All about Find My Friends

Find My Friends photo
As iPhones have become ever more popular, one of Apple’s bundled apps — Find My Friends — has become significantly more useful. Don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate concerns about sharing your location to anonymous people and organizations, but Find My Friends gives everyone full control over what they share, making it truly helpful for families and close friends. I have all my siblings, my mom, and select friends in my list. It’s great for seeing if someone is at home to visit or out and about and maybe meet up for a drink. Have you ever thought it would be useful to know when your child left their soccer game or wanted them to receive an automatic alert when you leave to pick them up, Find My Friends can do this and more. It’s also great for keeping track of aging parents or for housemates looking out for one another.

Add and Remove Friends

Find My Friends from MessagesYou can add friends in the Find My Friends app by tapping Add and selecting their contact card, but it may be easier to work from Messages, assuming you want to share your location with someone with whom you regularly text anyway. In their conversation, tap the i button, tap Share My Location, and in the popover that appears, tap Share Indefinitely. (Share for One Hour and Share Until End of Day are useful for temporarily sharing your location while traveling, say, to visit colleagues with whom permanent sharing would be inappropriate.)

However you initiate the sharing, the other person receives a notification and can accept and choose to share their location as well. (If they don’t do so right away, you can tap their name in your Find My Friends list and tap Ask to Follow.) That said, unidirectional sharing is all right, though in families and particularly for children, bidirectional sharing can be more helpful.

If you want to stop sharing your location with someone, you can either swipe left on their entry in Find My Friends and tap the red Trash button, or go into their conversation details in Messages and tap Stop Sharing My Location.

Find My Friends stop sharing

Work with Locations

Once you have someone in the Find My Friends app, you’ll see their entry in the list and their location on the map. That may be all you need if, for example, your goal is to see where your spouse is on their bike ride so you can figure out when to start dinner. I use this more often than I should to see if a friend is out for a drink, I’ll admit. A tip: for a quick location check, ask Siri something like, “Where is my wife?”

But Find My Friends has other features that make it even more useful. To access these features, tap a friend in the list or on the map to focus on them.

Find My Friends options

  • Contact: Tap Contact to view your friend’s contact card. From it, you can start a Messages conversation, phone call, FaceTime call, email message, or money transfer via Apple Pay. You can also edit their details from here.
  • Notify Me: With the Notify Me feature, Find My Friends can tell you when your friend leaves or arrives at a particular location. Two locations—their current location and your current location—are always available for quick selection. Or tap Other, and then either search for a location or press and hold on the map to drop a pin at that spot. You can even expand the orange dropped-pin circle to make the location less precise (and thus less likely to miss, if the person doesn’t quite go where you expect).
  • Notify Friend: On the flip side, Notify Friend (tap More to access this feature) lets you tell your friend of your location right now, or when you leave or arrive at a location. A welcome addition here is a Repeat Every Time switch, so you could, for instance, have Find My Friends alert your mother in advance whenever you decide to stop over at the last minute.
  • Get Directions: Also in the More screen is a car icon; tap it to display directions to your friend’s current location in Maps. It’s a great way to avoid those awkward conversations when you need to pick up your kid after a party and they can’t tell you precisely where they are.

It’s easy to be cynical about the privacy implications of location sharing. Obviously, you want to share locations only with people you trust, and who trust you. But once you do that, you’ll likely discover that Find My Friends provides peace of mind, since you know you’ll be on time to pick up your kid after an away game and your spouse knows that if she has a bike accident, you’ll be able to find her.

What OS Version Are You Running? Here’s How to Find Out.

Which OS photo

When troubleshooting your Mac, one of the first questions is always, “What version of the operating system are you running?” There’s a big difference between Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and macOS 10.13 High Sierra, and the solution to any particular problem will likely revolve around knowing what operating system you have installed.

The same is true of Apple’s other operating systems: iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. And, let’s not forget, Apple’s AirPods and HomePod both have system software that can be updated as well.

