The iPhone has long been able to play clicking sounds when you tap the keys on the virtual keyboard, but that feedback, while sometimes welcome, can become annoying when you’re trying to be quiet. A new feature in iOS 16 provides haptic feedback—tiny taps you can feel in your fingertips as you tap keys on the keyboard. It’s a subtle but highly effective way of mimicking a real keyboard, and we encourage you to try it. Turn the feature on in Settings > Sounds & Haptics > Keyboard Feedback. (While you’re there, try turning off Sound; it may no longer be necessary.)
(Featured image by iStock.com/Yosi Azwan)
iOS 16 has been out for a bit now, and it’s likely safe to upgrade as long as you don’t rely on obsolete apps that might not be compatible. When you take the plunge, the first new feature to check out is the capability to create, customize, and switch among multiple Lock Screens, each with its own wallpaper, clock font, and widgets. It’s reminiscent of how you customize Apple Watch faces. Plus, you can now link a Lock Screen to a Focus so you know when that Focus is active.
To get started, touch and hold the Lock Screen until the Lock Screen switcher appears. (Your iPhone must be unlocked at this point, which can be a bit tricky with a Touch ID-based iPhone—gently touch the Home button to authenticate, but don’t press it or you’ll open the Home Screen.)
Tap the blue plus button to create a new Lock Screen—see below for how to configure it. Once you have several Lock Screens, swipe left and right to pick one, and tap it to make it active. You can customize aspects of a Lock Screen after creating it by tapping the Customize button, and if you don’t like what you’ve done, delete it by swiping up and tapping the trash button.
iOS 16 offers seven types of wallpapers, which you select while creating a Lock Screen by tapping buttons at the top or samples in a visual gallery below.
- Photos: Most people will choose a photo for their wallpaper. iOS 16 uses machine learning to identify images that are likely to work well, separating them with image-selection filters into four categories: People, Pets, Nature, and Cities. You can also scroll through all your photos or particular albums and search for photos. Some people and pets will float above the clock (unless you add widgets), but you can toggle that with the Depth Effect option accessible in the ••• button.
- Photo Shuffle: Having trouble deciding which photo you prefer? The Photo Shuffle wallpaper automatically selects and switches between photos for you, letting you specify which categories to use, which people to include, and even which individual photos to show or hide (tap the ••• button to remove a suggested photo from the rotation). You can set the photo to rotate with a tap on the Lock Screen, whenever you lock your iPhone, hourly, or daily.
- Emoji: This wallpaper tiles up to six emoji in several different grid sizes and layouts, and you can change the background color by tapping the ••• button. Thanks to Apple’s quality emoji art, the Emoji wallpaper is surprisingly attractive.
- Weather: Those who work in windowless offices might particularly appreciate the Weather wallpaper, which changes to reflect the current weather conditions (and time of day) in your location.
- Astronomy: For a broader perspective, the Astronomy wallpaper lets you look at the Earth, Moon, or solar system whenever you pick up your iPhone. Swipe to pick your preferred celestial body and zoom level.
- Color: Want something simpler? The Color wallpaper lets you choose a background color gradient from the color picker. Swipe to apply different effects.
- Collections: This category, which appears only in the gallery, provides Apple-designed graphics such as Unity, Pride, and the clownfish wallpaper from the original iPhone.
Take some time to explore all the wallpaper types and their options—the combinations are nearly endless. There’s no downside to creating and switching among different Lock Screens as the mood strikes you.
Clock font and color
Once you decide on a wallpaper for a Lock Screen, you can customize the clock font and color by tapping the clock. There are only eight font options, but you should be able to find one you like. With color, Apple provides some suggestions below the font choices, but if you scroll all the way to the right and tap the color wheel, you can use iOS 16’s color pickers to select any color. The goal is to make sure it’s readable against the background image you’ve chosen.
Beyond the eye candy of wallpapers and the customizable clock, widgets make the iOS 16 Lock Screen more useful than ever. Some iPhone users are accustomed to having flashlight and camera buttons on the Lock screen—everyone can now add widgets to two distinct zones on the Lock Screen, above and below the clock. The widget zone above the clock holds only a single line of text or other controls, and it always displays alongside the date, which shrinks if necessary. The zone below the clock is taller and can hold two sizes of widgets: small ones that occupy a single slot and large ones that take over two slots. You can mix and match small and large widgets to fill—or not—the four available slots.
