The Best Apple-Related Gifts for 2018

Black Friday and the start of the holiday shopping seasons are nearly upon us. If you’re looking for gift ideas for your Apple-using loved ones, we have a few suggestions that are guaranteed to be popular.

Apple Watch

The new Apple Watch Series 4 may be the gift hit of the season as adult gift-guide-Apple-Watch-Series-4-fallchildren buy it for aging parents. That’s happening due to the Apple Watch’s health monitoring capabilities, which include fall detection, atrial fibrillation detection, and (soon) the capability to record electrocardiograms. It may seem expensive at $399 for the Wi-Fi version or $499 for the cellular version that can call emergency services even if its companion iPhone isn’t nearby, but the cost pales in comparison with the price of any medical event.

For those who are more interested in the Apple Watch’s fitness and communication features, last year’s Apple Watch Series 3 now starts at just $279 for Wi-Fi and $379 for cellular. It lacks the health monitoring features of the Series 4, but those are overkill for most young, healthy people. The cellular version is worthwhile only if you’re certain the recipient will make use of the watch while out and about without the iPhone, since its data plan costs $10 extra per month.

And, if someone on your gift list already has an Apple Watch, a new band would make a great present—Apple offers a wide variety of attractive and comfortable bands.

HomePod

Apple’s smart speaker may not be as popular as the Amazon Echo and gift-guide-HomePod-blackGoogle Home, but it sounds way better than its cheaper competition. Apple designed it to work with the $9.99 per month Apple Music service so if your recipient doesn’t already subscribe to Apple Music, you could include a subscription as part of the gift. The HomePod is available in black or white, and it’s super simple to set up and use via Siri for music, podcasts, speakerphone calls, kitchen timers, and a whole lot more.

Stocking Stuffer Accessories

You might not get the same “Wow!” factor with these gifts, but Apple’s gift-guide-USB-C-AV-adapterfocus on minimalist design has created a situation where many users find themselves frustrated by the lack of the right cable or adapter.

iPhone users might appreciate an extra Lightning charging cable or a Lightning-to-headphone adapter to take advantage of inexpensive earbuds. And those who rely on a MacBook with USB-C or a MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3 are usually desperate for USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 cables and adapters. Some of the most popular convert USB-C to USB-A for many devices, USB-C to HDMI for large-screen displays, and Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 for older Thunderbolt hard drives. Ask first to find out what they find most annoying!

Plus, a second iPhone, Mac, or Apple Watch charger can help reduce battery anxiety and make it easier to pack one for trips.

AirPods

One of the most popular Apple products of late has been the AirPods, gift-guide-AirPodssvelte wireless earbuds that pair quickly and seamlessly to all Apple devices logged in to the same iCloud account. They’re light, stay in the ear well, and are comfortable even for many people who can’t wear the wired EarPods. At $159, they’re not cheap, but they’re less expensive than many competing wireless earbuds.

Apple TV

Despite its age, the $149 fourth-generation Apple TV still makes a good present for anyone who watches TV shows and movies from Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, and other Internet streaming video services. It’s also great for sharing photos or videos from an iPhone or iPad on the big screen via AirPlay.

Unless your recipient has or is likely to get a compatible 4K HDR TV, gift-guide-Apple-TVskip the $179 Apple TV 4K since it provides no benefits on older TV screens.

For the friend or family member who already has an Apple TV, search for silicone cases that protect the brittle Siri Remote and make it easier to orient in the dark.

iPad

Last, but far from least, if someone in your family has never tried an iPad or is limping along with an early model, the current sixth-generation iPad combines good performance and a gorgeous screen starting at just $329.

gift-guide-iPad-Pencil

It’s also compatible with the original $99 Apple Pencil, so if your recipient has an artistic bent, consider adding Apple’s stylus and maybe a painting app.