Do you know how to find the version of OS you are using when you have a problem? If not, here’s how to find the version of each of Apple’s operating systems.

On the Mac, click the Apple menu in the upper-left corner of the screen and choose About This Mac. A window opens, displaying the name (macOS High Sierra shown here) and version (10.13.4) of the running version of macOS.

Which OS Mac
Every now and then, it can be important to learn the build number too—it’s one step more specific than the version number. A new Mac may have a different build number of the same version of macOS, for instance, or Apple may push out a silent security update that changes the build number. To find the build number, simply click the version number—the six-character build number (17E202) appears in parentheses, as above.

On an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you find the version number in Settings > General > About. Scan down the screen until you see the Version line, which tells you both the version of iOS and the build number.

Which OS iPhone

With watchOS there are two ways to find the version of watchOS you are running on your Apple Watch:

  • On the watch, open the Settings app, scroll down to and tap General, tap About, and then scroll down until you see Version.Which OS Apple Watch
  • On your iPhone, open the Watch app and make sure My Watch is selected in the bottom button bar. Then go to General > About to see a screen that displays much the same information as the Settings app on the watch, including the version number.
    Which OS Watch app

By now, you can probably guess that on an Apple TV you go to Settings > General > About to find the tvOS version. Apple is nicely consistent in this regard. That said, only the fourth-generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4K run tvOS. The second and third generation Apple TVs, which are obsolete, are instead based on a stripped-down version of iOS, and the first-generation Apple TV is an entirely different beast yet, with its large white case and internal hard drive.

Which OS Apple TV

You’re unlikely to need to check the version of your AirPods, but if it ever comes up, make sure the AirPods are either connected to their host iOS device or in their case with the top open. Then, on the host iOS device, go to Settings > General > About > AirPods and look for the Firmware Version line.

Which OS AirPods

To check the version of the HomePod software, open Apple’s Home app, make sure Home is selected in the bottom toolbar, and then press and hold on the HomePod’s tile until it opens. Then tap the Details button in the lower right and scroll down until you see the Version line.

Which OS HomePod

Did You Know Your EarPods Work as a Remote Shutter Button for Photos?

Tip headphones demo

Have you ever wanted to compose the perfect photo with the Camera app on the iPhone and then been unable to tap the shutter button without jiggling the iPhone and blurring your photo? This happens to me when I try to take a selfie more than not (I’m new at the selfie game). One solution is to press one of the volume buttons on the side, but that sometimes doesn’t work either. Well if you have your EarPods connected to your iPhone, you can also press one of the volume buttons on the EarPods to take a photo. Bonus tip—the EarPods’ buttons also work to start and stop video recording!

Offloading Unused Apps in iOS 11 and Recover Space on your iPhone or iPad

Offload unused apps photo

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.

Offload unused apps iPhone

Shooting Bursts of Photos with the Camera app on the iPhone

We know that we can take a single photo when we tap the shutter button on the iPhone when in the Camera app, but did you know you could take a burst of photos when youth and hold the shutter button? This a great feature if you are looking for that ‘perfect shot’ and it easy to use, you literally just tap and hold the shutter button. When you do this, you’ll see a counter above the shutter showing you how many photos you’ve taken.

Now what do you do after you’ve taken them? How do you get rid of the photos you do not want to keep? Just tap on select when looking at the photo in the Camera app or Photos app and then you’ll be able to select the photo or photos (you can select more than one) you want to keep. Your iPhone will delete the rest freeing up space so you can take more photos.

Want to see it in action? Watch our video above. Look for more lessons on the Camera app in our new Tutor for Camera for the iPhone, coming soon.

