In iOS 12, Do Not Disturb Can Turn Itself Off—No More Missed Alerts!

We love the Do Not Disturb feature in iOS—it’s essential for keeping notifications from waking us up at night or causing embarrassing light and noise in dark movie theater. But it’s long had a problem. When you invoked Do Not Disturb manually for a movie or doctor’s appointment, you had to remember to turn it off manually when you were done, or risk missing important notifications. No more! In iOS 12, Apple enhanced Do Not Disturb in two ways: enabling it to disable itself automatically after a certain amount of time or when your location changes and adding a Bedtime mode that holds all notifications until you wake up.

An Automatic End to Do Not Disturb Sessions

In previous versions of iOS, you invoked Do Not Disturb manually by tapping its button in Control Center. However, if you forgot to turn it off after your meeting, say, it would stay on forever unless you had a Do Not Disturb schedule set, and even then, not until the end of that schedule. So if you forgot to turn Do Not Disturb off after a 10 AM meeting, it could stay on until the next morning or until you realized you weren’t getting any calls or messages. If you start Do Not Disturb sessions in the same way in iOS 12, they’ll act the same way. But if you force-touch or press and hold the Do Not Disturb button in Control Center, that brings up the Do Not Disturb card with five options:
  • For 1 hour: This first choice tells Do Not Disturb to hold all your calls for an hour, after which it will turn off automatically.
  • Until this evening/Until tomorrow morning: If you invoke this option during the day, it will silence calls and notifications until 7 PM. Select it at night, however, and it will quiet your iPhone until 7 AM.
  • Until I leave this location: Use this choice when you’re invoking Do Not Disturb in conjunction with being in a particular spot that you’ll leave as soon as you’re done.
  • Until the end of the next event: When you enable Do Not Disturb during an event on your calendar, this choice appears, giving you the option of turning off Do Not Disturb at the end of the event.
  • Schedule: Tap this button to open Settings > Do Not Disturb.
While Do Not Disturb is on, iOS 12 puts a notification on the Lock screen telling you when it will turn itself off. At any time before then, you can tap the Lock screen notification to allow calls and notifications again.

Do Not Disturb During Bedtime

In Settings > Do Not Disturb, you’ll find a new Bedtime switch. When enabled during the times for which you’ve scheduled Do Not Disturb, it dims and blacks out the Lock screen, silences calls, and sends all notifications to Notification Center instead of showing them on the Lock screen. The idea behind the Bedtime switch is that it reduces the chances that glancing at your iPhone in the middle of the night to see what time it is will shock your eyes or engage your brain. Sleep is good! But if you get up early and want to allow notifications through again, tap the Do Not Disturb notification on the Lock screen to turn it off. That’s not all you can do with Do Not Disturb During Bedtime. You might know that there’s a Bedtime screen in the Clock app that’s designed to help you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. If you use it to set your desired sleep schedule and enable the Do Not Disturb During Bedtime switch in Clock > Bedtime > Options, you get another Do Not Disturb schedule. That could be extremely welcome if, for instance, you want Do Not Disturb on automatically both at night when you’re sleeping and also during a regularly scheduled class or meeting. Give these new Do Not Disturb options a try! They go a long way toward ensuring that our iPhones fit into our lives better, rather than forcing us to pay attention to every last alert or message.


Understanding Dark Mode in macOS 10.14 Mojave

The feature Apple is promoting most heavily with macOS 10.14 Mojave is Dark mode, which the company advertises as “a dramatic new look that helps you focus on your work… as toolbars and menus recede into the background.” Let’s look at what Apple has done with Dark mode, after which you’ll have a better idea of what to think about while trying it.

Enable Dark Mode

First, to turn Dark mode on, go to System Preferences > General and click the Dark thumbnail to the right of Appearance. Mojave immediately switches to Dark mode, turning light backgrounds dark and swapping the text color from dark to light. While you’re in System Preferences, click over to the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane. If you scroll down in the Desktop Pictures list, you’ll discover a bunch of new wallpapers that blend well with Dark mode.