Of course, particularly if you’re buying an iPad for a child, a protective case is a must, and even for adults, a good case can provide peace of mind and hold the iPad in convenient positions for reading books or watching movies.

iOS 12’s Screen Time Feature Helps You Manage Your iPhone Usage

Do you frequently reach for your iPhone for a quick check of Facebook or Messages? It’s all too easy to let social media, the latest hot game, or even your work email intrude on your real life. If you’re uncomfortable with how much—and when—you use your iPhone or iPad, iOS 12’s new Screen Time feature can help you limit your usage in two ways, by time of day and by time spent in an app.

(Screen Time can help you monitor and limit your children’s iOS usage too. This article focuses on setting it up for yourself; we’ll examine Screen Time parental controls another time.)

Get Started with Screen Time

To enable Screen Time, go to Settings > Screen Time and tap Turn On Screen Time. After you see an introductory splash screen, tap This Is My iPhone to go to the main Screen Time screen.

Screen-Time-setup-basics

Two options on the lower portion of this screen help you customize Screen Time overall. Tap Use Screen Time Passcode to create another passcode that controls access to Screen Time settings and lets you extend time limits. It’s designed for parents who let their children use their devices, but you could use it as a speed bump when overriding your self-defined limits.

If you use both an iPhone and an iPad, enable Share Across Devices to aggregate your usage. This syncs settings between your devices, so if you want different setups, keep this option off.

Downtime

To limit your usage according to a schedule, perhaps so you don’t get caught up in a game before bed, tap Downtime, turn on the Downtime switch, and set start and end times. Unfortunately, you can’t create multiple schedules for different portions of the day.

App Limits

When you tap App Limits and then Add Limit, Screen Time presents you with a list of categories and examples of your apps in each one. Select one or more—say Social Networking and Games—and then tap Add. Then set the amount of time you want to allow yourself overall for apps in that category. You can create multiple category limits with different amounts of allotted time.

Screen-Time-App-Limits

If an app category is too broad, you can limit a particular app. Tap the Screen Time graph at the top of the screen, scroll down to the Most Used section, and tap an app in the list. At the bottom of that screen, tap Add Limit and specify a time limit.

There are a few exceptions to the apps limited by both Downtime and App Limits, regardless of your settings. The Phone app is always available, and Clock, Find My iPhone, Safari, and Settings appear to be exempt. For other apps you never want limited, tap Allowed Apps on the main Screen Time screen, and then tap the green plus button next to any app you want to allow. Apple adds FaceTime, Maps, and Messages to the Allowed Apps list by default, but you can remove them if desired.

Screen-Time-Always-Allowed

Living with Screen Time

Screen Time alerts you 5 minutes before a time limit expires and displays a Time Limit screen when time runs out. Although the point of Downtime and App Limits is to help you stop playing the latest addictive game or reflexively checking Facebook, you can tap Ignore Limit to keep using the app, either for 15 minutes or the rest of the day.

Screen-Time-limit-warnings

Screen Time also dims the icon for any affected app on the Home screen and puts a tiny timer icon next to the name. You can still open such apps, but you’ll go right to the Time Limit screen.

Screen-Time-dimmed-icons

Equally as helpful is the way Screen Time reports on your usage so you realize how much you’re using different apps. It provides a weekly report, but you can always go into Settings > Screen Time to see your daily usage.

Screen-Time-daily-usage

Tap that graph, and Screen Time lets you dive into the details, for example, by revealing your most-used apps, how often you pick up your device, and how many interrupting notifications you receive. Much of the information in this screen is interactive—tap various items to see more details or adjust settings.

Screen-Time-weekly-usage

Only you can decide if you’re using your iPhone or iPad more than you like, and only you can exercise the self-control to restrict your usage. But Screen Time highlights how you’re actually spending time, both as you’re doing it and after the fact. Give it a try!

