Apple previews iOS 12, macOS Mojave, and more!

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At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote on June 4th, the company unveiled the first developer versions of all four of its operating systems: macOS 10.14 Mojave, iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12. They won’t be available until this fall, likely in September or October, but here is a glimpse of what you can expect.

macOS 10.14 Mojave adds Dark Mode, enhances the Finder, and gains four iOS Apps

With the update to macOS, which Apple is calling “Mojave” after the southern California desert, the company is beefing up the Finder, adding visual enhancements, and bringing some familiar iOS apps to the Mac. Apple is dropping support for some older Macs, so you’ll need a Mac introduced since 2012 to run Mojave.

Productivity mavens with messy Desktops will appreciate a new Finder feature, which, when turned on, automatically gathers all the files on the Desktop into “stacks,” sorting them by file type, date, tag, or other criteria. Click a stack to expand it, much like a Dock stack today.

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Apple has replaced Cover Flow view, which combined a large preview area and a file list, with the new Gallery view. Aimed at helping you browse in a folder of images, Gallery view displays a large preview of the selected file above a row of thumbnails for other items in the folder. A right-hand sidebar in Gallery view shows more information about the current file and lets you edit or mark up the file with Quick Actions (which you can create with Automator) without opening the file in an app. Press Space bar to preview a file with Quick Look, and you can apply appropriate Quick Actions to the file as well, all from the Finder.

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If you find the white backgrounds in the Mac’s windows too bright, you’ll like Mojave’s new Dark Mode (shown above), which intelligently reverses things to display white text in a largely black interface. Additional eye candy comes from Dynamic Desktops, which change the appearance of new Apple-provided Desktop backgrounds based on the time of day.

For those who take a lot of screenshots, Apple has given the Mac’s long-standing screenshot capabilities a visible interface that simplifies taking still screenshots or recording a movie of your actions. Plus, you can preview, edit, share, or delete a screenshot or movie immediately after creating it.

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A new feature called Continuity Camera lets you use your iPhone’s camera in Mac apps, either taking a photo directly into a Mac app or scanning a document as a PDF.

Lastly, although Apple was emphatic that it won’t be replacing macOS with iOS, or merging the two, the company is working to make it easier for developers to create apps that work on both platforms. Independent developers won’t be able to do that until 2019, but Apple is testing the waters by bringing four familiar apps from iOS to the Mac: News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home. They look and work very much like their iPad counterparts, but rely on the mouse or trackpad, and use normal Mac interface elements like resizable windows.

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iOS 12 improves performance, provides time management tools, and more

In the WWDC keynote, Apple emphasized that one of its main goals for iOS 12 is to improve performance, especially for older devices. Unlike Mojave, iOS 12 will support all the same devices as iOS 11, so those with an iPhone 5s or original iPad Air may benefit the most from this effort.

To address increasing concerns about how much we—and our kids—are using smartphones, Apple has made some important changes. Perhaps most important is the new Screen Time feature, which shows how often you use your iOS devices and how much time you spend in different apps. It also lets you set daily time limits for specific apps, so you can make sure you don’t spend too much time in Facebook, for instance. Even better, you can set such limits for your children’s devices via Family Sharing.

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Do Not Disturb has become a more appealing feature, because you don’t need to worry about accidentally leaving it on for too long—it can now be set to turn off automatically after some time or when you leave a location, such as at the end of a class or when you leave your doctor’s office. (This feature also comes to the Apple Watch with watchOS 5.) Also new is Do Not Disturb During Bedtime, which ensures you won’t see enticing notifications on the Lock screen if you check the time on your iPhone in the middle of the night.

Getting too many notifications? Notification grouping gathers all the notifications from each app together on the Lock screen so it doesn’t fill up, but you can see them all at once when you’re ready. Plus, a new feature called Instant Tuning helps you reduce the number of notifications you see, right from the Lock screen.

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If you’ve always wanted to automate repetitive actions in iOS, you’ll love the new Siri Shortcuts feature. You can use it to string together actions in different apps—send a message to your spouse that you’re leaving work, show the traffic conditions on your commute home, and start playing a podcast app—and then invoke them all via Siri with a custom phrase.

