Top Tips

Keep your screen clean: Don't use glass cleaner


The screen of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch has an "oleophobic" coating that helps repel oil. However, it doesn't seem to repel smudges and fingerprints very well. You should avoid using commercial window cleaners when you clean the iPad screen. Window cleaners damage the oil-resistant coating and reduce the functionality of your device over time. Instead, Apple recommends using a damp microfiber cloth free of dirt or dust, and wiping in a circular motion. These can be found online from a variety of sources; search on "microfiber cloth." Make sure your device is turned off and all cables are unplugged. You might also consider using a screen protector such as InvisibleShield ($39.99 for iPad, $24.99 for iPhone and iPod touch, to protect your display. A Web search will help you find similar products.

Don't use window cleaners to wipe your iPad screen. Instead use a damp microfiber cloth

Apple claims that the iPad 2's new Smart Cover is lined with microfiber that "gently buffs off any screen smudges or fingerprints as you move." This may be true to a degree, but some users have found that after a while, three parallel streaks appear on the screen, corresponding to the folding ribs of the Smart Cover. You may still need to use a microfiber cloth occasionally.

Don't hold your iPad by the Smart Cover


The Smart Cover on the iPad 2 is a pretty nifty accessory. However, the magnets that attach it to your iPad are not incredibly strong. If you try to lift your iPad by grabbing the open flap, it can disconnect and your iPad 2 can tumble to the ground. Remember: The Smart Cover is for protecting the screen and propping the iPad up for better viewing. Close the flap completely and grab the iPad securely before picking it up. If you're going to be carrying the iPad around for a while, slip it into a shoulder bag or carrying case.

The Smart Cover is for covering and propping, not for holding or pulling.

Close down background apps to extend battery life


Apple's iOS devices can multitask, allowing you to leave one app running in the background while using another. This capability allows you to continue to listen to music while you're playing a game, or answer a phone call while you're browsing the Web for information.

Close down apps you're not using
 to conserve battery power.

When you double-tap the Home button, you will see a menu bar pop up along the bottom of the screen, displaying the apps you have been using. Some of these are still running in the background. These include apps that play audio, utilize location services, or add VoIP capability to the device. Others, while still open, are frozen in place and not consuming power. You can flick the menu bar to the left to see all the open apps. Flick to the right to bring up the iPod controls.

The apps that remain running in the background can suck up battery power. If you notice that your battery isn't lasting as long as you think it should, it's a good idea to close them down if you're not using them. Simply tap and hold on any app's icon in the menu bar until they all start to wiggle and a small red minus symbol appears (see image). Then, tap again on the minus symbol on any app you wish to close down.

Find your device anywhere—for free!

find my iphoneIf you have an iPhone 4 or one of the iPads, you can use Find My iPhone (free, to locate, lock, or wipe the memory of a lost or stolen device from a remote location. The service is free for anyone running iOS 4.2 or above, and it is still part of paid MobileMe accounts ( You'll need an iPhone 4 or an iPad plus an Apple ID to activate the free service for the first time. Follow the full instructions at to set up the service correctly.

Remotely locate, lock, or wipe the memory of a stolen or lost device with the free Find My iPhone service.

Erase your device's data after 10 failed passcode attempts

Erase DataIn addition to setting a passcode to protect your device, you can set your device to completely wipe itself clean after 10 failed passcode attempts. Here's how you do it: 

  1. Open Settings and go to General >Passcode Lock. (If you already have a passcode set, you will be asked to enter it.)

  2. If you do not have a passcode set up, tap on Turn Passcode On. When the Set Passcode screen pops up, enter your new passcode.

  3. Go the bottom of the Passcode Lock screen and slide Erase Data to the ON position. When you're asked to confirm that, tap on the Enable button.

Be sure to sync often with iTunes so you can recover your data if it has been erased.

Get additional protection by erasing data on your device if someone tries to crack your passcode.

Pinpoint locations, see street view in Maps

PinpointPinpointThe Maps app has a lot of neat features that put the power of Google right in your hands. In addition to typing in locations manually, you can also just tap and hold any place on the map to drop a pin. The pin will show up with a label and a short description of the address. Tap the blue arrow to see the full address, get directions to and from that spot, add the location to your bookmarks, share the location by e-mail, and more. On the iPad, in addition to the other options, a street view preview is displayed. Tap on it to display it in full screen mode.

Tap on a Map's pushpin to display the street address; tap on the blue information icon next to it to get more information. Tap on the street view thumbnail (iPad only) to display a full screen view of the street.

Scroll through videos and music at different speeds

speedscrollingYou can scroll through a video or song by dragging the scroll bar (a.k.a. "scrubber bar") at the top of the screen while the song/video is paused or playing. With short videos and songs, it's pretty easy to find the exact spot you're looking for. But it's a little more difficult with longer media files. That's because the rate at which you scroll through long media files increases. For example, as you drag the scroll bar through a three-minute song, you advance one second at a time. When you drag the scroll bar through a three-hour movie, you advance 8-10 seconds at a time.

Slide your finger downward to adjust the scrubbing speed of the scroll bar.

Apple refers to the rate at which you scroll through media files as the "scrubbing rate" and allows you to adjust it. That's not really needed with short media files, but with longer songs and especially movies, it can make it easier to find the exact place you're looking for. Here's how you do it:

  1. Start playing the movie (or song) on your iOS device.

  2. If the scroll bar is not visible at the top of the screen, tap the screen to display it. Your current place in the song or video is indicated by a small round "playhead" in the scroll bar. The amount of time the file has been playing is indicated to the left of the scroll bar in hrs:min:sec; the amount of time remaining is displayed to the right of the scroll bar.

  3. Place your finger on the playhead and drag it slowly down towards the bottom of the screen—do not lift your finger up. The scrubbing rate is displayed, centered immediately below the scroll bar. As you drag the playhead down, the rate will change from High-Speed Scrubbing, to Half-Speed, to Quarter-Speed, and finally to Fine Scrubbing (the slowest scrubbing rate).

  4. Once you reach the desired scrubbing rate (without lifting up), drag your finger to the right or left to move forward or backward through the media file.

High-Speed Scrubbing is the default. Use it if you want to move quickly through the media file and are not concerned with precision. If you want to move slowly and more precisely through the movie or song, use Half, Quarter, or Fine Scrubbing.

Display a character count in your text messages

character countIt's handy to know how many characters you're typing into a text message, especially if you tend to run over the limit. If you do, most programs will automatically send an additional message with the extra characters. You think you've sent one and you've actually sent two. If you have a data plan that allows a limited number of text messages each month, you can easily run over and rack up additional charges.

To avoid this on the iPhone, go to Settings>Messages, and slide the Character Count switch to ON. The character count will appear right above the "Send" button. 

Display character counts above the "Send" button.

Bring up your last saved draft quickly

draftcompose2This is a cool feature that isn't very obvious. When you use the Mail app to compose messages, you can save messages into the draft folder by tapping Cancel instead of Send, and then tapping Save Draft. However, if you want to get back to the draft quickly, you can simply tap and hold the Compose icon on the bottom right of the screen (see image), and the last saved draft message will pop up! (Note: you need to be in the Inbox page for this to work).

Tap and hold the Compose icon to bring up your last saved email draft.

Hidden features that make the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad more powerful
July-August 2011
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