What iOS 6 means for iPhone users

Some highlights of yesterday’s iPhone-related announcements from Apple:

  • The core Phone app now has that customizable Do Not Disturb feature you’ve always dreamed about. Set up your own list for who you want to hear from — nobody else can get through. Have automatic text messages or callback reminders handle calls you can’t take.
  • The powerful new Maps app with directions features will be competition for existing turn-by-turn GPS services.
  • There’s a brand-new Passbook app for storing things like barcodes and boarding passes. Is Apple poised to get into mobile payments?

Check out the best iOS 6 features nobody is talking about (from Gizmodo). Now you can use iTunes for Clock app alarms!

You have plenty of time to read about iSO 6. It won’t be available until “fall,” and most folks think that’s when there’ll be a new iPhone model to use it with.

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How to turn off red badges on iPhone apps

image of Settings icon with red badge

Note the red badge on the Settings icon

Most of us know what to do when our Mail app or Facebook app displays a red badge with a white number: Open the app and deal with the number of emails or messages indicated.

But what does it mean when it’s your Settings app that displays a red badge with the number “1”?

A fairly tech-savvy houseguest posed that question to me a few months ago, and I was puzzled, not having encountered it myself.

But last week I had my “aha” moment. Apple released a new version of iOS 5 system software, I had yet to download and install it, and there it was: the little red badge.

Once the download and installation were complete, the badge disappeared.

I did a bit of research on icon badges in general, and discovered they mean different things for different apps. (For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what they mean when they appear on the LinkedIn app.)

If you find an app’s badges just plain old annoying, go to Settings > Notifications and scroll through the (non-alphabetized) list of apps. Tap on the name of the app with the offending badge, and turn off the Badge App Icon.

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Move over, Maidenform

Bra with iPhoneEven in her wildest dreams, the Maidenform bra woman never envisioned this: A bra with an underarm pocket for an iPhone.

But it exists, thanks(?) to two students at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. Seattle Post-Intelligencer blogger Amy Rolph reports that the animal print JoeyBra, with a sheer underarm pocket for a smartphone, keys, or ID, goes on sale this summer at the University Bookstore. Or you can pre-order through the JoeyBra website for June delivery.

Bra with iPodKeep in mind, though, that this bra comes on only three sizes: small (for 32A/B,34A), medium (for 32C,34B), and large (for 32D,34C,36B).

While I can’t imagine going out dancing with an iPhone under my armpit, this does sound like the answer for carrying around ID. The website notes that their patent (these are business school students, remember?) includes a waterproof pocket, planned for a future model of the bra. It sounds like this was not only inspired by “the UW’s vibrant Greek system,” but tested there as well.

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Your guide to sanity amidst wild iPhone speculation and rumors

When people ask me what I think of the latest rumors about next iPhone, I do some research. In most cases, it turns out that what reputable industry experts predict is the exact opposite of what the rumor-mongers are blabbing. Utterly unfounded rumors abound because posting a rumor about the iPhone is a quick way to get headlines and readers — for about 24 hours.

The next time you hear a wild iPhone rumor and want to know Could this really be true?, the quickest way to find out is to see what these folks are saying on the subject:

  • The Macalope is anonymous pundit who writes regularly for Macworld online (but, they hasten to assert, is not on their staff). Excerpt from a typical Macalope column: “Thank god Consumer Reports is on this, because you know you won’t get a minute of sleep until the magazine that your parents used to figure out which blender to buy weighed in on how hot the new iPad is.”
  • John Gruber blogs at Daring Fireball; often his daily post is a listing of current rumors/reports and his take on them. (What about a new iPhone with a huge 4.6″ screen? Gruber said “Bullshit.”)
  • Glenn Fleishman Tweets as @GlennF and is a regular contributor to the Babbage science and tech blog at the The Economist. The Babbage posts are excellent big-picture explanations of technology. They might even inoculate you against the next wave of wild rumors.

Please let me know who else we should add to the list of reliable Apple/iPhone prognosticators.

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Alternatives to MobileMe Galleries

Today I visited the Naples, Florida, Macintosh Users Group meeting to hear Vickie Kelber’s presentation on alternatives to MobileMe photo/video galleries.

MobileMe will be going away in June. Many functions (such as mail and calendars) have already been moved to iCloud, but some, like the galleries, will simply vanish. For people who have relied on MobileMe galleries for one-step publishing to the Web, losing galleries is a real pain.

Oddly, I’ve rarely used the galleries — I publish directly to Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube, all of which have become increasingly easy to work with. However, if the people you want to see your photos or videos don’t have accounts with those services, and don’t want to establish accounts, they won’t be able to see your content. When I encountered that situation last night, I used a MobileMe gallery to host a video of I’d taken of dolphins in the Everglades.

I learned today that if you have created MobileMe galleries and want to save their video or photo contents before the services ends, Apple provides detailed directions. A photo site called ZangZing has automated the process, and will transform your MobileMe photo galleries (but not videos) into a MobileMe Gallery Alternative.

Kelber, a photographer and traveler writer, covered several factors people should consider in selecting a service to replace MobileMe galleries:

  1. If you want to store, or make available for download, high-resolution photos, consider a professional service and be prepared to pay for storage.
  2. If privacy is a consideration, use a service like Flickr that allows you to password-protect a set of photos.
  3. Consider whether your friends are willing to join a photo or video site in order to view your content. Some sites, like YouTube, require people to register. Others, like Flickr, don’t.
  4. Some sites work only with photos uploaded from your computer; others allow you to upload photos or video directly from an iPad or iPhone.
  5. Some sites require you to pay for additional storage space or bandwidth (for high-resolution photos, or large or long videos).