Dark Mode Support and Controls

You’ll notice that the color change takes place instantly not just in the Finder, but also in any apps that support Dark mode. Most of Apple’s apps support Dark mode and third-party developers are rapidly adding support to their apps as well. However, Dark mode requires explicit support from apps, so older apps that aren’t being updated will maintain their standard dark-on-light color schemes. Some apps, such as Maps and Mail, give you additional options that change just how dark they get. In Maps, choose View > Use Dark Map to toggle between a dark map style and the familiar map style that mimics a paper map. Similarly, in Mail, go to Mail > Preferences > Viewing and deselect “Use dark backgrounds for messages” to return to a white background. If you generally like Dark mode but have trouble reading light text on a dark background due to the reduced contrast, you may be able to choose a different font or style in the app’s preferences that makes the text more readable. Apps like Mail give you a fair amount of that sort of control. For even more control over contrast, open System Preferences > Accessibility > Display. There you’ll find a Display Contrast slider that lets you make text lighter and backgrounds darker. You can also select Reduce Transparency to make it so items like the Dock and menu bar are solid colors, rather than allowing the background to bleed through. To separate dark and light further, select Increase Contrast, which increases the brightness of divider lines as well.

The Dark Side of Dark Mode

Contrast is necessary for pulling out fine details, but too much contrast can be uncomfortable or even painful—think about how you feel when someone turns on a bright light in a previously dark room. For visual comfort, it’s usually best to match your screen with the lighting of your surroundings. That’s why people who often work at night or with the window blinds down like dark modes—a bright screen seems brighter in a dimly lit room. That’s the theory behind the traditional dark text on a light background too, since the room will be quite light during the day. So Dark mode can run into two problems. First is that using it during the day or in a brightly lit room may create an uncomfortable contrast between the screen and its surroundings. Controlling your room lighting can eliminate this as an issue. Second and more troubling, even apps that support Dark mode may have large content areas that are bright white, creating a strong contrast between the content area and the rest of the app. Many Web sites in Safari have this effect, as do documents in apps like Pages and Numbers. There’s no way around this scenario. Even if Dark mode isn’t perfect, it’s worth a try if you have trouble looking at bright screens. Regardless, if it goes too far for you, one of the new dark wallpapers may be easier on your eyes. While most people aren’t overly light sensitive, a non-trivial percentage of the population is, particularly those who suffer from migraines or who have endured concussions, and those with a variety of ocular conditions. And if you’re on the other end of the spectrum—if Dark mode looks dirty and is hard to read—just stick with the traditional Light mode.


Top Features of iOS 12 to Take Advantage of Right Away

Feeling left behind because you don’t have the latest iPhone or iPad? Don’t, because Apple has a present for you in the form of iOS 12. The new operating system promises to increase performance, particularly for older devices as far back as the iPhone 5s and iPad Air. But iOS 12 offers more than just a speed boost. Apart from adding fripperies like new animoji, text effects, and camera effects in Messages and FaceTime, iOS 12 helps you use your device less. That’s important, as it becomes increasingly obvious that many people spend more time than they’d like on addictive social media apps, games, and cat videos.

Screen Time

The marquee feature for helping you control device usage is Screen Time. Found in the Settings app, Screen Time reports on how much time you spend using different apps, how often you pick up your device, and how many notifications interrupt you. You can check it anytime and get weekly reports, and use this information to help you reduce undesirable usage. Screen Time has two helpful options, Downtime and App Limits. With Downtime, you can specify a time period when you can only receive phone calls and use specific apps you set in Always Allowed. App Limits let you set how long you may use certain categories of apps. You can ignore the limit, extending it for 15 minutes or for the rest of the day, but that’s cheating, right? Even better, you can set Downtime and App Limits for a child’s iPhone or iPad, ensuring that they can’t play games after bedtime or text their friends during dinner.

Notification Management

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with notifications, especially if you have chatty friends in messaging apps. iOS 12 can reduce the impact of non-stop notifications. On the Lock screen, iOS 12 now groups message threads and multiple notifications from the same app. Tapping a group expands it so you can see the details. Plus, with a feature called Instant Tuning, you can change notification settings for an app right from a notification. Swipe left on a notification and tap Manage. Instant Tuning also lets you send notifications to Notification Center silently so they don’t interrupt you but are available later.

