So What Are All Those Stacks of Notifications in iOS 12?

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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.

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iOS 12 Lets You Use Google Maps or Waze in CarPlay

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Prior to iOS 12, Apple Maps was the only mapping app you could run on the dashboard with CarPlay. This is nice if you use Apple Maps, but what if you use another map app such as Google Maps or Waze? The good news is with iOS 12 and the most recent updates to Google Maps and Waze, you can now use these maps instead of Apple Maps. Just upgrade your iPhone to iOS 12 and update to the latest version of Google Maps or Waze for iOS, you’ll be able to use those apps on your CarPlay screen.

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A Hidden Trick that Lets You Navigate Your iPhone with One Hand

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Depending on the size of your iPhone, you may not be able to reach an app or feature you need without using another hand. But sometimes one hand is all you can spare. If you find yourself in such a situation, give Reachability a try. On an iPhone with a Home Button, tap (don’t press) the Home button twice to slide the iPhone’s interface halfway down the physical screen, bringing everything into reach of your thumb. On the Face ID–equipped iPhone X it’s a little more tricky but once you get it, it’s not that bad. You put your thumb in the bottom of the screen — about at the top edge of the Dock if you were on the Home screen — and swipe down. You can use apps normally for a tap or two, and then they’ll expand back to the full screen to show the full interface. If Reachability is off (or if you want to turn it off), go to Settings > General > Accessibility.

See it in action on an iPhone with a Home Button or on an iPhone X.

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Top Features of iOS 12 to Take Advantage of Right Away

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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.

Screen Time
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.

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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.

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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.

Notification Management
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.

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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
IOS 12 DND 768x838In 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.

Siri Shortcuts
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.

Smaller Changes
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.

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Back Up Before Upgrading to Mojave or iOS 12!

If you poll a room of Apple experts about the one topic they get frustrated about, many will launch into rants about how too few people back up. Backups are important and should never be underestimated. You can never predict when your Mac or iPhone will be lost or stolen, melt in a fire, or just break.

The one time when backups are especially important is before you upgrade to a major new operating system, and Apple is in the midst of releasing major updated for both the Mac and iOS devices. If you’re thinking “What could go wrong?” the answer is, “Lots, and wouldn’t you like to be able to revert instantly if something does?”

On the plus side, Apple has made it easy to back up your devices. Let’s take a look at what you have to do to back up your Mac and iOS device.

Mac Backups
On the Mac side, backing up with Time Machine ensures that you can not only restore your entire drive if necessary, but also easily recover a previous version of a corrupted file. If you don’t have an external drive, you can purchase them for around $100. All you need to do is plug it in to your Mac and in most cases, your Mac will recognize the hard drive and ask you if you want to back up to it. It’s that easy. On a side note, since a fire or flood would likely destroy your backup drive along with your Mac, I always recommend an offsite backup made via an Internet backup service like Backblaze.

Time Machine prefs

If you are a member of my site and have a question on this, just ask by starting a chat below. Backups are important and I am happy to help.

What happens if you don’t back up and your Mac gets damaged such that you can’t access important data? That’s when things get expensive, and if you have a 2018 MacBook Pro, you have even fewer options.

Historically, it was relatively easy to remove a drive from a broken Mac and recover the data from it. Data recovery got harder with solid-state storage, and even more so with the introduction of the first MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, thanks to Apple’s new T2 encryption chip, which encrypts data on the drive. To simplify last-ditch data recovery, Apple put a special port on the MacBook Pro’s logic board and provided a custom recovery tool for Apple Authorized Service Providers. With the 2018 MacBook Pro, however, Apple removed that port, so only data recovery specialists like DriveSavers can recover data from such damaged machines, and only then if they have the user’s password.