How to Create a Custom Vibration in an Alarm

Did you know you could create a custom vibration for an alarm on your iPhone? Why would you want to do this? Let’s say you created an alarm for dinner tonight. When that alarm goes off, you would pull out your phone to see what it is for. If you set a custom vibration for that alarm, you’d know what the alarm is for just by the vibration pattern. You wouldn’t even have to pull out your phone to see what it is for. How do you do this? It’s pretty easy. Open the Clock app and when you create an alarm, select Sound and then Vibration. You’ll see an option for Create New Vibration. From there just tap the vibration you want, and that will be your new vibration for that specific alarm.

Open Clock app>Set an alarm>Sound>Vibrations>Create New Vibration

If you want to see how you do this with a video instruction, check out my tutorial on the Clock app. There’s more to the Clock app than just telling time and setting alarms.

How to Forget a Network on the iPad

Forget network ipad

When you connect your iPad (and iPhone) to a wi-fi network, your iPad will remember that network and connect to it in the future if it is available. It’s a great feature that most people don’t think about, and why should you? Well, wonder if you connect to the wrong network and now the iPad connects to that wrong network every time? Or you connect to one network and there is a faster network you can connect to in the same area. Wouldn’t you want it to connect to this faster network from now on? This happened to me when I connected to a local brewery’s network and then I went to the restaurant next door. The restaurant has a faster network, so I wanted my device to connect to that network from now on.

How do you fix this? By Forgetting the Network. Just go to the Settings app and tap on Wi-Fi. Tap on ‘i’ to the left of the network you no longer want to connect to and you’ll have an option to ‘Forget This Network’. Tap on that and you’ll be able to select the network you want to connect to. The next time you are in the same area or place, your iPad will connect back up to the correct network. If you want to connect to the other network, you can do that too.

This tip is also is a great troubleshooting solution for a network that you may be having a problem with. Forget it and then connect back up to it. And, of course, this works with the iPhone too.

Sneek Peek: Scanning Documents in the Notes App on the iPad

Did you know you could scan documents into a note on the iPad? All you need to do is open a note, tap on the ‘+’ and select Scan Documents. Now just aim your iPad at your document and the iPad will automatically scan it! It’s that easy. You can also apply filters and crop your document as well. This also works on the iPhone!

If you’d like to see this in action, check out this lesson from Tutor for Notes for iPad.

Automatically Straighten Photos in the Photos App on your iPhone


We’ve all taken photos where the horizon was crooked. I seem to do it more often than I want in all honesty. Well did you know that the Photos app on the iPhone (and iPad) can straighten these automatically? All you need to do is open the photo in the Photos app. From their tap on Edit and then tap on the Crop/Rotate tool. When you do this, Photos will automatically straighten the photo for you. You can go in and fine tune it if you’d like, but I find that Photos does a pretty good job of this on it’s own.

Need to Do Some Simple Math? Get Siri to Do It!

Siri math photo

Chances are you’ve ended up somewhere where you needed to do some quick calculations. Perhaps you’re trying to total receipts for an expense report, figure out a tip on your restaurant bill, average your kid’s report card grades, or split a restaurant bill. Either way, instead of launching the Calculator app on your iPhone (this app is oddly missing from the iPad), get Siri to do the math for you. For each the above examples, try the following, making sure to speak the decimal point as “point” or “dot.” “What is a 20% tip on $43?” “What is 113.25 plus 67.29 plus 89.16?” “What is the average of 92 and 96 and 82 and 91?” “What is 235.79 divided by 6?” Siri always shows you the calculation, so you can verify that it heard you correctly, just in case you’re doing this in a loud restaurant. Another tip for you – this works great on the Apple Watch too.

Siri math

iCloud Photo Library Users: Do Not Turn Off iCloud

Dont turn off iCloud photo

You can file this warning under “unless it’s absolutely necessary.” If you use iCloud Photo Library on your Mac, which I personally think is great, I recommend you don’t sign out from iCloud. Also, don’t deselect the iCloud Photo Library checkbox in either the Photos options of the iCloud pane of System Preferences or in the iCloud preferences in Photos itself. Why not? Because, when you re-enable iCloud or iCloud Photo Library, Photos will re-upload all your photos, which could take days. (It’s not really re-uploading all of them, but even just resyncing will take a long time.) Worse, if you don’t have enough space in iCloud for your entire Photos library again, you’ll have to upgrade to a larger plan temporarily, resync, and then downgrade to your previous plan. Apple will refund you the cost of the upgrade, but you’ll have to work with support to get reimbursed.