Do Not Disturb

In the “it’s about time” department, iOS 12 beefs up Do Not Disturb so it works more the way people do. When you bring up Control Center and force-touch the Do Not Disturb button, it expands to let you turn on Do Not Disturb for 1 hour, for the rest of the day, or until you leave your current location. The beauty of these new options is that they disable Do Not Disturb automatically so you don’t have to remember—and potentially miss important notifications. Plus, a new Bedtime option in Settings > Do Not Disturb dims the display and silences overnight notifications until you unlock your device in the morning.

Siri Shortcuts

Another new feature, Siri Shortcuts, aims to help you use your device more effectively. As Siri learns your routines, it will start suggesting shortcuts for common actions, either on the Lock screen or when you pull down on the Home screen to search. You can see its suggestions in Settings > Siri & Search > All Shortcuts, and for those that seem useful, record a custom phrase that will invoke the shortcut. Plus, a new Shortcuts app lets you create more complex shortcuts that can run multiple steps at once.

Smaller Changes

Those may be the most significant changes in iOS 12, but they’re far from the only ones. Here’s a sampling of other refinements you’ll notice:
  • Apple has redesigned the iBooks app and renamed it Books.
  • The News, Stocks, and Voice Memos apps also received redesigns, Stocks and Voice Memos are now available on the iPad, and all three have made the jump to the Mac in Mojave, with their data synced via iCloud.
  • A new Measure app uses augmented reality to help you measure objects in the real world.
  • In Settings > Battery, iOS 12 shows graphs of battery usage and activity for the last 24 hours or the last 10 days.
iOS 12 has even more minor improvements that we’ll be sharing in the coming months, so watch this space!  


Make More Space for Documents by Putting Your Dock on the Side of Your Mac’s Screen

By default, Apple locates the Dock at the bottom of the Mac’s screen. If that location interferes with you seeing as much of your document windows as you’d like, you can set it to appear only when you move the pointer to the bottom edge of the screen. But there’s a better way: put the Dock on the side of the screen where there’s plenty of horizontal room and it won’t get in the way of most document windows. Open System Preferences > Dock, and select Right or Left from the Position on Screen radio buttons.


Apple Unveils New iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, and the Apple Watch Series 4

Apple has thrown back the curtain on its latest batch of iPhones and a new model of the Apple Watch. The company also announced plans to release iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12 on September 17th. macOS 10.14 Mojave will follow a week later on September 24th.

X Appeal: The New iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR

Last year’s iPhone X was a massive hit, so Apple has gone further down that road, dropping the Home button and Touch ID and focusing on Face ID in this year’s iPhones. There are three models: the mid-level iPhone XS (pronounced “Ten Ess”), the big iPhone XS Max, and the less-expensive iPhone XR. You can pre-order the first two on September 14th, and they’ll start shipping a week later. Those who want an iPhone XR will have to wait until October 19th to pre-order. What do you get for your money? All three new iPhones rely on Apple’s new A12 Bionic chip, which promises faster performance and reduced power consumption compared to last year’s A11 Bionic. Along with snappier overall responsiveness, the A12 Bionic enables new computational photography capabilities. Users of these iPhones will enjoy Smart HDR, which combines multiple images behind the scenes to produce better photos, and depth-of-field editing for adjusting the background behind a photo’s primary subject. Apple also improved the camera hardware, enhancing the dual 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras in the iPhone XS and XS Max with larger, deeper pixels and an improved True Tone flash. The iPhone XR lacks 2x optical zoom because it has only a single rear-facing 12-megapixel camera, but thanks to the A12 Bionic’s processing power, it can still take photos in Portrait mode and do depth-of-field editing. The rear-facing cameras on all three models can capture up to 4K video at 60 frames per second—now with stereo sound. The front-facing camera on each iPhone is a 7-megapixel TrueDepth camera that can also capture 1080p video. If you carry separate work and personal phones, or if you travel abroad frequently, you’ll appreciate the new dual-SIM capability that lets these iPhones support two phone numbers simultaneously, each with their own plan. What differentiates these iPhones from one another? One big difference is the screens.
  • iPhone XS: 5.8-inch OLED “Super Retina HD” display with a 2436-by-1125 resolution at 458 ppi
  • iPhone XS Max: 6.5-inch OLED “Super Retina HD” display with a 2688-by-1242 resolution at 458 ppi
  • iPhone XR: 6.1-inch LCD “Liquid Retina” display with a 1792-by-828 resolution at 326 ppi
Apple makes much of the iPhone XR’s LCD display, which is essentially a newer and larger version of the screen in last year’s iPhone 8. It won’t look as good as the OLED screens in the iPhone XS models, but unless you’re watching a lot of video or playing photo-realistic games, you may not notice. Another difference between these models is size. The iPhone XS is the smallest, clocking in at a few millimeters and grams under the iPhone XR. On the other end of the spectrum, the iPhone XS Max has essentially the same dimensions as the previous iPhone Plus models. The other major difference between the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS models is the case material. The iPhone XS models have glass backs and are edged in stainless steel that comes in silver, space gray, and gold. In contrast, the iPhone XR features colorful aluminum casings in red, yellow, white, coral, black, and blue. Both are gorgeous, but if you’re like many people, a protective case will prevent you from appreciating the case material. Should you consider upgrading to one of these new models? If your existing iPhone is on life support, absolutely. And, if you want the latest and greatest, the iPhone XS models are the best iPhones ever, particularly for photography. But for those with functional iPhones from the past few years, these new models are less compelling, especially since iOS 12 promises to speed up older devices as far back as the iPhone 5s. If you decide to buy one, which model you choose probably depends on how much you’re willing to spend since these are Apple’s most expensive iPhones ever. The iPhone XR combines modern technology with a lower price than the other two models, and the decision between the iPhone XS and XS Max comes down to size and cost. Finally, if the prices for the new models are too high, you can still get the iPhone 7 starting at $449 and the iPhone 8 at $599.