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Other interesting changes in iOS 12 include these:

  • Apple has renovated the interfaces of several bundled apps, including iBooks (now called Apple Books), News, Stocks, and Voice Memos (which can now sync recordings with the Mac).
  • FaceTime is no longer limited to one-on-one conversations and can now include up to 32 people in a single FaceTime conversation. The Mac version of FaceTime gains this capability too.
  • Photos boasts improved searching, can unearth photos from your library in a new For You tab, and prompts you to share photos with friends who it recognizes in your photos.
  • Apple is working with colleges and universities to add Wallet support for contactless student ID cards so students can use an iPhone (or Apple Watch) for unlocking doors, paying for meals, and more.
  • CarPlay allows apps from non-Apple developers to take over the car’s screen so that you can use alternative mapping apps like Google Maps and Waze in a CarPlay-enabled car.

watchOS 5 improves Workouts, and adds Walkie-Talkie and Podcasts Apps

Apple has realized that the Apple Watch is popular primarily for fitness and communication, so the company focused on those areas for watchOS 5. Alas, watchOS 5 isn’t available on the original Apple Watch.

On the fitness side, the Apple Watch can now start many workout types automatically when it detects that you’re exercising, and end a workout automatically when it sees that you’ve stopped. It even provides retroactive credit for what you did before the workout was detected. Apple has added new Yoga and Hiking workouts, each with their own metrics, and the running and walking workouts now measure cadence (steps per minute).

For those running outside, the Workout app can also display the rolling mile pace—the pace for the last mile—and can sound an alarm if you’re going slower or faster than a specified pace. And for those who do better with social motivation, watchOS 5 provides 7-day activity competitions.

In terms of communication, watchOS 5’s marquee feature is the new Walkie-Talkie app. Once you and a friend have set it up, you can tap a big yellow button to talk to your friend—and they can reply—just as though you were using old-school walkie-talkies. It works over both Wi-Fi and cellular.

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Apple is bringing the Podcasts app to watchOS 5, so you’ll be able to listen to podcasts from your wrist, assuming you have AirPods or a Bluetooth headset. Plus, watchOS 5 makes it possible for other audio apps to store audio on the watch, so it should get easier to listen to audiobooks and the like even when you don’t have your iPhone with you.

Other welcome changes in watchOS 5 include:

  • The Siri watch face has new options, including sports scores, heart-rate readings after workouts, and commuting times from Maps. Independent apps will also be able to contribute bits of data to appear in the Siri face.
  • Notifications can be interactive, so you could tap on your wrist to check in for a flight, confirm a restaurant reservation, or extend parking time. As with iOS 12, multiple notifications from the same app will be grouped.
  • Web links in Messages or email can be previewed on the Apple Watch.
  • When you raise your wrist to talk to Siri, you no longer have to say “Hey, Siri.

tvOS 12 gains Dolby Atmos support, zero sign-on, and a new Aerial screensaver

Although the Apple TV often receives less attention than Apple’s other platforms, it still gains new capabilities with tvOS 12. Most notable among these is support—on the Apple TV 4K only—for Dolby Atmos audio, which makes audio sound more realistic by going beyond the simple right and left channels to provide 3D sound. You’ll need an Atmos-capable soundbar too, along with Atmos-compliant video content, but Apple will automatically upgrade anything you’ve bought from the iTunes Store to the Atmos version once it’s out.

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Two other new features work on both the Apple TV 4K and the fourth-generation Apple TV but require support from both apps and TV providers: Zero Sign-on and Cloud DVR. Zero Sign-on figures out your Internet provider, and if it’s the same as your TV service, automatically detects apps that need authentication and logs you in to them. It will work only with Charter Spectrum at launch, but Apple is negotiating with more providers. Similarly, the new Cloud DVR feature lets you watch TV you’ve recorded via the Apple TV, if your TV provider supports it. In the U.S., that again means Charter Spectrum to start.

Apple put some work into the Apple TV’s gorgeous aerial screensaver, introducing a new view from space using imagery taken by astronauts on the International Space Station. Also, you can tap the Siri Remote touchpad while a screensaver is showing to see where it was taken.

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Finally, in conjunction with iOS 12, tvOS can autofill passwords saved on your iOS devices so you don’t have to type them on the awkward onscreen keyboard. And if iOS 12 detects an Apple TV, it automatically adds an Apple TV Remote button to Control Center on your iPhone or iPad. (You can do that now, but you have to add the button manually in Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls.)

