How to: Use AirPlay

Minimum Requirements and Basic Information

 

by Sam Costello of Lifewire

For many years, the music, videos, and photos stored in our iTunes libraries and on our computers were stuck on those devices (barring complex file-sharing arrangements). For Apple products, that has all changed with the advent of AirPlay (formerly known as AirTunes).

AirPlay lets you stream all kinds of content from your computer or iOS device to other computers, speakers, and TVs.

It’s a pretty neat, and powerful technology that’s only going to get more useful as more products support it.

You don’t have to wait for that day to come, though. If you want to start using AirPlay today, read on for tips on how to use it with many existing devices and apps.

AirPlay Requirements

You’ll need compatible devices in order to use AirPlay.

  • A Mac or PC
  • An iOS device running iOS 4.2 or later
  • iTunes 10.2 or later (some earlier versions support AirTunes or more limited AirPlay implementations)
  • Any iPad model
  • iPhone 3GS or higher
  • 3rd generation iPod touch or newer
  • Any Apple TV model
  • AirPort Express
  • Compatible third-party apps
  • Compatible third-party hardware like speakers or stereo receivers

Remote App
If you have an iOS device, you’ll probably want to download Apple’s free Remote app from the App Store. Remote allows you to use your iOS device as a remote (are you surprised?) to control your computer’s iTunes library and what devices it streams content to, which saves running back and forth to your computer each time you want to change something. Pretty handy!
Basic AirPlay Use

When you have a version of iTunes that supports AirPlay and at least one other compatible device, you’ll see the AirPlay icon, a rectangle with a triangle pushing into it from the bottom.

Depending on what version of iTunes you have, the AirPlay icon will appear in different locations. In iTunes 11+, the AirPlay icon is in the top left, next to the play/forward/backward buttons. In iTunes 10+, you’ll find it in the bottom right-hand corner of the iTunes window.

This allows you to select a device to stream audio or video to via AirPlay. While earlier versions of AirTunes required you to set iTunes to seek out these devices, that’s no longer necessary – iTunes now automatically detects them.

As long as your computer and the device you want to connect to are on the same Wi-Fi network, you’ll see the names you’ve given the devices in the menu that appears when you click the AirPlay icon.

Use this menu to select the AirPlay device you want the music or video to play through (you can select more than one device at the same time), and then begin playing music or video and you’ll hear it playing through the device you selected.
See how to enable AirPlay for iPhone for a walkthrough.

AirPlay With AirPort Express

One of the easiest ways to take advantage of AirPlay is with the AirPort Express. This is around $100 USD and plugs directly into a wall socket.

AirPort Express connects to your Wi-Fi or Ethernet network and lets you connect speakers, stereos, and printers to it. With it serving as the AirPlay receiver, you can then stream content to any device attached to it.

Simply set up the AirPort Express and then choose it from the AirPlay menu in iTunes to stream content to it.

Supported Content

The AirPort Express supports streaming audio only, no video or photos. It also allows wireless printer sharing, so your printer no longer needs a cable attached to your computer to work.

Requirements

  • iTunes 10.2 or later
  • At least one AirPort Express running firmware 7.4.2 or newer (you can use multiple AirPort Expresses in the house)
  • Speakers (or printer) to plug into the AirPort Express

AirPlay and Apple TV

Another simple way to use AirPlay in the home is via the Apple TV, the tiny set-top box that connects your HDTV to your iTunes library and the iTunes Store.

The Apple TV and AirPlay is a powerful combination indeed: it supports music, video, photos, and content streamed from apps.

This means that with the tap of a button, you can take the video you’re watching on your iPad and send it to your HDTV via the Apple TV.

If you’re sending content from your computer to the Apple TV, use the method already described. If you’re using an app that displays the AirPlay icon (most common in web browsers and audio and video apps), use the AirPlay icon to select the Apple TV as the device to stream that content to.

