Q If I’ve downloaded in advance some podcasts to listen to while I’m exercising, why, when I’m actually at the gym or wherever and want to listen to them, have the files disappeared from the iPhone meaning that the app asks if I want to stream them via 3G – which uses up data and besides the reception is patchy by the rowing machines. Luke via email
A This is likely to be caused by low memory on your device, the way that iOS handles file management, and the way your podcasting app stores files.
When iOS devices are running low on storage space, they will automatically clean up any files that they can from currently installed apps. These files mostly come from a “caches” folder inside the app, and is where developers are supposed to store files that can easily be replaced.
However, some developers use the documents directory or flag the files to prevent automated cleanup. I can recommend Instacast or Castro, both of which are excellent alternatives to the default Apple Podcasts app that offer excellent design and feature sets. Instacast also has the added benefit of syncing with Mac and iPad versions.
Q What is the most future-forward way of storing and playing my music collection? I have well over 1,000 CDs, and in the last few years have purchased lots of songs via iTunes. Currently I mostly play my digital music via a hi-fi separates system which I’ve plugged my iPad into. Although the iPad doesn’t have anywhere near enough memory to hold my whole iTunes collection, so choice is restrictive. Ideally I’d like to whittle down the CDs to a couple of hundred at most and sell the rest, burning what I might actually listen to beforehand. Then I’d like to be able to store my entire digital collection somewhere (a hard drive, the cloud – not sure my Airbook would hold them all) and be able to listen to it at home via my hi-fi – or in the future some Sonos type set-up which is also connected to my TV. Being able to listen to the entire catalogue in one other room and outside my home would be handy, but they are not priorities. I don’t use any streaming services at the moment, but would like my new set-up to have that option. Luciano via email
A This is a good question, and is not necessarily straightforward because there are quite a lot of options available to you. The simplest way to store your current music collection would be to rip the CDs to an external hard drive as a longer term backup, and to act as a local copy if you wish to add songs manually to your devices. You could also store a copy in a NAS (Network-Attached-Storage) like a Synology or Drobo to play the files around your home.
To stream your music from anywhere, you could upload up to 20,000 songs to Google Play Music, and then play back from any browser, iOS or Android device for free.
Alternatively, with iTunes Match you can get iTunes quality copies of up to 25,000 songs that will be available on all your Apple devices or Windows PCs (through iTunes), including the Apple TV, both locally and by simply streaming. These files can then also be played over AirPlay to any speakers using either built-in software or the AirPort Express for anything with a 3.5mm audio jack, as well as via iTunes Home Sharing to local Apple devices or to Windows (via iTunes).
Depending on the range of your library, you may be able to find everything on a streaming service like Spotify or Rdio (in my experience Spotify seems to have a wider range of music), and after ripping your CDs for the sake of longer term backup, move to using one of these services for your daily consumption of media.
Using a mix of the above is likely the best way to go, and I’d definitely make at least one hard drive backup, there’s no guarantee that the cloud service you sign up to today will exist in a few years’ time and you don’t want to lose your collection.
Q EE’s coverage seems to have gotten worse in London since the merger. Surely the network should have got better? Nicola via email
A You would assume that combining the masts of two companies would result in an improved service on existing 2G and 3G networks. However, this is not necessarily so for a few reasons.
The main contributor to the problem is that some masts have been converted for 4G signals. 4G provides much faster transfer rates and coverage. However, older devices that do not support 4G or are on plans that do not allow access to 4G networks will experience a worse signal around converted cell towers.
Q I’m starting to travel quite often and find that my tablet and smartphone are running out of battery a little too often, what can I do to extend their battery lives? Howard via email
A Although battery lives are improving, they still often fall short of lasting long enough for a day or two of constant use which when without a socket (while travelling for example) can be quite irritating. Fortunately, there are some relatively simple ways of extending battery life without changing your usage or breaking the bank.
The easiest way to do so is with an external battery block or device case. External batteries have been around for a while and units can now be found for relatively low prices.
External batteries come in two forms, device specific cases that are usually a little more elegant but have lower capacities, and (usually bulkier) stand-alone units that allow you to plug in any USB cable(s) that you might have with you.
Although the device case models are a little more portable, stand-alone units are more versatile, especially if you need to charge a phone and tablet – as a single unit can fill both roles. I have a 10,000mAH unit from Anker, but many others are available.