Getting Ready for These OS Releases

Apple usually makes new versions of its operating systems available in September or October, in conjunction with new iPhones. That doesn’t mean you should upgrade immediately, and we always recommend that you hold off on upgrades until Apple had had a chance to address the inevitable bugs that come with the initial release of any major upgrade. So sit tight, and we’ll tell you more when the time is right.

That said, if these features sound enticing and you have a pre-2012 Mac, an iPhone 5 or earlier, an iPad that predates the iPad Air, or an original Apple Watch, some new hardware may be in your future.

The Hidden Keyboard Shortcut Cheat Sheet in Your iPad!

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If you’re working on an iPad with a physical keyboard -  it could be a Bluetooth keyboard or an iPad Pro with Apple’s Smart Keyboard - there are quite a bunch of useful keyboard shortcuts you can use to work faster. Many are exactly what you would assume if you have Mac experience; for instance, Command-F generally maps to Find. If you want to see a list of supported keyboard shortcuts in an app, simply press and hold the Command key on the keyboard until an information panel appears. Some apps, like Calendar (shown below), even have multiple pages of shortcuts; swipe to see them all. Not all apps will display the cheat sheet, but most of Apple’s productivity apps do. Cool, right?

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How to Lock Down Your Facebook the Best You Can.

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Facebook has dominated the news headlines of late and not for good reasons. As you know, there were the 50 million Facebook profiles gathered for Cambridge Analytica and used in the 2016 presidential election. 

Because of this, many may have thought about deleting their accounts but let's get real, it's probably not the first time you've thought about that. If you’re done with Facebook, you’re welcome to deactivate or even delete your account. Facebook provides instructions for both actions. Deactivating your account will only make your account invisible on Facebook, whereas deleting your account may eventually result in most of the data being removed (up to 3 months later).

The problem is that Facebook is useful. Right? It may be the only connection you have with certain friends or family members, and many informal groups use Facebook for meetup logistics. You may also have a business page established on Facebook, which will require a personal account for Administrative privileges. So, for many of us, losing access to Facebook could or would hurt our real-world relationships and activities. What to do?

If you’re a business, it may make sense to keep your Facebook page but avoid relying on it. Remember, Facebook is not your friend. Earlier in 2018, Facebook announced that it would be prioritizing posts from friends and family over public content, which is a nice way of saying that Facebook is depreciating business-related posts. So make sure you have a Web site that you control and make sure that customers can easily find it and contact you through it. 

On a personal level, there are two ways to think about privacy on Facebook:
Limiting the information you share with other people on Facebook
Limiting the information that you’re willing to provide to Facebook at all.

If Facebook doesn’t have certain data about you, they can’t sell it to the highest bidder, let it be harvested by hackers, or use it in ways you might find creepy.

To control who on Facebook can see what you share, click the ? button on the Facebook Web site on your Mac, or tap the button in the bottom right corner of the Facebook iOS app and then tap Privacy Shortcuts. Then click or tap Privacy Checkup and run through the steps to make sure you’re sharing the right info with the right people. Be sure to lock down or remove any apps that you don’t need, since they can leak all sorts of data!

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Also, go to Facebook’s Privacy Settings & Tools page. Click the Edit button next to each item, and make it as specific as you can. You also might want to review the posts you’re tagged in and remove those that you don’t want on your timeline.

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But what if you don’t want to give information to Facebook for it to use? Go to Facebook’s page for Uploading and Managing Your Contacts, and delete them all. You’re just giving away your contacts’ personal information without their permission otherwise. Of course, this will require us to depend on others to be smart with their data and your information as well!! Be smart, everyone!

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To ensure that contact uploading doesn’t happen again, in the Facebook iOS app, tap Settings & Privacy > Account Settings > General > Upload Contacts and make sure the switch is off. (Some versions of the Facebook app just have Settings, not Settings & Privacy, and show a popover for Account Settings.)

Also, in the iPhone Facebook app, go to Settings & Privacy > Account Settings > Location > Location, and make sure it’s set to Never. And whatever you do, keep Location History off—Facebook doesn’t need to know everywhere you’ve ever been. Unless you love checking-in or tagging locations on photos...& in that case, you are doing exactly what they want and designed you to do. 

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If you’re perturbed by the way Facebook’s iOS app is trying to capture your contacts and locations, you could delete it from your iOS devices and rely instead on the Facebook Web site, which can’t access nearly as much information about you. To make it easier to open, in Safari, visit facebook.com, tap the Share button, and then tap the Add to Home Screen button in the bottom row of the share sheet.

