Tag Archives: iOS

Where Am I?

A fairly regular occurrence when you do a lot of driving; you find something during your drive that should be reported (roadkill, accidents, debris, etc.). If you are on a rural road, the GPS coordinates would be ideal. But, since you are a sensible person you don’t want to take your hands off the steering wheel to fiddle with your phone.

I have a solution for iOS  phones (mostly – it still will require one touch of the screen).

The solution is to use Siri and ask the question “Where am I?”

Response to question by Siri
Siri shows a map of my location

Now unfortunately, Siri doesn’t store this information, and once your screen turns off it will disappear. However, if you touch the map, the information will be transferred to the maps app. The maps app will hold the information until you are ready to deal with it.

The result of question "where am I"
The saved map

Now when you can pull over you can use either the option to Share My Location or Mark My Location.

Selecting Share My Location brings up your share sheet.

The share sheet
You can share your location in a number of ways.
Additional options are displayed as you pull the panel higher.
Additional options are displayed as you pull the panel higher.

You can also  pull the panel a little higher up over the map, for more information.  Like the GPS coordinates or contact options.

You can use the Mark My Location to do exactly that on the map. A red pin will display on the map, and the option to Edit the location appears.

Marked location options
Once you’ve marked the location, you can edit it.

If you choose to edit the location, a satellite view of the location opens, and you can drag and drop the pin.

Editing the location
Editing a location

Marked locations remain in the map app for later reference.

 

iOS 10, Accessibility and Vision Options

If you are using an iPhone or iPad and your vision is compromised (or, ahem if you are over 50), you might find these options useful. With every version of iOS the accessibility options have improved and expanded.

The following is the sequence of steps I follow when setting up an iOS device for someone with vision issues; as always your mileage may vary, but even if you only catch yourself squinting at your phone from time to time – give these options a try.

Change your Wallpaper to Black

It is cool to have nifty images on your phone screen, but if you are having trouble reading the labels for your folders, then it may be time to use a black background. You may also want to do this for your lock screen so that notifications and buttons stand out more.

The easiest method is to take a black photograph and use it as your background. Set your device on a table, block the light and take a photo (you may need to turn off your flash first). Use this photo for your background by going to Settings>Wallpaper > Choose a New Wallpaper and selecting your new photo from the Camera Roll.

Setting or Cancelling the change of Wallpaper
Setting or Cancelling the change of Wallpaper

Choose the Set option and then select the Set Home Screen option

Setting the Picture to display on the Lock or Home Screen
Setting the Picture to display on the Lock or Home Screen

Improve Your View

Next go to Settings > General > Accessibility and select the following options:

  • Larger Text, you can start by using the slider to set your preferred text size or you make things even BIGGER by turning on Larger Accessibility Sizes and using the slider again. This comes with a couple of caveats. 1) Text is not affected everywhere on the device – tho Apple is clearly working to change this, and third party apps are (slowly) coming around. 2) Sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing and have text that throws off the formatting or wraps weirdly or overlaps illegibly. Again, these problems are gradually being worked on as apps are updated.

    Setting the Larger Text size
    Setting the Larger Text size
  • Bold Text – turning this option on will require a reboot of your device, because EVERYTHING has to be redrawn.  But this will make the typeface used far more readable.
  • Button Shapes – turning on button shapes will make them easier to find. Now, if they were only used more consistently throughout the OS, that would be awesome.
  • Increase Contrast and turn on Reduce Transparency and Darken Colors.  This should also help text stand out more.

    Increase Contrast options
    Increase Contrast options
  • On/Off Labels add the | 0 symbols to your toggles, and I say why not!
Accessibility Options
Accessibility Options

Use your Home button to Zoom IN

While you are still in Settings > General > Accessibility , move down to Accessibility Shortcut. Here you can customize the action of the Home button when your triple-click it.  Choose Zoom

Turning on Triple-Click to Zoom
Turning on Triple-Click to Zoom

You’ll need to fine-tune Zoom’s behaviour, by going to Settings > General > Accessibility  > Zoom

Zoom Options pt 1
Zoom Options pt 1

Don’t worry about turning Zoom on here, that is what your triple-click will do. Instead:

  • Turn on Follow Focus and Smart Typing.
  • You may choose to Show Controller, but I find there is a balance between clutter and helpfulness, for me this clutters the screen too much.

    Zoom Options Part 2
    Zoom Options Part 2
  • Select Zoom Region and choose Window Zoom.
  • Play with the Maximum Zoom Level slider, you’ll probably adjust this more later.

