Apps & downloads

Control Background App Refresh

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: Background app refresh

One option that it's useful to know about is the Background Refresh panel. Many apps, such as newspapers and magazines, or weather and stock prices, can automatically update themselves with new information even when you're not actually using them.

Allowing apps to download data in the background can save time if you're a real news junkie or if you want to make a killing on the stock market, but it can also drain your battery more quickly, so you might want to turn this option off for some of your less essential apps.

You can turn background refresh on or off for each individual app, but there's also a master switch at the top of this panel that allows you to change the setting for all your apps at once.

iTunes settings

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: iTunes settings

The next two settings panels provide controls for iCloud and your iTunes account. The iTunes options are straightforward enough, although you might want to turn off the Use Mobile Data option that uses your mobile broadband to automatically download items purchased on other devices - downloading the full eight-hour version of Max Richter's Sleep album could bust your mobile broadband data cap in no time flat.

Turning the Mobile Data option off does still allow you to download purchases using wifi. You can also turn the automatic download option on or off for different types of content, such as music, apps and books. I tend to buy music using iTunes on my Mac, but I like to have all my music stored on my iPhone as well, so I keep Automatic Downloads turned on for my music purchases. I don't really read books on the iPhone, though, so that one gets turned off.

WiFi Sync options

How to use Settings on iPhone & iPad: iTunes

When iTunes was first launched more than a decade ago, the idea was that you would buy music and video using iTunes on your Mac and then download your purchases onto ye olde iPod using a USB cable connection. Nowadays, though, many of us do everything on our iPhones and iPads, including buying apps, music and videos, and we often forget to back up our purchases on to our Macs.

But, just below the Keyboard settings you'll see an option called iTunes Wifi Sync. Somewhat ironically, you still have to use a USB cable to connect your iOS device to your Mac and then select the Wifi Sync option within iTunes on your Mac in order to activate it on your iOS device. However, you only have to do that the first time, and after that you can sync all your purchases back to your Mac via wifi. However, Wifi Sync only works if your iPhone or iPad is being charged at the time, is on the same wifi network as your Mac, and you have iTunes open on your Mac.

Downloads and Updates: Automatic Downloads

When the iPhone and iPad were first introduced they were initially very dependent on iTunes running on a Mac for making purchases and transferring files. You'd use iTunes on the Mac to buy apps, music and video, and then download them on to your iOS devices using ye olde USB cable.

However, our mobile devices are now much more sophisticated and self-contained, which means that people can end up making purchases on several different devices. I still tend to buy music on my iMac at home, but I download apps directly onto my iPhone all the time, and buy books and magazines on my iPad when I'm slumped on the sofa at home. To help keep track of all your purchases, iOS includes an option called Automatic Downloads, which is tucked inside the iTunes And App Store section of the main Settings panel.

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: Automatic downloads

There are four options here, for music, apps, books and software updates. Turning any of these options on ensures that items you purchase on one device are automatically downloaded on to other devices as well.

I recently bought a Muse album, Drones, using iTunes on my Mac. It's not their best album, but it has its moments so I've turned on the Music option in Automatic Downloads, which ensures that the album is automatically downloaded on to my iPhone without me needing to plug it into my Mac.

How to use Settings on iPhone & iPad: iTunes

There's no option to automatically download video files, as the downloads take up too much time and storage space on your mobile devices. However, even smaller audio files and app downloads could still bust your phone's monthly data cap, so this settings panel also includes an option to turn off 'cellular data' (mobile broadband) for automatic downloads. This ensures that you only download purchases when your device is connected to a wifi network.

There's a corresponding option in iTunes on the Mac, hidden away in the Store tab of the iTunes preferences panel. This will automatically download any purchases that you make on your iOS devices onto your Mac - and your Mac can also download video purchases that may be too big to keep on your iPhone or iPad.

Downloads and Updates: Suggested Apps

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: Suggested apps

Right at the bottom of the iTunes And App Store settings panel is a not-very-well-known option called Suggested Apps. If you're out and about with your iPhone, this option can use GPS to keep track of your location and can suggest apps that might be useful in that location. If you turn on My Apps, your iPhone will just look at the apps you already have installed - such as a Starbucks app for ordering and paying for coffee - and display the icon for that app on your lock screen so that you can launch it right away.

