The Best of the App Store

This post is part of the MacMAD presentation meeting for Tuesday, March 15, 2022. See also iPhone Super Powers.

The Best of the App Store for iOS

Many iOS/iPadOS Apps are free. Most Apps that are not free are less than $3.00. Some are more expensive, or have in-App purchases or subscriptions.

Many people consider that one of the best decisions made by Apple was to allow 3rd party apps on the iPhone. It’s hard to believe that when the iPhone was introduced in 2007, Apple wasn’t initially sure Apps would be supported. The App Store was only introduced in 2008.

There are now about 2 million Apps in the iOS App store. Because it is so easy to buy and install Apps, even the most technophobic of iPhone users have typically installed several favorite Apps. Many iPhone users have so many Apps installed that they have trouble keeping track of them all.

You Must Setup a Credit Card

Because it is a store, and you might buy things, you need to setup a credit card under

Settings ->Apple ID

Once you have done this, you are ready to shop for Apps.

There are three categories of Apps with different information in the “Price” button.

Apps can have a price, or the word “GET”, or a cloud download symbol.

In the App Store, you will see some apps with the word GET instead of a price. Those apps are free. If you see In-App Purchases, then there are aspects of the App you will be asked to pay for later, while using the App.

If you see the cloud download symbol, that means that you already own that App, but it is not currently installed on your device. Maybe you bought or downloaded it on a different device, or maybe you previously had it installed but deleted it. In any case, you can click the icon to download it now for free.

In the figure above, you will see how to spot a reputable app. An App with the Editor’s Choice notation is highly recommended. An App that has hundreds of thousands or millions of downloads and four or five stars is also a very reputable App. Be a bit suspicious if an App only has a small number of downloads, or is “Too new to rate”, or has a low star rating.

Check the Developer/Seller’s Name

If you are expecting the App to be something specific, make sure that the Seller and Copyright fields are what you are expecting. Some Apps have similar names or icons to other, more popular Apps.

Popular App Categories

  • Social Media
  • Games
  • Shopping
  • Audio, Video and Books
  • Travel and Navigation
  • Office Apps – Microsoft ‘s Office, Apple’s Apps

Consider Getting Apps for…

  • Favorite Stores & Restaurants
  • Local News, Weather and Information
  • Your Car and Home

Some car brands have their own apps. For your home, some devices such as locks, cameras and energy monitors have their own Apps. Of course, there is also Apple’s own Home App for all your HomeKit devices.

Some Favorite Apps

  • Next Spaceflight – Always know the next rocket launch
  • Mactracker – Guide to the many versions of Apple hardware
  • AnyList – Handy Family Shopping Lists and Checklists. iOS and Mac

Password Managers

I recommend you use some sort of password manager. Apple’s built-in Keychain feature is improving, but if that isn’t good enough for you, try these. No particular order:

Books and Reading

  • Apple Books – Apple’s own, pre-installed Book reader and Store
  • Libby, by Overdrive – Free eBooks from Brevard Libraries
  • Audible – Purchased and Subscription Audio Books, High Quality

iPhone Super Powers

A day of acquaintance,
And then the longer span of custom.
But first —
The hour of astonishment.

– Bill Atkinson, c. 1987

This post is from MacMAD’s presentation meeting for Tuesday, March 15, 2022. See also The Best of the App Store.

These are some capabilities of the iPhone that typically make people’s jaw drop in amazement and say “It does what?” the first time they hear of them.

Your iPhone Receives Signals from Russian Satellites

It also receives signals from US military satellites, and those of the European Space Agency, and Japanese and Chinese governments. These are all part of the navigation features usually lumped together as “GPS”.

  • GPS – United States Global Positioning System, originally military only
  • GLONASS – Russian Navigation Satellites
  • Galileo – European Space Agency Global Navigation System
  • QZSS – Japanese Satellite Positioning System
  • BeiDou – Chinese Navigation Satellite System

iPhone uses all these systems as required to determine your position as quickly and precisely as possible.

What is that thing?

Your iPhone / iPad can often answer questions of the “What is that thing?” variety. Sometimes an App is required, and sometimes you already have what you need.

