5 Things You Should NOT Do With Your iPhone This Summer (or ever!): (part of the) Very Beginner Series

* Occasional posts will contain how-tos and/or hints for VERY new users of iPads, iPhones or Kindles. All new users welcome! Non-tech speak, not terribly detailed, just basic device-enhancing goodness. All part of this Very Beginner Series.

Please share with any beginners (Mom? Dad? Grandma?) in your life.*

The heat is on, and summer is in full force. Remember there are a few things you need to be extra cautious about with your iPhone as it accompanies you on your summer fun.

1. Do not store your iPhone in your back pocket. We are familiar with the pocket (butt) dial, and talked about it here. But there is another reason not to keep your iPhone in your back pocket, and it can best be summed up in a few words: Snap Crackle and Pop. If your phone is in your back pocket and you sit down on it, it is possible to crack the screen of your phone.

2. Avoid leaving your iPhone sitting out in the sun or inside a hot car. Although the iPhone is quite resilient with temperatures, you paid a lot of money for it, and it would be foolish to risk ruining your phone in the heat. Apple reports that the iPhone functions best in an environment as close to room temperature as possible, and you know that the temperature inside an enclosed car can quickly soar well beyond that. Heat above 95º F can damage the battery, so best to keep your iPhone with you, and don’t leave it in the car.

3. Do not let your iPhone get wet. Water is a MAJOR enemy, a “boss” enemy. Many remedies abound on the internet, from hair dryers to burial in rice. But basically, water damage is lethal. It can mess up your battery, your home button, the speakers, the whole works. Be extra careful around the pool, sprinklers and hoses, and be alert for a sudden summer thunderstorm. Remember to bring a zip lock bag for your trip to the beach. Pop your phone in the bag to keep it protected, not only from your wet hands, but also from the sand that can find its way into the ports of the phone.

4. Beware the power drop. You’re probably quite careful with your iPhone in most circumstances of your life. But summer vacations are different, and you’ll likely be doing things that you don’t ordinarily do. A great example would be a trip to an amusement park, and a ride on a twirly-whirly-upside-down-up-in-the-air something. If you don’t carefully secure your iPhone before you launch, you might be horrified to see it hurtling toward the ground completely out of your control. Although you may have a really good protective case, a fall like that could be iPhone-fatal.

photo credit: Markusram via photo pin cc

5. And finally don’t throw your iPhone on the grill. OK, this is ridiculous but it’s a great segway to show you this link of a grilled iPad : )

How to Turn On Your Battery Percentage Indicator for iPhone, iPad: (part of the) Very Beginner Series

* Occasional posts will contain how-tos and/or hints for VERY new users of iPads, iPhones or Kindles. All new users welcome! Non-tech speak, not terribly detailed, just basic device-enhancing goodness. All part of this Very Beginner Series.

Please share with any beginners (Mom? Dad? Grandma?) in your life.*

On the upper right corner of your screen on both the iPad and the iPhone, you will see your battery indicator. Shaped like a battery, it will gradually “empty” as you use your device throughout the day.

But there is another way to monitor your battery usage. It is possible to view a percentage indicator located right next to the battery image. This is my choice. I prefer knowing that my battery is at 95% or 15% rather than just relying on the shading within that tiny battery icon.

If you want to turn on the percentage indicator, this is how you do it:

Go to Settings > General > Usage

Look down the screen and you will see “Battery Percentage” with on on/off toggle switch over on the right.

Slide the switch to “on” and you will see the percentage appear next to your battery. Toggle “off” if you would rather not see the percentage.

Podcasts: Mixed Feelings About the App I Was Waiting For

I was excited this week about the new release of the Podcasts app. I am a great user of podcasts, I listen to them often, and although managing them via syncing my devices to the computer has always been easy enough, it required several steps, and basically was a pain to do. It took effort, it took time and it took thought. Yuch!

The new Podcast app promises to eliminate any and all work required to get our favorite podcasts delivered to our devices. This sounded so awesome to me, I downloaded it immediately.

My first impressions are mixed, but overall it is a huge step in the right direction.