So please, back up your Mac before something goes wrong. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get started, and again, I’m happy to help.

iOS Backups
We’ve all seen, if not experienced, a broken iPhone or iPad. They’re durable little devices, but they won’t necessarily survive a drop onto a sidewalk or into a toilet (yeah, it happens more often that one thinks). It’s also way too easy to forget your iPhone at the gym or in a restaurant. So a backup is necessary if you don’t want to risk losing precious photos or having to set up a new device from scratch. Plus, just as with a Mac, things can go wrong during major iOS upgrades.

Again, Apple made it easy to backup your iPhone or iPad. There is no reason not too have it backed up. Apple provides two ways of backing up your iPhone or iPad, iTunes and iCloud.

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To back up to iCloud, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup, turn the switch on, and tap Back Up Now. For backups to happen automatically in the future, you must have sufficient space in your iCloud account. Apple gives you 5 GB for free and can buy more if you need it. I always recommend people to buy more as it’s inexpensive for what you get – peace of mind. To backup to iCloud, your device must be on a Wi-Fi network, connected to power, and have its screen locked. The good news is this option will back up your device every day automatically.

ITunes device button

To back up to iTunes, connect your device to your Mac via a Lightning-to-USB cable, launch iTunes, and click the device icon to the right of the media menu.

Then, in the Backups section, click Back Up Now. If you’re prompted to encrypt your backups, we encourage you to agree since otherwise your backup won’t include passwords, Health information, or HomeKit data. For automatic backups via iTunes, select This Computer. After that, every time you plug into your Mac, it will back up.

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Again, if you have sufficient iCloud storage, I recommend backing up automatically to iCloud because its automatic backups work well at night when you’re charging your devices. Then, make extra backups to iTunes whenever you think you might need to restore, such as when you’re getting a new iPhone or iPad, or when you’re about to upgrade to a new version of iOS.

When Should You Upgrade to macOS Mojave, iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12?

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It’s that time of year again, when Apple releases new versions of macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Apple announced the new versions in June, and public betas have been available since then. The big question now is when do you upgrade your devices to these new versions?

Note that I am saying when and not if. There’s no harm in delaying major operating system upgrades until Apple has had a chance to squash early bugs. I personally upgrade right away, but my wife and friends usually wait. But waiting too long puts you at risk from security vulnerabilities and prevents you from taking advantage of new features. Also, if you end up having to replace your Apple device, like an iPhone unexpectedly, you will likely have to use the newer operating system, which could be awkward if you weren’t ready for it.

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macOS Mojave for the Mac
The hardest upgrade decision comes with macOS 10.14 Mojave. Whereas the last version of macOS High Sierra—was a refinement upgrade that added few new features, Mojave introduces lots of new features. Some people will appreciate Dark mode, and the Dynamic Desktop changes subtly throughout the day. More practically, Stacks help organize files on cluttered Desktops (this is one of my favorite new features), the Finder’s new Gallery view makes browsing images easier, and Quick Actions in the Finder’s Preview pane and in Quick Look let you work on files without even opening them. Apple significantly enhanced macOS’s screenshot and screen recording capabilities as well. And apps like Home, News, Stocks, and Voice Memos make the jump from iOS.

However, these features are bound to come with quirks and bugs, and Mojave’s new privacy and security controls may cause problems for older software. So if you aren’t sure if an app you need to use on a regular basis is not compatible with macOS Mojave, I recommend waiting until at least version 10.14.1 or even 10.14.2 before upgrading. That gives you time to make sure your key apps are compatible with Mojave and for Apple to resolve any unanticipated problems. Saying that, I’ll be honest, I’ve been using macOS Mojave for a while now without issue, so it is a pretty safe bet. But if you depend on an app, make sure it will run with Mojave.

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iOS 12 for the iPhone and iPad
iOS 12 is a different story, particularly if you have an older iPhone or iPad. That’s because Apple has focused on improving performance for such devices. If your device is bogging down, iOS 12 may give it a new lease on life. Also compelling is Screen Time, which helps you track your usage and set limits if you’re unhappy about how much time you spend giving Facebook your personal data. Screen Time even works for your entire family, so it could make dinner less device-intensive. A beefed-up Do Not Disturb lets you keep your iPhone from nagging you so much, and new features let you tamp down excessive notifications more easily. Finally, if you do the same things repeatedly, Siri Shortcuts can help you create your own Siri voice commands.