To add widgets, tap the desired zone and tap widgets in the panel that appears. Suggestions appear at the top, but if you scroll down, you can see a list of all the apps that offer widgets. Tap an app to see its widgets—swipe to see the full set it offers. Once you’ve added a widget, you may be able to tap it again to configure it—such as by specifying tickers for the Stocks widget. To rearrange widgets, drag them but be aware that this works poorly at the moment; it may be easier to delete the widgets (tap the ⊖ button) and add them again in the desired order.
Focus subsumed Do Not Disturb in iOS 15. Although Focus is far more flexible and customizable than Do Not Disturb, that power also makes it hard to predict when notifications will be blocked, since it can be difficult to know when a Focus is active. With iOS 16, Apple has made Focus more obvious by letting you link a Focus to a Lock Screen.
When you’re in the Lock Screen switcher, a Focus button appears toward the bottom of each Lock Screen. Tap it and select a Focus to link them.
Two things become true once you’ve linked a Focus to a Lock Screen:
- When you activate that Focus in Control Center, or its settings cause it to activate automatically, iOS 16 switches to the linked Lock Screen. That’s handy if you have a manually triggered Focus for family time, for instance, or an automatically activated Focus for Driving.
- When you switch to a particular Lock Screen, its linked Focus activates and starts blocking notifications. It’s probably easier to activate a Focus in Control Center, but switching Lock Screens has the same effect.
It may take a few weeks to figure out what Lock Screens you prefer and customize them to your liking, but we think you’ll enjoy this new feature.
(Featured image by Adam Engst)
Social Media: iOS 16’s marquee feature is customizable Lock Screens—read on to learn how to make multiple Lock Screens, each with its own wallpaper, clock font and color, and interactive widgets.
After years of user requests, Apple has finally beefed up Messages with a few welcome features—options to mark conversations as unread for later reference, edit messages after they’ve been sent, and undo sending entirely. Plus, when you delete junk texts in Messages, you can now report them to Apple and your carrier, and you can find inadvertently deleted conversations in Recently Deleted. Finally, there’s a Tapback improvement for SMS messages to Android users.
Before we begin, beware that editing messages and Undo Send work the way you expect only if your recipient is also using iMessage (blue bubble friends) with iOS 16 (or iPadOS 16 or macOS 13 Ventura, once those come out later in 2022). Instead of an edited message, a device running any other operating system will display a second message with the edited text. An unsent message can’t be called back from a recipient not running iOS 16—it will remain in the conversation with no indication that you tried to unsend it.
Mark as Unread
There are two types of people in the world: those who use red icon badges as reminders and those who ignore them entirely. The same applies to the blue dots that appear next to conversations in Messages to indicate unread posts. If an icon badge or blue dot is your nudge to do something, you’ll like Messages’ new capability to mark messages as unread. That way, if you receive a message while you’re busy, you can pretend that you haven’t read it so the red icon badge and blue dot remind you to deal with the message later.
Note that Mark as Unread works at the conversation level, not the message level. To mark a conversation as unread after looking at it, return to the message list and swipe all the way right on the conversation. For a pinned conversation, press and hold the conversation and tap Mark as Unread.
We’ve all been the victims of auto-correct or dictation errors that render a message embarrassing, confusing, or inexplicable. With Messages in iOS 16, you can fix such errors within 15 minutes after sending, and if necessary, you can do it up to five times.
To edit a message during that 15-minute window, press and hold the message, then tap Edit. Your message opens for editing. Make your changes and then tap the blue checkmark; if you change your mind, tap the gray X.
It’s important to note, however, that the recipient could have seen the message before you edited it, and even if they didn’t, such messages are marked with Edited in the conversation. If they tap Edited, they can see previous versions of the message. In other words, you can fix mistakes, but you can’t pretend they never happened.
Have you ever sent something in Messages that you wanted to call back? We’ve certainly sent the right message to the wrong person and inadvertently sent gibberish with errant taps on the keyboard. With iOS 16, if you realize you’ve made such a mistake within 2 minutes, you can undo sending, which deletes the message from the recipient’s iPhone, replacing it with a message saying that you unsent it. However, if the recipient isn’t using an iPhone or has any Apple device logged into iMessage that’s not running iOS 16, iPadOS 16, or macOS 13 Ventura, the message will not be deleted on that device, with no indication that you tried to recall it.
To unsend a message within that 2-minute window, press and hold the message, then tap Undo Send. It disappears instantly, and you see a warning about it working only with compatible devices.
Meanwhile, even if the recipient is running iOS 16, they still could have read the message before you unsent it, and if they didn’t see it, they would still see a message saying that you unsent it. In short, you still need to think before you send!