What is that Airplane?

“Hey Siri, What Airplanes are overhead?”

The response comes back in tabular form from Wolfram Alpha, listing nearby flights and their positions in the sky.

List of nearby aircraft in flight

Siri automatically invoked Wolfram Alpha in this instance, but Wolfram Alpha is a website which can answer many types of questions. It is primarily oriented towards mathematics and engineering, but can respond to a fantastic variety of queries about factual information. There is also the Wolfram Alpha App ($2.99 + extras), and the free Wolfram Alpha Viewer App.

What is that Song?

“Hey, Siri, What Song is Playing?”

Siri can identify a song playing on your device, or a song playing nearby from another source. For music in the room, Siri invokes Shazam. Or, you can Shazam a song from the control center. Or, you can use the dedicated Shazam App.

Shazam Icon in Control Center
Song identified as “You’re Still on My Mind” by The Byrds

What is That Plant or Animal?

You can identify plants and animals with the free Seek App. Seek is from iNaturalist. There is also an iNaturalist web site and iNaturalist App, where you can submit your observations to a crowd-sourced body of observations, where the species will be confirmed or identified by other human observers.

Seek uses artificial intelligence to quickly identify a plant or animal through your camera. You don’t even need to take a photo to get the ID — just viewing the specimen through Seek will produce a likely identification.

Seek App identifying Indian Hawthorne Shrub

What Bird is Making that Sound?

The free Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell Labs can identify many bird species from their songs or calls. You can record the bird call from right within the app. You can then select a part of the recording that is the bird you want, free of background sounds. The App will then suggest a species. This is basically Shazam for birds.

Merlin Bird ID identifying Yellow-Throated Warbler

Which iPhone Should I Buy?

Variations of this question are some of the most common questions we get here at MacMAD. “What Mac should I buy?”, “Which iPad is the best?”, etc.

There is a great new site for this called Apple Buying Advice. It’s one of those sites that does one thing and does it well. I hope it withstands the test of time and avoids the temptations of click-bait headlines and over-complicated analysis. Right now, it is very simple and straight forward. Try it!

Use iPhone as Web Cam with Detail

I have a MacMini which has no built-in camera. During the pandemic, I have been doing more on-line teleconferencing (mostly Zoom and Facetime meetings). I have used various cameras and various software to connect them to my computer.

I recently came across Detail, from Detail.co . This application allows you to use your iPhone or iPad as a web camera for your Mac. This is the best solution I have seen yet, and the iPhone has a good-quality camera, so my video looks good.

The Mac application does much more than that, which is both an advantage and disadvantage. It is a disadvantage in that it makes it harder to learn to use. There is a video tutorial on the site. The quick summary is to download the Detail app from the iOS or iPad OS App store on your iPhone or iPad, and also download the app for Macintosh from the web site. The app can work wirelessly, or via a USB cable (recommended).

You may want a tripod adapter for your phone. I bought this one and it seems like a good one. You might want to use that with a small desktop tripod like this, if you don’t have one.

Detail is not free, and they are kind of cagey about the price. I actually don’t know how much or how often they charge. There is a 14 day free trial period. I discovered and got access to Detail through my Setapp subscription, which is excellent for just-in-time discovery of useful, curated apps.

iPhone Pricing 2021

Here is an overview of iPhone prices. These are the prices from Apple’s on-line store in June, 2021. There are 13 different models available as new and refurbished. Apple’s refurbished products are excellent, and usually can’t be distinguished from new.

All prices are subject to change, and availability of any specific model on the refurb store, especially, can change from day to day.

At this writing, there were 13 different iPhone models ranging from a refurbished $339 iPhone 8, up to a brand new iPhone 12 Pro Max, with 512 GB at $1399.

In the chart, the blue bars indicate the price of the base model and the green bars the price of the same model with the maximum amount of storage. There is often an intermediate model between those two.

Apple has probably never had so many different models of iPhone available simultaneously before. Choice is good.

Chart of iPhone Prices

March Meeting Notes

In our March virtual meeting, we talked about Continuity Camera and on-line user guides for Apple devices.