Tip: If the Apple TV doesn’t show up in the AirPlay menu, make sure AirPlay is enabled on it by going to the Apple TV’s Settings menu and then enabling it from the AirPlay menu.

Supported Content

  • Audio streamed from iTunes or iOS devices
  • Video streamed from iTunes or iOS devices
  • Video from iOS apps (e.g. YouTube app or video embedded in web pages)
  • Photos from computers or iOS devices
  • Mirroring a device’s screen on the TV

Requirements

  • Apple TV: 2nd generation Apple TV and newer for video and photos, or 1st generation Apple TV for audio only
  • iTunes 10.2 or higher
  • iOS device running iOS 4.3 or higher to stream content from third-party apps, or iOS 4.2 or higher to stream from built-in iOS apps
  • An HDTV

AirPlay and Apps

A growing number of iOS apps support AirPlay, too. While the apps that supported AirPlay were initially limited to those built by Apple and included in iOS, since iOS 4.3, third-party apps have been able to take advantage of AirPlay.

Just look for the AirPlay icon in the app. Support is most often found in audio or video apps, but it may also be found on videos embedded in web pages.

Tap the AirPlay icon to select the destination you want to stream content to from your iOS device.

Supported Content

  • Audio
  • Video
  • Photos

Built-in iOS Apps That Support AirPlay

  • Music
  • iPod
  • Videos
  • Photos
  • YouTube
  • Safari

Requirements

  • AirPort Express, Apple TV, or compatible speakers
  • iOS device running iOS 4.3 or higher to stream content from third-party apps, or iOS 4.2 or higher to stream from built-in iOS apps
  • App that supports AirPlay
  • AirPlay With Speakers

AirPlay With Speakers

There are stereo receivers and speakers from third-party manufacturers that offer built-in AirPlay support.

Some come with compatibility built in and others require aftermarket upgrades. Either way, with these components, you won’t need an AirPort Express or Apple TV to send content to; you’ll be able to send it directly to your stereo from iTunes or compatible apps.

Like with the AirPort Express or Apple TV, set up your speakers (and consult the included manual for directions on using AirPlay) and then select them from the AirPlay menu in iTunes or your apps to stream audio to them.

Supported Content

  • Audio

Requirements

  • iTunes 10.2 or later
  • Compatible speakers
  • iOS device running iOS 4.3 or higher to stream content from third-party apps, or iOS 4.2 or higher to stream from built-in iOS apps
  • App that supports AirPlay


Do you have a favorite AirPlay Hack? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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App of the Week: What’s the best calendar app for iPhone?

 

 

By Bradley Chambers of 9to5Mac

Calendar apps for iPhone are a tough thing to advise for because different people use them in different ways. Some people are busier than others (meeting wise), and others use their calendar as a to-do system (personally I question your sanity if you are this way). All of the primary calendar apps I tried are great but might not fit how you use a calendar app.

When using third-party iOS apps, it’s straightforward to try new ones because they request access to your calendar data using Apple’s APIs (so it works with Exchange, iCloud, Yahoo, AOL, and Outlook.com). This feature keeps you from having to set up different apps individually. I’ll explain what I like about each one, and which one I like best.

Apple’s Calendar App

There is a lot to like about Apple’s default calendar app for iPhone.

It shows the date icon on the home screen (something no other app can do without using a notification badge). When I’m using this app, I stay in the “List View” so I can scroll my upcoming events. I don’t have a lot of events on my calendar (I tried to avoid meetings like the plague). I do like to be able to get a quick glance at my week to know what I have coming up. It’s heavily integrated with the rest of Apple’s platform.

Apple’s app does a lot of things well. It integrates all of your calendars into a single app, provides timely travel time information (pulling the data from Apple Maps traffic data), and is easy to use. Where it could improve is in its “time to enter an appointment.” While it has added things like auto-complete, it really should add better natural language input for quick entry. For many apps now, that is a standard feature. If you are entering a lot of events on your iPhone, Apple’s calendar app will get tedious quickly.