My take is that iOS 12 is a good upgrade, but don’t pull the trigger instantly. Apple may discover important bugs in the first week or two, so I usually recommend to wait a short bit, but after that, upgrade when you have time to play with the new features.

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watchOS 5 for the Apple Watch
watchOS 5 is linked to iOS 12, so you can’t upgrade your Apple Watch until your iPhone is running the latest. Most of the changes revolve around the Workouts app, with automatic detection of running workouts, a new Yoga workout, activity competitions, and more. Other new features include a Walkie-Talkie app, the arrival of Apple’s Podcasts app, a smarter Siri watch face, and improved notifications. There’s no downside to watchOS 5, so as soon as iOS 12 lands on your iPhone, set your Apple Watch to upgrade that night.

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tvOS 12 for Apple TV
tvOS 12 is the easiest to agree to install. It’s a minor upgrade, with just a few new features. The most noticeable is a new aerial screensaver of Earth from low orbit, made by the crew of the International Space Station. You can also tap the touchpad of the Siri Remote while an aerial screensaver is playing to see where it was taken. When you start trying to type a password on the Apple TV, a notification on your iPhone lets you autofill that password. And finally, the Apple TV 4K gains support for Dolby Atmos soundscapes. So yeah, install tvOS 12 when it comes out, or let your Apple TV do it automatically, which is how I have mine set.

As much as change can be hard, I am excited about Apple’s new operating systems. Like you, I won’t end up using all the new features, but some will enhance the experience of being an Apple user.

Why You Should Always Keep the Find My iPhone Feature Enabled

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On the surface, Apple’s Find My iPhone features does what it says, it’ll identify the last known location of your iPhone if you lost or misplaced it. You can look up the last known location and play a sound by looking in the Find iPhone app, on another iPhone of course, or through the iCloud Web site.

But Find My iPhone does much more. For starters, it not only works with the iPhone, but you can use it to locate a missing Mac, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, and even AirPods. Find My iPhone also helps protect your data if a device is stolen. It even works with Family Sharing to locate devices owned by anyone in your family.

The catch is you must turn on Find My iPhone before your device goes missing!

In iOS, tap Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Find My iPhone and enable Find My iPhone. (On the iPad, it’s called Find My iPad.) Also on that screen, turn on Send Last Location. Finally, go back to the main level of Settings, tap Privacy > Location Services, and make sure Location Services is turned on.

On the Mac, open System Preferences > iCloud and select the Find My Mac checkbox—if you see a Details button beside Find My Mac, click it and follow its instructions for setting necessary preferences.

I would recommend viewing where your devices are located and playing tones on them so you’ll know what to do if a device actually goes missing.

Find My iPhone AirPods

Find My iPhone has a few tricks up its sleeve for when you want a device to show a message or if you think it was stolen:

Lost Mode: When invoking this mode for an iOS device or Apple Watch, you’ll be asked to enter a phone number where you can be reached and a message. After that, Lost Mode will kick in as soon as the device is awake and has an Internet connection. Anyone who tries to use the device will see your message along with a place to enter the device’s passcode. If you get it back, you can enter the passcode to dismiss the message and use it normally. I’ll admit, I’ve used this feature a few times.

Find My iPhone Lost Mode

Lock: Available only for the Mac, the Lock feature enables you to protect an entire Mac with a 4-digit custom passcode. You can also enter a message that will appear on the Lock screen. This is a good choice if you think you’ll get your Mac back but would prefer that nobody mess with it in the meantime. Note that if you lock a Mac, you can’t erase it, as discussed next, so lock it only if you think it can be recovered.

