It’s amazing how app developers figure out clever ways around the iPhone’s limitations. For example, have you ever wanted to view the current temperature on your home screen? Sure, with iOS 5, you can use the new weather widget in Notification Center, but here’s an app that will save you a step, and it’s in the App Store (no jailbreak needed). It’s called Fahrenheit (free or $0.99).
Fahrenheit uses badges (those little red circles that appear on app icons) to show the current temperature, and it uses push notifications to keep the temperature up-to-date.
The free version comes with a limited “trial period” for push notifications that keep the temperature updated. But if you like the app, the 99-cent version removes the trial period and adds more features like 10-day forecasts, turning it into a nice little weather app. You can find in-depth reviews at Macworld or TUAW, but I can confirm that it works like a charm.
There’s also a Celsius version for the enlightened ones on the metric system.
If you’re looking to write the next Great American Novel on the iPad, good luck using the iPad’s touchscreen keyboard. You’re going to need a physical keyboard. And wireless bluetooth keyboards are the current solution for connecting a traditional tactile keyboard to the iPad to get some serious typing done.
The Zippy BT-500 ($50) is such a bluetooth keyboard that can connect to the iPad, although with its cramped keys, it doesn’t end up improving much upon the touchscreen typing experience.
The Zippy BT-500 is an ultra-compact keyboard: just under 9 inches in length and 4 inches from top to bottom. It is much smaller than a normal desktop keyboard. The compromise the Zippy BT-500 makes for this smaller size is that its keys are smaller and more cramped than a normal keyboard. And that is where the rub lies with the Zippy BT-500.
At times, I found using the Zippy BT-500 only a slightly better experience than using the iPad’s touchscreen keyboard itself. The BT-500’s keys are too close together, and my fingers (which are pretty slender for man hands, by the way) too wide to accurately hit the keys. I found myself making just as many mistakes with the Zippy as with the iPad’s touchscreen keyboard. I was, however, able to increase my accuracy by using a slower hunt-and-peck method—where you use just your index fingers to slowly select and hit each key.
I can’t recommend the Zippy over the Apple’s own wireless bluetooth keyboard, which I’ve reviewed in the past for use with the iPad. The Zippy is cheaper at around $50 or less, compared to $70 for Apple’s bluetooth keyboard, but with Apple’s keyboard you get full-size keys, and at around 10 ounces compared to the Zippy’s 11+ ounces, the Apple is a little lighter as well.
That’s not to say the Zippy BT-500 doesn’t have some redeeming characteristics. It has the full 82 keys, including a Windows key that doubles as the Apple key—sacrilege for all the Mac users out there.
The BT-500’s signature feature is that it allows you to instantly switch to up to 6 bluetooth devices. For example, with just a press of a few keys, the keyboard can switch between the iPad and iPhone. A neat feature, but likely only useful to a handful of people.
The Zippy is powered by two AA batteries, which can easily be replaced via a removable access panel on its back. There is also an on/off switch next to the panel as well as a reset button.
The Zippy BT-500 ($50) Wireless Bluetooth keyboard is impressively compact but makes too many sacrifices in the size and spacing of its keys to be comfortable to use. I found myself making just as many typing errors with the BT-500 as I did with the iPad’s own touchscreen keyboard. For just $20 more, you can get the Apple Wireless keyboard, which gives you full-size keys and a much more accurate and comfortable typing experience.
A common binder clip is a simple solution for preventing kids from pressing the home button and quitting out of apps—a huge source of frustration for parents and kids alike. Best of all, you may already have a binder clip around the house. It’s awkward looking but effective, especially for toddlers.
If you’ve ever used a binder clip, you’ll know that it requires a good amount of wrist strength to remove, especially when the binder is already attached to a thick object, so young kids will have trouble removing it.
The BubCap is a more elegant solution for preventing kids from pressing the home button. The BubCap is a thin but rigid piece of plastic that fits over the home button via strong adhesive and prevents a toddler from pressing the home button. The adhesive is strong enough that young children will lack the coordination and strength to remove it, yet adults can remove it without adverse effects to the iDevice.
BubCaps are mainly designed for toddlers, as older children and adults will still be able to push the button through the plastic and remove the BubCap itself.
BubCaps sell for $6 on Amazon for a set of four Bubcaps, which includes two different rigidities.
3. Child-Friendly Cases
If it makes you nervous to hand over your expensive iDevice to a child, a good protective case can be an insurance policy against damage.
BigGrips are thick, colorful iPad cases that will give the device a softer, kid-friendly feel. They are available for the iPad 2 and original iPad for around $35.
If you don’t like the bright colors and would rather have a full-time protective case you’re not embarrassed to carry around yourself, we recommend checking out a company called Otterbox, which is known for its ultra-protective cases that even the US military uses to protect its iDevices. Their MSRP is usually over $60, but you can find them at deep discounts on Amazon.
