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Transient Spike

A non-technical blog by a tech blogger

The ultimate guide to texting with the Apple Watch

A watch has always had one main job: convey information quickly and reliably to its wearer. Way back in 1893, the Garstin Company of London produced a “Watch Wristlet” that was used by soldiers to coordinate troop movement and synchronize attacks. Over the years, various incarnations of wrist watches have provided at-a-glance information to their wearers, precisely when he or she needed it.

Apple’s Watch does this as well, but with a twist: communication. And it’s even cooler than the gadgets I dreamed about as a kid.

Dick Tracy. Maxwell Smart. James T. Kirk. Yes, even Penny Gadget. When I was young, they inspired me to dream of cool gadgets that seemed impossible. Today, I converse with friends and family via a tiny computer that’s light and durable enough to be strapped to my arm. That’s amazing.

In this guide, I’ll cover absolutely everything you need to know about texting with the Apple Watch. We’ll look at mastering notifications, receiving messages, replying and composing from scratch. I’ll discuss those animated emoji and how to receive all the notifications you want without bothering everyone. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get to it.

On the Apple Watch app for iPhone

All of the app’s settings live in the Apple Watch app for iPhone. You’ll use it to determine how Messages on our Watch behaves, and create your own boilerplate replies. Here’s how to set things up.

Mirror the settings on your iPhone

This is the default setting, and by far the easiest to set up, as there’s nothing to do. When selected, the Apple Watch app for iPhone looks at the preferences you’ve set for the Messages app for iOS, and adopts those same settings. If you’re happy with that arrangement, then you’re done. There’s nothing you need to do. Otherwise, let’s look at the custom options.

Custom settings

The Apple Watch is its own device, with a unique role on your wrist: it handles the “smaller” tasks that the iPhone hands off to it. You can think of the Watch as a liaison between yourself and you iPhone.

Or Robin to Batman, as that’s more fun.

As such, there’s a good argument for enabling unique settings in Messages (and the other apps). Apple has given us a lot of control over how we compose, receive and reply to messages that arrive on our Watches. Let’s take a look at them.

To get started, open the Apple Watch app for iPhone, scroll to Messages and then tap Custom. The customization options appear:

Alerts

To disable Message alerts on your Apple Watch entirely, swipe the Show Alerts slider to the left. With this de-selected, you will not receive notifications of incoming text messages on your Watch.

With alerts enabled, you’ve got two options. First, toggle sound on or off and second, toggle the Haptic tap on or off.

Lastly, you can choose if and how often an ignored alert will be repeated. Tap Repeated Alerts to review your choices:

  • Never
  • Once
  • Twice
  • 3 times
  • 5 times
  • 10 times

Note that alerts are repeated at two-minute intervals.

Audio Messages

Other than when you’re entering your passcode, the Apple Watch does not make use of a keypad. Could you imagine trying to type on that thing? No thanks. Instead, Messages on Apple Watch lets you compose messages either with your voice or via a list of pre-written, default replies. In my experience, voice dictation is very reliable and speedy. Once you’ve dictated your message (more on that later in this article), you’ve got a choice of how you’ll send it: as text or an audio snippet.

By default, Messages on your Apple Watch will let you choose between sending your message as a bit of audio or as text each time you compose a new message. If you like having this choice, you’re all set. There’s nothing to change. However, you can opt to always send your message as text by tapping Always Dictation, or always as audio by selecting Always Audio.

Default Replies

I mentioned that you can choose from a list of pre-written, default replies when responding to a text message on your Apple Watch. I’ve found this method to be tremendously handy and quite capable, as the quick response I’d like to send is often waiting for me. The option to customize this list makes it even more useful. Here’s a look at this setting.

While in the Messages preferences, tap Default Replies to reveal the list:

  • What’s up?
  • I’m on my way
  • OK
  • Sorry, I can’t talk right now
  • Can I call you later?
  • Thanks

These are available whenever you reply to an incoming message, and the list is customizable. To edit any one, simply tap it, type your replacement and hit Return. You’ll notice that replies you’ve edited appear white text, while unaltered defaults are grey. Also note that you can’t add replies beyond the default six. Perhaps this will change with future updates, but in the meantime, it doesn’t mean you’re limited to six options.

Messages on the Apple Watch makes use of “smart replies,” which are words or phrases tailored to a specific conversation. That is to say, it’s smart enough to have a general sense of what your conversation is about and suggest replies in addition to the default list. For example, if I receive a message about dinner plans, Messages might add “pizza” or “sushi” to the list of options. Clever, no?

