How to: Force Your iPhone to Switch Cell Towers for a Stronger Signal

 

 

By Matt Milano of Gadget Hacks

Having a dropped call can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you look down and see that your iPhone has full reception. While there’s any number of issues that can cause this, one common and often overlooked issue is your iPhone failing to switch cell towers as appropriately needed.

When you’re not switched to the appropriate tower, it means there’s a problem with the communication between your smartphone and cellular network. Either your iPhone tries to hold its connection to a cell tower that’s well outside the optimal range or the new cell tower is already overloaded with other connected devices.

How Cell Phones Switch Towers

Cell phones work with networks to determine the best tower to connect to based on range, signal strength, and the frequency being used. When a phone is connected to a cellular network, it continually checks the signal strength of nearby towers and communicates that information to the network. In theory, when a phone’s connection to a cell tower drops below signal strength of a nearby one, the network should switch the phone to the new tower.

Practically, however, this doesn’t always occur as smoothly as it should and common fixes, such as cycling Airplane Mode, don’t always work. While using the “Reset Network Settings” option will always work, it’s a drastic step that will also erase any saved Wi-Fi login credentials. Fortunately, there’s another simple way to force your iPhone to switch towers.

Install OpenSignal

OpenSignal is a network performance monitoring app that not only tells you the speed of your connection but also shows you what tower you’re currently connected to. You can search for “OpenSignal” in the iOS App Store directly or use the link below to jump right to it. Install just like any other app.

• App Store Link: OpenSignal – Speed Test & Maps (free)

 

Configure & Check Your Current Tower

Once you have OpenSignal installed and open, you’ll need to give it access to your location in the notification prompt. OpenSignal uses your position to show you nearby cell towers.

The app will also ask if you want to contribute signal data. OpenSignal uses this information to rate the carriers and provide customers with input on what carriers offer the best coverage in any given region; This is entirely voluntary, but if you do opt in, any information collected will be strictly anonymous.

 

 

After that, you’ll see a screen with an arrow pointing to the tower your iPhone is currently connected to. You can also tap the arrow to pull up a map displaying all the nearby towers operated by your carrier. You’ll want to recheck this after forcing a switch to confirm it was successful.

 

 

Force Your iPhone to Switch to a Better Tower

To manually force your iPhone to switch cell towers, open the Settings app, then tap “Cellular.” Next, select “Cellular Data Options,” then tap “Enable LTE.”

 

The setting will likely be set to “Voice & Data.” Cycle it to “Off,” wait 30 seconds, and then cycle it back to the previous setting, either “Voice & Data” or “Data Only.” Once your iPhone’s LTE antenna reconnects, it will search out the antenna with the strongest signal and connect to it, likely a different one that you were initially having issues with.

Verify the Tower Change with OpenSignal

Reopen OpenSignal to see if your iPhone is connected to a different tower. If the force switch was successful, the arrow on the main screen should be pointing to a different tower.

 

If it appears you’re still connected to the same one, it likely means there isn’t a better tower nearby. Other towers may be farther away, have a weaker signal, might not be using compatible frequencies, or may already be overloaded.

Either way, you’ll have another method to deal with pesky cell connection issues without taking any drastic measures.

Do you have any hacks for improving Call Signal on your phone? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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App of the Week: VSCO

Here’s the app you need to make your iPhone photos good enough for Tim Cook to share!

By Martha Tesema of Mashable

It’s World Photography Day, which means Tim Cook is celebrating in a very Tim Cook way: sharing #ShotOniPhone snapshots.

On Sunday, the Apple CEO tweeted the breathtaking work of John Bozinov — a photographer who focuses on wildlife and portraits. Bozinov is a master of iPhone photography, and the images that Cook shared are breathtaking examples of his work capturing life in Antarctica.

But it’s kind of hard to believe they were actually shot on an iPhone, especially when you compare them to the smartphone pics we normally see on our timelines.

At first glance, it’s easy to assume Bozinov attached a newfangled lens (perhaps from the masters of iPhone accessories, Moment), but as he told Mashable in 2016, there are no extra gadgets involved when he takes pictures. It’s just good, old-fashioned editing with an app that has revolutionized iPhone photography: VSCO.

 

The app has been quietly improving your Instagram feeds for years, with easy-to-use tools that adjust everything from color saturation to exposure. For those less formally trained in photography (no shame!), VSCO also offers a bevy of presets that do the job for you.

VSCO, which stands for Visual Supply Company, was founded by Greg Lutze and Joel Flory in 2011. Since its inception, it’s grown into a community hub offering grants along with editing tools and presets. The app also doubles as a platform on which to share your work (every user has “journals” they can post images to).

Seven years later, the app’s impact is obvious. The internet is saturated with how-to-guides on creating the perfect image and maximizing the tools on the app.
That said… VSCO can’t fix what’s already broken. If you’re looking to be Cook’s next featured tweet on #WorldPhotographyDay, here are some things you can do to make your iPhone photos sing before opening up any app.

1. Focus on lighting

“A lot of my work is outside, and the iPhone works really well with that, because there’s lot of light around,” Bozinov said in his 2016 interview with Mashable. That abundance of lighting is what makes his photos stand out compared to the pics on your personal camera roll.

 

Keep an eye out on how much light there is next time you whip out your phone. The more light, the clearer the image – and the easier it will be to make the technical adjustments that you need to transform your iPhone pics into masterpieces that you’ve always wanted.