When I downloaded Podcasts to my iPad and iPhone, the app was smart enough to know about all the podcasts that I already subscribe to, and it pulled them all into the app. So, when I opened Podcasts for the first time, I was greeted with a neatly tiled page with a square representing each of my podcasts. You can change this tiled screen to a list version by tapping the lines at the top of the page. These appear in slightly different spots on an iPhone and on an iPad, so just look across the top on either device to find them. I marked it below with the arrow. (I’ll be using photos from my iPad, in the landscape orientation. Layout looks slightly different in portrait, and on the iPhone.)

If you tap on “edit” you will see a list of your podcasts, and you can delete or re-order them from here. To re-order, just touch the series of lines to the right of each podcast, and leaving your finger on those lines, move your finger up or down, and you can reorder the list (and therefore the presentation of the tiles).

You also set your preferences individually for each podcast (again, this looks a bit different on the iPhone, but similar). Open the settings by touching the gear on the iPad version and a menu will drop down, allowing you to turn on your subscription, automatically download newly added content (I love this), and select how you want episodes to be kept and sorted.

My happiest moment with this app was the discovery of the timer. You can set it to play for a chosen number of minutes, or the whole podcast, and then turn off. A great feature, although it wasn’t very easy to find.

Here is how you find the timer:

Tap on a podcast to open it. Tap on the episode that you want to hear. You will now see a large picture representing the podcast, with black empty space around it. Tap ANYWHERE, either on the graphic, or in the black space, and the graphic will lift and expose an old school tape player with a few extra controls, and among them, the timer. The timer is represented by a little clock with a few zzz over it.

To “shop” for new podcasts that you might enjoy, you can get right to the store from this app. Tap on “Top Stations” or “Catalog” to get into the store. “Top Stations” allows you to see what is popular in different categories, while “Catalog” takes you to the original store layout where you can easily browse through boatloads of podcasts.

As happy as I am to have episodes downloaded automatically, and to have a long-awaited timer built in, there have been some disappointments, as well. I was surprised to see that although it recognized some of the podcasts I had listened to, it was not accurate overall. For instance, I am a regular listener of “A Way With Words”, but the app did not recognize that I had listened to all of those episodes. I am hoping that this feature will work as I listen now from within this app. I’ll be sure to update about this, later.

The largest concern is the syncing between devices. This doesn’t seem to be working well at all, and a quick look around the internet tells me that I am not alone with this concern. However, I’m going to assume that this will be fixed, and I’ll work around it for now to enjoy the pleasure of having the newest episodes of my favorites automatically downloaded and a timer to use in the evening.

Podcasts is free in the iTunes store

New Puzzle Game for Your iPad and iPhone: Flow Free

I enjoy puzzle games. Especially ones that are nice to look at, easy to learn, and provide an ever-increasing challenge. A new puzzle game came out earlier this month that meets all of these criteria, so I was quick to download it from the App Store. I have not been disappointed. It plays on both the iPhone and on the iPad.

It is called Flow Free. The board is a grid with pairs of colorful dots. Your job is to connect the pairs of dots, matching the two of the same color. It gets tricky, because you can’t cross over another connected pair. You also have to fill up the board, but so far that requirement hasn’t been a problem.

Flow Free is simple at first, with small 5 x 5 grids. But the grids move up in size, 6 x 6, 7 x 7, 8 x 8, 9 x 9, up to 14 x 14, so it gets increasingly more difficult.

There are 300 puzzles that you can do for free, and then if you want more, you can buy “packs” from within the app for 99¢. Buying packs also eliminates the (pesky) ads that are part of the free version. I bought a pack quickly because I find those ads REALLY annoying. Once you buy a single pack, the ads are all gone throughout the game.

If you buy a pack from your iPad, this purchase will apply to your iPhone, as well. However, after purchasing a puzzle pack from your iPad, when you first go to this puzzle app on your iPhone, you will still see the ads and not have access to the puzzle pack that you just purchased. You must tap the SAME puzzle pack that you bought from your iPad, agree to purchase it (again) and enter your password. Don’t panic….. the app store will then inform you that you have already purchased this puzzle pack, and ask if you would like to download it, which, of course, you do. At that moment the ads will *poof!* disappear, and the new puzzles will be available on your iPhone as well as on your iPad.

