Sunday, June 23, 2013

Help! iCloud Storage Almost Full

Apple conveniently gives you 5 GB of free iCloud storage for backing up your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, but 5 GB is not much these days. And if you have multiple Apple devices, as I do, they all share that 5 GB. And so, upon firing up my iPad on a recent evening, I was greeted with the ominous message: "iCloud Storage Is Almost Full" - and they weren't kidding, as Apple had waited until I had used 4.9 of my 5 GB!

A follow-up e-mail offered another "convenient" option: buy more storage! However, being the cheapskate I am, that would be the last possible option. 

Follow these steps to reduce the size of your iCloud storage backups to avoid paying for more storage.

Start by opening the Settings app. Then choose iCloud and Storage & Backup.

Here you'll again see the grim message, "Your iCloud storage is almost full", along with exactly how much is available. Tap "Manage Storage" to continue. To buy more storage (Apple will love you for it!) tap "Change Storage Plan".

Backup storage totals for each of your Apple devices show here.  I'm on my iPad, but I noticed my iPod Touch had the larger amount, so I tapped that to start there.

Unfortunately, as you see, you can only get details of your backup storage for the device you are on. I'm on my iPad, so I can't see any more information about the iPod touch. I'll need to go to that device to get more detail.


So I went back, and this time tapped on my iPad to see more detail.

Much better. This shows the Top 5 storage-using apps, and exactly how much backup space they are using. No surprise, photos are my top storage hog (Camera Roll is the photo album with pictures you took on this device). I'll need to go to the Photos app and remove some.

I have opened the Photos app and gone to the Camera Roll album. I'll tap on the Edit button in the upper right-hand corner to start deleting some images.

I'll go through, tapping on the images to select them, and then tapping Delete in the upper left-hand corner to remove them. This should free up a good amount of iCloud storage.

After deleting images, I returned to the Manage Storage screen and start looking at some of the other apps. I don't need the Kindle app backed up because all my e-books are in the Amazon cloud. To delete any app backup, Kindle's in my case, I switch the ON button to OFF.  I also will want to see more apps and their backup sizes by tapping Show All Apps.

You'll get a confirmation screen to acknowledge removing that app and its storage from iCloud backup.  (Note the translucent nature of this message window - we'll be seeing a lot more of this in iOS 7!)

Tapping Show All Apps from the prior Manage Storage screen, lets me scroll through all my apps and turn off those backups I could care less about. This will save some more space. The downside: if I would need to restore my iPad, I would need to restore these apps manually.

By flipping the toggle switch to OFF, these apps will not be backed up, and free up more of my 5GB iCloud allotment.

After repeating the same steps on my iPod Touch, I am back down to a healthy amount of available space in iCloud. Mission accomplished!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

iOS 7: A New Look for Your iPad

Apple announced this week that a new version of their iOS operating system, iOS 7, will be available this Fall. Odds are in a few months your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch will get a sleek new look!

 What is iOS?

Apple's iOS software is the heart of all Apple mobile devices, which is why the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch all look and feel the same. For those new to the Apple mobile world, iOS is to Apple mobile devices as Windows is to PCs. The iOS operating system is your Apple device's infrastructure that all your apps run on top of. Apps are specifically crafted to an operating system, which is why you can't take an Android-specific app and run it on your iPad. The Android app talks Android and your iPad talks iOS!

Which devices will get the new iOS 7?

All newer Apple mobile devices (iPad 2+, iPhone 4+, iPod Touch 5th gen+) will get the new operating system. If your device qualifies, you don't have to do anything to get iOS 7 - it will be an automatic upgrade that gets downloaded when the time comes. (You do have to choose to accept the upgrade, and can stay on your current iOS longer if you prefer). Older devices, such as the original iPad, iPhone pre-V4 and iPod Touch pre-V4 may not have the horsepower to run iOS 7, and will maintain their current iOS version.

