As Christmas Day dawned, countless smartphones were being unwrapped around the world. For some the phone will have been ‘same again with a slightly bigger number’, but for others this smartphone will be their introduction into a new ecosystem. Many will be welcomed into the world of iOS with their festive ‘phone.
In this Christmas edition of Apple Loop (between the mulled wine and Doctor Who’s adventure with Santa) you’ll find discussion points and suggestions to get the most out of your new Apple iPhone.
No smartphone is an island, even the iPhone. Cloud services play an important part in the connected world, and hooking your smartphone into the various elements of your personal cloud will increase the effectiveness and utility of the handset.
Naturally the iPhone is geared around with Apple’s iCloud and you’ll be prompted to sign on to an existing account, or to create a new account, during the initial start-up process. Apple is working to bring together all its hardware into a single personal cloud with the ability to pass PIM data, documents, data connections, text messages, IM updates, and more. It is seamless, but does require you to have everything on the same account.
You’ll also have the opportunity to secure the account with two-factor authentication. My advice would be to do so, but ensure that you take a physical copy of your recovery key. Print it out and put it somewhere safe and memorable. Without it you might be locked out of the account over all your devices if there are security issues.
Although iCloud drives much of the Apple experience, the iPhone can use other cloud providers and online services. It’s a simple matter to add accounts provided by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, AOL, or an Exchange server – the option is under ‘Settings – Mail – Contacts, Calendars – Accounts’. As well as adding an inbox in the email client, these cloud services can populate your contacts and calendars. The days of manually transposing all your personal data to a new device are long gone, so take advantage of this and make your new phone your own as quickly as possible.
There have been some high-profile issues with iOS 8 since it was released in September, but the recommendation now is to update to iOS 8.1.2 (even with 8.1.3 is on the way) at your earliest convenient opportunity. But it’s not something you need to do the second your iPhone comes out of the box. iOS 8 in all its versions copes well, and there are no real show-stoppers that cannot wait a day or two before doing the update.
And it’s worth waiting. After release day, Christmas Day creates a high amount of traffic over Apple’s content delivery network. Downloading updates will much longer on the 25th than other days.
Also, if you have an iPhone with a lower storage limit (the 16 GB iPhone 6, 6 Plus, or potentially the crippling 8 GB iPhone 5C) an over-the-air OS update requires a lot of free space on the iPhone, space that would not be required if you update using iTunes (which has the advantage of taking a back-up at the same time).
It has long been understood that the best camera you have is the camera that is with you at the time. That means for many people the iPhone will be the main camera in their life.
With your new iPhone, you’ll always have a great camera with you, and you should be able to capture any moment in time… as long as you know how to use the camera. With a number of new camera modes (including burst mode to take multiple pictures, and super-slow motion video recording at 240 frames per second), there are many decisions to consider and options to select from.
Learn these before you miss the moment of a lifetime. Play around with the functions, try out tap to focus, practice switching between the various modes, and get your photographer’s eye in sync with Apple’s engineers.
When the time comes to take a picture quickly, you won’t need to think about you need to do with the camera settings… you’ll just know.
For some, extended warranties have a bit of a bad name, but once the statutory warranty has run out, many people like to have a safety net, especially on high value products like the iPhone. Strictly speaking AppleCare is a service contract and not an extended warranty scheme, but it does provide two years of technical support and hardware coverage (including the option to repair accidental damage with a small excess payment at the point of repair).
In the short term it’s a high-margin product for Apple, but it’s an option worth considering immediately, even though you have a year to purchase the extended warranty. The cost is comparable to the price of a subsidised iPhone, but when the time comes to look for a repair or advice, AppleCare will come into its own.
Your iPhone might have some nice first-party software out of the box, but the real strength of a smartphone is in the third-party apps. With everything routed through the App Store it’s easy enough to navigate, but where to start? Well, there are some obvious apps to point out.
The first would be your social networks. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn, all have strong iOS applications that tie in with both the iPhone notification system and the ’share’ dialog.
While Android and iOS are competitors, Google provides a strong suite of iOS apps including clients for Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Plus, and a Google Search application.
Sports fans will find the sports news networks have their own apps, from specific NFL, MLB and NBA apps, to news apps from the likes of ESPN and the BBC.
Games are far more ephemeral on the smartphone, and of course you have the addictive nature of Candy Crush Saga if you must. Looking beyond the titles with pop-culture recognition, here are my five recommended titles.
First up is Dots, from Betaworks. Recently the developer team behind Dots (and the sequel TwoDots) spun out with a $10 million Series A round, and it’s well deserved. Starting with a timed game that asks you to join dots of a similar colour, the game has evolved to include power-ups, fixed move, and endless play, variants.
Super Hexagon is one of the finest ‘twitch’ arcade games I’ve come across. With two control (left or right) you need to spin your cursor around an ever shifting maze of hexagons to a hardcore soundtrack. Your score is how long you can survive, and a high score above thirty seconds means you are doing well.
Staying with old-school difficulty levels, Rovio continue to look for a smash-hit after Angry Birds. Retry might not have world-beating potential, but it’s a great level based arcade game with an almost uncontrollable aircraft you need to fly through the side-scrolling world to reach your final destination.
Letterpress was one of the hits of last year, and while Loren Britcher’s word game might be showing its age, this online multiplayer mix of Countdown, Risk, and Spelltower, that is still enthralling.
Finally, the role-playing adventure books in the Sorcery! series have been recreated for iOS with an interactive combat system alongside full screen maps, texts, and graphics. The Shamutanti Hills and Kharé: Ctyport of Traps are both available in the App Store.