Category: iOS stuff

Useful Smartphone Utilities

Holiday Help

For years, I have been a Hanukkah and Christmas helper for my clients.   If its within the realm of electronics and computers, let me know how I can help you.  Perhaps you need help selecting, setting up, and putting back in the box.  I’ll be there for you.  I have also helped clients with creating cards that can be printed out and mailed to your loved ones.  It’s not too late.  Photo cards speak 1000’s of words. 

2 Numbers on One Phone

This is really cool! Maybe you have business and personal lines.  Perhaps you always wanted to make your home phone a cell phone number in addition to your regular cell, but dread carrying two phones.  Right now — this option has arrived.   The 2018 iPhone models (Xs, Xs Max, and XR) offer eSIM technology.  This means you could have two numbers on one iPhone.  This capability just became possible with the iOS 12.1.1 update that came out last week.   Verizon, AT&T and other carriers worldwide are on board.  Let me know if you have questions about the power of eSIM. 

WiFi Calling

Some of my clients live in a cellular dead zone.  It’s a brutal existence when you can’t make cell phone calls from you own home, especially when they are work related or there are medical issues involved.  Over the past few years, ATT, Verizon, and TMobile have rolled out WiFi Calling for smartphones.  It’s that simple.  You can make and receive cellular calls over your home WiFi connection even when there is no cellular signal.  It has been a godsend to several clients.  Many smartphones 2 to 3 years old and newer support this feature.  However, if this feature means something to you, you’ll want to buy your phone through “official” channels.  By official, I am talking about your carrier or Apple.  The market for independently purchased phones, such as purchases made through Amazon or direct from the manufacturer (ie. some Motorola models, Nokia [they’re back], and One Plus), is growing.  Unfortunately, I have witnessed that AT&T likes to play games in making WiFi calling an exclusive feature.  If you are their customer, buy your smartphone from them or from Apple.  Note:  visual notification of voicemails will still be a problem in a low cell / no cell signal area. 

Awesome Utilities for Archiving Phone Data

Archiving data like text messages and call logs may be a legal issue, a business issue, or even a personal issue for you.   Here are some tools for your tool box.  With your iPhone, you need to make a full backup to your computer (Windows or Mac) via iTunes.  We have probably done this before, but you will want to get in the habit if this sort of record keeping means something.  While there are many utilities that can parse this data, I prefer iMazing.  It is amazing!.   https://imazing.com   It is $45 and worth every penny.

On the Android side,  I recommend SMS Backup + and SMS Backup and Restore.  The second app has some paid features, but I haven’t found the need for them.  SMS Backup+ actually takes your texts and makes them into a searchable folder in your Gmail account (WOW).  SMS Backup and Restore — exports call logs and text into 2 files on your phone or Google Drive.  They can be downloaded onto your computer or the app itself for your viewing pleasure.  They can also be restored back to a different Android phone. 

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Technology Shopping Realities

Apple in the News

I just wanted to touch on this briefly because there has been a lot of negative financial news lately.  Some of you have probably taken a hit ($$) with AAPL.  Financial reports and consumer reality don’t always match.  There is nothing substandard about Apple’s latest products.  Their quality is among the best on the market.   A certain segment of the population is upset because Apple is not going to report unit sales of iPhones anymore.  It also seems like the starting prices of iPhones, iPad Pros, Mac Minis, Mac Book Airs, and even Mac Book Pros are going up.   Sell less at higher prices and you still do as well on the bottom line may have been their thinking.  Multiple reports have said that Apple has cut orders for the iPhone X product line.  I saw one source that stated that iPhone 8 orders were being increased.  Could there be a rebellion  against removing the home button?  A desire for a sub $600 premium phone (not $750 or $999)?  Weakness in China and India?  All of these could be true. However, my clients who have iPhone X models love them.  They got used to the slightly different user experience in days or within one day.  They certainly appreciate the camera.  I’ll end on this note — If you stack the Mac Mini against a premium Windows desktop like the Dell XPS – it is priced appropriately for its features.  The Mac Book Air 2018 is also a pound for pound match with its closest Windows contenders in the ring — the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