Read receipts

The final adjustment is in read receipts. While enabled, those you’re chatting with will be notified when you’ve read their message(s). Turn it off, and they won’t.

Apple has provided plenty of flexibility with these preference options. Take some time to get thing sorted to your liking. Next up, we’ll look at Messages on the Apple Watch itself.

Messages on the Apple Watch

In the short time that I’ve owned an Apple Watch, texting has become my favorite function. It takes only a moment to glance at the Watch and decide if I want to respond to a message or not. When I do, Apple has got me covered with several options. Let’s take a look at the Messages app. Go go gadget Watch!

Receiving Messages

When a new message arrives, it may or may not be delivered to your Apple Watch. If you’re currently using your iPhone, it will be diverted there. If your phone is idle, it will go to your Watch.

Likewise, you might be running Yosemite on your Mac. If you’re using that Mac when a message arrives, and you ignore it, that message will be diverted to your Apple Watch or iPhone.

Confusing? Not really. All you need to know is this:

Apple sends alerts of incoming messages to the device you’re actively using. That’s it.

Now, when a message arrives on your Watch, you’ll be notified according to how you’ve set notifications up (see the previous section of this article). By default, the Watch mirrors the settings on your iPhone, so you’ll likely get an audible alert as well as a tap from the Haptic Engine. That little tap, tap says, “Lift me up, please.”

Here’s something that I really like. The Watch’s display won’t awaken until you lift your wrist to look at it, even as notifications arrive. That’s nice because you can receive all the alerts you want without annoying those around you. Set your Watch and your iPhone to silent while leaving Haptic alerts on high, and experience covert notifications all day. You’re like a spy. A super spy. A super spy with a toe-tappin’ Mickey Mouse watch.

I’m getting off track.

When you lift your Watch in response to the notification, you’ll see the message with two options: Reply and Dismiss. Tap Dismiss to do just that. Alternatively, you can simply lower your wrist and the Watch’s display will go dark. The notification will remain so you can deal with it later.

Now let’s look at replying to messages.

Replying to Messages

When you tap Reply, you get three options:

  1. Your list of default replies
  2. A dictation button
  3. An emojis button

Let’s look at each, as each is unique.

Your Watch’s list of pre-written, default replies are by far the fastest way to respond to an incoming text. With options like “I’m on my way,” “OK” and “Thanks” — plus the smart replies that are generated on-the-fly — you’ll often find the response you need is a tap away. As I said, you can even edit this list for further usability. Use the Digital Crown to find the one you want and tap it. That’s it.

Dictation also works surprisingly well. When Siri was first introduced, and later dictation, I was less than impressed. Both services have made steady progress and today I’ve found both dictation and Siri on my Apple Watch to be incredibly accurate and reliable. As a result, it’s a great way to respond to text messages on your Watch. As long as you don’t mind talking to your wrist in public, that is. You will get looks.

Haters gonna hate, right? Anyway, here’s how to dictate a message.

Tap the microphone icon in the lower left, speak your reply and tap Done when finished. Depending on how you have this configured, you’ll either have the option to send your response as text, as an audio snippet or both. Make your choice and off it goes. From your wrist. We live IN THE FUTURE.

Finally, you can send an emoji. Unlike their static predecessors, Apple’s Watch emoji are animated (the standard, non-animated emoji are available, too). Some are better than others. Here’s a look at using the animated emoji.

To reply with a funny face, animated heart or — oddest of all — a disembodied hand, tap the smiley face icon in the lower left. There are four screens to choose from:

  • Animated faces
  • Animated hearts
  • Animated hands
  • Standard, non-animated emoji

Use the Digital Crown to scroll through all of the options until you find the one you want. Then, simply tap Send and off it goes. Note that if you send an animated emoji from your Watch to a person without one, it will arrive as an animated GIF, so they still get to see that tongue-wagging, love-struck smiley face, for better or worse.

There you have all the ways you can reply to an incoming text with your Apple Watch. It’s quite a selection of options and a lot more fun than the same task on the iPhone or OS X Yosemite. More than any other experience I’ve had with the Watch, texting just feels…futuristic. Now, let’s look at composing messages and the Messages app itself.

Composing texts with Messages on Apple Watch

So far we’ve looked at receiving a notification of a new message, and responding to it. That’s cool, but here’s the fun part. Here’s the Maxwell Smart/Captain Kirk/Penny Gadget part. In this section, I’ll look at composing and sending a message to a friend, family or colleague from the tiny computer on your wrist. Just like Dick Tracy.

