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Smartphones & gadgets

10 steps to take with your iPhone now that we’re starting to leave home

Coronavirus restrictions are easing or lifting across the nation, and before long you’ll get back to at least some of your normal routines. Soon, you may even leave your home on a semi-regular basis for work or school, depending on where you live.

Before you do, take a few minutes to get your smartphone ready. If you optimized your phone to work best while stuck indoors, it’s time to consider undoing some of those changes.

Whether you downloaded a ton of new apps or turned off “Find My iPhone,” we have the fixes below to get your phone back on track for your normal routine.

Let’s take a look at the steps you should take to optimize your iPhone for life outside your four walls.

1. Get rid of apps you installed at home to watch shows, play games or homeschool the kids.

School is winding down and soon you won’t have to fill in as a temporary teacher. No little ones at home? Use these steps to get rid of all the apps you downloaded to pass the time.

If you need to download them again, you can. The app data is stored for this purpose, even if you remove the actual app from your phone.

How to delete an app:

  1. Touch and hold the app.
  2. Tap Delete App, then Delete.

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Enable this setting to automatically remove apps you haven’t used in a while:

  1. Open the Settings app and go to General.
  2. From here, tap on iPhone Storage.
  3. Find the Offload Unused Apps section and tap on Enable.
  4. If you can’t find it here, there’s an Offload Unused Apps toggle for it in the Settings -> iTunes & App Store section as well.

3. Reduce cellular data use by using Low Data Mode

Data caps don’t matter much when you’re at home, connected to your Wi-Fi all day. They will matter again once you start to venture out.

Low data mode in iOS 13 stops background syncing and app refreshing. You won’t see a big difference when you’re using your phone, but it will help keep your data usage in check.

To enable Low Data Mode:

  1. Open Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options.
  2. Turn on Low Data Mode.

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4. Change the way your phone charges.

Change the way your phone charges so you can optimize your battery life when you’re on the go. This is essential so you won’t have access to a charger at all times anymore.

Here’s how it works: Your phone learns from your daily charging habits to improve your battery’s lifespan. When this setting is enabled, your phone won’t charge past 80% in certain situations. This activates only when your iPhone predicts you’ll be pulled in for a long period of time, like at night when you go to bed.

To optimize the way your battery charges:

  1. Open Settings > Battery and Battery Health > Optimized Battery Charging.
  2. Choose the Battery option > Battery Health.
  3. Turn on Optimized Battery Charging.

5. Set up a group that can still contact you if DND is on.

If you need to focus on work (perhaps even in person!) or just need a break from texts and calls, set your phone to “Do Not Disturb.” What about for people who really need to reach you?

You can set up exceptions to the Do Not Disturb rule — perfect if you have kids or care for a parent or relative who may need you throughout the day.

First, set up a group:

  1. Sign in to iCloud.com on a computer.
  2. Tap the + button in the sidebar, then choose New Group.
  3. Type a name for the group and hit return.
  4. To add contacts, click All Contacts on iCloud.com.
  5. Drag one or more contacts from the All Contacts group to a group you’ve created.

Now you’re ready to exclude that group, or your contacts marked as Favorites, from Do Not Disturb.

Override the DND settings on your iPhone:

  1. Open Settings > Do Not Disturb.
  2. Turn on Do Not Disturb.
  3. Tap Allow Calls From and choose from Everyone, No One, Favorites or a group.
  4. Turn on Repeated Calls to allow repeated calls from the same number to come through for emergencies.

6. Reset web permissions for your camera and microphone.

If you’ve been entertaining yourself or your kids with websites that use your microphone or camera, reset those permissions. It’s not wise to give carte blanche permissions to any website, so do this ASAP to avoid any issues down the road.

To reset camera or mic permissions:

  1. Open Settings > Advanced.
  2. Scroll to find Content Settings in the Advanced menu and click on it.
  3. From there, click either Microphone or Camera and adjust the permissions.

7. Double-check “Find My” is on.

Remember how often you used to misplace your iPhone? In the car, in your bag, in your office, on your desk … That’s bound to happen again now that you’re free to travel about, even in limited capacities.

Make sure your “Find My” (iPhone, iPad or iPod touch) setting is on. Apple devices broadcast Bluetooth signals even when they’re off, allowing your misplaced devices to relay their location to the cloud.

Turn on Find My iPhone for iOS 10.3 or later:

  1. Make sure you are signed in to iCloud on your iPhone.
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. If you see Sign in to your [device], tap it and enter your Apple ID and password.

For earlier versions of iOS:

  1. Tap Settings > iCloud.
  2. Enter your Apple ID and password.
  3. Tap Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Find My [device].
  4. If Find My [device] is off, turn it on and tap Allow.

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8. Cancel all those subscriptions.

Streaming services, games, meditation apps and all those other monthly subscription charges add up quickly.

Cancel the subscriptions you agreed to when bored, tired or just more interested in certain apps. Do this before your free trials run out, too, or you’ll end up paying for subscriptions you never intended to keep.

To cancel subscriptions in your iPhone:

  1. Open Settings > [Your Name] > Subscriptions.
  2. Tap Cancel Subscription on the subscriptions you want to cancel or Cancel Free Trial — located at the bottom of the screen.
  3. A pop-up menu will appear with information about the final subscription expiration. Tap Confirm to complete the cancellation.

9. Change the order of your preferred Wi-Fi networks.

Your phone automatically joins Wi-Fi networks based on security level. If they’re all equally secure, the strongest signal wins out. You can also set your preference so you connect to your office network and not the cafe next door.

To change the order of your preferred Wi-Fi networks:

  1. Tap the Wi-Fi network on the top right corner of your phone screen.
  2. Tap on Open Network Preferences.
  3. You’ll see Wi-Fi entry on the left column while in Open Network Preferences.
  4. Select Wi-Fi > Advanced.
  5. The Preferred Networks menu should pop up with two buttons (+/-) underneath it.
  6. Use the +/- buttons to move certain networks to the top of the preferred list and others to the bottom. The top entries have the highest priority and the ones at the bottom are the lowest. Your phone will try to connect to the ones at the top of the list first.
  7. Tap OK to save your settings.

10. Silence your emails.

During quarantine, we’ve found all sorts of ways to communicate. Your family’s never-ending email thread may become a source of frustration once you’re out of lockdown.

To counter the nonstop pinging of your email alerts, mute certain email threads in the Mail app. It’s pretty simple to do.

To mute email threads:

  1. Open the Mail app and find the email thread that you want to mute. 
  2. Swipe the email to the left and hold until the Options menu appears. Make sure you aren’t swiping all the way to the left, though, or you’ll accidentally archive the message.  
  3. Tap More > Mute in the pop-up menu. 

Bonus: Make sure DND is on while driving.

Once you have places to drive — that isn’t the grocery store or pharmacy — stay safe behind the wheel. That doesn’t mean just ignoring your phone while you’re driving, either. Go a step further and enable Do Not Disturb.

This feature lets you focus on the road while your phone focuses on sending out automatic text replies to let your contacts know you’ll get back to them as soon as it’s safe to do so. Your iPhone remains silent and dark while you drive.

To turn on Do Not Disturb While Driving:

  1. Open Settings > Control Center, then tap Customize Controls.
  2. Tap the + next to Do Not Disturb While Driving.

On an iPhone X or later, you can also swipe down from the top right corner of the screen and tap the car icon. For iPhone 8 or earlier, swipe up from the bottom of your screen and tap the car.

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