I saw some amazing deals on Black Friday at Best Buy on Thursday night.   There were 50 inch Samsung and LG 4K HDR TVs for $327.  55 inch models were $397. These were not top of the line models, but when paired with a soundbar (a must for most new TVs), they represented an awesome value.  Best Buy also had Microsoft’s premium Surface Pro 6 tablet computer with a keyboard for $799 or $999 depending on hard drive size.  The popular Instant Pot 6 quart slow cooker extraordinaire was priced at $60-$70 by multiple outlets.  Macy’s had Martha Stewart bedding priced at 65% off.   Lord and Taylor offered some low cost but very stylish ladies handbags at 60% off.  In some cases, but not always, orders could be placed online to avoid the retail experience.  Now that Cyber Monday is upon us here are some deals of note:

Amazon Fire Stick (watch Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on your TV) – $25

Amazon Echo Dot (small “Hey Alexa” speaker) 3rd generation + Ring Video Doorbell – $139

50 inch Westinghouse TV 4K with HDR – $199

Amazon Fire HD8 tablet – $50

(Items found on Amazon.com or BestBuy.com)

I am sure you can find many more great deals on these and other websites throughout the day on Monday.

Always Black Friday at Stub Hub

I had the joy of going to a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert this weekend.  I have never been to a major rock or metal show in my life, although I have seen Jimmy Buffet on multiple occasions. All I can say is WOW!  They left it all on the stage and performed for 2.5 hours.  The best part of the experience was that I saved 2/3 off the regular price using StubHub.com.   It is a very reputable site (and app) where ticket holders go to sell their unneeded tickets.  I’ve used this service in the past with much success.  The key to big savings is, have a desire to attend an event  but also be OK with not going, be in close proximity, and make a decision at the last minute.  We were less than 1 hour from the site of the show and we purchased our tickets with 2 hours to go.  The regular price for two tickets would have been $180 and we paid $60.08, including fees.  

The Importance of Local Copies

A TV show that I enjoyed watching used to advertise new episodes by saying “ripped from the headlines.”  For this update, I will start with  — ripped from the customer files…

Your computer files can be so valuable.  You may need documents for legal purposes.  You may require samples of your work for future career endeavors or to get a deal completed.  Important photos can help you create promotional materials for or commemorate an event.  Your files are evidence — possibly of something exemplary or even wrongdoing. 

My point here is that separations happen.  Employment ends.  You may be forced off of the board of your HOA or community organization.  Business partners become entangled in disputes. Friendships and marriages terminate.  Hard drives fail.  Fires destroy homes. 

Cloud based backup services like Carbonite or Backblaze, even iCloud, are useful tools.  If you are running a computer with a desktop operating system like Windows or mac OS, and have important files on there, you should also have an external hard drive that backs up your entire system automatically.  Services like Dropbox and One Drive that allow you to store and synchronize selected folders can also play a key role in your technology scheme.   Today’s modern cloud based e-mail services can hold messages and attachments spanning many years worth of communications. 

However, if this data really matters to you, you should think about manually making physical copies of certain items on a periodic basis.  If your life, career, or project depends on it — protect yourself.  iPhones and iPads can be plugged into a Mac or Windows computer and backed up locally to that machine through Apple’s free iTunes software.  Love it or hate it, Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail program (Windows or Mac) can be used to back up all of your e-mail into a single file.  Again, if it’s critical to you, a periodic archive may be a good idea.  Who could forget floppy disks from 25 years ago?   Today, we use flash disks (or thumb drives) to copy smaller batches of files and folders.  These disks are cheap.  It would not hurt to have a few on hand (or an additional external hard drive) to copy specific items when the situation arises.   Here are Samsung 32 GB flash drives on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Samsung-BAR-Plus-32GB-Champagne/dp/B07BPHML28/ref=dp_ob_title_ce

Multiple copies never hurt. There are potential dangers with living our technological lives on autopilot.