There are three ways to compose a text with Messages for Apple Watch:

  1. With Siri
  2. Via the Friends list
  3. With the app itself

Let’s start things off with everyone’s favorite digital assistant, Siri.

Whether Siri is male or female for you, one thing is constant: it’s gotten a lot better since its debut as a feature of the iPhone 4S on October 14, 2011. At first, I simply used it to set kitchen timers. Today, it’s reliable enough to accurately translate my voice into text the vast majority of the time. As such, it makes dictating messages to the Watch quite easy. Here’s how to get started.

Raise your wrist and say, “Hey, Siri.” It will start listening from that point. Don’t hesitate, just keep talking. For example:

“Hey Siri, text Janie: I’ll be about five minutes late.”

You’ll see animated “sound waves” at the bottom of the Watch’s screen as it listens. That animation disappears once Siri detects you’ve stopped speaking and starts translating your words into text. When it’s done, it launches the Messages app, finds your intended recipient and displays its interpretation of your message. If everything looks good, tap Send.

Ah, but you say you want an entirely hands-free experience? Sure, we can do that. Follow the instructions above but when you get to the point of hitting the Send button, say, “Hey Siri, send” instead. Your message will be sent, and you didn’t have to tap, scroll or touch your Watch at all. Neat, eh?

You can also send a message via your Watch’s Friends list (for info on how to create your friends list, check out this stellar article from our friends at iMore). This is a group of up to the 12 contacts you converse with most often. To access it, press the side button next to your Watch’s Digital Crown. Next, use the Digital Crown to scroll to the contact you’d like to text and finally tap their photo.

You’ll have two or three contact options for that contact. If they have an Apple Watch, you’ll find a phone icon on the left, a digital touch icon in the center and on the far right, a chat icon. If that person does not have an Apple Watch, only the phone icon and chat icon will appear. In this instance, tap the chat icon to launch Messages.

Immediately, your list of default replies appears, as well as smart replies based on your previous exchanges with that person. You’ll also see the emoji icon on the left and the dictation microphone on the right. Use those as described previously.

Now, let’s take a look at the app itself.

Press the Digital Crown until you see your collection of app icons. Tap the green Messages icon and you’ve launched the app. For a paired-down, “wrist-top” app (if I may use that borderline ridiculous term), it’s pretty robust. Once running, use the Digital Crown or your finger to scroll through your message history, across all contacts.

There’s a cool gesture you an use here. Swipe left on any conversation to reveal two options: Details and Trash. Tap Details to reveal that contact’s details, including one-tap phone call, residential address and more. Tapping Trash will get rid of that particular conversation.

If you just want to start a conversation, simply tap an existing exchange. Again, use the Digital Crown or your finger to scroll through your message history. You’ll find the Reply button at the bottom, with the now familiar emoji and dictation icons. We know how those work.

Handoff with Apple Watch and OS X Yosemite

Apple’s Handoff is just too cool. It’s a way to have one device tell another, “Here, you take this for me.” I use it quite a bit with phone calls and it’s really nice between the Watch and an iPhone. The two devices are partners, so it only feels natural that they’d “take over” for one another every now and then. Here’s a scenario for you.

You receive a message from a contact that requires more than the list of defaults can offer. An emoji won’t cut it either, and you’d rather not use dictation for the lengthy and detailed reply that’s required. No problem, here’s what to do.

With the message frontmost on your Watch, grab your iPhone. You’ll notice a small Messages app icon in the lower left of its screen. That’s your phone’s way of saying, “I got this. Let me take it from here.” Swipe up on that icon to launch Messages on the iPhone and jump directly to the conversation that was active on the Watch. Easy peasy.

What Messages on the Apple Watch can’t do

I’ve spent the last few pages praising this nifty little device and getting you up to speed on sending and receiving messages with it. Its fun and useful, but not as complete as its older sibling, the iPhone. That’s fine, as it’s not meant to do everything. With that fact in mind, here is a list of things that Messages on the Apple Watch can’t do.

  1. Text a photo. You can take a screenshot with the Watch, and you can browse photos as well, but you can’t send one as a text message from the little device.
  2. Text a movie or video. Note that you can watch a video snippet that’s been delivered to your phone, but you can’t shoot and send one from the device.
  3. Open a URL sent via text.

Lastly, I want to outline my favorite way to receive notifications on the Apple Watch. It’s a method that allows me to get all of the updates I want without bothering anyone around me. Here’s how to set it up.