To turn the zoom window on triple-click your home button and the zoom window will appear, outlined in black with a small tab handle at the bottom.

The Zoom Window in action
The Zoom Window in action

This is a toggle, so a second triple click turns the zoom window off.  And what is really great, is that you can interact with the screen through the window.  Click on links and type in dialog boxes whatever you need to do. This window is not just for viewing!

Customize the Zoom Window

By touching the tab handle shape at the bottom of the zoom window, a customization menu opens up.

Changing the Zoom Window options
Changing the Zoom Window options

Through it you can:

  • Zoom Out (turn off window)
  • Change to Full Screen Zoom
  • Resize Lens,
    Resizing the Zoom Window
    Resizing the Zoom Window

    which will allow you to resize the Zoom Window with the handles provided.

  • Choose Filter, which will set a colour filter on the Zoom Window
  • Show Controller
  • Change Magnification using the slider, which uses the setting from the Maximum Zoom Level, you set earlier.

Add a Magnifier to the Home Button

The new magnifier option isn’t for your screen, but rather for all the small print articles you need to read. From menus in dark restaurants to the label on a pill bottle, if you have your phone you can read it. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility  > Magnifier

turning on the magnifier
turning on the magnifier

Turn on the Magnifier and Auto-Brightness.

Now when you triple-click your Home button, an Accessibility Shortcuts menu will pop up. Tap the action you want to perform.

Choosing the Accessibility Shortcut
Choosing the Accessibility Shortcut

 

Google Maps: Pit Stops

Google Maps has added a feature called Pit Stops to its Android and iOS apps.

Pit Stops allow you to add, well, pit stops to a planned route. Once the stop is added; the navigation route updates itself and the length of time the trip will take. Of course, how long you spend at a stop will also impact your trip length, but Google wisely declines to make estimates of that.

To use the Pit Stop feature, you have to enter navigation mode:

Google Maps trip estimate
Press the Arrow Button to enter Navigation mode

Once in Navigation mode the Pit Stop icon appears as a magnifying glass:

Google Maps Screen in Navigation Mode. The Pit Stops icon is visible.
The button to launch the Pit Stops has a magnifying glass icon.

Pressing the Pit Stops button gives you a list of preconfigured searches; Gas stations, Restaurants, Grocery stores and Coffee  shops. But there is also a search button for your own custom searching.

Google Maps Pit Stops showing the list of available searches.
The Pit Stop search list view.

If I search for say; Tim Hortons coffee shops along my route, the search will return the coffee shops closest to my planned route, giving an estimate of the amount of time that will be added to my travels.

Google Maps Pit Stop search results
Pit Stop search results, showing the amount of time each stop will add to the journey.

Select the location of the Pit Stop you want to go to and a confirmation window will open at the bottom of your screen. At this point you can choose to Add Stop or Cancel, which is useful if you were only checking out possible stops along the way.

Google Maps, showing the Add Stop/Cancel options.
Use the Add Stop or Cancel options to update (or not) your map.

Exiting Navigation at this point allows you to see the updated time for your journey.  Android users are apparently able to add up to 10 Pit Stops to their routes, currently iOS users can only have one.

Google Maps, showing list of destinations and updated time.
Google Maps shows the starting point, end point and all the Pit Stops in between.

If you attempt to add a new Pit Stop, you will only see the option to replace the current stop, not add a new one.

Google Maps showing the replace stop option
The Replace Stop option, tho’ its’ kinda cut off here…

 

The other challenge for iOS users, is that Pit Stops can only be scheduled during navigation, which means your current location is always factored in. Which can lead to some wacky route planning.

Google Maps showing how the user's currently location affects route planning.
Google Maps shows how to get there, indirectly.

Nevertheless, a really useful feature and, once the iOS version catches up with the Android implementation it will be excellent on both platforms.

Email Aliases

I don’t know about you, but I have a number of email addresses.  For example:

  • I have my main work email address.
  • The email address I use for volunteering, because the variant spelling of my first name confuses people.
  • The email address I use for shopping on line when I think the company is going to spam me

These are all forwarding accounts which means mail sent to them is all forwarded into one email account. Personally, since IMAP supports folders, I use folders to organize that email account. This lets me move between my desktop and mobile world with minimal confusion.

But using these email addresses from my iOS devices has previously required that I create multiple email accounts on my iOS device. Which I find confusing; my unread mail counts are wrong because items are counted multiple times, moving mail into folders may or may not work depending on what account I’m using to view the mail, etc.  It just hasn’t been a very satisfactory solution.