Fantastical

When I asked people for their recommendations on Twitter of their favorite calendar apps, Fantastical was mentioned by many people. That is with good reason as well. It’s long been a gold standard for third-party calendar apps. It’s the pioneer of the natural language input for calendar apps (unless I am missing an app that did it so well first).

Fantastical has a lot of things going for it. It’s extremely fast to add new events using its natural language input (dinner with mom Saturday at 7:00 pm will add it). You can add in your iOS reminders, use Google Maps as your default map app (when you tap on an address), and it has a beautiful design. Fantastical also has an excellent Today widget for getting quick access to your calendar.

Fantastical for iPhone is $4.99 on the App Store which includes an Apple Watch version.

Week Calendar

If you have a hectic schedule, Week Calendar may be an app you’ll want to check out. It includes a number of different views (week, list, month, agenda, etc.). The week view is probably the most interesting one. You can see your entire view from a single screen. You can drag and drop events to new dates/times.

It lacks a natural language input, but it does have a Calendar Store. The store is an exciting add-on. You can add things like weather forecasts, famous birthdays, sports calendars, and more to your list. Adding these calendars requires a $2.99 per year in-app purchase (or $5.99 for three years).

From a customization standpoint, it’s probably got the most significant feature set. You can customize the icons it uses, the default new event layout, and the various colors.

If you have a lot of events on your calendar, I highly advise you checking out Week Calendar.

It’s $2.99 on the App Store.

Calendars 5

Calendars 5 is from the folks at Readdle. They are the developers of some of the best iOS and macOS apps (Documents, PDF Expert, Spark, etc.).

Calendars 5 reminds me a lot of Fantastical. They share a lot of similar features (natural language input, the ability to use Google Maps, and integration with Apple’s Reminders). It has a variety of views: List, Day, Week, and Month. Like I mentioned earlier, I probably prefer a list view, and Calendars 5 shows me the least amount of information compared to Apple’s app or Fantastical.

Overall, it’s a great app. It’s easy to create events, has multiple viewing options, offers plenty of customization, and much more.

Calendars 5 is $6.99 on the App Store.

Google Calendar

You might be wondering why I am listing the Google Calendar app on an iPhone calendar app roundup. Well, it can show more than just your Google Calendar. It defaults to it, but you can quickly add any calendar that you’ve already added to your iPhone.

Google Calendars on the web has always been a first class service. The iPhone app is no different. It contains natural language input, deep integration with your Gmail/G-Suite account, and some exciting extra features (showing a haircut theme if your appointment is a haircut, etc.).

There’s nothing I dislike about the app, but something about the design doesn’t sit well with me. Functionally, it all works, but it just feels like the design doesn’t fit in with the iPhone.

Google Calendar can be download for free on The App Store

BusyCal

BusyCal is probably best known for its long standing macOS app. There is also a companion app for iPhone, though! It contains a similar view to other apps (list, month, week, and day). You can create events using natural language. You can also add tags to events (could be helpful with project management).

Out of all the apps I tried, it reminded me of Apple’s Calendar app the most. In fact, if it was called Calendars+, that would be an appropriate name. It includes a live ten-day weather view (helpful for planning outdoor events). Like some of the other apps, it can also integrate with Apple’s Reminders app so you can have both tasks and calendar in a single app.

BusyCal was also one of the few apps I found (outside of Apple’s) that contained travel time notifications.

BusyCal for iPhone can be bought on the App Store for $4.99.

Wrap Up

Overall, I am torn between two apps. I find a lot to like with Apple’s default calendar app, but Fantastical also fits my needs. If you like Apple’s app for specific features, then you can probably stick with it. If you want something a little bit more, check out Fantastical. If you are a heavy meeting person, Week Calendar is one I’d recommend. In reality, I didn’t try one that I couldn’t easily use day to day. We are extremely fortunate to have so many great options.

What’s your favorite Calendar App? Share it with use the comments below!