Recap of Apple’s Brooklyn Event

So — after months of me telling you that new Macs, with more “consumer” oriented pricing, would be coming that day finally arrived on Tuesday.  I have been very critical of Apple’s 2016 and 2017 laptops, but I am a firm believer in what they did with the new Mac Book Pro laptops released over the summer and also this week’s releases.
The event opened with a tribute to what Tim Cook called the most beloved laptop of all time — the Mac Book Air.  The crowd got really excited.  Apple pundits had doubts over whether they would keep the Mac Book Air line going.  It lives on!   Let me give you a run down of the 3 major product announcements.
Mac Book Air
This 13 inch customer favorite is all new with a high resolution Retina display screen.  It has 2018, 8th generation, Core i5 Intel processors.  There are two USB-C ports on the laptop, both of which could be used for charging.  As these are ports of a new shape, you will need a $10 to $20 adapter to plug in your hard drives, printers, etc.   8 GB of RAM is standard.  Apple claims the Air is made from 100% recycled aluminum.  For the smallest hard drive, 128 GB SSD, the cost is $1199.  I just want to caution you about this size hard drive.   If you are only dealing with documents, this model may work for you.  However, if you are keeping a measurable collection of photos, music, and videos on your internal hard drive — please opt for the 256 GB model (same speed, just more storage) which goes for $1399.   Another option that some of my clients utilize is to put photo and music libraries on a separate external hard drive.    You may wonder, what is the difference between the $1399 Mac Book Air and the $1799 13 inch Mac Book Pro?  The Pro has a faster processor and 4 ports to plug things into instead of two.    I think the Mac Book Air would serve many of my Mac clients well.
Mac Mini
Wow!  They finally did it.  Apple updated their entry level desktop for the first time in 4 years.    For those of you in need of a primer — the Mac Mini is simply a small computer that is about the same size as a cigar box.  You can plug it into a monitor of your choosing ($100-150 model at Best Buy, Amazon works fine) and any USB mouse / keyboard ($30 Macally set from Amazon is A-OK).   Fortunately, the 2018 base model is not the stripped down, sluggish configuration from 2014.  It comes with 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB SSD hard drive, and a Core i3 CPU.   It rings up at $799.  This would be a very adequate model for my typical client.   However once again, if you have a significant collection of pictures or music, you will want to get the 256 GB model for $999 (or should possibly upgrade to the faster i5 processor for $1099).   Should you ever need to add more RAM, the memory (not hard drive) is actually up-gradable.  Thanks Apple!     The Mac Mini has plenty of ports to connect all of your devices — including an HDMI port, 4 USB C / Thunderbolt 3 ports,  2 traditional USB-A ports, and an Ethernet port for hard wired internet.    If you want a reasonably priced Mac desktop, this is your baby.
iPad Pro (A True Computer?)
The iPad Pro was refreshed with all new models that push the screen edge to edge like the iPhone X models.  The smaller model is now 11 inches and the larger model is still 12.9 inches.  The home button has been removed and replaced by Face ID, just like the iPhone X models as well.   Apple claims that the new iPad Pro is more powerful than 92% of personal computers on the market today.   With all of the language used, Apple is really promoting the iPad Pro as a computer.  They showed a graph during the event that showed that more iPads were sold than any other brand of computer over the past year.  One of my clients has already started to use her iPad Pro as her primary personal computer.   Pricing starts at $799 for the 11 inch model (64 GB hard drive), and $999 for the 12.9 inch model.   If you are going Pro, you will probably want to get Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio for $179-199.    For those of you with more basic iPad needs, like occasional e-mail reading, news reading, and media consumption — the $329 iPad is perfect.