Its’ been made more frustrating, since for years in Outlook I’ve been able to send mail using different email addresses.

But yesterday, I tripped across I feature I think is new in iOS 9.1. The ability to add email aliases to my main account.

Some caveats: I have only tested this with an IMAP account, I’m using iOS 9.1 and iOS 9.2 has just been released. And using an email alias does not change the internet headers attached to the email. In other words, anyone who goes under the hood to examine my email can still see that it was handled by my main email account.  Which is fine, I’m not interested in spoofing mail accounts, rather I just don’t want to confuse people by continually responding from a different email address than the one I gave them.

So to set this up go to Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars and pick your email account. Open your Account Information:

iOS EMail Account Settings
iOS EMail Account Settings

You’ll notice the > beside the email address, which indicates another dialogue box.

adding a new addressWhen you move to this Email dialogue, you will find the Add Another Email … option which allows you to type in another email address. This can be any email address, as it is not verified. So make sure you spell your email address correctly.

And when you are done (and its embarrassing how long it took me to figure this out) press the RETURN button on the keyboard to confirm the email address you’ve added. Or it will be lost.

The edit button allows you to choose which email address from your list will be the default.

The From line
The From line appears

When you create a new message you’ll find the From: line appears, using your default address. When you want to change the email address the message is from, touch that line in the message ,

Picking your email address
Picking your email address

and a spin button will appear showing the list of alternate email addresses you’ve created.

Easy to use!

 

iOS App Recommendation: Due

I’m recommending an iOS app called Due. I’ve had it on my iPhone, almost from the beginning. The reason is that the iOS reminder functions and calendar alerts are too polite. For things I really need to be reminded of I use Due. You can set the reminder sound to be loud, obnoxiously loud, can hear it in a busy shopping mall loud. Sometimes I need that 😉 . You can also set it to endlessly repeat and snooze reminders as necessary.

Its’ a paid app, but it has been worth it.

A suggestion for improvement

One of my great interests is in the interactions between Seniors and technology. As a rule; seniors are not well served by technology, they are a forgotten group. And yet, I believe that tech has a great potential to help in so many ways. In particular, adaptive technologies can do so much to help people with their daily lives, and those technologies can move out to the wider population.

It’s revealing when you find an app or function that would be perfect, if only the designers had kept seniors in mind. Because it shows how much we all don’t want to face growing old and the inevitable changes that time brings.

The app I’m thinking about today, is Day One. Day One has been a well reviewed diary/journal app on iOS for a few years. Yet it misses a really basic feature because its’ designers can’t envision anyone other than their intended audience using their product.

I found Day One for one of my senior clients. One of the things you might have heard about getting older is that sometimes you are a little forgetful. Oh, and you also might have some medical issues. Which might result in more than a few doctors office visits. Which would mean that a nice journaling app could prove useful. Especially one that could support multiple tags on a single entry. Which would mean that you could filter your entries by the name of your specialists, or medications, or illness or test results. It would be excellent if you could export information from the app (Day One allows for PDF exports of entries) and add photographs. So far, so fantastic; Day One does all these things and has beautiful clean interface.

What it doesn’t do, is take advantage of iOS’s accessibility features.

Day One Screen: Magnifiying Glasses Required
Day One Screen: Magnifying Glasses Required

While you can change the size of the typeface in your entries. Day One ignores any preference you have set for Larger Text, Bold Text or Increased Contrast. Which means that people with vision issues are going to struggle with using Day One, if they don’t give up on it altogether.

What I would love to see in this app is a high contrast setting; that would allow the tag icons to resize, adjust the labels and menu items to a typeface that is bolder/larger and that would allow the user to select a high contrast colour scheme.

I also want to see Apple lay down the law with developers and require them to respect user accessibility settings. Designers should look at designing for accessibility as a challenge that will improve the functionality of their apps for everyone. We don’t always interact with our devices under the best visibility circumstances. We may not be facing (yet) the vision problems caused by illness, but we are all going to get older.

Do you have an app that is useful for seniors? Tell me about it.

What I’m hoping for from Apple

Well it looks like September 9th is the date when we find out what’s coming out this fall from Apple. As usual, there’s all sorts of speculation, although things are kind of quiet on the iPhone end. I think because of last year’s physical changes to the phone people can’t quite imagine what they’ll do to the phone next.