How to: use your smartphone without leaving a trace

Cover up your digital footprints.

 

By David Nield of Popular Science

Every time you grab your phone to participate in a group chat, watch a YouTube video, or search the internet, you leave a digital trail of activity. This footprint can compromise your privacy the next time a friend borrows your device. It also puts your personal information at risk should your phone fall into really unscrupulous hands.

In this guide, we’ll explain how you can prevent your device from logging and storing data where other people can easily stumble across it. We will focus on cleaning up your phone’s local storage, as opposed to limiting the information that apps send to the cloud.

Go incognito

The web browser on your phone, like the one on your computer, offers a data-limiting incognito or private mode. When you open a session in this mode, the app will forget the pages you visit and the keywords you search as soon as you close the window.

However, private browsing doesn’t make you invisible. For instance, if you log into Facebook’s web portal in incognito mode, the social network will record your activity. Your internet service provider (ISP), will also see your browsing, and it may log your online behavior as well.

To hide your browsing from your ISP, you’ll need to rely on a Virtual Private Network (VPN) (more on that in this roundup of security gadgets and apps). But if you simply aim to clean up the record left on your phone’s local storage, then this mode tidies up after itself very effectively.

The process for using this mode will depend on the browser app you prefer. For example, to launch incognito mode with Chrome, tap the Menu button (three dots) on the top right of the page and choose New incognito tab. If you forget to browse incognito, you can still clear your saved data. Just hit Menu > Settings > Privacy > Clear browsing data.

For iPhone users who rely on Safari, tap the Show pages icon (two squares) on the bottom right of the screen and choose Private. Now, when you tap the Plus button to open a new window, it will be an incognito one. To erase data collected outside of private mode, open the Settings app and select Safari > Clear History and Website Data.

Erase messages

Unless you use a chat app with self-destructing messages, it will keep records of your conversations. Of course, most people like to check back on their old communications, but you don’t need to preserve every moment of a years-long thread. You can delete these old conversations manually, or try a less time-consuming option: Automatically erase chat history after a set period of time has elapsed.

On iOS, open the Settings app, go to Messages > Keep Messages, and set messages to automatically disappear after 30 days. Within the app itself, you can manually erase conversations from the front screen: Swipe left on the thread and then tap the Delete button.

Unfortunately, not all chat apps offer this auto-expunge function. To leave no trace of conversations on your phone, you may have to turn to manual deletion. This may be time-consuming, but it isn’t difficult. For example, in Android’s default SMS app, Messages, you delete a conversation by long-pressing on it and then tapping the Trash icon on the top right of the screen.

Some apps make it easier to purge your entire history all at once. In the case of WhatsApp, open the app and head to Settings > Chats > Chat history > Delete all chats. Then make a note to regularly check back and re-erase your latest messages.

Another solution is to only send the aforementioned self-destructing messages. Apps with this option include Telegram Messenger, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat. For more information, check out our guide to self-destructing message apps.

Limit app logging

Each of the apps on your phone will take a slightly different approach to logging your activities. Some of them let you avoid their gaze by using incognito mode, while others will stop tracking you if you ask.

For example, the Android version of YouTube (this is not yet available in the iOS version) just added an incognito mode, which doesn’t track the videos you watch. To activate this mode, open the app, tap your avatar on the top right of the screen, and pick Turn on Incognito.

On the other hand, Google Maps will track your location by default, which lets it accumulate a lot of data about your real-world movements. To stop it, head to the settings: Launch the app, tap the Menu button (three lines) on the top left of the screen, and hit Settings (on Android) or the cog icon (on iOS). Within the settings, select Personal content and turn off the location history feature.

There are millions of apps on the market, with no hard and fast rules about how to keep them from recording your behavior. But in general, a good first step is to check for the aforementioned settings—incognito mode and stopping tracking.

If you don’t find these options, you’ll have to clear your activity manually. This process will vary depending on your operating system.

