Voice Messaging with iOS

Voice messaging on iOS - it’s great!

Now that Siri shortcuts are here, I don’t seem to be as embarrassed by my own voice anymore! (For a public speaker, that’s a bizarre statement, I know). To that end, I’ve started using Voice Messaging on iOS a lot more. 

It’s not a new feature, it’s been around for a long time, however it’s one that I’ve never been keen on using. Thankfully, the popularity of voice assistants such as Alexa and the HomePod means people aren’t as conscious of using their voices to carry out certain tasks as they once were. 

Voice messaging in iOS is easy. 

1) Launch the Messages app

2) Either create a new conversation, or select an existing one if there is a thread open. 

3) Tap and hold on the microphone icon that is to the right of the text input field. 

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4) If you are happy with the recording, then swipe up in the Send bubble (I don’t know if that’s the official term, but it will do for me). 

5) Not happy? Don’t swipe up in the Send bubble, simply swipe back across to the left and tap the screen. This exits the recording mode. Tap and hold the microphone button and re-record. 

How To: Use your iOS Keyboard Like A Boss - 10 Tips

For iOS owners out there, the keyboard is possibly the function that is used the most. It’s central to the vast majority of applications that we use. Whilst dictation is improving rapidly, we’re not at the stage yet, either functionally or socially, where it’s use outweighs the humble keyboard - so it’s a good idea to make sure we’re using it as efficiently as possible. 

Below are some quick tips that you can use to level up your keyboard skills:

1 - Long Press Keys for More Characters - by default, the currency icon on display in the UK is the £ symbol. If you tap and hold on this, you’ll see a list of others you can quickly access. There are other keys that this works with too. Typing a word that needs an acute accent on an e? Tap and hold on the e and you’ll see the é you need.

2 - Reveal the Cursor - if you have a 3D Touch enabled phone, this is a doozy. Force touch on the keyboard and you’ll see a cursor appear - use your finger as a trackpad to move the cursor and perform the edits you need quickly and efficiently.

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If you have an iPad, a similar effect can be had by swiping with two fingers when the keyboard is open to move the cursor. 

3 - Caps Lock - there is no Caps Lock button on iOS, however, a double tap of the Shift key will activate it. You do need to enable the function by toggling the Caps Lock setting in Settings -> General -> Keyboard

Another good tip here is that rather than tap Shift, press the key you want to capitalise and tap again, you can tap on the shift key and drag your finger across to the letter. When you release you can carry on typing and this saves some time. 

4 - Quick Numbers/Punctuation - in a similar vein to the above, you can save time when typing numbers and punctuation. If you just need a single number or punctuation symbol, tap on the 123 button and hold, dragging across to the desired key. When you release, the keyboard will be back to the default letters layout and you can continue unabated. I use this a lot. 

5 - Double Tap Space For Full Stop/Period - so simple it annoys me that this lay undiscovered for me for so long. A quick double tap of the space bar will show a full stop/period and save lots of time when carrying out longer form writing. 

6 - Fast Domain - when composing mail in the native Mail application (and Airmail I’ve recently found), if you are entering a recipient address and you long tap the full stop/period button, you will be presented with a list of common email suffixes.

7 - Text Replacement - whilst I am a keen user of TextExpander from Smile Software, you don’t HAVE to use it. There is a built-in Text Replacement service in iOS. Go to Settings -> General -> Text Replacement and enter some abbreviations for frequently typed expressions and you will improve our keyboard game.

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8 - Shake To Undo - spent a while typing strings of text, only to accidentally delete it? A light shake of your phone will give you the option of undoing the last action you applied to your text entries. 

9 - Look Up Definitions - rather than use a third party dictionary application, you can long press on a word and choose the Look Up option.

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10 - Enable Dictation - ok it's not perfect, however,  I find myself dictating far more often now with greater accuracy than ever before. It's especially good for quick-fire text messages. 

 

Activate Your Personal Hotspot from Launch Centre Pro

Here in the UK, we can get a pretty good deal when it comes to data allowances on our mobile devices. This can come in really handy when you are using a laptop on the move. Tethering to my iPhone and using it’s data connection really helps me whenever I need to commute into London. 

In fact, I use it so often, I’ve even created a Launch Centre Pro action which I access via 3D Touch from my dock!

For those of you who are unaware, Launch Centre Pro is a shortcut launcher on iOS. It can help speed up everyday tasks with simple shortcuts (think of a Speed Dial for apps!). As I activate the Personal Hotspot at least twice a day, it’s prime for some LCP hacking. 

