Type like a pro
For many, the biggest challenge of the iPhone or iPad is getting used to the virtual keyboard. Unlike BlackBerries and older mobile phones they have no hardware keys, instead relying on software keys that appear onscreen as and when they’re needed. The lack of physical shapes for your fingers to seek out can be confusing at first, but there are lots of ways Apple ensures touchscreen typing is a positive experience, whether you’re coming from a full-size computer keyboard or a thumb-based smartphone. Here are some ways to tap into the iPhone’s typing features.
Catch and release: Your Apple device registers the key you’ve pressed when you take your finger off the key, rather than when you tap on it. So if you press a key and see that it’s the wrong one, you can easily slide your finger to the correct key. In conventional typing it’s common to try and avoid pressing multiple keys. With the iPhone there’s no need: it recognises only single keys at once, while its correction tools quickly work out what you meant to type. Hopefully.
Punctuation slide: To add a punctuation mark, press and hold the ‘.?123’ button until the numeric and punctuation keyboard appears, slide your finger to the key you want, and release it. Not only will you type the punctuation mark, but you’ll find yourself back in alphabet mode without having to press the ABC key.
Unlock caps lock: Typing in capitals may be considered impolite, but sometimes it’s necessary. Go to Settings: General: Keyboard and check Enable Caps Lock is activated. Then, when you’re typing, quickly double-tap the Shift key; it’ll turn blue to tell you Caps Lock is on. Tap it once more to disable it.
Present and correct: Mistakes happen. Fortunately, the iPhone’s pretty smart. By looking at the letters near the ones you typed, it can deduce what you meant to type and will offer a suggested correction in a text bubble. To accept this, simply carry on, hitting the spacebar or a punctuation mark. Tap the suggestion to reject and dismiss it. That might seem counter-intuitive, but it makes sense, we promise. Dismiss the iPhone’s suggestion for the same word twice, and it’ll add the word you typed to its dictionary.
Zoom in: If you discover a typo, it’s easy to fix. Tap the spot where you want the cursor to appear, and then on the backspace to delete your mistake. For more precise cursor control, tap and hold on the text to make a magnifier appear. As you drag the magnifier around, the text insertion point will follow it.
Get serious about Siri
Siri allows you to speak commands to your phone and have it do your bidding. In the latest version of iOS 6.0, it enables you to search for businesses, restaurants, movie screenings and sports information – although British sports are still largely limited to football – all by using the power of your voice.
You activate Siri by holding down the Home button on the iPhone itself, or by holding down the control button on your wired or wireless headset.
You can ask Siri to do all kinds of things. It’s great at working with text messages: simply say: “Send a text to Dave that says hello, what time are we meeting tonight” and Siri will do exactly that. (If you know more than one Dave, it’ll ask you which one.) Excitingly, you can also do the same with your emails.
Siri knows a lot about weather and restaurants, sport results and film times. Apple says understanding the words you say is the easy part, and that Siri’s true genius is in figuring out what you want when you say those words and providing you with the answer. Siri now also works with Apple’s Maps application in the UK, so you can search for directions and local businesses.
Speak and spell: When you receive a text message, you can instruct Siri to read the message, and it will. You can then tell the software to reply, dictate the entire message, have Siri read it back to you to confirm that it makes sense and then send it.
Wake me up: It’s much easier to set an alarm or timer using Siri than it is to unlock your phone, find the Clock app and tap within the app. Just say, “set a timer for three minutes,” and your phone begins to count down until your tea is ready. “Set an alarm for 5am” does what you’d expect, instantly.
Take note: Say to Siri: “Remind me to record my favourite show” and it will. Saying “Note that I need to take my suit to the cleaners” works, too. These are short bursts of data input that can be handled quickly by voice, and they work well.
Compile your contacts
Phone numbers, email addresses, Twitter handles, usernames, aliases – your device can store all of this and more in the Contacts app, which syncs across iOS to provide communication auto-completion across the board. To make sure your Contacts list is as up to date as possible, here are a few ways to keep things neat, organised and useful.
Import contacts: To sync your contacts, iTunes will require you to connect specifically with one computer. Syncing is bi-directional: any changes made to a contact on your device will show up on the computer the next time you connect the two, and vice versa.
Sync with a Mac: On the Mac, your device can sync contacts from OS X’s Address Book, an online Yahoo Address Book or your Google contacts. The first time you connect your phone to your Mac, iTunes will ask which contacts you want to import. You can choose to import every contact in OS X’s Address Book or specify only selected groups.
Sync wirelessly: You can synchronise your device’s contacts without having to connect to your computer. The best option is Apple’s iCloud service. Visit Settings > iCloud and slide Contacts to On. Now any changes you make to Contacts will be reflected in the iCloud contacts on your Mac or other iOS devices.
Enter contacts manually: Enter the Contacts app and tap the ‘+’ sign to create a new contact. Tap each section to enter the -appropriate contact information, including the name, company, number (or numbers), email address and website. But you’re not limited to the default fields – tap Add Field at the bottom of the screen to access a list of additional -options, including birthday, nickname and a general Note field.
Access an LDAP account: If you have an LDAP account, you can connect to it from your device. You’ll need the server address, a user name and a password. Go to Settings > Mail > Contacts > Calendars > Add Account > Other > Add LDAP Account. Enter your account information, tap Next to verify your account, then tap Save. The LDAP account will appear in your Contacts application in a new group. These contacts are stored on the server, so you must be connected to the internet when viewing and searching them.
Locate contacts: In the Phone app, All Contacts alphabetically lists every contact (you can set it to sort by first or last name in the Settings screen). You can scroll up and down, or use the alphabet running down the right side to jump to contacts starting with a particular letter. You can also look for someone by using the search bar at the top. Alternatively, you can perform a Spotlight search in the main Spotlight screen (swipe left from the first Home screen). The search results will include matching contacts.
If you have your contacts divided into groups and synced, you can also look through them using the Groups button.
Start downloading apps
Create an Apple ID: The first thing you need is an Apple ID, if haven’t got one already. You can create this on a PC or Mac via iTunes (click the iTunes Store, then Sign In and follow the instructions), but we’re going to create it on the device itself.
Hit the App Store icon on the home screen and tap the Featured icon at the bottom. Scroll down and press Sign In, then Create Apple ID. Choose a country, agree to the terms and conditions and enter an email address – this will act as your Apple ID – and password. (Apple is a lot stricter about password quality than it used to be, so be prepared to come up with something fairly long that includes upper- and lower-case letters and numbers.) You’ll also need to enter some security questions and a ‘rescue email address’.
Finally, you need to enter your card details, so you’ll be able to buy apps – ultimately that’s what the App Store is all about. Apple has a strong record on financial security (touch wood), so you should be safe entering your details. You’ll only be charged if you actually buy something.
Download an app: Within the App Store, browse the apps to see if there’s something you like. The Top Charts section shows the most popular downloads, while Featured has apps that Apple has picked out as new and/or interesting. If something takes your fancy, click it and you’ll be taken to its page, where you can read reviews and view screenshots.
If you decide to proceed, press the button with the price written on it; it will turn green and change to ‘Buy App’. Press it once again to confirm – the iOS device may now ask you to enter your password if you haven’t been asked for it recently. The app will start downloading, appearing as an icon on the last page of your home screen. Click it to get started.