 

Use Continuity Camera to Scan Documents and Take Photos Right into Mac Documents

Have you found yourself composing an email message on your Mac while staring glumly at the receipt or document you need to scan and attach to the message? Adding that scan to the message isn’t impossible, but until macOS 10.14 Mojave, it hasn’t necessarily been easy.

It’s super simple now, thanks to a new Mojave feature called Continuity Camera. It lets you take pictures or scan documents with an iPhone or iPad running iOS 12 and have those images show up immediately on the Mac, either in a document or on the Desktop.

Continuity Camera Basics

Apart from Mojave and iOS 12, Continuity Camera requires that the devices be on the same Wi-Fi network, have Bluetooth turned on, and be logged in to the same Apple ID, which must use two-factor authentication. Continuity Camera also requires explicit support in apps, which means for the moment that it works only in Apple’s apps, including the Finder, Mail, Messages, Notes, TextEdit, Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. We aren’t aware of any third-party apps that support it yet.

How you access Continuity Camera can vary by app, but the most common approach is to Control- or right-click where you want the scan or photo to go. Look either for commands for Take Photo and Scan Documents, or for an Import from iPhone or iPad submenu, under which those commands will be replicated for each device.

Continuity-Camera-on-Desktop

The Take Photo and Scan Documents commands may also appear in the File menu or in an Insert menu. Plus, Mail composition windows have a drop-down menu on the right side of the toolbar that includes those commands.

Should you import directly into an app, or onto the Desktop? It’s up to you, of course, but adding a file to the Desktop that you can then drag to its eventual destination gives you more options for reuse or modification, along with backup. That could be important since the photos and scans aren’t stored on the iPhone or iPad.

Using Continuity Camera

Follow these steps to use Continuity Camera to take a photo or scan a document to your Mac. Because it’s the most likely scenario, we’ll describe importing to the Desktop from an iPhone, but the steps are the same for importing into any supported app or from an iPad.

First, Control-click the Desktop and choose either Import from iPhone > Take Photo or Import from iPhone > Scan Documents. A dialog appears on the Mac screen, telling you to use the iPhone to take the photo or scan the document. The iPhone displays a variant of the Camera app automatically.

Continuity-Camera-dialogs

If you’re taking a photo, you can switch between the rear- and front-facing cameras, pinch out to zoom, or enable the flash with the flash button. All you need to do is tap the shutter button. If the photo is blurry or otherwise unusable, tape Retake to try again, but if you like it, tap Use Photo. The picture shows up immediately on your Mac as a JPEG file.

Continuity-Camera-Take-Photo

If you’re instead scanning a document, you also get a Filters button that lets you set the scan type: color (the default), grayscale, black-and-white, or photo. By default, the scanning interface takes a picture automatically when it detects a document. If it moves too fast for you, tap Auto (at the upper right) to switch to Manual. Then tap the shutter button to capture the image, after which you may drag the circles to identify the document corners better. Then tap Retake or Keep Scan. If it’s a multi-page document, flip the page and continue scanning to add more pages. When you’re done, tap Save to send the document to your Mac as a PDF.

Continuity-Camera-Scan-Documents

That’s it! The first time or two might seem a little awkward, but once you get the hang of Continuity Camera, it’s a wonderfully quick way to get a scan or photo onto your Mac.

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.

Dark-mode-General-prefs

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-Desktops

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.

Dark-mode-Maps

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.

Dark-mode-Accessibility

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.

Dark-mode-Numbers

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.

iOS-12-Screen-Time

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?

iOS-12-App-Limits

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.

iOS-12-Notifications

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 iOS-12-DNDworks 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-Screen-Time

iOS 12 has even more minor improvements that we’ll be sharing in the coming months, so watch this space!

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.