With Continuity Camera, you can use your iPhone to scan documents directly into apps on your Macintosh. It is particularly useful in Mail, Notes and Preview. If you scan paper documents into Notes in this way, they become searchable in the Notes app.

The answers to many questions about your device are contained in the user guide for your particular device, e.g. iPhone, iMac, or iPad. Apple has the user’s guides online. Apple doesn’t keep the user’s guides for older versions handy, so if you are planning to keep a device into vintage or obsolete status, download the applicable user guide before it goes out of date.

I will give you some links, but they are likely to go out of date. The consistent way to find the user’s guides is:

  1. Open https://support.apple.com/
  2. Click on your device at the top
  3. Scroll down. Near the bottom of the page, you will see something similar to this. Click on the User Guide link.

iPhone User Guide

iMac User Guides

MacBook Air User Guides

iPad User Guide

Setting Up a New iPhone

I want to document the process I went through recently when I sent my iPhone in for repair. That’s a similar process to getting an entirely new phone. There were some unexpected issues you should be aware of. This is going to be pretty long, so here’s some key points first.

Important Points

While you still have your old phone, whether or not you expect to get a new one soon, make a backup of your phone. If your phone unexpectedly fails, or is lost or stolen, you will have to get a new one. You can backup your phone to your computer or to iCloud. If you specify a password for the backup, you will get a more complete backup than if you do not. I recommend using the password. Write it down.

If you are using two-factor-authentication (2FA) login for any sites, create backup codes to access those sites. Look at your authentication apps (e.g., Google Authenticator, 1Password and Last Pass Authenticator) and make a list of all the sites you are using with those apps. Your 2nd Factor information may not be restored to your new phone. Make sure you know how you will sign on to your sites without it.

If any of your sites use text messages or phone calls as an alternate 2nd factor for login, consider assigning another phone number, such as your spouse’s phone for these, since if you are without your phone, you can’t receive those messages.

Make sure you know your Apple ID username/password, your iPhone’s passcode, and the password to your latest iPhone backup. Write them down. Your Apple ID credentials are the same as you use for iCloud logon.

Your Old Phone

If you are sending your iPhone away, out of your control, for any reason, including repair, or sale or trade, you should follow Apple’s Instructions here. Your phone should then be a blank slate, just as it was when it was brand new, with none of your personal data in it. Be aware, that if you have an Apple Watch, this will render your Apple Watch completely useless until you pair it with another iPhone. (Is this true for cellular model watches also?)

Remove the case from your iPhone if it has one. Remove the screen protector, if any.

Remove the SIM card from your old phone. Save it. You will need it for the new/repaired phone.

Received the New/Repaired Phone

I had backed up my iPhone to my Mac. When I got the phone back, although it was the same phone (I recognized minor scratches on the back), it had a new serial number from Apple, and for all practical purposes, it was a different phone.

The process below will be different if you are restoring from iCloud, or if you make any of several choices differently than I did, but this will give you an idea.

This process was longer and more complex than I would have liked. I had to enter multiple passwords multiple times, and deal with confusing dialogs, but I got done eventually.

Begin by installing the SIM card into the phone.

Next, power on the phone. Enter your language and country when prompted.

I chose “Set up Manually” since I had no other iOS device present.

Enter your WiFi password.

You’ll see a message “…It may take a few minutes to activate your phone”.

You’ll click through the Data and Privacy notification screen.

Next, setup touch ID or face ID, depending on your phone model.

You must create a passcode. You can re-use the passcode you had before. I chose “custom alphanumeric code” for greater security.

Enter the passcode twice. (To prove you really know it, and entered it correctly.)

Restoring Apps and Data

The phone presents you with the following options:

  • Restore from iCloud Backup
  • Restore from iTunes Backup
  • Move Data from Android
  • Don’t Transfer Apps & Data

I selected Restore from iTunes Backup, and connected my phone by USB to my Mac.

An irrelevant and distracting dialog pops up on the Mac.

“New Network Interface” Dialog

Cancel that to see the meaningful dialog behind it. As of MacOS Mojave, the actions below take place in iTunes. In MacOS Catalina, it is expected to take place directly in the Finder.