The App Store option also allows your iPhone to check on the App Store to see if there are other apps available that might be useful, such as airline schedules when you arrive at an airport.

Downloads and Updates: App Settings

The next section in Settings is for the Passbook and Apple Pay, however we've already looked at Apple Pay in detail so we won't repeat that info here. That leaves one final section within Settings, which consists of a long list of the individual apps that are installed on your iPhone or iPad.

These are divided into two categories - Apple's own apps, and the third-party apps that you have bought and downloaded from the App Store. The third-party apps will obviously vary from person to person, but it's worth taking a closer look at some of Apple's pre-installed apps as we sometimes take these for granted.

Some of the options here are pretty straightforward - for instance, the Maps app allows you to display distances in either in miles or kilometres, while Compass lets you switch between 'true' north and magnetic north. However, there are a number of key apps that many of us use every day, and which provide a number of useful options that you may not know about.

How to use iOS 11 Settings on iPhone & iPad: App Settings

Downloads and Updates: Mail, Contacts, Calendars

The three key apps here are the Mail, Contacts and Calendars apps, which are grouped together within a single settings panel. That's a little untidy, but they're probably all put together like this because these are the three main apps that give you the choice to either 'push' or 'fetch' new data.

Most apps go to sleep when you're not actually using them, and only 'fetch' new data when you launch the app once more. When I launch my BBC News app it will check to see if I have an Internet connection and then connect with the BBC servers to see if there are any new headlines that it can 'fetch' for me to read. However, some apps also have a 'push' option that allows new data to automatically be 'pushed' straight into them as soon as it becomes available.

What happens with an app like Mail is that your email server does all the work, and automatically pushes new email messages straight onto your iPhone or iPad without waiting for the app to wake up and fetch the messages for itself. When the app receives a new email it wakes up - even if it's not running on screen at that moment - and can pop a notification on screen to tell you that the message has arrived.

How to use Settings on iPhone & iPad: Fetch new data

That's obviously very useful, but some people argue that using push technology continuously can drain your battery more quickly, so the Mail, Contacts, Calendars settings panel includes an option called Fetch New Data that allows you to turn off the push option so that these three apps will only fetch new data when you tell them to.

There's actually a lot of debate on the internet about whether 'push' or 'fetch' drains your battery more quickly, but Apple's own web site suggests using the Fetch option to maximise battery life, so that's good enough for us. In any event, your wifi usage and screen brightness probably have far more effect on battery life than the push and fetch options, so this isn't something that you need to worry about too much.

How to use Settings on iPhone & iPad: Background refresh

There are other apps that can use push technology too, although these apps may sometimes refer to it as 'background refresh' instead. The BBC News app has options for both background refresh and notifications, so that it can give you an onscreen notification if a major news story breaks.

Plenty of other apps provide similar options, covering everything from stock prices to special offers at your local supermarket, so you'll need to decide how much of this information you really want to see when you're choosing settings for all your apps.

How to stop subscription auto-renewals on the iPhone

Millions of people signed up for the new Apple Music service when it was launched at the end of June - tempted, of course, by the offer of a free trial that lasted for a full three months. Many have now come to the end of that trial period, and will need to decide if they want to cancel their subscription to Apple Music or to start paying for it.

We've looked at Apple Music in detail elsewhere so we won't repeat that information here, but there are lots of other apps available for the iPhone and iPad that may also require monthly subscription fees. It's worth knowing how iOS manages these subscriptions so that you don't accidentally end up paying for services that you no longer want to use.

Scroll down the main Settings panel and tap on the item marked App and iTunes Stores. You'll see your Apple ID shown at the top of this settings panel, and you can tap on that to view subscriptions and other settings associated with your personal Apple ID account.

Your Account page includes details such as the payment method you have chosen for all your purchases, and there's also a section labeled Subscriptions. Tap the 'Manage' button and you'll see a list of every app you own that may require a subscription payment. Needless to say, Apple Music sits right at the top of the list (here's how to switch off the Apple Music auto-renewal), but I have also taken out subscriptions to Eurosport and a few magazines and newspapers in the past - most of which I no longer use.

The status of all these services is listed, so you can see which ones are active and which ones have expired. You can tap on each service individually to see the dates when each subscription expires, and then decide whether you want to renew again or simply cancel your subscription.