4. Restriction Settings
In the iPhone’s Settings, a feature called Restrictions can prevent kids from accessing certain apps and features. Once Restrictions are turned on, they are passcode protected, so kids can’t change them without the passcode. Restrictions are mainly meant for older kids, but there are a few that could come in handy for toddlers too, preventing them from:
Making in-app purchases
To access Restrictions, open up the Settings app and go to General–>Restrictions. Apple has made it easy to turn off restrictions with one tap. You can find out more about Restrictions on Apple’s site here.
Kids may try to play with Mommy’s iPhone when Mommy isn’t around, which can lead to trouble. It’s recommended that everyone, parents and nonparents alike, use a passcode to protect their iPhone from unwanted intrusions.
Sure, passcodes can be annoying if you access your iPhone a lot, but you can change the amount of time that must pass before your iPhone passcode locks itself to make it less annoying. For example, my iPhone is set to require a passcode after 1 hour of non-use.
Everyone loves emoji, the cute little icons most commonly used in text messages. But inserting them can be a lumbering, multistep process. Here’s a much quicker way to insert emoji using the new text shortcuts feature on the iPhone. Just follow the step-by-step instructions below for a one-time setup. Then you’ll be able to instantly insert emoji by typing just a few characters.
1. Make sure you have emoji activated. They are not turned on by default (you only have to activate them once). Follow our instructions on activating them.
2. Once emoji are activated, open the iPhone’s Settings and tap General:
3. Scroll down and tap Keyboard:
4. Scroll down and tap: Add New Shortcut…:
5. In the field labeled Phrase, insert the emoji. (You can access the emoji keyboard by tapping the globe icon on the keyboard):
6. Now, in the shortcut field, type in a combination of characters that will turn into the emoji. Pick an uncommon combination of characters to help prevent accidental auto-correction from occuring, but also pick something that will help you remember the shortcut. For example, for a shortcut for the heart emoji, you may want to use the letters hht, as it’s not a common combination of letters and the two H’s will allow you to quickly type the characters.
7. To finish, tap Save:
And that’s it. To test your new emoji shortcut, type in your shortcut anywhere you can enter text on the iPhone, tap spacebar, and your cute little emoji will appear!
Emoji first gained popularity in Japan, but thanks to the iPhone, they are growing in use in the US. Even Gmail now supports them.
Did you know that you can use emoji in the names of your app folders? For example, you could use the hamburger emoji to label a folder of restaurant apps.
You can add words to the iPhone’s spelling dictionary to prevent the iPhone’s auto-correct feature from automatically fixing them. To do this, however, you must add the words to a very unobvious place on the iPhone: in the iPhone’s “text shortcuts.” Below are step-by-step instructions on how to add words to the iPhone’s dictionary.
1. Open Settings:
2. Tap General:
3. Scroll down and tap Keyboard:
4. Scroll down and tap: Add New Shortcut…:
5. In the field labeled Phrase, type in the word. Do not type in anything in the Shortcut field.
6. Tap Save:
And that’s it, you’ve added a word to the iPhone’s spelling dictionary. Now the word will no longer trigger autocorrect.
The feature that automatically fixes the spelling of words is called Auto-Correction. You can turn the feature off in Settings–>General–>Keyboard, then swipe the Auto-Correction tab to Off.
*Update 3/9/2012* This tip no longer works if you update your iPhone to iOS 5.1.
Here’s an awesome tip. One of my major annoyances with iOS is having to navigate deep into the settings every time I want to turn Bluetooth on or off. But here’s a neat little trick that will let you create an icon you can tap to take you directly to your Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or other settings, and it doesn’t involve hacking, jailbreaking, or doing anything else untoward. It’s a two-part tip.
The first part relies on a set of commands (entire list below) you can type into the iPhone’s Safari browser to launch directly into a specific setting on the iPhone. You can try it yourself, simply type the following into your browser: prefs:root=WIFI to launch the WiFi settings on the iPhone.
Cool, huh? But who wants to type that in every time? Here’s where the second part of this tip comes in. You’ll need an app called Icon Project ($0.99) that lets you design webapp icons and add them to your homescreen (for iPhone beginners, webapps are essentially web bookmarks you can save to your iPhone’s home screen. Apple also calls them web clips).
Icon Project not only lets you design the icon’s graphics, colors, text, etc, you can also add links to websites. When you tap the icon, the website will launch. And that’s where the list of commands below comes in. Using the Icon Project app, where you’d normally enter a web address simply type in any of the commands below. Then, when you tap the icon, you’ll to be taken directly to that iPhone setting. Sweet trick.
*Update* For a free version of this tip (without the need for the $0.99 app), point your iPhone or iPad’s browser to this page at iPhoneZa and scroll down. Choose among the various links to easily add icons with shortcuts to iPhone settings. The only disadvantage for using the website is that you can’t use your own graphics for the icons.
Note that some users who haven’t upgraded to iOS 5 have been having some trouble with this tip.