Apple Watch Series 4: Bigger Screens and Health Monitoring

In a first for the Apple Watch line, Apple changed the size and shape of the Apple Watch Series 4, boosting the vertical screen dimensions to 40mm and 44mm, up from 38mm and 42mm, and making the screens a little wider to retain the same proportions. However, the new models are 1.1mm thinner and thus have less total volume. You’ll want to try on the different models before buying to see how they look and feel on your wrist. Happily, the Series 4 can use the same bands as previous models. Apple claims the new display, which extends into the corners of the screen, is “edge-to-edge,” and while there still is a black border, it’s smaller than before. The overall viewing area is about 30% larger. To use the extra screen space effectively and show off the power of its new S4 chip, the Series 4 comes with some new faces. The Infograph face can incorporate up to eight complications, the Breathe face moves in time with a deep breath, and Vapor, Fire, Water, and Liquid Metal faces animate behind virtual clock hands. More practically, the Apple Watch Series 4 incorporates new and enhanced sensors. Later this year, the electrodes built into the Digital Crown and the back crystal let you record an electrocardiogram and, after 30 seconds, receive a heart rhythm classification that can identify signs of atrial fibrillation. Recordings are stored securely in the Health app, where you can share them with doctors. Even if you don’t use the ECG app manually, the Series 4 analyzes your heart rhythms in the background and alerts you if it detects irregular rhythms or if the heart rate exceeds or falls below a threshold. Plus, the Series 4 can now use its accelerometer and gyroscope to detect hard falls. If you fall, the Apple Watch sends you an alert, and if you don’t move for 60 seconds after the notification, it calls emergency services and notifies your emergency contacts of your location. Other improvements include a speaker that is 50% louder, a relocated microphone to make calls clearer, haptic feedback in the Digital Crown, a back made of sapphire crystal and ceramic for better cellular reception, and Bluetooth 5 for faster data transfer over greater distances. All this technology comes at a cost, and Apple has raised prices to match. GPS-only models of the Apple Watch Series 4 cost $399, and cellular-capable models are $499 (plus you’ll need to pay an additional $10–$15 for a cell plan). The Apple Watch Series 3 remains available at lower prices: $279 for GPS and $379 for cellular. You can pre-order on September 14th, and the Series 4 will start shipping on September 21st. Our take is that the new health-monitoring features of the Apple Watch Series 4 are compelling for anyone who is concerned about falls or heart monitoring. But the increased prices may steer those who are mostly interested in fitness features and iPhone notifications to the cheaper Series 3.