In Android, open Settings > Apps & notifications, pick an app from the list, and hit Storage > Clear storage. This wipes all the data that the app has stored locally. Afterward, the app will behave as if you’ve installed it from scratch, so you’ll need to log in again, set up your preferences, and so on.

On iOS, you won’t find an identical option, but you can achieve the same effect by uninstalling and reinstalling an app. Open the Settings app, tap General > iPhone Storage, and select one of your apps. Then choose Delete App to wipe all of its data. Finally, re-install the program from the App Store.

It’s not very practical to do this for all of your apps every day. But you might choose to run a manual clean-up at set intervals (say once a month), before you go traveling, or whenever you want to make a fresh start.

Delete search history

Many mobile apps store data locally and in the cloud, so they can sync your information to other devices. That means, to clear search logs from your phone, you’ll have to wipe the records across multiple platforms.

For example, your Google account will store the history of searches you’ve run from your Android phone. To wipe these records, you actually have to access them from the web. Open your browser and head to your Google activity history page. Click the Menu button (three lines) on the top left, then Delete activity by. Set the time span and content type—to erase everything, those should be All time and Search, respectively—and click Delete. This will wipe your search history across all the Google-linked products you use, including Android and the Google search engine.

On iOS, you won’t find a comparable activity cleaner. However, you can prevent Spotlight from betraying your past searches by displaying them as suggestions. To turn off this feature, head to the Settings app, tap Siri & Search, and toggle off the Suggestions in Search switch. Now, when you lend your phone to your mother to look something up, she won’t see all your past search terms.

How do you cover your tracks on your smartphone? Share your workflow in the comments below!

Tips and Tricks: for Better Smartphone Photography

For many, phones have completely replaced dedicated digital cameras, but even pros reach for their iPhones or Samsung Galaxy phones to snap images from time to time. Here’s how to take better pics with your smartphone.

 

By Jim Fisher of PCMag.com

Your smartphone is always with you, a constant companion that can connect to the web to look up any tiny nugget of trivia, and generally keep you in constant contact with the outside world. It’s one of the key items you grab before leaving the house, and the last time you (probably) turned it off was at the movie theater.

This also makes your phone your take-everywhere, shoot-anything digital camera. Just a few short years ago, making images and video with smartphones was a compromise, with poorer image quality but a heck of a lot more convenience than a good point-and-shoot camera.

But times have changed and phone cameras have gotten better and better. The latest models offer superior imaging and video to budget point-and-shoot cameras, and offer nifty software tricks to blur backgrounds, just like an SLR and f/2 or f/1.4 lens.
Check out these tips to get the best images you can get from your phone. But remember, even with the latest tech, phones aren’t as versatile imaging tools as modern interchangeable lens cameras.

Start With a Good Camera Phone

Smartphone camera quality has enjoyed a big leap forward in quality over the past couple of years. If you’re using an older handset, chances are the camera isn’t up to snuff. If camera quality is a priority when shopping for a new one, make sure you peruse our list of the top camera phones we’ve tested. But remember that you really can’t go wrong with the latest Apple iPhone, Google Pixel, or Samsung Galaxy devices.

Look for the Light

Smartphones have very bright lenses—the Samsung Galaxy S9 has one that opens up all the way to f/1.5. But sensors are much smaller than you find in a premium compact camera with a 1-inch sensor like the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II. That gives them a distinct disadvantage in image quality in dim lighting. To get the best shots, look for opportunities where your phone’s sensor can shine. If you’re indoors, try to set up your shot so there’s light falling on your subject—some window light will do more to improve your photos than a new phone or camera. It’s always a better option to find good light as opposed to using your phone’s underpowered LED flash.

Adjust Exposure

Smartphones are the modern point-and-shoot, but the apps that run their cameras typically offer some level of manual control. The most basic adjustment you can make is exposure—brightening or darkening a scene—and using it effectively can turn a bland image into a head-turner. Use it to brighten the shot of your fancy dinner to make it perfect for Instagram, or to darken shadows in a portrait for a more dramatic look.