2018-iPhones

You can pre-order the first two on September 14th, and they’ll ship a week later. Those who want an iPhone XR will have to wait until October 19th to pre-order. Here’s how the pricing shakes out:

  • iPhone XS:64 GB for $999, 256 GB for $1149, 512 GB for $1349
  • iPhone XS Max:64 GB for $1099, 256 GB for $1249, 512 GB for $1499
  • iPhone XR:64 GB for $749, 128 GB for $799, 256 GB for $899

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:8-inch OLED “Super Retina HD” display with a 2436-by-1125 resolution at 458 ppi
  • iPhone XS Max:5-inch OLED “Super Retina HD” display with a 2688-by-1242 resolution at 458 ppi
  • iPhone XR: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.

2018-iPhones-dimensions

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.

iPhone-XR-colors

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

Apple-Watch-Series-4-Tim-Cook

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.

Apple-Watch-Series-4-faces

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.

Apple-Watch-Series-4-sensors

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 ship 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.

Back Up Before Upgrading to Mojave or iOS 12!

Poll a room of Apple experts about the one topic they can’t stop talking about and many will launch into frustrated rants about how too few people back up. Backups are always important, since you can never predict when your Mac or iPhone will be lost or stolen, melt in a fire, or just break. But one time when backups are especially important is before you upgrade to a major new operating system. If you’re thinking “What could go wrong?” the answer is, “Lots, and wouldn’t you like to be able to revert instantly if something does?”

Mac Backups

On the Mac side, there are plenty of ways to back up, and a bootable duplicate made with SuperDuperor Carbon Copy Cloneris the best insurance right before you upgrade to macOS 10.14 Mojave. More generally, backing up with Time Machine ensures that you can not only restore your entire drive if necessary, but also easily recover a previous version of a corrupted file. Finally, since a fire or flood would likely destroy your backup drive along with your Mac, we always recommend an offsite backup made via an Internet backup service like Backblaze.

Time-Machine-prefs

What happens if you don’t back up and your Mac gets damaged such that you can’t access important data? That’s when things get expensive, and if you have a 2018 MacBook Pro, you have even fewer options.

Historically, it was relatively easy to remove a drive from a broken Mac and recover the data from it. Data recovery got harder with solid-state storage, and even more so with the introduction of the first MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, thanks to Apple’s new T2 encryption chip, which encrypts data on the drive. To simplify last-ditch data recovery, Apple put a special port on the MacBook Pro’s logic board and provided a custom recovery tool for Apple Authorized Service Providers. With the 2018 MacBook Pro, however, Apple removed that port, so only data recovery specialists like DriveSaverscan recover data from such damaged machines, and only then if they have the user’s password.

So please,back up your Mac before something goes wrong. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get started, and we’re happy to help.

iOS Backups

We’ve all seen, if not experienced, a broken iPhone or iPad. They’re durable little devices, but they won’t necessarily survive a drop onto a sidewalk or into a toilet (yeah, it happens). And it’s way too easy to forget your iPhone at the gym or in a restaurant. So a backup is necessary if you don’t want to risk losing precious photos or having to set up a new device from scratch. Plus, just as with a Mac, things can go wrong during major iOS upgrades.

With iOS, though, you don’t need extra software or hardware. Apple provides two ways of backing up your iPhone or iPad, iTunes and iCloud. Neither is necessarily better or worse, and you can—and should!—use both for added safety. We’ve seen situations where an iPhone would refuse to restore its files from iTunes but would from iCloud.

To back up to iCloud, go to Settings > Your Name> iCloud > iCloud Backup, turn the switch on, and tap Back Up Now. For backups to happen automatically in the future, you must have sufficient space in your iCloud account (you get 5 GB for free and can buy more), and your device must be on a Wi-Fi network, connected to power, and have its screen locked.

iCloud-Backup

To back up to iTunes, connect your device to your Mac via a Lightning-to-USB cable, launch iTunes, and click the device icon to the right of the media menu.

iTunes-device-button

Then, in the Backups section, click Back Up Now. If you’re prompted to encrypt your backups, we encourage you to agree since otherwise your backup won’t include passwords, Health information, or HomeKit data. For automatic backups via iTunes, select This Computer. After that, every time you plug into your Mac, it will back up.

iTunes-Backups-section

If you have sufficient iCloud storage, we recommend backing up automatically to iCloud because its automatic backups work well at night when you’re charging your devices. Then, make extra backups to iTunes whenever you think you might need to restore, such as when you’re getting a new iPhone or iPad, or when you’re about to upgrade to a new version of iOS.