 

 

2. Don’t forget to maintain stability

“Whether I’m shooting in portrait or landscape mode, I like to hold the iPhone with my left hand and release the shutter with my right thumb. I recently learned that the camera shutter isn’t released until you take your thumb off the shutter button on the touch screen,” photographer Cotton Coulson told National Geographic.
Since that’s the case, making sure you have as steady of a hand as possible when capturing a shot is key. You have to be a human tripod.

 

 

 

3. It’s ultimately all about composition

Composition is essentially just how you arrange the photo, so next time you’re walking down the street, pay attention to the colors, shadows, colors, and scenes — and frame it up in a way that looks interesting!

 

 

 

 

What’s your favorite photo editing app for your phone? Tell us in the comments below!!

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!

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!

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!

App of the Week: Gmail Archived Mail

What It Is and How to Use It?

Need to save that email? Try archiving it

By Scott Orgera of Lifewire.com

We live in a world of seemingly endless emails; many of us send and receive a ton of emails every day. Whether it be for professional or personal purposes, our inboxes can eventually become a cluttered repository of disarray.

While many of these emails are disposable, there are some you may want to keep for future reference. No matter the motive, storing everything in your inbox can become problematic for a number of reasons.

What is the Gmail Archive?

Rather than deleting an email and losing it for good, you can choose to archive it instead. As soon as a message is placed in the Gmail archive, it is removed from your inbox and tagged with the label “All Mail.” These messages remain within your Gmail account and can be easily retrieved at a later time, but for now they are out of sight and out of mind.

Note: If someone replies to an archived message, it’s automatically returned to your inbox.

How to Archive Email

Sending a message to your Gmail archive is very easy, so much so that many people often mistakenly archive emails by clicking on or tapping the wrong option. For more information on how to retrieve archived messages, visit our step-by-step tutorial.

Archiving Emails on a Computer

  • 1 To archive a message on a computer, first access the Gmail interface via your preferred web browser (Google Chrome is recommended).
  • 2 Select the email or emails that you wish to archive by clicking on their accompanying checkbox(es) so that each of them becomes highlighted.
  • 3 Click the Archive button, represented by a folder with a down arrow in the foreground and circled in the accompanying screenshot above.
  • 4 Your message(s) will now be archived, and a confirmation message should appear along with a link labeled Undo – which will revert this change if clicked on.

Archiving Emails on an Android or iOS Device

Moving messages into your archive is even easier on smartphones or tablets when using the Gmail app. Simply swipe from right to left on a message in your inbox or other folder and it will instantly be archived, assuming that your swiping settings have not been previously modified.

To validate your Gmail swiping settings beforehand, take the steps below.

Android users: From the menu button, take the following path: Settings > General Settings > Gmail default action and ensure that Archive is selected.

iOS users: From the menu button, take the following path: Settings > “account name” > When removing messages, I prefer to…and ensure that Archive is selected.

Muting Gmail Messages

In addition to archiving individual emails, Google offers a similar feature with one key difference. While messages are still moved to the “All Mail” repository when muted, they are not automatically returned to your inbox when someone replies. To mute a message, take the following steps.

Muting Messages on a Computer

  • 1 To mute a message on a computer, first access the Gmail interface via your preferred web browser (Google Chrome is recommended).
  • 2 Select the email or emails that you wish to mute by clicking on their accompanying checkbox(es) so that each of them becomes highlighted.
  • 3 Click the More button, found in Gmail’s main toolbar.
  • 4 When the drop-down menu appears, select the Mute option.
  • 5 A confirmation message should now be displayed, letting you know that the conversation has been muted. Click the Undo button to revert this setting.

Muting Messages on Android or iOS Devices

  • 1 To mute a message within the Gmail app on a smartphone or tablet, first select the conversation in question.
  • 2 Next, tap the menu button – represented by three vertical dots and located in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
  • 3 When the pop-out menu appears, select Mute.

What best practices do you have for managing your email? Tell us in the comments below!

Tips & Tricks: Instant Markup gets way better in iOS 12

 

 

By Charlie Sorrel of Cult of Mac

iOS 12 doesn’t really have any huge new standout features. It’s more a collection of really solid improvements to iOS 11. It sounds odd to say that my favorite new feature is Do Not Disturb during Bedtime, but it’s made a big difference in how I use my iPhone.

Likewise with today’s Pro Tip. Markup for screenshots, PDFs and Photos was already good, but new options for the pen tools make it great.

Markup in iOS 12

 

Here’s the new pen in iOS 12’s Markup tools. It’s just like the old pen, only now when you tap it, you can pick from five different tip sizes and an opacity slider. This means that the plain pen tool can become a fat, translucent highlighter or a thin, hard fineliner.

The same is true for the highlighter and pencil tools:

 

These new tools also carry across to the drawing tools in the Notes app. If you have an Apple Pencil, you probably love the Notes app, because it is the fastest drawing app on the iPad. It has very low latency, making it really feel like you are really drawing with a pen on paper. Now, with custom opacity, and different thicknesses, it’s a fully-fledged drawing app.

Colors

Finally, Markup gets a color picker. You’re no longer limited to just four colors, plus black and white. Now there’s an extra circle at the end of the color section. Tap it, and you see a color picker with a 12×10 grid of swatches. Pick any of these, for any tool — highlighter, pen, or pencil.

As I said, it’s a small change, but a big one in terms of how it will affect your use of Markup. And that’s the case with pretty much everything in iOS 12. For instance, did you ever run a beta of iOS that made your iPhone and iPad run faster? That’s iOS 12.


Do you have the Beta of iOS 12? What’s your favorite feature so far? Tell us about it in the comments below!