ICloud Photo Library progress count

Why you want to Install Minor Operating System Updates

Install minor updates

You’ve probably noticed that Apple releases updates to iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS nearly every week these days. iOS 11 and macOS 10.13 High Sierra launched only a few months ago, and we’ve already seen ten updates to iOS and seven updates to macOS. Some of these have been to fix bugs, which is great, but more important quite a few have been prompted by the need for Apple to address security vulnerabilities.

Have you installed all these updates, or have you been procrastinating, tapping that Later link on the iPhone and rejecting your Mac’s notifications? I’m not criticizing, I often times tap on Remind Me Later. All too often those prompts come at inconvenient times, although iOS has gotten better about installing during the night, as long as you plug in your iPhone or iPad.

I know, security is dull. Or rather, security is dull as long as it’s present and active. Things get exciting — and not in a good way — when serious vulnerabilities come to light. You may remember back in November 2017, when it was reported that anyone could gain admin access to any Mac running macOS High Sierra. All they had to do was type root for the username and leave the password field blank. This vulnerability one was so bad that Apple pushed Security Update 2017-001 to every affected Mac and rolled the fix into macOS 10.13.2. Exciting times – again not in a good way.

Part of the problem with security vulnerabilities is that they can be astonishingly complex. You may have heard about the Meltdown and Spectre hardware vulnerabilities discovered in January 2018. They affect nearly all modern computers, regardless of operating system, because they take advantage of a design flaw in the microprocessors. Unfortunately, the bad guys—organized crime, government intelligence agencies, and the like—have the resources to understand and exploit these flaws.

But here’s the thing. Hackers don’t stop. New vulnerabilities are discovered on a daily basis. Patching these is a non-stop endeavor by Apple and other companies. Security is an arms race. The good news is if enough people install those updates quickly enough, the attackers will move on to the next vulnerability. You may recognize this as the herd mentality. If we all keep our devices updated, hackers will move on to less vulnerable devices.

The moral of the story? Always install those minor updates. It’s not so much because you will definitely be targeted if you fail to stay up to date, but because if the Apple community as a whole ceases to be vigilant about upgrading, the dark forces on the Internet will start to see macOS and iOS as low-hanging fruit. As long as most people update relatively quickly, it’s not worthwhile for attackers to put a lot of resources into messing with Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Hackers will focus on other non-Apple devices.

That being said, before you install those updates, make sure to update your backups. It’s unusual for anything significant to go wrong during this sort of system upgrade, but having a fresh backup ensures that if anything does go amiss, you can easily get back to where you were before.

Where is the Battery Percentage Indicator on the iPhone X?

IPhone X battery photo

Do you have an iPhone X? Are you wondering how you can see the how much battery you have as a percentage? On other iPhones, you can have this always show in the upper right hand corner of the iPhone display, but this setting is missing on the iPhone X. The notch at the top of the screen on the iPhone X takes up enough space that there was room only for the battery icon, which can be hard to interpret how much actual battery is left. If you want to see precisely what percentage of your battery is left, swipe down slightly from the top-right corner of the screen. That gives you the full set of indicators, including battery percentage. You don’t have to keep swiping down enough to show Control Center, but if you do, all the indicators will be there too.

IPhone X battery percentage

Call 911! Or, with an iPhone or Apple Watch, Invoke Emergency SOS

Emergency SOS photo 1080x675

If you have ever needed to call emergency services from your iPhone, or someone else’s iPhone, you know by almost by definition, such calls take place at stressful times. In all honesty, it can be hard to remember what to do. What if you’ve been in an accident? It might be difficult or impossible to navigate the iPhone’s interface. The good news is in iOS 10.2 and watchOS 3 and later, Apple added the Emergency SOS feature to help.