The feature isn’t always labeled the same. On an iPhone you’ll want to drag the sun icon, to the right of the focus confirmation box, up to brighten an image or down to darken it. Android phones typically have the more traditional +/- icon for exposure adjustment.

Turn On Your Grid

Pro SLRs typically have framing grids in the viewfinder window to help you better square up shots and conform to compositional guidelines like the rule of thirds. (For more on composition and other photo basics, read our tips for basic photography, which apply as much to smartphones as they do to pro cameras.)

You can turn on the same thing in your phone’s camera app. Adding a grid line gives you help in keeping the horizon straight and is a big plus for portraits in front of famous landmarks. With the notable exceptions of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it’s generally a good idea to keep upright structures perfectly vertical in your photos.

Learn Your Camera’s Features

The imaging capabilities of modern smartphone cameras are staggering. We’ve seen advances in computational photography that allow you to blur the background of images, mimicking the look of a wide aperture lens and big image sensor, and some handsets can also capture insanely slow-motion video.

Your phone probably has a good burst mode too, and it’s never a bad idea to take a few images in a sequence to get the best one—just make sure not to post all of them. iPhone owners can check out Live Photos, which mix still images and video together.

Try an Add-On Lens

Your phone’s camera certainly has one lens, and some models offer dual rear cameras with the second lens capturing a tighter or wider angle of view than your phone’s main eye. A quality add-on lens will cost you—the bargain-basement ones we’ve reviewed have been universally terrible. Go with a trusted brand like Moment or Olloclip.

Picking the type of add-on lens is important too. I think a macro adds the most versatility to your phone’s camera, but you may prefer an ultra-wide, a fish-eye, or a telephoto conversion lens.

Focus Close

Even without a macro add-on, your phone can focus pretty close. Use it to your advantage. You can snap a shot of your fancy dinner and get close up, but keep the whole frame in focus. That’s something you can’t do with a big camera shooting at f/1.4 or f/2, and one of the areas where small image sensors have a practical advantage over larger ones.

Get a Gimbal

It’s not all about images. Entry-level compact cameras are stuck at 720p, but if you’ve got a recent smartphone you have a 4K-capable video camera in your pocket. Flagship models include optical image stabilization, but that can only go so far. If you want truly smooth, great-looking video, think about a powered gimbal to keep your phone steady. Our favorite is the DJI Osmo Mobile 2, a $130 device that steadies video, can track moving subjects, and also supports time-lapse and panoramic stitching.

Add a Microphone

When shooting video, good audio is more important than sharp footage. Your phone’s internal mic is meant for making phone calls—not recording high-quality audio. Headphone jacks may be disappearing from phones, but you can get a microphone that plugs directly into your USB or Lightning port, or one that works with your phone’s audio dongle. Just make sure to read some reviews to make sure the mic is compatible with your particular phone and its operating system.

Edit Your Shots

Your phone is a powerful handheld computer, just as capable of making basic image adjustments as a high-end laptop running Photoshop. You should download some image editing software—my favorite is VSCO, a free download for both Android and iOS—or use the basic image editing tools built into your operating system.

More advanced photographers can enable Raw capture, which will deliver much more leeway in editing. And if you have a dual-lens iPhone, you can add an app like Focos, which allows you to adjust the amount of and quality of background blur in your Portrait Mode shots.

What tips do you have for shooting quality pic on a smart phone? Tell us in the comments below!

