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Eight for 8: An iOS 8 Tip a Day, 8 Days in a Row (Day Seven)

Eight for 8: An iOS 8 Tip a Day, 8 Days in a Row (Day Seven)

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Eight for 8 logo day 7

Eight for 8, Day Seven. Feeling lucky.

Some of iOS 8's new features are more like refinements of old features, and some of them are a little on the subtle side. In fact, some of them are so subtle you might not notice them-- but that's why I'm here, to point them out for you. Here's one now.

iOS 8 Tip #7: Set the Camera's Focus and Exposure Independently

Until iOS 8, the standard Apple Camera app set focus and exposure wherever you tapped on the screen. That was actually pretty powerful and many a potentially-bad photo turned out downright decently thanks to a well-placed tap. The only problem was, in some cases the thing you wanted to focus on wasn't the thing you wanted to expose for. So you compromised, but you didn't think of it like that because it was a miracle that you could set the focus and exposure at all, and besides, the pictures almost always turned out great.

However, as it is with other things, as soon as you find out how to set focus and exposure independently, as you can in iOS 8, you realize how deprived and unhappy you've been up to this point. You didn't know what you were missing (because it wasn't invented yet) but you will in a minute.

Let's have an example.

Suppose you have a bunch of junk on your desk, and a small stuffed duck, and you want to take a picture of the duck.

Original Duck picture

The duck isn't really in focus so I tap on it, and I get the second picture:

Duck in focus, bad exposure

That's better, focus-wise but the exposure's not right. It's just too dark. (Memo to those who might want to take pictures of a small stuffed duck: do it during the day, when the light is better. Also, clean off your desk first.)

The next picture shows an in-focus duck, and the exposure is much more to my liking. That's because I took advantage of iOS 8's ability to let me set focus and exposure independently.

Duck in focus, slider gone up

Here's how it works.

Get the camera app going and compose your picture. Tap where you want the camera to focus, same as you've done in iOS 7 and earlier. Then, notice the little sun icon to the right of where you tapped. You can drag that sun up and down to change the exposure. Do that until you're satisfied, then take the picture.

It sound simple because it IS simple. And it makes your pictures better than ever. Try it while you're thinking of it-- you'll be an expert in no time.

How I did it

(Note: I had to enhance the screenshot to make the yellow box around the duck, and also the little sun/exposure icon, easier for you to see. They won't be quite as bright in real life.)

Apple put a bunch of other features into the Camera app, including a self-timer, a time-lapse mode, and a faster burst mode. You should poke around and experiment with these features so you'll know how to use them when the need arises. Sometimes you get but one chance to take the picture; do some practicing ahead of time so you'll be ready.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is iOS 8 Tip #7.

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Eight for 8: An iOS 8 Tip a Day, 8 Days in a Row (Day Six)

Eight for 8: An iOS 8 Tip a Day, 8 Days in a Row (Day Six)

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Eight for 8 logo day 6 dice

Eight for 8, Day Six. Let's get rolling.

I get a lot of calls asking how to prolong the battery life on iPhones and iPads, so many that I've written a couple of blog posts about that already: here, and also here. But iOS 8 gives us a new tool in our quest for longer battery life, and that is the subject of today's iOS 8 tip.

iOS 8 Tip #6: See the Battery Usage, per App

If we knew which apps were eating up our batteries we'd be more careful about turning them off, or getting rid of them altogether. Now, with iOS 8, we can figure it out, because in the Settings there's a new "Battery Usage by App" option that shows you what's using up the juice. Just go to Settings, General, Usage, Battery Usage and wait for the percentages to be calculated.

Note: you could, if you wanted to, just kill every app but that is rather brute-force-ish. Using the Battery Usage screen lets us be almost surgical. it's a much better way to manage things.

Here's a picture showing the battery usage, by app, for my iPhone 5s.

Battery Usage for iPhone 5s

There's nothing in this list that looks bad to me, as these are apps I've been actively using. It's reasonable that they're the ones that have been using up the power.

The apps that are going to steal power behind your back are the ones that do "Background App Refresh" or that use the Location Manager (such as apps that help you find coffee or gas stations or ATMs near your current location). Obviously, some apps HAVE to work in the background and some apps HAVE to use your location (and some apps have to do both: if you're using an app for navigation, the app has to keep working even if it's not the frontmost app, and it has to continually get your location so it can tell you when to turn). But a lot of apps simply want to work in the background, and in many cases the benefits are not as great as the costs. For example, I can't see a big benefit in having the Stocks app, or the Weather app, refreshing themselves in the background. I can wait a second for them to update when I launch them if it's going to save the battery.

It boils down to this: if your iPhone's battery is draining too quickly, go to Settings, General, Usage, Battery Usage and see if you can find a smoking gun. Maybe there's a forgotten app sucking down the power. Maybe you have an app doing Background App Refresh when you really don't need it. Whatever, iOS 8's Battery Usage by App screen gives you information you didn't have in previous versions of iOS. (Click here for information on turning off Background App Refresh on an app-by-app basis.)

"Knowledge is power"-- but when it comes to the iPhone, knowledge is power savings. Don't overlook this important new feature.