Being an Apple User Means You’re Not the Product

There’s an Internet saying: “If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” The point is that, if you’re getting a service for free, the company providing it sees you not as a customer, but as a product to sell, generally to advertisers.

This is how Google, Facebook, and Twitter operate. They provide services for free, collect data about you, and make money by showing you ads. In theory, the more that advertisers know about you, the better they can target ads to you, and the more likely you’ll be to buy. Personalized advertising can seem creepy (or clueless, when it fails), but it isn’t inherently evil, and we’re not suggesting that you stop using ad-supported services.

This ad-driven approach stands in stark contrast to how Apple does business. Apple makes most of its money by selling hardware—iPhones, Macs, and iPads, primarily. Another big chunk of Apple’s revenue comes from App Store and iTunes Store sales, iCloud subscriptions, and Apple Pay fees. Knowing more about you, what Web pages you visit, what you buy, and who you’re friends with doesn’t help Apple’s business, and on its Privacypage, Apple says bluntly, “We believe privacy is a fundamental human right.”

Of course, once your data is out there, it can be lost or stolen—in June 2018, a security researcher discovered that the online data broker Exactis was exposing a database containing 340 million records of dataon hundreds of millions of American adults. Ouch!

Let’s look at a few of the ways that Apple protects your privacy.

Siri and Dictation

The longer you use Siri and Dictation, the better they work,Siri-icon
thanks to your devices transmitting data back to Apple for analysis. However, Apple creates a random identifier for your data rather than associating the information with your Apple ID, and if you reset Siri by turning it off and back on, you’ll get a new random identifier. Whenever possible, Apple keeps Siri functionality on your device, so if you search for a photo by location or get suggestions after a search, those results come from local data only.

Touch ID and Face ID

When you register your fingerprints with Touch ID or train Face ID to recognize your face, it’s reasonable to worry Touch-ID-iconabout that information being stored where attackers—or some government agency—could access it and use it for nefarious purposes. Apple was concerned about that too, so these systems don’t store images of your fingerprints or face, but instead mathematical signatures based on them. Those signatures are kept only locally, in the Secure Enclave security coprocessor that’s part of the CPU of the iPhone and iPad—and on Touch ID-equipped laptops—in such a way that the images can’t be reverse engineered from the signatures.

And, of course, a major goal of Touch ID and Face ID is to prevent someone from violating your privacy by accessing your device directly.

Health and Fitness

People with medical conditions can be concerned about health information impacting health insurance bills or a Health-iconpotential employer’s hiring decision. To assuage that worry, Apple lets you choose what information ends up in Health app, and once it’s there, encrypts it whenever your iPhone is locked. Plus, any Health data that’s backed up to iCloud is encrypted both in transit and when it’s stored on Apple’s servers.

App Store Guidelines

A linchpin in Apple’s approach to privacy is its control over the App Store. Since developers must submit apps to Apple for approval, Apple can enforce stringent guidelines that specify how apps can ask for access to your data (location, photos, contacts, etc). This isn’t a blanket protection—for instance, if you allow a social media app <cough>Facebook<cough> to access your contacts and location, the company behind that app will get lots of data on your whereabouts and can even cross-reference that with the locations of everyone in your contact list who also uses the service.

In the end, only you can decide how much information you App-Store-iconwant to share with the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and only you can determine if or when their use of your details feels like an invasion of privacy. But by using Apple products and services, you can be certain that the company that could know more about you than any other is actively trying to protect your privacy.