Kelber noted that in recent weeks storage sites have created special services for photo storage and sharing:

  • Cloud has provided the opportunity to create photo journals, which can replace photo galleries.
  • Dropbox recently added an automatic photo upload feature (and increased the size of  free account storage if you use Camera Upload).

A partial list of photo store/sharing sites that have free basic services:

  • Dotphoto
  • Flickr (Yahoo service, which is integrated in to iPhoto for one-step sharing)
  • Photobucket (also video)
  • Picasa (Google)
  • Shutterfly (with integrated publishing services)
  • Snapfish (with integrated publishing services)
  • ZangZing

A short list of video sharing sites:

  • Photobucket — photos and videos; closely integrated with Facebook and also has an iPhone app.
  • YouTube — Free. The 15-minutes time limit for videos has been lifted for some users. You can share directly from iMovie.
  • Vimeo — 500MZB a week (no time limit). More for $60 a year (Vimeo Plus); you can share directly from iMovie. Note that Vimeo been selected by Apple as the instant-sharing site for video publishing in Mountain Lion (here’s why).
  • Video Sprout — only 100MB; completely private

I’ve included here only sites that people at the presentation were enthusiastic about. If you have an additional site or service you’d recommend, please leave a comment and let me know why it’s worth considering.

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My AT&T iPhone prediction: Charges for opt-out text message spam will piss off customers

I’m not much into horoscopes and fortune-telling, which is why I didn’t have a crystal ball on my desk to throw across the room and smash after talking with AT&T’s billing department this morning.

"I see sleazy billing tactics in your future."

It all began when I noted that my AT&T iPhone bill was $11 more than usual. There were no changes in my calling or data activity, so I looked at the long, long list of “usage charges,” like the regulatory cost recovery charge, city utility users surcharges, federal universal service charge, county 911 service fee, state 911 service fee, WA state telecom tax, city telecom tax, and city district telecom tax.

No changes there, either.

Then, at the very bottom of the pages-long bill, under “Mobile Purchases & Downloads Charges,” I spotted the $10.94 subscription to “Horoscopegenie Alert,” allegedly purchased March 4 from “WiseMediaUS.” A 1-800 number for them appeared on my bill, but I was wary of any contact with them.

Instead, I immediately called AT&T customer service and asked what in the name of Nostradamus was going on. I assured them that no one else has access to my phone, and I that I did not buy this service.

The rep was sympathetic. From the fluid way he went on to explain and to quickly remove the  charge from my bill, it was very clear that AT&T is getting a lot of calls like mine.

According to his explanation, “Horoscopegenie Alert” is one of many third-party services for which AT&T handles the billing. He patiently explained that I had probably given my phone number to a website and that their terms of service included a subscription to…

“Nope,” I said.

He swiveled quickly to a more plausible explanation. Had I received a text message offering this service?

Yes, I said. And I had not replied to it.

He did not seem at all surprised by this, and didn’t attempt to explain how it might have been added to my bill without my replying to the text message. (I was also intrigued that while in AT&T’s view I had apparently subscribed to this automatically renewing “service,” I had never received any horoscopes.)

I later discovered that Horoscopegenie Alert is opt-out spam — you must text a reply to them in order to avoid being signed up for a subscription. And I discovered that “WiseMediaUS,” AT&T’s business partner for whom they handle billing, is unfindable via Google. Nice, huh?

The rep not only quickly volunteered to remove the subscription and charge from my account, he suggested that I use a free AT&T service that blocks text-message based subscriptions from being added to your account. Want it? All you have to do is call AT&T and ask.

If you receive any unwanted text messages from strange vendors, don’t ignore them! Check your bill, call A&T, and get free subscription-blocking. They’re suspiciously eager to offer it. My guess is that AT&T is doing rapid damage-control to back out of this ill-advised third-party billing arrangement.

Posted in iPhone (General), iPhone apps, Smartphone use, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

iOS 5.1 — and the AT&T wallpaper surprise

iOS 5.1 for the iPhone is out. Here’s a quick guide to what it offers, and how to install it.

What’s new:

  • A smarter version of Siri (more)
  • The ability to delete individual images from Photo Stream
  • A camera activation button (to the right of the slider on the locked screen), so you can use the camera without unlocking the phone
  • An improved iTunes Match

Ars Technica finds the OS 5.1 update one big “meh,” citing 10 longstanding annoyances it has failed to address.

Note: You’ll also see the AT&T information at the top left shows as 4G icon. Unfortunately, this does not mean the hardware has been upgraded — unless you see “4G LTE” on a device, it’s not really the faster 4G. What you’re getting is a pepped-up version of AT&Ts 3G service and a new icon dreamed up by somebody in AT&T marketing.

To upgrade your iPhone from iOS 5* to iOS 5.1:

  1. Connect your phone to your computer
  2. Tap Settings on the phone’s homepage, scroll down to General, tap General, and tap Software Update
  3. Follow the instructions to download and install iOS 5.1 — it will take several minutes.

*NOTE: If you are not yet using iOS 5 and iCloud, and want to upgrade to iOS 5.1, you will need to install iCloud and download the new operating system via iTunes. Here’s some info on that upgrade path.

What’s strange:

iPhone 4G wallpaperIf you use AT&T for your iPhone, you may have sudden discovered yourself with a different wallpaper yesterday. Specifically, this one, with pink flowers:

My phone was back to normal today, and I don’t know if this affected iPads. But it was interesting!

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