Making Sense of New Devices

3 Premium iPhones for 2018 – Understanding the Distinctions
I wrote my 9/12 update to you within 30 minutes of watching Apple’s live event last week.  I realize it was a lot of information, but I wanted to cover it like a true techno journalist as if I were there.  I also tried to include only the deals that were relevant to my client base — typically the age 60+ crowd.
The first thing I want to make clear is that the less expensive XR (10 R) iPhone is by no means a “bastard child” of the 2018 iPhone offerings.   It is a premium phone being offered at $749 with 64 gigabytes of storage.   The XR is the phone that Apple expects to sell the most of this year.  To meet that demand, ordering has been delayed until October 19 so supply can be ramped up.  The two premium priced models — the Xs and Xs Max are being sold starting $999 and $1099 respectively.  They are available now.  The major differences between the XR line and the Xs line are that the Xs models have two cameras which aid in portrait photography and a higher quality screen.   For my typical client, I don’t think these features are tipping point to justify the higher price.  However, as you will read below, other factors come into play.    For most American iPhone users, my clients included, the iPhone is purchased on a 24 month, interest free installment plan with the cell phone carrier.  The cost of the phone is simply added to the bill.  In some cases, the cost of the actual service is slightly less than it was 5+ years ago.  Typical pricing on the 64 GB models would be about $31 / mo on the XR, $41 / mo on the Xs, and $45 / mo on the Xs Max.   These devices are truly computers in your pocket and priced like them, for sure.
Real Life Ordering Decision – Size Matters
I was with a client yesterday who upgraded his 2016 iPhone 7.  The cameras and screen quality were not deciding factors in his choice of the Xs over the XR.  The price difference, though $10 a month, was not seen as unbearable.   Size was the key issue.   The Xs with the screen stretched to the edges is closest in size to his iPhone 7 (6, 6s, and 8 as well).  The iPhone XR would be slightly larger.   The iPhone Xs Max is very close in size to the previous Plus iPhones (6 – 8 Plus).  My client told me — I don’t want to go bigger.  So, the Xs was ordered on a carrier financing plan and should be arriving by the weekend.
Android
If you are of an Android persuasion, keep in mind that Google’s own phone, the Pixel will be getting a refresh in early October.  I certainly think it is the best Android in terms of promised regular updates to the software.  Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 phones are also terrific.  Motorola G6 Plus is superb for a budget phone that can be purchased for around $230.  The One Plus 6 is a solid choice, competing with the best of Samsung at a lower price (but does not work on Verizon).
iOS
iOS 12 was released on 9/17.  It is a brand new version of Apple’s mobile device software.  Should you have an iPhone 5s or later or an iPad Air or later, you should be installing it within the next few weeks.   Please make sure you have a full backup of your device before installing version 12.   I’m still exploring its features, but so far I think the Measure app is very useful for around the house projects.  If you would like professional help with installing iOS 12, please let me know.
Mac OS
The latest version of mac OS — version 10.14 is coming out next Monday – Sept 24th.  From that point forward, I will be taking upgrade appointments.  Some of my clients choose to upgrade themselves, while others have me do it for them.   I make sure you have a full backup of your system in place and a copy of the install media should the software ever need to be reinstalled.  I also take great care to update your apps if necessary.   These appointments usually last about 2 hours.

Technology Update 9/12/18 – Apple Event Recap

New iPhones
Apple took the wrapper off of two premium iPhones today, the iPhone Xs (10 s) and 10s Max featuring Super Retina screens and better cameras than ever before.  As I shared previously, the phones feature edge to edge screens, with diagonal screen sizes of 5.8 and 6.5 inches.    Due to there being almost no bezel on the phones, the overall size of the phone is very comparable to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus respectively.    Apple is also offering a brand new iPhone Xr, with a traditional LCD screen which also pushes to the edges of the phone. It is 6.1 inches diagonally and comes in multiple colors. The Xr offers a very good camera, whereas the Xs models offer magnificent cameras.  Pricing (64 GB models):  iPhone Xr $749,iPhone Xs $999, iPhone Xs Max $1099.   All new models do not have home buttons.  I think you can easily learn the basic functionality in a day.  However, if you demand the traditional home button, the iPhone 8 is still available at a reduced cost ($599).
Ordering opens up on Friday, September 14th for the Xs and Xs Max.  The Xr model can be ordered starting Oct. 19th.  As I mentioned before, I can order you new iPhone for you for delivery at no charge if you have me come out to set it up for you.  Please contact me.  I’ll be ready to place your orders starting on Friday.
Apple Watches
Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 4 today.  The new models offer large watch faces, while pushing the screen closer to the edges.  They will offer more accurate tracking of exercise including swimming.  Series 4 can also detect falls, enhancing your personal safety.  Furthermore, it is also designed to recognize atrial fibrillation (AFIB) and offers the owners the first over-the-counter ECG (electrocardiogram).  The new Apple watches start at $399 and can be ordered starting on Sept 14th.