On the iPhone

  1. Silence all sounds
  2. Silence all vibrate options

On the Apple Watch (via the iOS Watch app)

  1. Set Alert Volume to mute
  2. Set Haptic strength to high

That’s it. Now your iPhone and your Watch will remain silent whenever a notification arrives. Your Watch will tap your wrist, but no one will be aware. The Watch’s display won’t even light up unless you raise your arm, so you needn’t worry about bothering anyone, yet you never miss a notification.

If you do look at an incoming message, the amount of time it takes you to briefly glance at your wrist is negligible compared to taking your phone out of your pocket.

I hope this article was helpful. Messaging with the Apple Watch is a lot of fun, as is the Watch experience in general. I can’t say if the Apple Watch will be perfect for your texting habits or routine. But for me, it has changed the way I communicate with friends and famliy. It’s more efficient and more fun. A simple “yes” or “no” — which is all I need the vast majority of the time — takes literal seconds to send. The fun of emoji, hearts, covert notifications and talking to my watch LIKE A SPACE MAN is icing on the cake. Good work, Apple.

What to play this weekend: Does Not Commute

“Dentist Charles Schneider skipped lunch and went to the library instead. He’s heading back to his clinic with the books ‘Temporal Paradoxes’ and ‘Retrocausaility in Practice.'”

There’s an undercurrent of weirdness in Does Not Commute (universal, free with in-app purchase) that Fox Mulder would love. The beautiful and challenging strategy game from Mediocre Games has you driving various vehicles — from sedans to speed boats to ice cream trucks — through several neighborhoods, being careful to beat the clock and avoid the other drivers. It’s challenging, thematic and a lot of fun. Here’s my look at Does Not Commute.

Looks

Boy, this is a good-looking game. Does Not Commute’s splash screen shows the dashboard of a big old 1970’s American sedan, with no airbags, no Bluetooth stereo, no digital anything. It’s pointed towards the horizon at the end of a lonely road, where a huge, ringed planet dominates the sky. Right away, you know something’s up.

Once the game loads, you’re looking at the car’s radio. Swipe to browse levels and watch replays (more on that later). You can also adjust the music and sound effects volume levels. Each “station,” or level, has its own theme song which is another nice touch. Simply tap one to begin.

Game play

Your job is to move a vehicle from Point A to Point B within the allotted time. Tap the screen to steer your charge to its clearly-marked destination. Once that’s done, you start over with another vehicle…and it starts to get weird.

As you pilot the second vehicle, you notice that the first one retraces the route your drew for it in round one. Once you guide the second car successfully, you’re presented with a third car. Again, vehicles one and two re-trace their route as you pilot vehicle number three. The pattern continues — and traffic increases — until you’ve guided thirteen vehicles to their destinations before time expires. Speaking of time…

Does Not Commute plays loosey-goosey with the concept of time. Forget that a vehicle you drove away five minutes ago is just starting off again. You can also rewind time. Let’s say you drove the ice cream truck directly into a large building. It takes damage and drives significantly slower than when it was fully functional. That won’t do, as you’re playing beat the clock here. In that instance, you can tap the rewind button to return all vehicles to their start positions, so you may try again. However, this time-bending privilege ticks one second off the clock.

*Read: previous selections for “What you should play this weekend.” *

Ah, the clock. You have a certain amount of time at the start of a round to pilot all vehicles to their destinations. As you play, you’ll find power-ups that add to that limit; simply drive over them to pick them up.

The whole game becomes a hilarious jumbled mess that requires more planning that you might have initially guessed. For example, the bridge that you used with the first car could be the ideal route for vehicles six, nine and ten, so you’ve got to remember where the earlier vehicles will be. Put the first car in the far left lane, and you better remember that when piloting vehicle number three.

But driving is only half the fun.

The game describes each vehicle’s driver. Don’t skip reading this text, as it slowly reveals a story full of deception, intrigue and time-traveling weirdness. I don’t want to spoil it, but people’s motivations and true destinations become clear as you progress through the levels.

There other options available to help you along the way. You can earn different “boosts” that quickly become essential. By beating levels and unlocking other achievements, you’ll earn things like Turbo, Traction Control and Armor. Some vehicles move slowly, and benefit from a turbo boost. Meanwhile, others are speed demons and need a little traction control to keep them on course.

There’s also a practice mode to unlock, which lets you run a course without penalty before trying it for real.

Replay!

Once you’ve completed a level, the game stores a video of your successful run, which you can watch three ways:

  1. From the perspective of each vehicle in turn
  2. From a static, overhead view
  3. From a sweeping, left-to-right view

It’s really a lot of fun to watch these videos, and laugh at the near-misses and bone-jarring collisions. And I’ll tell you, it’s very satisfying to safely deliver the last vehicle with only a second or two left on the clock.