Configuration

1) Open Launch Centre Pro and press the pencil icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen. You will see any spare grid spaces replaced with plus signs. Click on the one that will hold the Personal Hotspot shortcut.

2) Select Action on the resulting pop-up

3) Select Action Composer

 
 

4) Select System Actions

5) Once you’ve had an eyeful of all the goodies that you can setup after this tutorial(!), scroll down to Settings, then down to Personal Hotspot

6) If you wish, you can change some parameters, such as the Name or Iconamongst others. When happy, click Done in the top right-hand corner.

7) Click Done once more and you have a shortcut that you can launch directly from Launch Centre Pro. Happy Days. 

If you want to launch your new shortcut directly from the 3D Touch menu of your iPhone, then you need to configure it as a Quick Action and this is very simple to do. 

  • Open Launch Centre Pro and click the gear icon in the top left-hand corner
  • Select Quick Actions
  • Click Add Action and navigate to your newly created shortcut.
 
 

Now you can access your Personal Hotspot directly from a force press of the Launch Centre Pro icon.

Enabling Two-Factor Authentication on iCloud Accounts

One feature that I love with macOS Sierra that has come as a total shock to me is the ability to unlock my MacBook with my Apple Watch. The reason it is such a surprise is that I never thought it would be something that I would make much use of. After all, how difficult is it to enter a password? Not at all, especially when you find yourself carrying out this action multiple times daily. The muscle memory involved with typing the same sequence of character repeatedly speeds the whole process up.

Yet when I sit down at my desk and lift the lid on my laptop, seeing my desktop within just a couple of seconds never fails to make me smile just a little.

In order to activate this feature, there is a requirement to enable something called Two-factor authentication, a process which I will outline below. This is not to be confused with Two-step verification released in 2014 amidst the furore over various celebrities having their iCloud accounts compromised. With Two-step verification, logging into some (not all) iCloud resources prompted the user to input a code, sent to an iOS device logged in with the same iCloud account. Rushed into production, it was hit and miss and always seen to be a stop-gap whilst a more robust solution was developed.

Two-factor authentication is onle accessible on devices that you trust. Signing into a device for the first time prompts you to enter a password and a six-digit code that is automatically displayed on any trusted devices. I use it daily and so far, I find that it works well. It shows the approximate location of the sign-in attempt and has added automated voice calls as a backup method for sending the code.

You will find a summary of the intricacies of Two-Factor Authentication here as well as a guide on how to set it up, however if you wish to just set it up quickly, follow the steps below:

iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch with iOS 9 and later:

  • Go to Settings -> iCloud -> press your Apple ID
  • Press Password and Security
  • Press Turn On Two-Factor Authentication

Mac with OS X El Capitan and later

  • Go to System Preferences -> iCloud -> Account Details
  • Click Security
  • Click Turn on Two-Factor Authentication

It's important to note that if you still use two-step verification, or have configured this in the past and it is still active, you will need to disable it in order for two-factor authentication to be enabled.

A list of FAQ's can be found here relating to 2FA which are worth reading.

Wi-Fi Assist in iOS 9 and above

You ever been in this situation? You're casually browsing the web on your iOS device and you see the wireless symbol in the top left hand corner change to a cellular connection?

If so, then it's because your iPhone/iPad still has Wi-fi Assist turned on in your iOS settings.

So what is Wi-Fi Assist? Put simply, your device will always prioritise the strongest signal if this setting is enabled. When your wireless signal strength drops to the point where a cellular reception is going to provide a faster experience, then you will automatically switch over to your data plan.

This is great - as long as you are on a data plan that you are comfortable with. If, however, your allowance for data is restrictive, you may wish to tweak your settings for each application or, if you prefer, disable Wi-Fi Assist completely.

Preventing Apps from Using Cellular Data

  • Navigate to Settings -> Mobile Data (I believe this is Settings -> Cellular in the US/Canada)
  • You will see a list of applications with toggle switches on the right hand side. Switch off the apps you wish to restrict from using mobile data.
 
 

Turn off Wi-Fi Assist

If you only have preferred applications accessing mobile data, then I would encourage you to keep Wi-Fi assist enabled. However, if you would like to turn the feature off completely, navigate to Settings -> Mobile Data and scroll to the very bottom. Switch the toggle switch off.

You will notice that there is a usage figure for Wi-Fi Assist, as well as all of your other applications to allow you to track exactly how much data this feature is consuming. To reset these statistics to today's date, simply press the Reset Statistics button.