New iPhone Dialog
Enter password for the Backup

I selected my most recent backup to restore, and had to enter the password. Even though I had saved the password to my keychain when I created it, I still had to enter it manually here. Don’t forget your backup password, or remember where you saved it.

Restoring took about 12 minutes

The phone restarts automatically after the restore, and you are presented with multiple popups.

Cancel the network popup, again.

On the iPhone, press Home to upgrade, and enter your passcode on the phone (your iPhone passcode).

This was the one place where things actually went wrong in this process for me. After a progress bar, the Apple logo appeared on the iPhone. After a long wait, iTunes said Syncing TV Shows to “Jamie Cox’s iPhone” (Step 4 of 4), and Waiting for items to copy. I was looking at a 100% progress bar for many minutes. (I only had a couple TV episodes on my phone.)

I gave up waiting and clicked Done in iTunes. The phone wouldn’t power down with a long press on the side power button. (This was an iPhone 7) This proved to me that it really was hung, and would never have finished no matter how long I waited. I held Power and Volume Down for a reset. I then unplugged the phone from USB. When the phone started up, I had to enter my iPhone passcode. I was then at the Update Completed screen on the phone.

Things are back on track now where you should be if the phone doesn’t hang.

General New iPhone Setup

At this point, you will be prompted to enter your Apple ID password. You may also receive this security prompt on the Mac:

Apple ID Allow Dialog

After clicking Allow, on the Mac, you then get a 6-digit code which you need to enter on the iPhone. (If you have two-Factor Authentication enabled on your iCloud account.)

Then agree to the Terms and Conditions screen.

Then you see the Location Services screen. (I chose Enable Location Services.)

Now, you will see the Welcome to iPhone Screen. Choose Get Started.

Now, finally, you are at the iPhone home screen, with icons loading.

On the Mac, you may get a couple more popups. First, asking if you want to add your phone number to iMessage and FaceTime. (I clicked Yes.) Second, notifying you that “Your Apple ID and phone number are now being used for iMessage and FaceTime on a new iPhone.”

At this point, I put the case back on my phone.

Re-Pairing the Apple Watch

Initiate pairing by moving your phone close to the watch. Let the phone’s camera see the pattern on the watch face.

I selected Restore from Backup, to get my watch back to where it was previously.

You’ll have to agree to the Apple Watch Terms and Conditions screen on the iPhone.

Then enter your Apple ID password on the iPhone. (For me, the steps in this sections failed the first three times. I then restarted both the iPhone and the watch. After that, it worked.)

After your Apple ID is verified, you will get to the Shared Settings screen. Tap OK.

You will be asked to create a passcode for your watch. (I used the same code I had before.) You must enter it twice.

You may see the Heart Health screen on the iPhone. Tap continue.

You may see the Apple Pay screen on iPhone. Tap Continue. Then you will have a chance to enter credit cards or set them up later in the Apple Watch App. (I chose to set them up later.)

You’ll see the SOS and Fall Detection screen. Pay attention, this could be important later. I enabled Fall Detection. It can save your life later.

What Wasn’t Restored

All my credit cards were missing from the Apple Wallet after the restoration, both on iPhone and Apple Watch. However, my loyalty cards and passes were still present in Wallet. Apparently Credit Cards are not stored in the Apple Watch or iPhone backups, even when the encrypted backup option is selected. This is probably a security measure by Apple.

As I mentioned before, my Two-Factor Authentication information was not restored in Google Authenticator or Last Pass Authenticator Apps. So, I could no longer generate codes for those sites I had been using with those apps. The 1Password app still had all my passwords as well as 2nd factor codes for those sites which used those. Your mileage may vary depending on your version of 1Password and how you sync it.

My Home Kit devices remained set up in iPhone as before, no problem.

If you had installed a configuration profile, such as the Spectrum WiFi access profile, it isn’t restored, and you will have to follow the instructions from the provider to get it installed on your new phone.

Your WiFi credentials are not restored. You will have to re-login to your favorite WiFi networks.

You will have to re-pair your Bluetooth devices, such as headphones, speakers, and car stereos.