Here is an important thought. Lets always assume that anything you post to Facebook or allow Facebook to have access to could end up on the front page of your local newspaper… or the New York Times. Nothing on Facebook is ever completely private—Facebook has shown it currently isn’t trustworthy or reliable—and the best way to ensure confidential information doesn’t leak inadvertently is to avoid posting it to Facebook in the first place. Sorry.

Apple Pay Is Easier, More Secure, and More Private Than Using Credit Cards!

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You’ve probably heard of Apple Pay, but have you set it up so you can use it to pay for purchases at checkout? If not, why not?! These days, most people would say that they are worried about the security of technology but Apple Pay is about as secure as you can get. Give it a try!

It’s one of those living-in-the future Apple technologies that feels really cool every time you use it. To this day, people stare with a combination of amazement and envy when I use it to pay. Still! And don't get me started on the convenience of using the Wallet App to store my boarding passes when I travel. I will touch on that later.

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How does Apple Pay work? Simply put your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch within an inch or so of a compatible payment terminal (look for an Apple Pay or contactless payment logo). I like using my Apple Watch but all the devices work with ease. Using the iPhone, place your finger on the Home button to use Touch ID (or double-press the iPhone X’s side button and authenticate via Face ID, or double-press the Apple Watch’s side button), and you’re done. The entire transaction will take much less time than opening your wallet, although you may still need to sign a receipt.

What happens behind the scenes when you use Apple Pay? How does this work? The good news is that Apple Pay is significantly more secure than a magnetic-strip credit card and has advantages over chip-embedded cards too. First, theft prevention is baked in. A typical thief can’t use Apple Pay from your device because they can’t get past Touch ID or Face ID, or provide your Apple Watch passcode. Yep. They really can't.

Also, the store where you shop gets no data about you - they don’t know who you are, where you live, what your card number is, or anything else unless you showed a rewards card or provided your phone number. Most importantly, you never have to worry about your credit card number being jotted down, scanned, or skimmed.

How does this magical process work? When you set up Apple Pay, the Wallet app sends your encrypted credit card details to Apple, after which they’re passed along to your card’s payment network. What comes back is an encrypted Device Account Number—a long number that’s stored in the Secure Enclave chip on your device. That chip is protected by a digital moat, keeping it isolated from nearly all activity on your device. The Device Account Number is unique to your device and card, so nobody else can use it. Encryption and security, that's Apple.

When you pay with Apple Pay, the Secure Enclave chip transmits the Device Account Number, along with a few other details, including a one-time transaction code. Everything is encrypted, so even if an attacker were listening to the traffic, no transaction details would be revealed. The information remains encrypted until it reaches the appropriate party, at which point, if all goes well, your transaction is approved and processed.

Millions of payment terminals in the United States accept Apple Pay, including those found in most major national chains, so you shouldn’t have to look far to find one. You can also use Apple Pay in some iOS apps and some Web-based shopping carts when checking out in Safari.

To set up Apple Pay, on your iPhone or iPad, tap Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay > Add Credit or Debit Card and follow the easy instructions—it’s fine to let the device scan your card so that you don’t have to type your credit card number; the image is discarded immediately after setup.

After adding a card, find it in the Wallet app and tap the card’s info button at the lower right to explore the Info and Transactions screens. Notice that four digits from the card’s Digital Account Number appear on the Info screen—if you want to return an Apple Pay purchase, you’ll give these digits to the merchant instead of sharing your credit card number.

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Don't forget, starting in iOS 11.2, Apple introduced Apple Pay Cash, which lets you make person-to-person payments within the Messages app. It’s great for splitting restaurant checks! We told you how to use that fun party trick in a previous blog here: Split Restaurant Checks with Apple Pay Cash!

The bottom line is that Apple Pay is easy to use, preserves your privacy, and enhances your financial security. And it is really COOL! Maybe next, we'll review how Apple Wallet App is fun at the airport too - think boarding pass. 

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Apple’s Family Sharing Simplifies Sharing Purchases & Managing Kid Capabilities

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Family life is all about togetherness, but trying to keep track of who’s doing what when can be tough. Apple’s Family Sharing service makes it super easy to share apps, media, and more within a family of up to six members, and it provides a few helpful digital housekeeping capabilities such as locating your kid’s misplaced iPad. How can Family Sharing enhance your family's everyday life both online and in the real world? Here's an overview:

Manage Your Kids’ Purchases

Every Family Sharing group will have an organizer. That person (maybe you) sets up the family on a Mac in System Preferences > iCloud and connects a credit card to the account to pay for all App Store, iTunes Store, and iBooks Store purchases of apps, music, TV shows, videos, and ebooks.