List of Shortcuts:
About –> prefs:root=General&path=About
Accessibility –> prefs:root=General&path=ACCESSIBILITY
Airplane Mode On –> prefs:root=AIRPLANE_MODE
Auto-Lock –> prefs:root=General&path=AUTOLOCK
Brightness –> prefs:root=Brightness
Bluetooth –> prefs:root=General&path=Bluetooth
Date & Time –> prefs:root=General&path=DATE_AND_TIME
FaceTime –> prefs:root=FACETIME
General –> prefs:root=General
Keyboard –> prefs:root=General&path=Keyboard
iCloud –> prefs:root=CASTLE
iCloud Storage & Backup –> prefs:root=CASTLE&path=STORAGE_AND_BACKUP
International –> prefs:root=General&path=INTERNATIONAL
Location Services –> prefs:root=LOCATION_SERVICES
Music –> prefs:root=MUSIC
Music Equalizer –> prefs:root=MUSIC&path=EQ
Music Volume Limit –> prefs:root=MUSIC&path=VolumeLimit
Network –> prefs:root=General&path=Network
Nike + iPod –> prefs:root=NIKE_PLUS_IPOD
Notes –> prefs:root=NOTES
Notification –> prefs:root=NOTIFICATIONS_ID
Phone –> prefs:root=Phone
Photos –> prefs:root=Photos
Profile –> prefs:root=General&path=ManagedConfigurationList
Reset –> prefs:root=General&path=Reset
Safari –> prefs:root=Safari
Siri –> prefs:root=General&path=Assistant
Sounds –> prefs:root=Sounds
Software Update -> prefs:root=General&path=SOFTWARE_UPDATE_LINK
Store –> prefs:root=STORE
Twitter –> prefs:root=TWITTER
Usage –> prefs:root=General&path=USAGE
VPN –> prefs:root=General&path=Network/VPN
Wallpaper –> prefs:root=Wallpaper
Wi-Fi –> prefs:root=WIFI
With the app, you can also make icons for calling or texting (or iMessaging) your favorite contacts. You can use any image on your iPhone for the icon. For example, you could create an icon with the face of your sweetheart that, with one tap, allows you to dial their number.
Cult of Mac’s Leander Kahney put together this nice video of himself using Apple’s new EasyPay system at an Apple Store. EasyPay allows shoppers to do self checkout on many items in the Apple Store using their iPhone. The process requires the official Apple Store app (free).
Leander notes that you can’t purchase big ticket items like iPhones, iPads, and Macs via EasyPay, you’ll still need to find an Apple employee for that.
If you haven’t been in an Apple Store in a while, this is a sorely needed service. When I went to purchase headphones at the Lincoln Park Apple Store in Chicago, there was one employee handling purchases in a crowded store on a Saturday. There was no identifiable cash register area in the store. It was a poor, albeit unique, shopping experience.
1. Mobile Data Limits. Android now has a built-in data-limiting feature that will shut off mobile data usage once a user-defined limit is reached. Just set a maximum amount of data, say 200 MB, and the phone will prevent you from going over it. In a world where wireless carriers are putting caps on data plans, going over your allotted data can lead to horrific bill-shock moments. This feature would be killer for that. I would feel much more comfortable going with AT&T’s cheap $15 for 200MB data plan if I knew I wouldn’t one-day wake up to a $400 wireless data bill.
2. A Micro-USB (or Anything Else) Port Instead of the iPhone’s 30-Pin Connector. Apple’s 30-pin dock connector is a dinosaur technology that should have gone extinct years ago. The connector is too big and ugly. I think Apple knows this too, and iOS 5’s new Wi-Fi wireless sync is evidence. But I also think Apple will never completely cut the cord from the iPhone. Maybe Thunderbolt could replace it? I’m just tired at seeing all that gunk that collects inside the big gapping toothy hole at the bottom of my iPhone.
3. Built-in Barometer. The new Samsung Galaxy Nexus has a built-in barometer. How cool is that? It can measure barometric pressure, which can be used to tell your altitude and for weather forecasting. Sensors in general are cool, and I wish Apple could jam more of them into the iPhone. Yes, I want the iPhone to be a Star Trek tricorder.
4. NFC Chip. I pay for everything these days with a credit card, so being able to swipe my iPhone instead of a credit card would be useful. I hate digging through my wallet for cards, taking them out, putting them back in, worrying about remembering them, etc. As long as I can use my rewards credit cards with NFC mobile payments, I’d be glad to have this feature. NFC payments haven’t quite arrived in the US, but I think if Apple would lead, the credit-card companies would follow.
Apple has made available for download their user guides for the iPhone and iPad as iBooks and in the traditional PDF format (links below). They are free downloads. They may take a while to download as they are each around 18MB in size. Check’em out below.
If you are new to the iPhone/iPad, these user guides can be indispensable. Even for advanced users, there are plenty of “I forgot the iPhone could do that” moments buried inside. And every year, the guide grows bigger and is quite the tome now.