And that's iOS 8 Tip #6.

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Still have questions? Email me. But first, why not join the mailing list? People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

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Eight for 8: An iOS 8 Tip a Day, 8 Days in a Row (Day Five)

Eight for 8: An iOS 8 Tip a Day, 8 Days in a Row (Day Five)

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Eight for 8, Day Five.

iOS 8 gives us a new, hands-free way of controlling Siri. Here's how it works.

iOS 8 Tip #5: Hands-Free Siri

Used to be, to use Siri you held the Home button down until you heard "beep beep," and then you let go and then you started talking, and when you stopped talking, Siri stopped listening. That worked pretty well except you had to keep talking-- if you paused, Siri thought you were done, and the results weren't always good.

Then Apple changed Siri so she'd listen as long as you kept the Home button down. You still had to press and hold the Home button and wait for the "beep beep" but at least your questions didn't get cut off.

In iOS 8, Apple's given us a Siri that listens all the time. You don't have to press the Home button at all! You simply say "Hey Siri" and then whatever it is you want to say. You can wait for the "beep beep" or not. See below for an example of "not."

Asking Siri how the Bears did in football today

... and here's Siri's answer:

Cal won in double overtime

Sorry to say, there's a little bitty catch. The catch is, the iPhone or iPad has to be charging or "Hey Siri" won't work. That sort of limits things but it's still handy. I have my iPhone charging on the table next to my FitDesk bicycle-desk, and while I'm typing (and riding) away I can say "Hey Siri, when does UCLA play Cal in football?" and get my answer, without reaching for the phone. Pretty neat. (According to Siri the game is October 18th, 2014 but the time has not been set.)

In my experience "Hey Siri" works really well if you're within six feet of the iPhone, which means it's perfect for in the car. Just plug your iPhone into a charger and set it on the seat next to you. With that kind of a set-up you can use Siri hands-free while you drive, the way you should.

One other thing: for some reason, "Hey Siri" is turned OFF by default. You have to turn it on, but that's easy: just go to Settings/General/Siri and you'll find it.

Hey Siri switched on

That's all there is to it. Give it a whirl.

Like a lot of iOS 8 things, "Hey Siri" is something you have to remind yourself to do at first, but eventually you'll use it all the time. Just remember that it only works when the iPhone's plugged in.

And that's iOS 8 Tip #5.

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Still have questions? Email me. But first, why not join the mailing list? People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

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Eight for 8: An iOS 8 Tip a Day, 8 Days in a Row (Day Four)

Eight for 8: An iOS 8 Tip a Day, 8 Days in a Row (Day Four)

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Eight for 8, Day Four.

iOS 8 Tip #4: Faster Typing, Thanks to the Predictive Keyboard

iOS 8's keyboard looks a lot like its predecessors, except now it has a little strip across the top row. It uses that strip to present its three best guesses for what you want to type next. Tap a guess to squirt the word right in. It takes a little getting used to but it's worth it as it's way faster to tap on a guessed word than it is to type the word yourself. It's built into the system so it works everywhere you can type.

It's easy to overlook the Predictive Typing feature, and also easy to under-appreciate it by not understanding how sophisticated and groovy it is, so I am here to help you.

In the email message below I wanted to type "I saw two deer yesterday while driving home from Malibu." In the first picture, you see (boxed in red) iOS 8's best guesses for how I'm going to start my email.

Predictive keyboard 01

I didn't gain anything by tapping the suggested word "I" rather than typing it on the keyboard. In fact, for the first few words, the Predictive Keyboard didn't save me any typing at all. I had to type every letter of "I saw two deer" all by myself.

But then--

iOS 8 guessed "yesterday" after just three letters ("yes").

Predictive keyboard 02

Then it guessed "while" after "wh", "driving" after "d", "home" after "h", and "from" after "f". That's 34 characters (counting spaces between words) inserted into my message for 8 letters typed and 5 predicted words tapped. That's pretty good, and it's even better when you factor in the likelihood of me making mistakes had I typed the whole sentence myself.

Pretty neat. But it gets even better.

If you're using Messages, and someone sends you a question with choices, the Predictive Keyboard will present those choices as its best guesses. Look at this screenshot, where a HIGHLY VALUED customer is asking me what I'd like for lunch.

Turkeysandwich or soup

I should have taken a screenshot but take my word for it, I didn't have to type "The turkey sandwich." iOS 8 predicted it. "The turkey sandwich," "The soup," and "I don't know" were presented as choices across the top of the keyboard. (Note to iOS 8 Keyboard Design team: "Both" would be more useful than "I don't know".) All I had to do was tap "The turkey sandwich" and like magic, not only did the words appear but shortly so did the sandwich.

It takes a little training to remember to look at that strip of words across the top of the keyboard but it is worth it, so start using it now and you'll be great at it in no time.

If the Predictive Keyboard doesn't appear for you, maybe you've turned it off. Look in the Settings, and then General, and then Keyboard, and turn it back on.