Weekly Round Up 8/10/18

 

 

Shouldn’t this be “How Movie Studios are Surviving Big Tech?”
How movie theaters are surviving big tech

I think we’re going to see more and more of this, unfortunately.
Gatekeepers or Censors? How Tech Manages Online Speech

Say what, now?
My teenage son hates tech, social media and gaming – and I’m worried it’s spoiling his life

I needed this tech this morning…
New tech aims to ticket drivers who don’t move over or slow down for emergency vehicles

We’re in deep sh*t as a society if we’re letting guys like Zuckerberg advise us on ethics.
SILICON VALLEY WRITES A PLAYBOOK TO HELP AVERT ETHICAL DISASTERS

See?!
Tech Firms, Embattled Over Privacy, Warm to Federal Regulation

Oh sure, now they tell me…
Many technology company job openings don’t require tech skills

I’m not holding my breath…
One charger for all smartphones? We’re getting there, say tech companies.

 

App of the Week: TickTick

TickTick helps get your to-do list finished [50 Essential iOS Apps #33]

 

By Ian Fuchs of CultofMac

When Apple rolled out iOS 5 way back in 2011, one of the software’s highlights was a new app — Reminders — to help you keep track of tasks.

Since that time, Reminders hasn’t evolved much. However, the type of task manager people are looking for has changed dramatically. TickTick offers greater control, more granularity, and is an all-around better to-do list app.

What is TickTick?

TickTick is a task manager app for iOS and Mac. The app features tagging for organization, user-created lists, flexible due date options, recurring tasks, and even allows for nested to-do items.

Why it’s great

Unlike the stock Reminders app, nested tasks in TickTick are great for complex projects. Instead of huge lists of tasks, or project-based categorization, task level to-dos allow you to make sure each step of a large project is completed before marking it complete. By using these subtasks, you can also quickly get a visual understanding of how much is left to do.

Another great feature of TickTick is Siri support (this requires a premium subscription). Adding a task by voice can be done in one of two ways. The main way is by asking to create a reminder in TickTick. The other way is to use the stock Reminders app and allow TickTick to intelligently import from Apple’s app. To make it even better, TickTick can automatically remove any tasks from Reminders after import, allowing it to fully replace the stock app.

The final great feature of the service is collaborative lists. Using these allows a group to share a task list in TickTick, add descriptions or notes, and complete various tasks. Tasks can also be assigned to others through the app, making it great for individuals and multiperson projects alike.

Who the TickTick to-do app is for

If you find yourself wanting a more robust to-do list/task manager app, you need to try TickTick. It’s intuitive, cross-device and works well for individuals and groups.

Bottom line: TickTick is the best task manager.

Where the iOS Reminders app falls short, TickTick excels. With robust, pro-level features and a simple interface, it’s the best task manager app for iOS.

Price: Free (unlock premium features for $2.99/month)

Download from: App Store

Do you have a favorite task manager? Tell us about it in the comments below!

How to: choose an external hard drive

Buy the right external hard drive for you with these handy tips

 

By Jon Martindale

Backing up your most important files to cloud providers is great, but if your internet goes down it’s always good to have a backup close at hand too. That’s where external drives come in, and they even offer a great way to expand your storage for lower-end laptops and portable devices.

With so many drives out there though, how do you know which ones to buy? Should you buy a hard drive or an external SSD? Which version of USB do you need? Do connectors matter? What about encryption? We’ll answer all that and more in our guide on how to choose an external drive, to make sure you get the most for your money.

If you just want to skip to buying an external drive, here’s our list of the best ones available today.

STORAGE CAPACITY

Arguably the most important specification to consider when buying an external drive is storage space. It’s no good buying a high-speed device with encryption and remote access if it’s not big enough to actually store the information you need. That said, you also don’t want to pay through the nose for a drive you’ll never even come close to filling, so what size should you be aiming for? It depends what you want to do with it.

If you want a device that’s good for transferring documents, photos, or other media from one device to the other, or just want to expand the storage space of your low-end laptop or tablet, then you might be best off with a mid-range flash drive. While the largest of those can stretch up to 2TB of storage space, they get very expensive and are unnecessarily big for this sort of usage. Really you’re better off saving yourself a lot of money and buying something in the region of 64GB. Some of those can be had for less than $20 and you can get ones double the size for not much more.