The iPad however is a different question. Some of the changes coming with iOS 9 that were previewed in June have pundits predicting a “business sized” iPad to be called the iPad Pro. In particular, the ability to tile multiple apps on screen.

One of the wonderful things about the iPad is its’ portability. However, it really wouldn’t take much of a size increase to bump up the display to the rumoured 12.9″ dimension.  Increasing the physical form to roughly the size of a standard 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper would do it. The other aspect of the Pro size is that it would have more space available for accessibility options, much like the iPhone 6 Plus offers larger icons and viewing options. For a certain demographic this will have real appeal.

Of course, this kind of leaves the iPad mini in the dust. And people have been predicting the death of the mini since the new larger phones came out. I regretfully put my mini aside for a newer Air 2 a few months ago, and while I love the power of the Air 2, I miss the portability of the mini. It was great for travel and reading. But my version the mini 2, simply couldn’t cope with iOS 8.

I’d love to see a better processor in the mini. An improved camera would be great too. While taking pictures with an iPad remains kind of dorky looking; people do it all the time. Why not give them a better camera?

Design-wise, I hope that the move to ever smaller touch points comes to an end.  I’m not sure if the entire iOS design team has run their fingers through pencil sharpeners in order to use their devices. But regular humans aren’t about to do that.  I assume that the improved text selection in iOS 9 is an attempt to make life easier for people with normally sized fingers.  I’d also really, really like to see the Podcast app get some love. Since iOS 8, the podcast app has become a real battery hog, and running it noticeably heats up my phone.

What are you hoping for from Apple on Wednesday?

 

Smart Playlists

I have an intense dislike of iTunes. I used to think that  it was deliberately lousy on Windows machines. Then we got a Mac and I found it was just as terrible on it as well.

But there is one thing that I like about iTunes,  and that is the ability to create a Smart Playlist.   A smart playlist is one that adapts; automatically adding songs based on the criteria that you set. Right now, smart playlists can only be created through iTunes but I have hope that soon I’ll be able to create them through the music app on my iPhone.

iTunes Smart Playlist
iTunes Smart Playlist

To make a smart playlist  select the  File, New,  Smart Playlist menu choice

from within iTunes.

My favorite smart playlist is one that finds songs that I haven’t listened to in the last  month  and plays them for me.   It’s a great way to keep from listening to the same music over and over again.  As songs are played, they are removed from the playlist and new unplayed songs are added to the playlist.

Smart playlist settings
Smart playlist settings

Here are the settings that I use to make my  Not Recently Played  playlist. The  most important setting is to ensure that song has not been played in the last month. The rest of the filters remove holiday theme music, videos, audiobooks, podcasts  and any music I’ve given a 1 star rating to.  Right now I’m limiting the  length of this playlist to  30  songs.  The random selection option, is acting more like an alphabetical selection right now. Previously it was truly random *shrug* (the oddball behaviors of iTunes are nothing new).   I’m hoping that this will repair itself with the next version of iTunes.

When you sync your iPhone with iTunes be sure to  select  your Not Recently Played playlist,  so the playlist is pulled over to the phone.

List of smart playlists
Smart playlists have a different icon than regular playlists

In the new music app, this is what your playlist will look like.  These playlists have a different icon, and of course you can’t add songs to them manually. You can see from my list  that I also have a smart playlist looking for the word  “happy” in the song title  and playlists looking for recently added music on the basis of  musical genre .

Those playlists are a little less successful because genre tags are not always applied consistently. Or at least music is not always classified the way I would classify it.  Again,  it would be great to be able to add metadata to songs from within the  music app on the phone. But that type of editing has to be done from within  iTunes on the computer. So I usually don’t bother.  Nevertheless, I really like my Not Recently Played  playlist since it does  find gems that I would otherwise forget are in my music library.

 

iOS 8.4 Music App Impressions

iOS Add to a Playlist
iOS 8.4 Music App menu

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled discussing the Music app in iOS 8.4.  Since I don’t live in the U.S. or have unlimited streaming data, most of this has left me cold. However, one little feature does make me very happy, and that is the ability to add songs to a Playlist on the fly.

Now when you are listening to music and pull up a menu you’ll find the “Add to a Playlist” option. Select this and you get a list of all your playlists. You can add the current song to one or many playlists.

At last! I’ve been waiting for this feature for a long time. Now I can hope that the native podcast app will get some improvements in iOS 9.

On the downside, I hate the tiny tiny buttons in this app. They seem to get smaller in each version.