Entering Passwords

During the restore process, you will have to enter passwords or passcodes at least 10 times, assuming you don’t make any mistakes, and everything goes perfectly.

  • iPhone Backup Password 1 time
  • WiFi Password 1 time
  • iPhone Passcode 4 times
  • Apple ID 2 times
  • Watch Passcode 2 times

Before you start, make sure you know your existing passwords, or what you want them to be, and write them down in a safe place.

Conclusion

So, I hope this overview of the process of getting a new iPhone was helpful to you. This process seems like it is longer and more difficult than it should be, but knowing it in advance should help. Please leave a comment if this was useful, or if you see anything wrong or anything I left out.

iOS 11.0.3 Fixes Problem with 3rd Party Replacement Screens

Apple released iOS 11.0.3 on Wednesday, October 11, 2017. The description of the release is as follows:

iOS 11.0.3 includes bug fixes for your iPhone or iPad. This update:

  • Fixes an issue where audio and haptic feedback would not work on some iPhone 7 and 7 Plus devices
  • Addresses an issue where touch input was unresponsive on some iPhone 6s displays because they were not serviced with genuine Apple parts

It so happens that I repaired my iPhone 6s screen recently with an apparently reputable, but non-Apple replacement screen.

Old screen, miscellaneous tools and the new screen installed.

Since the repair, I had noticed a few times when the touch screen became completely unresponsive. This was disconcerting at first, because an iPhone that doesn’t respond to any tap, touch, drag, etc. is pretty much a useless brick. However I found that just waiting about 1 minute or so with the screen off would bring it back to life. Since it didn’t happen but a few times, and since I knew a workaround, I didn’t complain to anybody.

Apparently, this was happening to enough people to reach the ears of Apple.

I want to give Apple a big thank you for putting in a software fix to work around a hardware problem that was not their fault. They could have done nothing. Some companies have gone so far as to deliberately disable unauthorized 3rd party hardware. Not Apple. Apple stuck by their customers, and this customer intends to stick by Apple.

Apple customers who used 3rd party replacement screens escaped with only a stern talking-to:

Note: Non-genuine replacement displays may have compromised visual quality and may fail to work correctly. Apple-certified screen repairs are performed by trusted experts who use genuine Apple parts.

While we’re on the subject of screen repair. Although I did successfully repair my own iPhone screen, I can’t really recommend doing it yourself. The process involved a jeweler’s magnifier, a guitar pick, a suction cup and six or eight nearly microscopic screws. I came extremely close to letting the magic smoke out of my iPhone. (Smoke must be what makes it work, because if the smoke ever comes out, it doesn’t work any more!)

I got away for about $50, but the folks who install a genuine Apple screen for, say, $150 are earning their money.

The Best Shared Shopping List App You Already Have!

I set out recently to find a shared iOS shopping list App to replace my family’s paper grocery shopping list. I had some pretty simple requirements:

  • Easy-to-use sharing between family members using different iCloud accounts
  • Ability to review the list in the store and mark items off
  • Ability to review and revive completed items (We’ve got milk this time, but we’ll need it again soon)

I spent some time in the App store looking at reviews and didn’t see anything I wanted to buy. Some otherwise useful apps had a bad reputation for crashing. Others were just too complex. Some needed a subscription and a sign-on for sharing to work. It’s just creepy that the vendor would be watching everything on your shopping list.

Eventually I found it. An app that was already on my phone that met all my requirements and didn’t need any additional sign-ups, plus you can use Siri to add items to the list by voice.

The app is: Reminders — the humble Apple Reminders app that comes with iOS.

Here’s an overview from iMore on how to set Reminders up for sharing.

A couple of tips:

  • You can have more than one list.
  • Remember the name of your lists: “Shopping List” and “Grocery List” aren’t the same to Siri.
  • When you invite someone to share your list, they may have to sign on to iCloud on the web the first time to accept the invitation, but after that it can be strictly iPhone-to-iPhone.
  • Everyone invited has equal ability to add, delete and edit items on the list.
  • Tap at the bottom of the reminders App screen to see your other reminder lists.

Enjoy!