet, and many people reused passwords regularly in the past. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if any of your information was included in a data breach, so you’d know which passwords to change?
A free service called Have I Been Pwned does just this (“pwned” is hacker-speak for “owned” or “dominated by”—it rhymes with “owned”). Run by Troy Hunt, Have I Been Pwned gathers the email addresses associated with data breaches and lets you search to see if your address was stolen in any of the archived data breaches. Even better, you can subscribe to have the service notify you if your address shows up in any future breaches.
Needless to say, you’ll want to change your password on any site that has suffered a data breach, and if you reused that password on any other sites, give them new, unique passwords as well. If you use a different password for each site, even if one of your passwords was compromised, attackers can’t break into any of your other accounts.
I recommend you take some time to check for and update compromised, vulnerable, and weak passwords. Start with more important sites, and, as time permits, move on to accounts that don’t contain confidential information.
If you aren’t familiar with Apple’s AirPlay feature, Airplay makes it possible to stream audio from an iOS device or Mac to an AirPlay-enabled speaker, AirPort Express base station, or most recently, a HomePod. Because AirPlay transfers sound over a Wi-Fi network, it eliminates the need for stereo wires and lets you put your speakers where you want them.
Back in June 2017, Apple announced AirPlay 2. With Airplay 2 you could play the same song on multiple speakers (with AirPlay 1, this is possible only in iTunes on the Mac) or play different songs on different speakers. Subsequently, Apple released the HomePod, promising to add multi-room audio and stereo sound with linked HomePods in the future. All these new features requiring Airplay 2.
Apple recently released three updates—iOS 11.4, tvOS 11.4, and HomePod 11.4—with an eye toward delivering AirPlay 2 and these promised features. Once you’ve installed these updates, here’s how to start enjoying AirPlay 2’s improvements (What OS are you running?).
AirPlay 2 in iOS
To take advantage of the multi-room audio capabilities on your iPhone or iPad, start playing some audio. Then open Control Center and press the audio card to expand it. Now tap the AirPlay button in the upper right. You will see a list of available output devices; those that support AirPlay 2 have a circle to the right of the name. Tap one or more of those circles to send the audio to that speaker. If an app has its own AirPlay button, you can also tap that to access the same controls.
The iPhone can’t play audio simultaneously with an AirPlay 2 speaker, which is why there’s no circle next to iPhone in the image above. Although AirPlay 1 devices—such as the AirPort Express base station (Speaker Express above)—still work singly, they can’t be included in a multi-room set.
AirPlay 2 in tvOS
Once your Apple TV is running tvOS 11.4, it can become an AirPlay 2 speaker, sending audio through your TV, soundbar, or home theater system. In my case I can use my Sonos Playbar through my Apple TV. It can also broadcast its own audio to other AirPlay 2 speakers.
To enable an Apple TV for AirPlay 2, go to Settings > AirPlay > Room, and bring your iPhone or iPad close to the Apple TV. Accept the prompt that appears on the iPhone or iPad, and the Apple TV joins other AirPlay 2 devices associated with your Apple ID.
Once it’s set up, you can send audio from the Apple TV to different speakers. In a video app, swipe down from the top of the Siri Remote, select Audio, and then select one or more speakers (not all video apps offer this feature).
For music, the steps are a little different. Start playing some music and then, from the Music app’s Now Playing screen, swipe up and to the left to highlight the AirPlay button (if no icons are showing at the top of the screen, press the Menu button to display them). Or—this is much easier!—just press and hold the Play/Pause button on the Siri Remote. Then, as in iOS, select the desired AirPlay 2 speakers with circles to the right of their names by swiping down and clicking the touchpad.
You can also send all Apple TV audio to AirPlay 2 speakers by going to Settings > Video and Audio > Audio Output and selecting the desired speakers.
Other AirPlay 2 Improvements
AirPlay 2 includes a few welcome performance improvements. You’ll have fewer audio drops due to a larger streaming buffer, and tighter device syncing provides a faster response when you play or pause the music. Another plus for iOS users is that taking a phone call or playing a game won’t interrupt playback.
Siri works better with streaming audio as well. You can specify which speaker Siri should play through, as in “play Tears for Fears Shout on Dining Room,” and play the same music through all your speakers with a command like “play the Brandenburg Concertos everywhere.” You can even move audio from one speaker to another—try asking your HomePod to “move the music to the Apple TV.”