I love a game that I can pick up and jump right in, playing and puzzling my way through the levels. It starts off easy, but as the grids increase in size, it takes more thoughtful concentration.

There are two ways to play. One with the objective to pair the dots and fill the board at your own pace. The other is a timed version, where your goal is to finish as many levels as you can within a chosen amount of time.

Flow Free is free in the app store. In-game packs of puzzles are 99¢ each

Flipping Your iPad: How to Lock Your Screen in Landscape or in Portrait

photo credit: Team Traveller via photo pin cc

When you flip your iPad, the screen orientation changes as you rotate your device. You may find yourself preferring one view over the other.

Are you a “landscape person” or are you a “portrait person”?

“Landscape” and “portrait” refer to the two ways that you can view the screen on your iPad.


Holding it straight up, so that the home button is on the bottom (or top), puts you in “portrait” orientation.

photo credit: griffintech via photo pin cc

To change it to “landscape”, merely turn your iPad, so that the longest side of the rectangle is on the bottom. It does not matter if the home button is on the left side or on the right side. You can demonstrate this for yourself by turning the iPad all the way around, 180º.

One of the most common things to do on an iPad is read, whether you are looking at a website, a newsfeed, or a magazine. Over time, you have probably come to prefer to hold your iPad one way or the other. Landscape or portrait? Perhaps you enjoy doing crosswords or puzzles on your iPad. Landscape or portrait? Many games allow you to choose your orientation, as well. Your choice.

As you shift your position, as you swap the iPad from hand to hand, it sometimes flips to the OTHER orientation, the one you didn’t choose. This is especially a nuisance if you are trying to read something as you are lounging on your side or leaning at an angle. The screen flips back and forth. It’s sensitive, and it can be annoying.

But there are two ways that you can lock the screen in either mode. They are both quick and simple to do … and then to undo. Try them both, then set whichever you would prefer.

Many people choose to simply use the hardware button (the mute button) on the upper right side as the “lock” button.

To enable that switch, go to Settings > General

Now Scroll down and look for “Use Side Switch to:”

Tap on “Lock Rotation”

You can now use the button on the side to lock rotation.

The OTHER way is to set the rotation from the screen.

In order to do that, the side button must be set as a mute switch. So go back to the Settings > General, and then scroll to the “Use Side Switch to:” This time, instruct your iPad to use the side switch as a mute button.

Now you will lock your orientation from the screen. Here is how you do it:

Double-click the home button. This brings up the line of running icons we talked about here.

Now swipe to the right as far as it goes.

You will now see the screen below, (with several controls that we will address on another day.)

Look to the left. Do you see the square box with the circled arrow in it? That is all we need. Give it a tap. Your screen is now locked in the position that you are holding your iPad.

Tap it again to unlock it. That’s all there is.

Click click the home button. Swipe to the right. Tap the circular arrow. Locked!

That’s TWO ways to lock your orientation.

1. Use the side switch by selecting “lock rotation” in the settings.
2. Access the ability from the screen by sliding right on the running-icons strip and then tapping on the lock rotation. (to use this, “mute” must be selected on the “use side switch” in the settings.)

Good Vibrations: How to Change the Vibration Pattern on Your iPhone

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We all know that we can select different sounds for the alerts on our phone. But did you know that you can also change the vibration pattern?

I’m not really sure how useful this is, but it is kind of fun. If your OS is up-to-date, you can change the standard vibrate of “buzzz – buzzz” to several other patterns, or even invent a pattern of your own.

Here is how you do it:

Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Custom Vibrations. Toggle the switch to “on” for Custom Vibrations.

Now go back – back – back to the first Settings page.

This time, select “Sounds”

Now slide all the way down and you will see “Vibration” (It’s right under the heading of “Vibration Patterns”) Tap on “Vibration”.

You will see several choices. The standard alert which you are probably using (which is named “Alert” … so descriptively appropriate (grins) ), and a few others; Heartbeat, Rapid, SOS and Symphony. Touch any or all of them to feel/hear the different patterns.