In conclusion

Does Not Commute is a lot of fun. It looks great, the physics work well and the theming comes together to make a title I’m eager to play. It’s free, and a one-time in-app purchase of $1.99 lets you resume the game from checkpoints, instead of starting from scratch.

Does Not Commute is definitely what you should play this weekend.

Today in the App Store — Table Tennis Touch, Day One and more

Here are some of the best free apps, app updates and new apps that have landed in the App Store recently. Today’s notable apps include a discount on Pinnacle Studio; the Heroes and Castles 2 game; and a significant update to Day One for OS X. All app prices are USD and subject to change. Some deals may expire quickly, so grab them while you can.

iOS Apps Now Free

Zombies, Run! [Now free, down from $3.99] Join 1,000,000+ runners in an epic adventure!

Dark Parables: Rise of the Snow Queen HD – A Magical Hidden Object Adventure (Full) [Now free, down from $6.99] From the ashes of the snow, the legendary Snow Queen rises and terrorizes nearby villages with her supernatural powers.

Squids [Now free, down from $1.99] SQUIDS is a unique mix of action strategy and RPG: build your team of heroes for epic turn-based battles against corrupted crabs and shrimps!

Ping Analyzer – Graphical Network Ping [Now free, down from $0.99] Ping Analyzer is an easy to use graphical network ping tool that provides real-time round-trip time (RTT) statistics, as well as jitter and Mean Opinion Score (MOS) estimation.

Gentlemen…Ricochet Mini! [Now free, down from $0.99] Gent Mini is a remake/demake/sequel of “Gentlemen… Ricochet!”, rethought completely as a simple one-button game.

iOS Apps On Sale

Table Tennis Touch [On sale for $0.99, down from $1.99] Stunning graphics, intuitive touch controls and exhilarating high-speed gameplay make Table Tennis Touch® the definitive table tennis game on mobile.

Do Not Move [On sale for $0.99, down from $1.99] Don’t move your phone. You’ll get points for every second your phone doesn’t move! Do Not Move.

My Dolphin Show [On sale for $1.99, down from $0.99] The dolphin trainer and her dolphin are ready to impress the audience with a specular show. This is not a small aquarium, but a big show like you would see in Sea World or any other water park.

Toca Hair Salon 2 [On sale for $0.99, down from $2.99] Our bestselling app Toca Hair Salon is back in an even better version, with new characters, new tools, new accessories and even more hairstyling fun!

Discounted Mac Apps

Markdown [Now free, down from $6.99] Markdown is a text editor that is designed from the ground up around the Markdown syntax.

Solitaire [Now free, down from $2.99] Mastersoft Solitaire Favorites includes KLONDIKE (Windows PC Solitaire), SPIDER, FREECELL, GOLF, PYRAMID and many more solitaire classics. Where applicable, games are timed and use standard scoring.

Chess Deluxe [Now free, down from $0.99] Mastersoft Chess has one of the World’s best chess engines crammed inside!

New and Notable Apps

Heroes and Castles 2 [$1.99] Enter Heroes and Castles 2, a 3rd person action-RPG, strategy, and castle defense mash-up!

Knights of Pen & Paper 2 [$4.99] Prepare to join Knights of Pen & Paper 2 in a turn-based, retro style, pixel-art adventure full of danger, intrigue, and semi-appropriate cultural references!

Updates you don’t want to miss

NBA Game Time 2014-15 [$Free] Follow the excitement of the NBA Season with NBA Game Time for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Version 6.4.4 includes the following changes:

  • Full 2015 NBA Playoffs support:
  • NBA Game Time on Apple Watch:

Day One [$9.99] Record life as you live it. From once-in-a-lifetime events to everyday moments, Day One’s elegant interface makes journaling your life a simple pleasure. . Version 1.10 includes the following changes:

  • NEW: Day One Sync—An alternative service for syncing your Day One journal.
  • NEW: OS X Photos app support.
  • NEW: Mac OS X Share Extensions—Create entries using the OS X system share menu.
  • NEW: Added white menu bar icon to support dark menu mode.
  • NEW: Added two new fonts—”Open Sans” and “Roboto.”
  • NEW: Added Diagnostics tab to Preferences for troubleshooting issues.