There’s no way to know how effective reporting junk messages is in preventing future spam from that person or phone number, but it feels good. (We like to imagine an Apple satellite’s space laser vaporizing the offender’s phone.) If you get a junk text, either via iMessage (blue bubble) or SMS/MMS (green bubble), swipe all the way left on it. Then tap Delete in the prompt that appears, and Report Junk in the next one.
What if you inadvertently delete the wrong conversation or message? You can now access those for up to 30 days in Recently Deleted. Tap Edit in the upper-left corner, tap Show Recently Deleted, select the messages to restore, and tap Recover in the lower-right corner.
SMS Tapbacks on Android
Finally, Apple has tweaked Messages so you can use the Tapback feature (press and hold a message, and then tap one of the response icons above it) to send a corresponding emoji to messages sent by Android users with SMS. This small change helps to provide a consistent experience for both iPhone and Android users.
Although it’s too bad that message editing and Undo Send work only with other iOS 16 users, there’s no avoiding the need for support at both the system level (which eliminates SMS messages sent to non-iPhone users) and the app level (which eliminates older versions of Messages). Nevertheless, they and the other new Messages features are useful now and will become all the more so as more iPhone, iPad, and Mac users upgrade.
(Featured image by iStock.com/ViewApart)
Social Media: Messages in iOS 16 gains a slew of useful features: marking conversations as unread, editing sent messages, unsending messages, and more. They’re great, but some require your recipients to upgrade to iOS 16 for the full experience. Learn more at:
Now and then, we run across iPhone apps that feel magical, and we want to share two of them: Seek and Merlin. They both use machine learning to help you identify something from the natural world using your iPhone. If you’re at all curious about the plants, wildlife, and birds you encounter outside, you’ll want to download these free apps.
Seek from iNaturalist
You’re out for a walk and see a particularly pretty flower or a tree with an unusual leaf shape. In the past, you’d probably wonder what it was and move on, or if you were really motivated to identify it, you might take a photo and consult a master gardener or arborist.
Instead, download the Seek app, created by the team behind iNaturalist, a social network that encourages members to share their photographs of living things to document organisms in time and space. iNaturalist is a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society, and it maintains a massive database of identified images of plants and wildlife.
To start using Seek, which doesn’t require an account, tap the green camera button on any screen. Then point the camera at something you want to identify and watch as the ID meter at the top of the screen works its way through the taxonomic ranks: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. Once Seek fills all seven dots—indicating that it knows the species—you can tap the camera button again to take a photo and add the organism to your observations. Seek then presents a page with additional information about the organism.
Beyond plants, Seek can identify amphibians, fungi, fish, reptiles, arachnids, birds, insects, mollusks, and mammals. It can be more difficult to get a spider or rodent to hold still while you point the camera at it, but you can also take a regular photo and have Seek identify it instead—just tap Photos at the bottom of the camera screen to select a photo from your library. If Seek recognizes the organism, it lets you add it to your observations, but it often has more trouble getting to the species level with a photo.
If you’re a parent, Seek’s challenges and badges might make the app especially fun to use with your child. A new challenge appears each month and asks you to identify a set of species near your location. You can also try past challenges, though you’ll have the most luck with ones from a similar season.
Merlin from Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology
Although Seek can identify birds using its camera, if you’re intrigued to learn more about birds in particular, check out the Merlin app, created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It can identify over 8500 species of birds using images or 685 species by listening to bird songs. Since birds can be difficult to see, much less photograph, Merlin’s capability to identify birds by listening to songs around you is hugely helpful.
To get started with Merlin, tap the Sound ID button on the main screen and then tap the microphone button. The app starts recording, and as it identifies bird songs nearby, it adds them to a list. It’s likely that you’ll hear multiple birds, and as Merlin continues to hear their songs, it highlights the species singing. After you tap the red stop button, Merlin saves your recording. You can then compare Merlin’s recordings with the one you made, and if they match, tap a button to add the bird to your list.
Merlin is also happy to identify a bird from a photo, which you can take from within the app or pull out of your Photos library. (Tip: When viewing your library from within Merlin, search for “bird” to find just the photos you might want to identify.) After you use a two-finger pinch-out gesture to zoom the photo to fit in the box, tap the Next button and confirm the photo’s location and date to see details about the bird. Again, if it’s right, tap the This Is My Bird button to add it to your list.
Just as Seek connects to iNaturalist for additional online capabilities, Merlin can connect to an online eBird account where you can manage your sightings and more. There’s also an eBird app that makes sightings public, provides rankings, and incorporates sightings into cutting-edge research projects.
