When It Comes to Wi-Fi Networks, Sometimes It’s Better to Forget

It’s easy, particularly when traveling, to end up connecting to a Wi-Fi network that doesn’t provide Internet access, requires credentials you don’t have, or lacks access to the network’s printer. Unfortunately, once your iPhone, iPad, or Mac has connected to such a network, it may reconnect to it later, causing consternation when things don’t work. The solution? Whenever you realize a Wi-Fi network is worthless, forget it. (The network, that is.) On the Mac, open System Preferences > Network > Wi-Fi > Advanced > Wi-Fi, select the network in the list (you don’t have to be connected to it), click the – button, and click Remove. On an iPhone or iPad, when you’re connected to the offending network, go to Settings > Wi-Fi, tap the i button to the right of the current network, and tap Forget This Network on the next screen.

(Featured image based on images by iStock.com/fizkes and Elena Pimukova)

Messages Not Being Delivered to Blue-Bubble Friends? Check Cellular Data

Here’s a tricky situation that threw one of our clients for a loop recently. Texts they sent in Messages via iMessage (indicated by blue bubbles) to their son, letting him know they were stopping by weren’t being delivered, making their visits a surprise. But other texts worked fine. The problem, it turned out, was that Cellular Data had somehow gotten turned off in Settings > Cellular. So messages worked fine as long as the iPhone was on Wi-Fi at home, but as soon as they were on the road using a cellular connection, the iPhone could no longer communicate with the Internet. In theory, Messages should fall back to SMS (indicated by green bubbles), which doesn’t require cellular data, but that doesn’t always happen. The fix? Just enable Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data again.

(Featured image based on an original by iStock.com/Dima Berlin)

After Upgrading to iOS 15, Check Do Not Disturb in Focus Settings

In iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, Apple expanded the concept of Do Not Disturb to what it calls Focus. You can create a Focus for different types of activities, so only specific people and apps can break through your cone of silence at appropriate times. Focus subsumes the old Do Not Disturb functionality, and your settings may not transfer when you upgrade, leaving you open to being woken at night by a previously silenced notification. To check and reset things to your liking, visit Settings > Focus > Do Not Disturb. If necessary, tap Add Schedule or Automation to set a schedule or try the new Smart Activation option. Then decide who, potentially beyond those in your Favorites, should be able to get through, along with any apps that might be essential. Note that you shouldn’t enable the Do Not Disturb switch at the top—that turns on the Do Not Disturb Focus immediately.

(Featured image by iStock.com/klebercordeiro)

When Migrating to a New iPhone or iPad, Try Quick Start First

You have a new iPhone or iPad—congratulations! When transferring your data to the new device, you have three options: Quick Start, an iCloud backup, or a Mac backup. All will work, but they don’t quite provide the same end result (particularly if you didn’t encrypt your Mac backup). Our advice—backed by this post from Apple expert John Gruber—is to try Quick Start first because it transfers everything directly from your old device to your new one, maintaining app logins in most cases and allowing you to transfer your Apple Watch pairing. It may seem like it’s taking a long time before you can use the device, but it’s worth it to avoid logging in to numerous apps and unpairing and repairing your Apple Watch.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

New Features to Try (Or Not) in Safari 15

Along with a new version of Safari in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, Apple has released Safari 15 for macOS 11 Big Sur and macOS 10.15 Catalina. Why do this before macOS 12 Monterey ships? Some of the browser’s new capabilities—notably the Tab Groups feature—integrate it more deeply into your Apple device experience by syncing across devices. So, assuming you have Safari 15 on at least some of your devices, what’s new, and is it any good?

New Tab Bar Interface

For Safari 15, Apple tried to minimize the tab bar interface to occupy less screen real estate and stand out less from the content of Web pages by co-opting the color of each page. Early betas were met with a litany of complaints from testers, and Apple pulled back in the eventual releases, offering settings that let you retain the old interface. How that plays out varies between the iPhone, iPad, and Mac:

  • iPhone: Apple combined the address bar and tab bar into a single set of controls at the bottom of the screen, where they’re easier to reach with your thumb while working one-handed and where you can swipe left and right to switch tabs. Plus, the status bar area at the top of the screen takes on the color from the current site, which isn’t necessarily a visual win. This is a huge change from the controls appearing at the top, so if you don’t like it, go to Settings > Safari and switch from Tab Bar (below left) to Single Tab (below right). Turn off Allow Website Tinting (also below right) if you don’t like the colorizing.
  • iPad: Displays on the iPad are relatively small, so saving some vertical space with the new Compact Tab Bar could be helpful. However, since the tab bar automatically minimizes when you scroll down a page, reducing its size when it’s visible isn’t as much of a win as it might seem. And the colorized tab bar can be shockingly bright. In Settings > Safari, you can choose between Compact Tab Bar (below top) and Separate Tab Bar (below bottom); either way, consider disabling Show Color in Tab Bar.
  • Mac: Laptop screens aren’t huge, and Safari doesn’t minimize its tab bar when you scroll, as it does on the iPhone and iPad, so saving some vertical space might be welcome on a smaller screen. But the way the Compact layout embeds the address field inside a tab and reduces the number of buttons you can see may perturb you (below top). Once again, the colorized tab bar can be glaring. To revert to something closer to the old look, in Safari > Preferences > Tabs, select Separate for the tab layout (below bottom), and disable Show Color in Tab Bar to keep the controls gray regardless of the site color.

Voice Search

For many searches, it’s easier to speak than type, and Apple has made doing that even faster with Voice Search on the iPhone and iPad. Tap the current tab to display the address field, tap the microphone button, and speak instead of typing. As soon as you stop, Safari performs the search. You can even navigate directly to a site by speaking its URL, like “apple dot com.” Sadly, Apple didn’t extend this feature to the Mac version of Safari 15.

Tab Switcher

In iOS 14 and earlier, Safari used a card stack metaphor for its tab switcher (below left), which could make it hard to see what each tab contained. In Safari in iOS 15, Apple took a cue from the iPad and Mac versions of the app and moved to a grid interface for the tab switcher (below right). You can drag the tab thumbnails around to organize them and remove them by tapping an X button (weirdly located in the upper-right corner) or swiping them left off-screen. You can also bring up the option to close all open tabs by pressing and holding Done at the lower right corner of the screen.

Tab Groups

If you struggle under the cognitive load of dozens of unrelated tabs, the new Tab Groups feature might help. With it, you can collect tabs into as many groups as you like and switch among them. You work with tab groups in either the tab switcher interface (iPhone and iPad with the Separate Tab Bar) or the sidebar (Mac and iPad with the Compact Tab Bar).

To open the tab switcher on the iPhone, tap the tab button in the lower-right corner of the screen; on the iPad, tap the different-looking tab button in the upper-right corner. Once you have the tab switcher open, tap X Tabs to reveal the Tab Groups menu. To show the sidebar on either the iPad or the Mac, tap or click the sidebar button in the upper-left corner of the tab bar.

Once you have the Tab Groups menu or sidebar showing:

  • To create a new tab group on the iPhone’s or iPad’s Tab Groups menu, tap New Empty Tab Group, name it, and tap Save. In the sidebar on a Mac or iPad, use the New Tab Group button at the top (or choose File > New Empty Tab Group on the Mac). You can also use New Tab Group from X Tabs to create a tab group from currently open tabs.
  • To switch to a different tab group, tap it in the Tab Groups menu on an iPhone or iPad, or access it from the sidebar on a Mac or iPad.
  • To delete a tab group, swipe left on it in the Tab Groups menu or sidebar to reveal a delete icon on an iPhone or iPad; on the Mac, Control-click it and choose Delete.

Shared with You

Ever gone spelunking through Messages to find a link someone sent you? Safari 15’s new Shared with You feature should help. It automatically collects all Web pages you receive in Messages into a new Shared with You section of the Safari start page. On the iPad and Mac, there’s also a Shared with You item in the sidebar.

Customizable Start Page

Speaking of the start page, if you want to customize which headings appear and in what order, you can now do that on the iPhone and iPad. (Choosing which headings appear has long been possible on the Mac by clicking the little settings button in the lower-right corner, but reordering isn’t possible there.)

Create a new tab to view the start page, scroll to the bottom, and tap Edit. Then disable any headings you don’t want to see and drag the remaining ones into your desired order. You can also choose among several Apple-provided background images and have your start page settings sync to your other devices.

Other Stuff

Two final new features may be welcome but probably won’t rock your world:

  • Pull to refresh: If you need to reload a Web page on the iPhone or iPad, either you can tap the reload button in the address field if it’s visible with your tab bar settings, or you can now just pull down with your finger from the top of a page.
  • HTTPS upgrade: If you visit a website that supports encrypted HTTPS but is also loading insecure content over unencrypted HTTP, Safari will now ensure that you connect to it over HTTPS so your entire connection is secure.

There you have it! Check out the new features in Safari 15 and let them improve your browsing experience.

(Featured image based on an original by iStock.com/Evgenii Mitroshin)