Today in the App Store — Transloader, Transmit for iOS and more

Today in the App Store — Transloader, Transmit for iOS and more

Here are some of the best free apps, app updates and new apps that have landed in the App Store recently. Today’s notable apps include a discount on Transloader for OS X, the new Tallowmere game and a notable update to Transmit for iOS. All app prices are USD and subject to change. Some deals may expire quickly, so grab them while you can.

iOS Apps Now Free

Boximize: Structured note taking, personal database, form builder and organizer! [Now free, down from $4.99] Boximize is a structured note taking app that brings you the power of personal databases and the simplicity and usability of note taking apps.

Word Ring [Now free, down from $1.99] Create words quickly as you progress through levels of increasing difficulty. Rings of letters and blocks will fall more and more rapidly.

War of Eclipse [Now free, down from $1.99] War of Eclipse is a retro style game that combines timing action, role playing, and adventure elements. You play as a captain who crashed in a battle but is saved by human survivors.

Video in Video [Now free, down from $1.99] Video in Video is pioneering the way in mobile video creation by allowing anyone to create stunning HD quality video within a video. Perfect for creating instructional or promo videos on the go.

Goat Rampage [Now free, down from $1.99] The Goat Rampage The most ridiculous animal simulator. You’re just a stupid Goat, but you’re about to make the biggest rampage this world has ever seen.

iOS Apps On Sale

SharpScan Pro + OCR: rapidly scan multipage documents into clean PDF on the go [On sale for $0.99, down from $6.99] Turn your iPhone into a jet Fast multi-page document scanner with SharpScan!

OfficeSuite Pro – Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint & PDF documents editor [On sale for $6.99, down from $9.99] The latest version of OfficeSuite brings the power and capability of a desktop app to the iPhone and iPad like never before!

Dictionary.com Premium Dictionary & Thesaurus for iPad [On sale for $2.99, down from $6.99] Top-rated app with trusted reference content from Dictionary.com & Thesaurus.com. WORKS OFFLINE – no Internet connection needed when searching words.

Reverser – Backwards Video Maker with Reverse Cam [On sale for $0.99, down from $1.99] Use Reverser to quickly and easily make hilarious backward videos.

Say Play – Voice search and play background music from the tube [On sale for $4.99, down from $6.99] Play any song in the world by just saying its name.

Wordology [On sale for $0.99, down from $2.99] If you pride yourself as a word game expert and have been looking for a challenge, then this game is for you.

Discounted Mac Apps

Total Manager – Files Archiver, Ftp / Sftp Remote Client [On sale for $0.99, down from $14.99] Total Manager is a powerful file manager with a classic double-window and multi-tab interface.

Cataline [On sale for $0.99, down from $2.99] Set in a world made entirely of fabric, wool and yarn, this physics-based puzzler let’s you play Cataline the ginger cat which has to fly and land safely in a fish bowl to catch a meal.

Transloader [On sale for $3.99, down from $5.99] Start downloads on your Mac remotely from your iPhone or iPad. Add URLs to any kind of file in Transloader on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and it will sync them to your Mac for download.

New and Notable Apps

Tallowmere [$3.99] Indulge Lady Tallowmere and see how far through her lovingly violent dungeons you can delve in this 2D indie action roguelike-inspired platformer.

The Barbarian [$9.99] The Barbarian is a Top Down Action RPG built for mobile. Intuitive controls allow for enjoyable game play.

Updates you don’t want to miss

ThinkBook – Todos, Notes, Projects, Outlines [Free] Imagine the next step up from a todo list app. It has todos, sure, but it also lets you take notes, organize them into outlines, make projects from them and track your progress. . Version 2.0.1 includes the following changes:

  • ThinkBook 1 was definitely old-school! so I’ve totally re-jigged the user interface.
  • So I’ve made ThinkBook a universal app. The toolbar is moved to the bottom, and the history bar is now a menu. It’s a much more intuitive interface.
  • did you know you could bookmark entries in the old navigation bar? no? most people didn’t. Now there’s a ‘bookmark’ button next to each entry, you won’t miss it.
  • Cloud services.
  • I’ve had to make ThinkBook free with in-app purchases. Owners of the old version get everything I’ve mentioned so far for free, but new functionality is provided as IAP.
  • iCloud transfers. Use iCloud to update your notes between devices.
  • More notebook covers, there are now two default ones, and you can buy ten more.
  • Dark themes, there are three default themes, they have light backgrounds like the old ones, and you can buy three more with dark backgrounds.