If you’re interested in storing a lot more or keeping files and folders on there long term, you’ll want something bigger. A 1TB drive should suit most needs for the foreseeable future, but if you envision storing hundreds of movies (maybe you ripped your DVD collection?), or just never want to run out of space, there are drives available today that offer multiple terabytes of space. The Seagate Backup Plus is available in sizes from 1TB all the way up to 5TB and even then it’s not much more than $100.

TRANSFER SPEED

Size isn’t everything, even when it comes to external drives. Transfer speed is incredibly important too, because if you transfer files back and forth to a huge drive on a regular basis, you don’t want to have to wait an age for them to complete.

There are two main factors that play a role in how fast your drive can operate at: The storage technology and the connector it uses. Although some drives are faster than others (and if you want bleeding edge speed, make sure to check reviews of your options) in general, solid state drives (SSD) can process data faster than hard drives(HDD). External SSDs tend to be more expensive than their HDD counterparts and often have less storage capacity. You don’t have to have one or the other, as there are larger SSDs out there, but you will have to pay a premium for it.

In terms of the connector used to hook up your external drive to your desktop, laptop, or mobile device, there are several common options to consider. Most drives today use a USB interface, but there are several generations that have some distinct differences — most notably with transfer speed. USB 2.0 is an old standard and should be avoided if you’re doing anything but making infrequent small file transfers. USB 3.0 offers a substantial increase in speed (up to 5Gbps), while USB 3.1 (sometimes called USB 3.1 Gen 2) is becoming more common and offers up to 10Gbps transfer speeds. Devices that support Thunderbolt 3 offer the fastest connection medium out there, capable of transferring media at up to 40Gbps.

Some older devices use alternative connectors like eSATA and Firewire, but due to their reduced relevance, they should be avoided.

PORTABILITY AND DURABILITY

 

If you want to only use your external drive for backups in your own home, you don’t need to consider portability and could even look to network attached storage solutions, for more permanent backup options. If you want to keep your drive with you when you’re out and about though, portability is of paramount importance. You want it to be light and small enough to fit in a bag or pocket so that it can be accessed quickly and easily without weighing you down all day. Ideally, you want one that doesn’t require an external power cable too.

Most external drives are far from weighty and some, like the Samsung T5, are tiny, offering huge digital storage capacity while being physically diminutive. In the inverse of storage space, SSDs tend to be a little smaller than their hard drive counterparts.

Another reason to consider an SSD over an HDD is durability. While modern-day external drives often come equipped with rugged casings to protect them against damage should they be banged or dropped, the two technologies have very different physical makeups. An SSD has no moving parts, making them more durable to drop damage than a traditional hard drive. While nobody plans to drop their external drive, if you think you might, SSDs offer a little more protection against such unfortunate events.

SECURITY

If the data you store on your external drive is sensitive in any way, encrypting the data is a good idea. There are many drives out there that are compatible with software encryption solutions and those are fine for most people, but for those who take their data security more seriously, you want to find a drive with hardware encryption. If you’re extremely security conscious, you could even opt for a physical security system like the pin-code input on the Apricorn Aegis Padlock drive.

Some drives will also come with strong casings to prevent physical tampering. While Kingston’s Ironkey flash drives don’t offer the same storage capacity as full-scale drives, they have a secondary security layer in that their drive PCBs are dipped in a resin that makes it hard for anyone to access the internal memory chips.

EXTRA FEATURES

There are a multitude of different external drives out there, and that means stiff competition. While all of the above features and specifications are worth considering before anything else, there are some other neat features you can look out for if you’re still unsure which drive to go for.

Some offer Wi-Fi connectivity for easy file access, and some offer better warranties than others, so if you are at all concerned about reliability, picking one with a long warranty is a good idea. You might also consider the cables that the drive ships with — if your laptop or phone has USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 connections and your drive only comes with a USB-A cable, factor in buying another cable or an adaptor.

Do you have any best practices when shopping for a new external HD? Tell us in the comments below!