Now let’s look at “Create New Vibration”. Once you tap it, you will be brought to a new screen titled “New Vibration”. This is the place where you can tap out your favorite rhythm to use as your new vibration alert. Keep tapping and canceling until you have an alert that you would like to use. Save it, name it and select it as your tone.

Giving this a bit of thought, I suppose if you are a person who keeps your phone on silent a lot (especially in a work environment), it might be helpful to have a dedicated vibration pattern for your significant other or perhaps assigned to an important call you are waiting to receive. And so, when it vibrates in your pocket (or bra) you will know who is calling without having to look at the screen.

Dear Dinosaur: Don’t Be Afraid to Try an eReader

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photo pin cc

“I’m a dinosaur and I’m proud of it” Really? Proud of it? What are you actually saying?

Well, basically, our Dinosaur is saying that he/she doesn’t want to change.

O.K. I’ll accept that. But the other piece that is implied with this statement is: “…and I’m not even going to try anything new.”

It’s the “I’m not going to try anything new” part that is so sad. In particular, I’m talking about eReaders. I’m afraid that a lot of people are missing out on a life-changing experience, because they just won’t try.

I love books. I love to read, and I truly appreciate the printed page. The design, the bindings, the covers, the weight of the book, the whole package. So I do understand the argument when people say “I’ll never read an ebook” because they usually cite all these same reasons.

I’ll admit I was probably attracted to my first Kindle because I am a gadget lover, not because I was interested in e-reading. I had no real complaints in my reading-life. But the Kindle was new and shiny and had buttons to push. : )

One book, and I was hooked. There are so many pluses to e-reading, especially for aging readers. Just the ability to adjust font size is, well, priceless. The Kindle, for example, is light and easy to hold. Battery life is astoundingly good, so you do not need to charge it often. It is easy to shop for books at the Amazon website, and with one-click, your reading choice appears on your device.

Book samples are another major perk of e-reading. You can have a sample sent to your device before you buy. Now I wonder how I ever selected books to read in the days before samples.

There are many e-readers in the market. Obviously, I am a Kindle fan, but Barnes and Noble’s Nook also gets cheers from the reading public. And of course you can read on your iPad, as well. And your iPhone, too. I previously talked about reading on all three devices, here. (There is an ongoing great debate of e-ink screens vs lit screens, but that is a subject for another day. Just let me make the point to our beloved Dinosaur, that the e-ink screen mimics improves a paper experience by being clear and crisp and easy on the eyes.)

Now a word to our Dinosaur: Don’t bite yourself in the foot. Although “new” isn’t always better, sometimes you have to dip a toe in the water and just try. I think you’ll be surprised to find that e-reading is something you’ll very much enjoy.

(p.s. did you know that Amazon has a 30 day return policy for the Kindle? In other words…. nothing to lose!)

The Act: A Beautiful New Animated Game for Your iPad and iPhone

This week a new game appeared in the app store, and it is so different, so creative, and just so pretty to look at, I feel compelled to post about it. It is made by Chillingo, a company that makes quality games, such as Cut the Rope.

It’s called The Act, and it is a glorious animated story about a hapless fellow named Edgar. In each scene, Edgar interacts with the other characters around him as he moves through a story. It is your job to make him interact “properly”. For instance, when he flirts with a nurse, it must be just right. Too much effort and Edgar will scare her off, and if he is too timid, then she’ll be bored. Gentle hints appear at points if the game feels you need a little help.

Moving your finger to the right or to the left, eventually you will get Edgar to appropriately interact with the other characters. When you get it perfect, the game cleverly moves onto the next scene, and it is delightful to watch.

I love it when an app is simple. The Act meets that criterion, in that your only control is a left-right swipe. Move your finger to the left and Edgar calms down. Move your finger to the right and he gets more active. (It is fun to swipe dramatically to the left or right just to watch the wonderful animation!) Yet this single movement is also surprisingly difficult. You’ll watch the other characters for clues, and strive to get Edgar to behave properly within each scene.