Transmit for iOS [$9.99] Transmit for iOS allows you to connect to that server and manage all your files, exactly as you’d expect. Transfer. Make folders. Rename. Delete. Set Permissions. You know how it works, and Transmit does it.. Version 4.5 includes the following changes:

  • Greatly improved S3 support!
  • SFTP now supports encrypt then MAC (ETM) for SHA2-512 and SHA2-256
  • SFTP now prompts with the DSA or RSA fingerprint when connecting to a server for the first time
  • WebDAV will no longer attempt to reconnect repeatedly on authorization failure
  • Improved battery life (well, we’re now making fewer redundant connections, which means less load on your CPU, so why not)
  • Small fixes: in some cases data wasn’t being refreshed in the UI where it should have been, some UI elements were the incorrect size, etc.

Apple to manage 1 million acres of forest in China

Apple has greatly advanced its environmental initiatives in China, including the creation and management of one million acres of responsibly-managed forest

The forest project is a partnership between Apple and World Wildlife Fund China, which represents another step towards Apple’s goal of having a net-zero impact on the world’s virgin fiber

Apple is also building a 40-megawatt solar farm in Sichuan Province, which will generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 61,000 Chinese homes.

Apple Pay snags 24 new bank and credit union partnerships

Waiting for your card issuer to support Apple Pay? Check the list below. 

Apple has updated its Apple Pay support page with the names of 24 new participating card issuers. Most of the newcomers are credit unions this time around. In related news, Home Depot has announced its plans to support the service in the very near future. 

Apple Pay lets customers with an iPhone 6, 6 Plus or Apple Watch pay for purchase with their devices. It’s like doing a magic trick that sends your money away and amazes cashiers. Fun! Here are the most recent participants:

Bellwether Community Credit Union
Benchmark Federal Credit Union
Blackhawk Community Credit Union
Community America Credit Union
Community First Credit Union
Connections Credit Union
cPort Credit Union
Denver Fire Department FCU
Electro Savings Credit Union
Elements Financial FCU
First Financial Credit Union
Greater Nevada Credit Union
Harvard Universities Employees Credit Union
Interra Credit Union
Kern Schools Federal Credit Union
Nusenda Credit Union
People’s Trust Federal Credit Union
Premier America Credit Union
Premier Members Federal Credit Union
SAFE Credit Union
Scient Federal Credit Union
The Bancorp Bank
Tucson Federal Credit Union
Union Bank & Trust Co.

iCloud fails and foibles that need to be addressed in iOS 9 and OS X 10.11

When we asked people to comment on what Apple products or services are causing them angst, the overwhelming winners in the negativity column were iCloud and other online services such as Messages. With Apple continuing to embrace these services, hopefully, some of the issues below will be remedied in iOS 9 and OS X 10.11, both of which may be unveiled at WWDC 2015. Below you will find your top five complaints — and our responses — about iCloud and Messages listed in no particular order.

Messages don’t sync properly across devices or within groups

iMessage is used extensively by iOS owners, so glitches and problems with service are very noticeable. One of the biggest complaints is missing messages, with some messages appearing on one iOS device and not on another, even though both devices are configured the same way. Sometimes a message will just disappear into iCloud and reappear hours later.

And, of course, there is the much-talked-about issue of Apple sometimes holding a phone number and interrupting messages when a user switches to a different mobile device. Thankfully, Apple provides instructions and an online tool to deregister a number in this circumstance. Though there is a tool, it’s not well-publicized. I wonder whether people know about it, and how long they go with broken text messaging until they find it.

Another reader relates a horror story of one group messaging conversation multiplying into four separate threads due to the devices the senders were using. The conversation began innocently enough with everyone using an iPhone, but as soon as someone sends a message from their iPad or Mac, those messages were rerouted into a different thread. This issue is fixable for some, but not everyone finds relief. To fix this multiple thread issue, you can configure Messages to start conversations from the same email or phone number on these different devices. This configuration process leads us to our next complaint.

iCloud, Messages, and FaceTime are unnecessarily difficult to configure

As noted by one of our Patreon supporters, iCloud, FaceTime, Messaging, and other Apple services are unnecessarily difficult to configure because their settings are separate in iOS.

There is no one spot in OS X or iOS to change one’s AppleID – Mail, Internet Accounts, various iCloud apps, iMessages, FaceTime, etc., and it is next to impossible for a mere mortal to find them all in one go round.