Also, AirPlay 2 speakers are now HomeKit accessories, so you can start and stop them in the Home app.
Finally, although it’s unclear whether this feature is part of AirPlay 2, a pair of HomePods can now act as stereo speakers. Once each HomePod is running 11.4, a new option to pair them appears in the HomePod settings in the Home app. Select the HomePods, assign them to the left and right sides, and you can enjoy true stereo music.
It may sound as though all AirPlay 2-compatible speakers come from Apple, but in fact, a wide range of speaker manufacturers—including names like Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Denon, Marantz, Polk, and Sonos—have committed to supporting AirPlay 2, either with updates to existing products or in new speakers. Look for such products later in 2018, and, in the meantime, we hope you enjoy using AirPlay 2 with HomePods and Apple TVs.
One of the promised features when Apple first announced macOS 10.13 High Sierra and iOS 11, was Messages in iCloud, a way of syncing your conversations in Messages via your iCloud account. Despite the fact that Messages already tries to sync its conversations between your devices, this feature proved difficult for Apple to deliver, and it didn’t appear until the recently released macOS 10.3.5 and iOS 11.4 (What version OS are you running?).
With Messages in iCloud, your conversations and their attachments in your iCloud account are stored on Apple’s iCloud servers, rather than on each of your devices individually. One advantage of this feature is it can offload non-trivial amounts of data to iCloud, freeing up more space on that 16 GB iPhone.
Another advantage is conversations should also sync perfectly and more quickly than in the past, something that was often frustrating when conversations didn’t quite match up across device. (iOS 11.4 also fixes a bug that could cause some messages to appear out of order.) Even better, deleting a conversation or attachment on one of your devices deletes it from all of them.
So what are the disadvantages? Enabling Messages in iCloud does count against your iCloud storage space. That said, if you back up your iOS devices to iCloud, removing Messages data from each device—such as your iPad and iPhone—and storing a single copy in iCloud should result in less overall iCloud usage. (And, realistically, if Messages in iCloud would make you need a higher tier of iCloud storage, you were probably going to need to upgrade soon for other reasons anyway.)
Enabling Messages in iCloud is simple.
- On the Mac, open Messages > Preferences > Accounts and select the Enable Messages in iCloud checkbox.
- In iOS, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud, and turn on Messages.
There are three quirks to be aware of:
- You won’t be able to enable Messages in iCloud unless you’ve enabled two-factor authentication for the Apple ID associated with your iCloud account. This is a good idea for security reasons anyway!
- On the Mac, in the Messages account preferences, there’s a Sync Now button you can click if, for some reason, Messages hasn’t synced automatically. We don’t yet know if or when that will be necessary.
- When you first enable Messages in iCloud in iOS, you may see a note at the bottom of the screen saying that uploading to iCloud requires the device to be plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi. That’s necessary only for the first big upload.
Should you wish to turn off Messages in iCloud, be aware that it may take some time for each device to download all the messages.
For most people, Messages in iCloud is a no-brainer. Syncing your messages works the way you’d expect, complete with quick updates and universal removal of deleted conversations. The main reason you might not want to enable the feature is if you have only the free 5 GB of iCloud storage and aren’t interested in paying for more space.
Are you running low on space on your iPhone or iPad and you are you using iOS 11? Apple has added a quick way to free up storage space by removing unneeded apps making this problem easier to deal with than you may think. All you need to do is go to Settings > General > iPhone/iPad Storage. You’ll see a Recommendations section. This section may include an option to Offload Unused Apps with an estimate of how much space you could save. Now just tap Enable to allow iOS to remove apps that you haven’t launched in a while—this happens only if you’re low on space.
The good news is your iPhone or iPad will preserve any documents or data associated with the offloaded app. This way if you re-download the app, you will still have all your documents and data for the app. How do you re-download it? Well when an app is offloaded, the app’s icon still remains on the Home screen, but you’ll see it with a cloud badge. Tapping the app icon reloads it from the App Store, assuming it’s still available. If you find yourself waiting for apps to reload often and you can clear space in other ways, you can disable the feature in Settings > iTunes & App Store > Offload Unused Apps.