For any child under the age of 18 in the group, you can turn on "Ask to Buy". This feature lets your kid shop for apps or media, but will only complete a purchase if you approve it. Ask to Buy also applies to free downloads so you can maintain control over free games. You can also give other adults in your family the ability to approve Ask to Buy requests.

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Share Apps, Media, and More

To help you keep costs down, once someone in the family has purchased an app or media file, anyone else in the family can download it. No duplicating purchases! However, some apps don’t allow such sharing and in-app purchases can’t be shared. You can hide some or all purchases from other family members. 

You can also buy a family subscription to Apple Music, Apple’s streaming music service. At $14.99 per month for a family instead of $9.99 per person, it’s a good deal. Our family loves this!

Plus, family Sharing creates a few items that all group members can access on their Apple devices:

  • A shared Family album appears in the Photos app, making it easy to build a common set of photos. You can designate the Family album as a screensaver on your Mac or Apple TV.
  • A shared Family calendar in the Calendar app helps track those basketball games and piano recitals that everyone needs to know about.
  • A shared Family list in the Reminders app has many possible uses, such as a grocery list with location-based alerts or a chore list with timed alerts.

Find Your Children (and Their Devices)

Family Sharing simplifies the setup and usage of two key Apple services related to finding things.

All family members automatically become “friends” in Apple’s Find My Friends app. This bundled app shows where everyone is on a map (more specifically, it shows where their primary device is). If you need privacy briefly, you can temporarily stop sharing your location. 

You won’t need the Find My iPhone app—which shows the location of all your family’s Apple devices, including the tiny AirPods—on a daily basis. But when your tween isn’t sure whether he left his iPhone on the bus or in his locker, it’s a godsend. You can also use Find My iPhone to play a sound on a missing device (in case it’s in the couch), put a message on it, or even erase the device entirely if it lost or stolen.

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Family Sharing may not do everything you’d want, like share entire Photos libraries or contact lists, but do you really want that anyway? It is a fantastic tool for families whose members use a variety of Apple devices.

Make Life Easier: Reminder Lists w/ Siri

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"Hey Siri, add Chardonnay to my grocery list."  Try it! And If you don't have a "Grocery List ", Siri will ask you if you'd like her to create one. Do it! 

There's a couple different ways to use reminders with the iPhone. Lets discuss. If you tell Siri to randomly remind of of something, those reminders are automatically added to your default list. You can find this in Settings > Reminders > Default List. That is generally used for thing like —“Hey Siri, remind me to fill the dog's water bowl at 10pm tonight” — which is awesome, but not as good when you want to maintain different shopping lists.

For instance, like I mentioned above, you can create a list called “Grocery,” and then you can tell Siri, “Put chocolate-covered bacon on my Grocery list.” Want to be even more organized? Make a list called “House Projects” (you can do this manually OR just say "Hey Siri, make a reminder list called "House Projects") and then tell Siri, “Add blue paint to my House Projects list, and remind me when I arrive at Home Depot.” She will not only do it, she will also verify which Home Depot works best for you first! Then you’ll receive an alert reminding you to buy blue paint when you pull into the parking lot. To look at any list via Siri, just say something like "Hey Siri,"... “show my House Projects list” or "show my Grocery List". You can make any Reminder List(s) you want!

Let the technology in your hand help you! It is really great when you're busy cooking and realize you need more butter but your hands are dirty and you can summons Siri to add it to your grocery list. Or better yet, when you are relaxing and suddenly remember something you need but do not want to get up...or forget later...or especially when you're driving.

You can also share these lists with others, for instance, when I add something to the grocery list, my husband knows to check the list we share when he is at the store and vice versa. Try it out, don't be scared to use Siri, she gets better at communicating with you the more you communicate with her (or him).

Call 911 or Emergency SOS with an iPhone or Apple Watch.

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And while we are discussing this - please go to your Health App and complete your Medical ID card! Medical Professionals and first-responders are starting to use it.