I run into this frequently as I reinstall my device or replace it on a semi-regular basis. Every time I face a fresh install, I have to type in the same Apple ID credentials in multiple places. Over and again — this process is especially cumbersome since I use a complex password.

iCloud Photo Library is all or nothing

In principal, iCloud Photo Library is great. The service syncs your photos and videos, so all your media files are accessible from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac and on iCloud.com. But what if you take hundreds of pictures and don’t want all the copies in iCloud? What if you only want the best photos to be stored online and across devices? Unfortunately, that is not an option. Unlike competitor Adobe Lightroom, iCloud Photo Library does not allow the selective syncing of collections. It’s all or nothing with Apple’s photo syncing service.

iCloud storage is confusing to use, and there is little recourse when a backup goes wrong

iCloud stores a variety of your information — files, photos, videos, and backups. The way in which the service organizes this data and charges for storage can be confusing and frustrating to understand, even for someone like me whose job requires them to be familiar with these services.

As a reader points out, you have iCloud Photo Library for your photos, iCloud Drive for your documents and iCloud backup to back up your device. You would think music would be included in with your files and other media in iCloud, but it is not. Music is treated differently. If you want your music in the cloud, you have pay for iTunes Match ($25/year) and enable it on all of your devices.

This iTunes Match charge is separate from iCloud for your files, photos, and backups. iCloud storage for these files is free for the first 5GB and then paid if you require additional space. Additional storage is available only through a monthly subscription (no annual option) that costs $0.99 monthly for 20GB; $3.99 for 200GB; $9.99 for 500GB and $19.99 for 1TB.

And then, of course, there is the big question of what happens to your media if you don’t use services such as iCloud Drive or iCloud Photo Library. Will your photos and files be stored in your backup? They should be. Will you be able to retrieve them easily? Yes, but only as part of a backup. What if a backup goes awry and you can’t access it? In my experience, you are sol, but your mileage may vary depending upon the error and technical support available to you.

In th eend, iCloud is not as straight forward as it could be. I imagine there are a lot of users who are not properly utilizing these services and backing up their device just because iCloud is disparate and not a one-click solution to safely store all your important information.

Apple highlights environmental efforts with new video

Apple has produced a video highlighting its recent and ongoing efforts to become a more environmentally-friendly company. The video shows a solar farm that’s being built in China to power the company’s corporate and retail locations throughout the country, as well as a water-powered data farm in Oregon.

Back in 2013, Apple’s VP of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson spoke at VERGE and said, “Tim Cook didn’t hire Lisa Jackson to be quiet and keep the status quo. We understand our responsibility and we do care.” It looks like she, and Apple, are following through.

Five things you should do now to prepare for the Apple Watch

Apple Watch pre-orders should begin arriving next week with the first deliveries expected on April 24th. Before your package arrives, you should spend some time preparing for the Watch so your first-day experience with it will be smooth sailing. Below are some tips you can do now while you are waiting for the Watch to make its way to your doorstep. Please feel free share any additional tips in the comments below.

Order accessories now

The accessory market for the Watch is in its infancy, but there still are a few items you should considering purchasing before the Watch arrives. First and foremost, you should order any accessory bands from Apple right away so you can have them as soon as possible. Ship times currently are in May, but those dates may slip as customers receive their Watches and want to accessorize them after the fact.

There also are a handful of different docks from companies like Griffin, Mophie, Twelve South, DODOcase and Pad & Quill. If you are concerned about protecting your Watch, there are a variety of inexpensive screen protectors on Amazon as well as both rugged and clear cases from Spigen.

Familiarize yourself with the Watch UI

Apple has posted a variety of guided tours on its website that showcase the Watch user interface. You can learn how to receive and make calls, navigate using your Watch and more. There’s also this handy cheat sheet from redditor macamacamac that diagrams select Watch interactions.

Prepare your iPhone by installing the latest version of iOS

Starting at iOS 8.2, Apple added the new Watch app, which will be the conduit between the Watch and your iPhone. This Watch app will be included in all iOS versions going forward and will updated as needed. To optimize the connection between your phone and Watch, you’ll want to have the latest version of iOS installed on your phone. If you are unsure how to install an iOS update, Apple provides detailed instructions on its support website. As of the writing of this post, the latest version of iOS is 8.3.

Make a list of apps you want to install

Another day and another Watch app is announced, or so it seems. Make a list of your favorite apps now and keep track of which ones are preparing a Watch update or already released one. It’ll make it easier on launch day if you have a running list of all the must-have apps you want to install. You’ll spend less time hunting for apps and more time enjoying them if you invest that extra time now.

Track your order and arrange to be around that day

If you pre-ordered a Watch on April 10th, you likely will be receiving a shipping notification soon. Track the arrival of your Watch using an app like Deliveries from JuneCloud. You’ll know exactly when your Watch will land on your door step, so you can take the day off from work (or call in sick!).

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