New Versions of IOS and the Mac OS

New versions of the operating system for the iPhone / iPad and Mac will be available very soon.   The release dates are as follows:  iOS 12 – Sept 17.   Mac OS 10.14  – Sept 24th. If you are going to be doing the upgrade on your phone, please make sure you have a full backup.  I am available for upgrade appointments starting on Sept. 24th.     If you are uncomfortable with doing it on your own, I will ensure you have a guided and safe experience.   Let’s set something up.   The release dates are as follows:  iOS 12 – Sept 17.   Mac OS 10.14  – Sept 24th.
Macs
There were no new Macs announced today.  I expect a direct product release or another Apple event within the next month.   At that time we should see a new Mac Mini desktop (Apple’s least expensive Mac) and some lower cost “consumer” Mac laptops.   As of right now, my recommendations are the 2018 Mac Book Pro 13 ($1799) and a custom ordered 2017 iMac ($1499 for one with a real SSD hard drive).  I expect my list of “VIP approved” Macs to expand when the new models are released.

Is That E-Mail Really From You?
I got asked this question by a client recently.  And it makes me think about trust in e-mails. We all have the right to question whether e-mails are authentic. I seek the same answers. I take the security of my e-mails and client contact information very seriously. This is an excellent topic and I wrote a blog post on it.    Please click the link to read more.  theacronym.com/2018/09/12/e-mail-authenticity/

Technology Update 9/4/18

New iPhones For Real – VIP Service
Apple’s iPhone event will be held on Sept 12th.  I believe pre-orders will start that Friday and shipments will commence a week later.  I mentioned the three sizes of the new phones in my last update — think small, medium and LARGE — with the medium being the least expensive.  I expect pricing to be somewhere along the lines of $700, $900, and $1100.  If its been many years since you’ve purchased an iPhone, you could buy the phone outright but what I think 90% of customers do is take advantage of the interest free financing with your cell phone carrier or Apple.  Take the phone price, divide by 24, and that’s your monthly cost.   I will offer my iPhone Ordering Service to you once again.  If you are going to have me set up your iPhone, I will order it for you over the phone at no extra charge.   I look forward to helping you get your new device.
 
Upgrading Computers
One of the nice things about 2012 (and earlier) Mac Book Pros and MOST Windows computers is that the hardware can be upgraded.  The hard drive can be replaced to give you more and faster storage.  Memory (RAM) can often be increased to allow smoother moment to moment operations.  Sold state hard drives (SSDs) are cheaper than ever before.  Contact me to find out if its possible / worth it to perform an upgrade to your existing machine and what the costs would be.  I will take great care to back up your data and then give you a “clean install” of the Mac / Windows operating system.  If you’ve had your computer for at least three years and want to keep it going, it’s just what the Doctor ordered.
Remote Support
I want to make clients, especially those new to the VIP family, aware that I offer remote support for simple Windows and Mac issues that may not require in in-person visit.  With Windows 10, I make use of the built in Quick Assist application.  With Mac users, I utilize Skype.  Do not worry, I’m not interested in seeing your beautiful face after you had a night of poor sleep.  I strictly use the screen sharing Skype feature.  For remote appointments, I bill in half hour increments. I will ask you to pay at the end of the session by directing you to my payment page or taking a credit /debit card from you over the phone.    Other remote services I have offered for clients in the past include comprehensive research and answering of questions in report style format, constructing / editing simple websites and social media profiles, and document / image conversion.