And getting it “just right” is all the fun. The characters are beautifully drawn, and their actions and reactions are funny and clever. While this is not of the “best game ever” category, it is so delightful to look at, so much fun to watch and manipulate, it was well worth the download.

In this scene below, Edgar is trying to fit in with these doctors so he won’t be noticed as an impostor. At one point, the doctors all laughed, and since I didn’t make Edgar laugh enough, he’s not “fitting in”. You can see by the look on his face, this scene is not going to end well! When I finally got it right, and Edgar moved on, there was a solid sense of satisfaction and anticipation for what’s next.

I’ve never seen anything like this. So far I’ve only played through several screens, but I understand the game is rather short. However, for a casual only-sometimes gamer like me, I’m sure I’ll be playing it for quite a while.

The Act is $2.99 and you can see more pictures of scenes here

update 6/26: I finished this game VERY quickly. It is extremely short. Fun, beautiful, clever, but …. short.

Beware the Autocorrect and How to Turn It Off If It Bites You


Autocorrect is a handy feature OR Autocorrect is a pain in the neck. People seem to feel strongly one way or the other. Personally, I’ve come to accept it and live with it, but I’m always cautiously on the lookout for my autocorrect to “get” me with a last minute change to my text or email, so I try to keep my eyes on the product of my typing.

For those of you who are new to iPhones and iPads, you will notice autocorrect when you are tapping out an email or a message. As you type, a little box will occasionally pop-up with the word that it thinks that you want. If it pops up during your creation of a word, and this pop-up IS the word that you want, you can stop typing. Just hit the space bar and your word will appear in the spot where you were typing it.

If the pop-up is NOT the word you want, you can tap this little “X” to dismiss the autocorrect.

BUT most of the time we do not watch the screen all that closely and we “tap-tap-send” without realizing that the autocorrect has changed a word to what it thinks we want to say ….. often with some very funny results. One of the most popular spots on the internet is Damn You Autocorrect with hilarious examples of these mess-ups.

If you would rather not keep a vigilant eye on your autocorrect you can turn it off. This is how:

Go to Settings > General > Keyboard and then turn autocorrect to OFF.

To view PC World’s “The Best of Damn You Autocorrect”, click here.

Your Phobic iPad/iPhone Screen: How Chemistry Makes It Easy to Clean

photo credit: pat00139 via photo pin cc

Before we talk about keeping your screen clean, let’s do an experiment. You’ll need a sticky note or two. Take one of your sticky notes and place it on a mirror. It sticks and stays put where you place it.

Now take a sticky note and put it on the screen of your iPad or iPhone. Oops … did it fall off? Doesn’t stick very well, does it?

With the help of that uncooperative sticky note you have just demonstrated the science behind the screen. It’s Chemistry. Your iPad/iPhone screen has been made to be “oleophobic” which kind of means that the screen is afraid of oil.

This “phobia” is a very very good thing. It means that the oil from your fingers does not adhere to the screen as it would if the screen was just an ordinary piece of glass. Think of water droplets on a newly waxed car. Imagine those drops beading up and falling off. This mental image applies to your finger oil on your iPhone/iPad screen. Finger oil won’t stick around much, either.

Let’s get to the point of how to clean your screen. Most important: Use NO chemical products. No windex, no handi wipes, no glass cleaner of any kind. A scrap of microfiber works best…….the kind you sometimes get when you get a new pair of glasses. I’ve also heard people swear by the cleaning power of their soft high thread count sheets. I’ve tried that myself, and I can report that the sheet worked great. You can use the tiniest touch of dampness, just a few drips of water on the cloth, but that is all.

So although your screen looks like it is just a piece of glass, it is so much more. Thanks to the chemists who invented the oleophobic polymer that repels oil. It was also chemists who figured out the way to attach this polymer to the glass that makes up your screen. And, since the screen of your device is also its interface, this oil-repelling property is extremely important.

But as we shout out a “yay” to the chemists, we must shout out a “boo” to glass-cleaning chemicals. Always keep in mind that in spite of its appearance, your screen is not just glass, and those glass cleaners will harm, not help.

To learn more about the oleophobic screen, and how it actually works to repel oil, read Bill Nye’s explanation, here.


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