New features

Some of the highlights you will see with iOS 7 this Fall:
  • A modern new look: a vibrant translucent background that will give your iOS device a 3-D feel. Additionally, icons are redesigned, new colors are introduced, clearer fonts and more.
  • Control Center: no matter where you are, with one upward swipe you can access key controls for your iOS device: brightness, sound volume, music controls, airplane mode, do not disturb mode and additional settings.
  • Multitasking: switching between apps will be simpler and easier. Under the covers, iOS will update content in apps intelligently, depending how you use certain apps. And apps themselves can be updated automatically, no more nagging red circles on the App Store.
  • App redesigns: many of the Apple apps will be redesigned and improved: Safari, Camera, Calendar, Photos, Siri, iTunes and others.

Note: not all features are available on some of the older Apple devices. For example, Siri is available on the iPod Touch fifth generation, but not the iPod Touch fourth generation and earlier.

iOS 7: Learn More

Apple has put up a new iOS 7 page on their site with details on all the new features and specifics on which devices qualify, and where some features may not be available. Also worth watching is a nice iOS 7 overview video (7 minutes) featuring Apple's Design guru, Jony Ive.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Turn your iPod Touch into a Phone

Using your iPad or iPod Touch you can make free phone calls and send text messages to any phone. You can do this with the WiFi iPad or iPod Touch - the 3G/4G version is not necessary.  This post will give you the details.

Just like an iPhone, I receive calls and texts from friends and families on my iPod Touch, which I always carry in my pocket. Likewise, I can call and text them, and they receive these on any phone - whether that phone is a smart phone, regular cell phone or landline - without needing to install a special app (unlike Skype, which requires the other party to also have the Skype app on their device). This can be done on any of your iOS devices, including the regular iPad or iPad Mini.

This calling and texting capability does require a WiFi connection. Equally important, however, is what it does not require - a cell connection, cell plan, and all the accompanying costs. Let me be clear: calls and texts with no cellular provider, no contract, no monthly cell plan.

So how do you turn your iPad or iPod Touch into an "iPhone"? 
  1. The Talkatone app
  2. A free Google Voice account

First, you need a Google Voice account. This cool Google service, which is free, actually lets you pick a phone number and get calls and receive messages at that number. Going through Google Voice you can make calls to any number, and send text messages to any phone. (US customers only, International differs.)
You can learn more about Google Voice. And here is the step-by-step procedure for setting up your Google Voice account.

Second, install the Talkatone app on your iOS device. The free version is all you need. Talkatone improves on Google Voice by letting you make calls and send texts using WiFi, eliminating the need for a cell plan (or letting you use your iPhone over WiFi when that's more convenient). But you need Google Voice as a prerequisite; Talkatone uses Google Voice to handle calling, texting.

Questions? Talkatone has a
good Questions/Answers page. Also useful is how to configure Google Voice to work with Talkatone.

Granted, this is a little more involved than simply downloading an app.  But be patient, walk through the step-by-step, because the end results are worth it!

One final note: I have seen other "free calling" apps, but often the free calling feature is only for an initial trial set of minutes. Talkatone is free without restrictions on minutes, etc.  I have found it to be a very useful app.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Apps for Side Income

Who could use some extra income? Students, single parents, those between jobs, and, in this economy, almost everyone! However, even part-time jobs can be hard to come by. Willing to do some small jobs and make extra cash on the side? Believe it or not, there's an app for that!

EasyShift and Gigwalk are two apps that let you sign up for small tasks around town and then get paid for completing them. These typically are micro jobs that you complete in under an hour for small amounts of money, perhaps $10 or less. However, Gigwalker says the average "active" worker on the service earns between $200 and $800 per month, so it can be worthwhile. And the freedom to sandwich these tasks into your schedule can be ideal for students or busy mothers.

Both EasyShift and Gigwalk work under iOS, and most people probably will run them on the iPhone, but they also work on the IPod Touch and the iPad.

An excellent review of both apps was written recently by Katherine Boehret, tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Here is her review of EasyShift and Gigwalk.