Find My iPhone Mac

Erase: Even if your device has an excellent passcode or password, you might worry that a thief will access your data. Fortunately, you can erase your device. Note though, erasing a device makes it impossible for you to see its location in Find My iPhone, so you’ll want to use this as a last-ditch effort.

Activation Lock: If the stolen device is an iOS device or an Apple Watch, when you turn on Find My iPhone, you also enable Activation Lock. This feature prevents someone who has your passcode but doesn’t know your Apple ID and password from turning off Find My iPhone, erasing the device, or setting it up for a new user. In other words, Activation Lock makes it so there’s little reason to steal an iOS device or Apple Watch, since the stolen device can’t ever be used by anyone else. If you get the device back, you can restore your backup—you do have a backup, right?

I’ll also mention that Find My iPhone works only while the device you’ve lost or misplaced has power, so if you think you’ve misplaced a device, try locating it right away, before the battery runs out. But even if you are unable to retrieve a lost device, you can prevent others from accessing your data or taking over the device.

Being an Apple User Means You’re Not the Product

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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 iconSiri 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 iconTouch 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 iconHealth 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 iconApp 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.

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How to Load the Desktop Version of a Web Site on an iPhone

Did you know that some Web sites have separate desktop and mobile versions? The reason is in theory each version provides the best browsing experience for its platform. That sounds good in theory, but in some cases, the mobile Web sites sometimes leave out necessary features or hide content. That’s especially annoying if you’re browsing on an iPad, where the desktop site would work fine. If you run across such a site while browsing in Safari on the iPhone or iPad, you can ask for its desktop version. To access the Desktop version, press and hold the Reload button at the right side of the address bar, and then tap Request Desktop Site. If the site allows such a request, as do Wikipedia and the New York Times, the desktop version loads (to read the small text, you may need to pinch out to zoom the page).

Have an iPad? This also works well on the iPad!

Desktop site Wikipedia

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Want to change your Email Signature from “Sent from my iPhone”?

When you use Apple’s Mail app on your iPhone to send email, the default signature is “Sent from my iPhone.” The iPad is not much different as it’s default signature is “Sent from my iPad.” If you’d prefer to change it to something more personal and not advertise the fact you have an iPhone or iPad with every email you send, don’t bother poking around in the Mail app itself. Instead, go to Settings > Mail > Signature, where you can change the signature to anything you like. You can also delete it entirely. If you have multiple email accounts configured, such as one for work and one for home, you can also set a different signature for each of these accounts in the Mail settings.

Have an iPad? This also works well on the iPad!

IPhone signature

Here’s How to Find Out if Your Online Passwords Have Been Stolen

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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.

Pwned LinkedIn breach

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.

Pwned list
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.

How to Make the Most of Apple’s New AirPlay 2

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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.

AirPlay 2 in iOS

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.

AirPlay 2 tvOS setup

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).

AirPlay 2 tvOS video

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.

AirPlay 2 tvOS speakers

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.

HomePod pairing

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.

What’s Apple’s New Messages in iCloud Feature all about?

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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.

Messages iCloud Mac

  • 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.

Messages iCloud paused

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.

How to use the Camera App’s Hidden Level.

Camera level photo

Have you ever taken a photo of a sheet of paper or some other rectangular object and the image comes out skewed because you inadvertently tilted the camera. I have good news for you, the iOS 11 Camera app has a level feature to help you avoid this problem. It’s so subtle that you may not have noticed it. To use it you first need to turn on the Grid. To do this go to Settings > Camera and turn on the Grid switch. When you do this, thin white lines will divide the viewfinder image into a grid of nine rectangles.

To access the level, hold the iPhone or iPad flat, so the camera points straight down toward the floor (or straight up toward the sky, if you’re photographing a ceiling). You’ll notice that two crosshairs appear in the middle of the viewfinder, a yellow one that marks the position where the camera will be level and a white one that shows the camera’s current angle. Tilt the camera until the crosshairs merge into a single yellow image, and tap the Shutter button. Your image will be level.

Camera level before after