Predictive keyboard 04

It's also possible to turn the Predictive Keyboard off (and on) from the keyboard itself. Just tap and hold on the "Emoji" icon (a happy face) or the keyboard switcher icon (looks like a globe) and you'll see how to switch Predictive on and off.

Predictive keyboard 05

As you can see, you're not likely to accidentally turn the Predictive Keyboard off. There is a decent chance that you will accidentally hide it. Swiping down on the little Predictive strip will hide it, leaving a small handle. Swipe up on the handle to bring it back. See below.

Predictive keyboard 06

The iPhone and iPad save you a lot of typing, even without the Predictive Keyboard. There's auto-correction, dictation, and text-expansion shortcuts that you can define yourself. The Predictive Keyboard takes things up a notch, and it's well worth a try. It works for me and I'll bet it will work for you.

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Still have questions? Email me. But first, why not join the mailing list? People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

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Eight for 8: An iOS 8 Tip a Day, 8 Days in a Row (Day Three)

Eight for 8: An iOS 8 Tip a Day, 8 Days in a Row (Day Three)

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Eight for 8 logo Day 3

Eight for 8, Day Three.

Why do we say that half of eight is four, when anyone can look at the picture and see that half of 8 is 3? Must be the New Math.

Before we get to today's tip I want to thank those who've been sending in tips, questions, and thanks. Those kinds of interactions really make my day. Keep 'em coming.

And now, on with the show.

iOS 8 Tip #3: Audio Texts and Video Insta-Selfies

Yesterday I commented that Tip #2 (Actionable Notifications) wasn't as important as the invention of fire. Today's tip is. In fact, today's tip is like the invention of fire, the wheel, aspirin, indoor plumbing, and football on TV, all rolled into one. I'm telling you, you'll be using this tip a lot.

In a nutshell, today's tip is that iOS 8's Messages app lets you record and send audio and video messages as easily as you send text. Yes, you could send audio and video "texts" in older versions of iOS, but it wasn't as easy as it is in iOS 8, and I'll bet a lot of people didn't know they could do it at all. Now it's right there in the Messages app, all built-in and handy. Let's have a look.

Here's the Messages app, ready for me to type. Note the area boxed in red.

Messages app, iOS 8

In particular, notice there's a camera on the left, and a microphone on the right. Let's start on the right.

Note: for dictation we use the microphone next to the space bar. For audio recordings we use the one to the right of the text-entering area. Audio recordings are what we're interested in here.

When you tap and hold on the microphone it immediately begins recording your voice (so be ready to talk). When you let go, you'll see a screen like this one (you'll see something similar while you're recording):

Messages app, iOS 8, audio controls

Tap the up arrow to send it, the x to cancel it, and the play button to listen to it. I'm a little surprised at the crude appearance of the controls but they work just fine and I've had a great time sending audio messages in the couple of days that I've had iOS 8 installed.

I call these recordings "Audio Texts," sort of a catchy name despite not making sense. You can call them anything you want. If you think you've got a better name than "Audio Texts" post a comment here on the blog and let us be the judges.

Note: sending "Audio Texts" works best when you're sending to another iPhone (or iPad) user. If the recipient isn't using an iPhone or iPad (and thus, not using iMessage) your audio might go through anyway but I wouldn't bet on it. When you're going iPhone to iPhone, or iPhone to iPad, you're using Apple's iMessage system, and in that case everything is going to work.

I could end right here and you'd get your money's worth. But I'm in a giving mood.

The second part of this iOS 8 tip is what I call "Video Insta-Selfies." "Video" because it's video. "Insta-" because it's instant and it makes me think of Instagram. "Selfie" because it's a selfie. Yes, I invented this name.

Video Insta-Selfies are a lot like Audio Texts, except they're video. The controls look a lot like the ones for Audio Texts but in fact they work rather differently. For example, tapping the microphone gives you instructions ("Tap and hold to record and send audio"), while tapping the camera gives you choices: pick a recent photo from a gallery, go to the Photo Library and choose an older photo or video, or take a new photo or a video. See below.

Messages 03

If you tap the camera icon you get the picture above. If you tap and hold the camera icon you get a screen like the one below (late-night blogger not included):

Messages in iOS 8, video

Tapping on the red button starts a video recording. You can switch to the "back camera" using the camera icon at top right, as you can any time you're using the camera. The icon I'm pointing to with the red arrow will snap a photo and send it immediately-- no opportunity for you to review the picture or think it over-- so be careful. At the very least be sure you're sending it to who you think you're sending it to.

Assuming you do make a video recording you will then get a screen like the one below, which lets you send it, review it, or delete it.

Messages in iOS 8, video

Before you run off to Audio Text and Video Insta-Selfie Land, give some consideration to how much space these recordings take up. Luckily, Apple's looking out for you here: in the Settings, in the Messages section, you'll see something like this:

Messages in iOS 8, Settings

If you tap the places where it says "Expire After 2 minutes" you'll see an explanation that iOS 8 is set to delete audio and video from your Messages conversations in 2 minutes. Probably a good idea to leave it that way.

And that's iOS 8 Tip #3.

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Still have questions? Email me. But first, why not join the mailing list? People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

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