Emergency SOS does three things:

  1. First, it calls emergency services, using whatever number is appropriate for your location, which could be particularly helpful when you’re traveling abroad.
  2. After your emergency call ends, Emergency SOS sends a text message with your location to emergency contacts that you’ve set up previously in the Health app.
  3. Finally, it displays your Medical ID for first responders so they can be aware of things like medication allergies. You create your Medical ID in the Health app as well.

How you invoke Emergency SOS varies slightly depending on which Apple device you have:

    • On the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, you press and hold the side button and either of the Volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears. From their you either drag the Emergency SOS slider to call emergency services right away, or just keep holding the side and Volume buttons. If you continue holding the buttons down, a countdown begins and an alert sounds; at the end of the countdown, the iPhone automatically places the call, a feature that Apple calls Auto Call.

Emergency SOS iPhone

    • On the iPhone 7 and earlier, you rapidly press the side button five times to bring up the Emergency SOS slider. Drag the slider to call emergency services. (The quintuple-click can work on the new iPhones too; it’s an option in Settings > Emergency SOS.)
    • The Apple Watch acts like the newer iPhones. Press and hold the side button on your Apple Watch to bring up the Emergency SOS slider, or you can keep holding the side button to start a countdown after which the Apple Watch will call emergency services automatically via Auto Call. The Apple Watch must be connected to your iPhone, be on a known Wi-Fi network and have Wi-Fi Calling enabled, or be an Apple Watch Series 3 with a cellular plan.

Emergency SOS Apple Watch

I know, you want to test this. It’s only human. To test this in a non-emergency situation, and you can do so without actually placing the call. On both the iPhone and the Apple Watch, there will be a red hangup button you can tap, followed by an End Call or Stop Calling button. Similarly, you can cancel notifications of your emergency contacts.

You’ll also want to stop calls if they’re placed accidentally—we know someone who had his hand in his pocket in such a way as to press the Apple Watch’s side button long enough to start the call, and since he was in a noisy environment, he didn’t hear the alert or notice anything until the 911 service called his iPhone back.

To add emergency contacts—the people who you’d want notified if you were in an accident, follow these steps on your iPhone:

  1. Open the Health app, and tap the Medical ID button at the lower right.
  2. Tap Edit, and then scroll down to Emergency Contacts.
  3. Tap the green + button to add a contact.
  4. Select the desired person, and when prompted, pick their relationship to you.
  5. Tap Done to save your changes.

Two notes. First, if you’re concerned about activating the Auto Call feature inadvertently, you can turn it off in Settings > Emergency SOS on the iPhone, and for the Apple Watch in the Watch app, in My Watch > General > Emergency SOS.

Second, bringing up the screen with the Emergency SOS slider also automatically disables Touch ID and Face ID, such that you must enter your passcode to re-enable them.

I sincerely hope that you never have to use Emergency SOS, but that if you do, it proves to be a faster and more effective way of contacting emergency services.

Easily Create and Name Reminders Lists to Use Them Via Siri

Name Reminders lists photo

My wife and I have a shared list in the Reminders app called Groceries. To add an item, such as eggs, all we do is say “Hey Siri, add eggs to my grocery list.” and Siri adds it to the list. We can go a step further and set the grocery list as the default list, then we do not have to specify which list to add the eggs too, it’ll add them to the Grocery list by default. How can you see which list is your default list? It’s in Settings > Reminders > Default List. Want to get fancy? Make a list called “Hardware,” and then tell Siri, “Add birdseed to my Hardware list, and remind me when I arrive at Home Depot.” You may have to pick the correct Home Depot location from a list, but then you’ll receive an alert reminding you to buy birdseed when you pull into the parking lot. To look at any list via Siri, just say something like “Show my Grocery list.”

Name Reminders lists