Lets say you needed to call emergency services from your or someone else’s iPhone? These kind of calls take place at stressful times, it can be hard to remember what to do. For example, if you’ve been in an accident, it might be difficult to think or impossible to navigate the iPhone if you can even find it. In iOS 10.2 and watchOS 3 and later, Apple added the Emergency SOS feature to help

What does it do and how do I use it?

Emergency SOS does three very important things:

  • First, it calls emergency services, using whatever number is appropriate for your location, which could be particularly helpful when you’re traveling abroad.
  • 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.
  • 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:

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  • On the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, press and hold the side button and either of the Volume buttons until the Emergency SOS slider appears. 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.
     
  • On the iPhone 7 and earlier, 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 to bring up the Emergency SOS slider, or 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.
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You can test this in a non-emergency situation, 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—I have personally and accidentally activated this once and after cancelling the call, 911 immediately called me back to make sure I didn't need help. It was slightly embarrassing but also very reassuring and cool to know that it worked!

To add emergency contacts—the people who you’d want notified if you were in an accident, for instance—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.

A couple things. 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. 

Clearly, lets hope that you never have to use Emergency SOS, but if you do, it is a fast and  effective way of contacting emergency services that everyone should know about.

HomePod Smart Speaker Arrives This Friday

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Yes, it was first announced back in June of 2017 and soon Apple’s long-awaited HomePod will ship in the US, UK, and Australia on February 9th for $349. You can get it in space gray or white. We ordered one of each. Watch out Amazon Echo and Google Home, there’s a new smart speaker coming soon. Why is the HomePod any different...or dare we say, better? 

Amazon and Google focused mostly on how you could interact with their smart speakers. Apple, however, is placing emphasis on audio quality that HomePod users and music lovers can enjoy. The HomePod has seven beam-forming tweeters for high-frequency acoustics, coupled with a large woofer for deep, clean bass, in a cylindrical package just under 7 inches tall. The sound will be unmatched.

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An A8 chip is what makes the HomePod much smarter than regular speakers. The HomePod has processing power equivalent to an iPhone 6. The software running on the HomePod gives it spatial awareness. What does this mean? It can sense its location in the room and adjust the audio automatically for the best listening experience. What?!

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Want to know something else that is pretty cool? With a free software update due later this year, you’ll be able to control multiple HomePods throughout your home. You can control each one independently or playing the same music on all of them, perfectly in sync. Also, if you put two HomePods in the same room, you’ll be able to set them up as a stereo pair. Sounds pretty awesome, right?

Order your HomePod now at Apple.com ➚

Keep in mind, the HomePod can do more than play music. It uses Apple’s Siri voice assistant to listen for your commands with an array of six microphones, so you can ask Siri to send messages, set timers, play podcasts, read the news, get the weather, check sports scores, and more. Apple has even expanded Siri’s knowledge of music for the HomePod. You can also transfer a phone call from your iPhone to your HomePod for a hands-free conversation - Awesome when you are cooking!

What if you don’t want to talk to your HomePod? You can tap its top to play/pause (single tap), move to the next track (double tap), or go back to the previous track (triple tap). Touching and holding invokes Siri without saying “Hey Siri,” and you can tap or hold the + and – buttons to adjust volume.

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Home automation/Smart Home enthusiasts will be excited to know that they can control HomeKit accessories via Siri on the HomePod as well. The HomePod can act as a HomeKit hub that can trigger automations and let you control HomeKit accessories while you’re away from home.

But what most people will use the HomePod for, most of the time, is music. For full music functionality, the HomePod would work best with an Apple Music subscription. We love ours! However, those who don’t subscribe to the $9.99 per month Apple Music will still be able to play music purchased from iTunes, stream Beats 1 Radio, and listen to podcasts.

Setting up a HomePod is simple—just plug it in, and your iPhone or iPad will detect it automatically, just like a pair of AirPods. The HomePod will require an iOS device. It must be relatively recent (iPhone 5s or later, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, or sixth-generation iPod touch), and it must be running at least iOS 11.2.5—you’ll want to install the latest available version to keep up with tweaks as Apple rolls them out.

It will be a couple weeks before the HomePod can be fully tested against the various other smart speakers. Undoubtedly, we think the HomePod will sound much better than the more-established products from Amazon and Google. Along with adding multi-room audio and stereo capabilities, Apple will also be one to introduce new capabilities on the HomePod over time.

Order your HomePod now at Apple.com ➚