Whether you’re a parent looking for something to do with your child outdoors, an environmentalist with an abiding interest in the natural world, or just someone who would like to identify a pretty flower or unusual visitor to your birdfeeder, Seek and Merlin are well worth downloading. Both are easy to use and require no upfront commitment, but be warned that you may find them surprisingly addictive!
(Featured image by iStock.com/mbolina)
Social Media: Ever wondered what that pretty flower was that you saw on your walk or felt curious about an unusual visitor to your birdfeeder? With the free Seek and Merlin iPhone apps, you can identify plants, wildlife, and birds—learn how at:
Two similar-sounding iOS features generate quite a bit of confusion. Wi-Fi Calling and Wi-Fi Assist both aim to improve your connectivity by using the best network available, but they achieve that goal in diametrically opposed ways. Wi-Fi Calling leverages your Wi-Fi connectivity to replace weak or nonexistent cellular coverage, whereas Wi-Fi Assist uses your cellular data connection when the Wi-Fi connection is poor. Here’s what you need to know.
Of the two technologies, Wi-Fi Calling is more commonly used and more helpful. It enables you to make or receive a phone call if you have a Wi-Fi connection in an area with little or no cellular coverage. That’s a huge win—cellular coverage in cities often doesn’t work below ground and can be blocked by thick walls in old buildings too. And in rural areas, weak coverage is a common problem. Your wireless carrier must support Wi-Fi Calling for it to work, but most do—check the full list for your carrier.
To enable Wi-Fi Calling, go to Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling, and enable the Wi-Fi Calling On This Phone switch. You’ll likely need to enter or confirm your address for emergency services. Normally when you call emergency services, your iPhone provides the dispatcher with your location based on cell tower triangulation; using Wi-Fi prevents that, so the system falls back to your address. For this reason, the iPhone tries to use the cellular network for emergency calls whenever possible. When Wi-Fi Calling is active, you’ll see “Wi-Fi” after the carrier name in the status bar.
The other utility of Wi-Fi Calling is that it lets you take and make phone calls on iPads and Macs that lack cellular capabilities, even when your iPhone isn’t nearby. It’s a little more complicated to enable, requiring the following settings:
- In Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling, turn on Add Wi-Fi Calling For Other Devices.
- In Settings > Phone > Calls on Other Devices, turn on Allow Calls on Other Devices.
- Still on that screen, turn on each device you want to use with Wi-Fi Calling. (Each device must be signed in to the same Apple ID.)
- On your iPad or iPod touch, go to Settings > FaceTime and turn on Calls from iPhone. On your Mac, open the FaceTime app, choose FaceTime > Preferences, then enable Calls from iPhone and click Upgrade to Wi-Fi Calling. You’ll need to approve the action or enter a code on the iPhone to confirm.
Once you have everything set up, calls should come through to all the devices you’ve added, and you can start new calls from the FaceTime app by entering a contact or phone number and using the phone button. The only downside? Multiple nearby devices can announce incoming calls, which may be annoying.
Wi-Fi Assist solves a less common problem than Wi-Fi Calling, but it’s such a useful fix that Apple turns it on by default. In short, when you have a poor Wi-Fi connection to the Internet, Wi-Fi Assist automatically switches your connection to cellular. So, if a Web page doesn’t load or a search in Maps isn’t getting results, Wi-Fi Assist kicks in to ensure the task completes over your cellular connection.
The only downside to Wi-Fi Assist is that you could end up using more cellular data than you expect. That’s likely a problem only if your plan provides extremely limited cellular data or charges significant amounts for additional usage, as might be the case with a pre-paid SIM while traveling. To ensure that doesn’t happen, go to Settings > Cellular, scroll all the way to the bottom, and turn Wi-Fi Assist off. (That screen also tells you how much cellular data Wi-Fi Assist has used; even when it’s on, it’s unlikely to consume much.)
There are a few caveats:
- Wi-Fi Assist won’t automatically switch to cellular if you’re data roaming (using a carrier other than your main one for cellular data).
- Wi-Fi Assist works only with foreground apps, not those that download in the background.
- Wi-Fi Assist doesn’t work with some apps that stream audio or video, or that download significant amounts of data.
In short, Wi-Fi Calling and Wi-Fi Assist are helpful features that attempt to enable your iPhone to work normally for phone calls and Internet-related tasks by switching between Wi-Fi and cellular as necessary to ensure solid connectivity.
Of course, if you have neither cellular coverage nor Wi-Fi connectivity, you’re just stuck and will have to amuse yourself offline for a while!
(Featured image by iStock.com/ipopba)
Social Media: Wi-Fi Calling and Wi-Fi Assist. They sound similar and share a goal of providing connectivity when you need it. But they go about doing that in opposite ways—learn more here: