What’s the Difference between Removing and Deleting an App?

There are many reasons you might want to get rid of apps from your iPhone or iPad. To begin, touch and hold on a blank spot on a Home Screen to enter “jiggle mode.” Then tap the ⊝ icon for any app to see the question about whether to delete the app entirely or merely remove it from the Home Screen. Delete the app if you don’t want to use it anymore or need to reclaim the space it occupies. (You can download it from the App Store again.) Remove the app from the Home Screen if you want to reduce clutter, keep the app on your device, and don’t mind opening it from the App Library (swipe left past all the Home Screens) or from Search (swipe down from the middle of the screen).

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Quickly Put Lots of Files in a Folder with One Command

Imagine that you’re working with a bunch of files, and you want to put a set of them in a new folder. You could stop what you’re doing, make a new folder, select all the files, and drag them into the folder, like an animal. Or you could take advantage of a slick Finder command that Apple added in macOS 11 Big Sur. Simply select the files you want to put in a folder, Control-click one of them, and choose New Folder with Selection (X Items) from the top of the contextual menu. A folder called “New Folder With Items” appears, with your selected files inside. This feature may not be life-changing, but some people use it often.

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Find Devices and People from Your HomePod

This feature evokes one of those “living in the future” moments for us. The recently released HomePod Software 16.3 now supports Find My, which means you can ask Siri to locate one of your devices or a friend or family member who shares their location with you. If you have a HomePod, ask Siri, “Where is my iPhone?” Assuming your HomePod has updated (and if not, update it manually in the Home app), Siri will respond by causing your iPhone to play a sound. Or ask where someone is—Siri will respond with more details for nearby people and city locations for those far away.

(Featured image based on an original by Apple)

Need to Back Up or Export a Messages Conversation? Try PDF or iMazing

Occasionally, we hear from a client who needs to document a Messages conversation with timestamps, perhaps as part of a lawsuit. The only way to do that on an iPhone or iPad is to take a series of screenshots, but if you have a Mac, there are additional options. The easiest approach is to select the conversation, choose File > Print, and save it as a PDF. If you need a different format, try the macOS iMazing app, which can export all or selected messages from an iPhone backup in PDF, Excel, CSV, and text. It can also export attachments. The trial version lets you extract up to 25 items, and it’s only $39.99 if you have more significant iPhone exporting needs.

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Is Your Wi-Fi Network a Security Risk?

With Wi-Fi security, it’s easy to fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” trap. Your Wi-Fi router probably lives in a corner or closet, and of course, Wi-Fi’s radio waves are invisible. But the ease of connecting your devices to your Wi-Fi network means it’s equally as easy for a hacker to connect to your network and eavesdrop on your traffic. Or rather, it’s easy unless you take advantage of the security options available in every Wi-Fi router.

Before looking at those options, let’s discuss the importance of securing your wireless network. The fact is, we all send sensitive data over Wi-Fi and onto the Internet. That data includes passwords, financial information, and personal details, all of which could be used for identity or outright theft. For those who work at home, it may also include important corporate credentials and information. In addition, if your Wi-Fi network is open for everyone and has a bandwidth cap, you could be throttled or incur additional charges due to extra usage from someone using your network without your knowledge. Worse, someone could engage in illegal activity from your network, potentially putting you at legal risk.

Here are six ways you should secure your Wi-Fi network, plus another that’s usually not worth the effort. Exactly how you go about these tasks varies depending on your Wi-Fi router, but they should all be easy to accomplish.

1. Change Your Wi-Fi Router’s Default Password

Every Wi-Fi router has an app- or Web-based administrative interface where you can adjust settings, including security options. The first thing you should do when setting up a new Wi-Fi router is change the password for accessing that admin interface. (And if you didn’t do that when you set up your current Wi-Fi router, go do it now. Immediately. We’ll wait.) The default passwords are well known to hackers, who can use them to take over routers and turn off all the other security settings.

2. Change the Default Network Name (SSID)

Every Wi-Fi network has a name—technically an SSID, or Service Set Identifier. There’s no security benefit in changing it to anything in particular, but you should change it from the default name. That’s because default names often identify the router’s manufacturer, such as “Netgear” or “Linksys,” and some routers have known vulnerabilities or password styles that make it easier to break in. Of course, the main advantage of changing the network name is that it makes it easier to pick out from any other nearby networks.

3. Update Your Wi-Fi Router’s Firmware

Wi-Fi router manufacturers frequently fix security vulnerabilities and release new firmware versions. Check to make sure your Wi-Fi router has the latest firmware available, and if there’s an option for it to update its firmware automatically, turn that on.

4. Disable WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) If Possible

When you connect a new device to your Wi-Fi network, you need to enter your Wi-Fi password. That’s entirely reasonable, and Apple devices automatically offer to share that password with your other Apple devices and other people in your Contacts. More generally, a technology called Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) was designed to enable connecting without typing the Wi-Fi password, either by entering an 8-digit PIN or pressing a button on the router. The button is fine—no one can connect without physical access to the router. But the PIN is horribly insecure and can be brute forced with readily available cracking software. If your router supports WPS—not all do, happily—turn it off entirely.

5. Create a Guest Network

You’ll probably want to give visitors access to your Wi-Fi network so they can get to the Internet. The best way to do that is to create a guest network—a feature in nearly all Wi-Fi routers—separate from your main Wi-Fi network. It has a different name and password, and its traffic is isolated from yours, ensuring that even if a hacker were to access it, they wouldn’t be able to eavesdrop on your communications. It can have a simpler password since all it’s protecting is your bandwidth. One additional tip—put “Internet of Things” devices like smart appliances, video game consoles, and the like on your guest network to ensure they don’t provide access to your main network’s traffic if they’re hacked. You probably won’t want to do that with HomeKit devices, which will work better on the same network as your Apple devices.

6. Use Strong WPA2 or WPA3 Encryption

After changing the default admin password, this is the second-most important piece of Wi-Fi security advice. All traffic on a Wi-Fi network can (and should) be encrypted so hackers can’t eavesdrop with impunity. The first wireless security protocol was WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), which was commonly used from the late 1990s through 2004. Unfortunately, WEP is so easily broken today that it’s no longer considered secure. If you still use WEP, immediately switch to WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access). There’s also WPA3, which is even more secure but is available only in hardware sold in the last few years.

Don’t Bother Hiding Your SSID

Finally, you may see suggestions that you should hide your Wi-Fi SSID, which prevents nearby devices from displaying it when they list available networks. That might seem like it would improve security, but all it does is prevent the sort of people who aren’t a threat anyway from seeing it. Anyone with the necessary software and skills to break into an unprotected or weakly protected Wi-Fi network can still detect and access a hidden network. They might even be more interested in what’s there, given that the network owner took the trouble to hide it. As long as you follow all the other advice in this article, there’s no benefit in hiding the SSID as well.

Bonus Advice: Use a VPN When on Public Wi-Fi Networks

Ensuring the security of your Wi-Fi network is essential, but what about public Wi-Fi networks in coffee shops, hotels, and airports? Because they’re open to anyone within range, they’re insecure by definition, and anyone on the network could theoretically see any other user’s traffic. Don’t panic. Most Web connections now use HTTPS, which encrypts traffic between you and the destination site (look for https at the start of URLs or a lock icon in the address bar of your Web browser). To ensure that all traffic is protected from prying eyes, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which creates an encrypted pipe from your computer to a VPN server elsewhere. Many organizations provide or even require VPN use so that traveling or remote employees can’t inadvertently use unencrypted connections. If your organization doesn’t have a VPN now but would like to set one up, contact us.

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Social Media: As more personal and work information passes through Wi-Fi networks, it becomes increasingly important that you follow this advice to secure your network.

FAQs about Apple’s Messages App and What Can Go Wrong When Using It

Most of us rely on Messages every day to text with family, friends, and colleagues. Not surprisingly, we’ve fielded numerous questions surrounding common confusions with this popular app. We hope our answers here will help you use Messages more effectively and work around problems.

What’s the difference between blue and green bubble conversations?

A common question is why some conversations have blue bubbles and others have green bubbles. The answer is that the color indicates whether the conversation uses iMessage or SMS/MMS. Blue bubble conversations use iMessage and are solely between Apple users, whereas green bubble conversations are with friends using SMS/MMS on Android or other phones.

What are iMessage and SMS/MMS, and how do they differ?

Messages supports two protocols for text messaging: iMessage and SMS/MMS. Although the end result is the same, apart from the color of the conversation bubbles, the two are quite different.

SMS (Short Message Service) and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) are cellular technologies that require only a wireless plan from a cellular carrier. SMS is limited to 160 characters of text, though longer messages are usually broken into multiple segments and reassembled upon receipt. MMS enables sending of pictures, audio, video, and more, as long as the message size doesn’t exceed carrier limits, which range from 300 KB to 3 MB). Because SMS uses extremely small amounts of bandwidth, SMS text messages may get through even when cellular service is too weak to place a call, a useful fact to know in emergencies.

In contrast, iMessage is proprietary to Apple and works only in Messages on Apple devices, including the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch. Apple has said the size limit for a message is 100 MB, but people have transferred even larger files. That’s possible in part because iMessage relies on Internet access, which requires either Wi-Fi or a sufficiently strong cellular connection. If an Internet connection isn’t available for either party when you want to send a message using iMessage, Messages tries to fall back on SMS/MMS, which can result in blue and green bubbles in the same conversation.

How does Messages work on Apple devices that lack cellular connectivity?

It’s no problem for all Apple devices to use iMessage when they have Internet connectivity through Wi-Fi, but you can also send and receive SMS/MMS messages on a Mac or iPad that has no native cellular connectivity. Apple extends SMS/MMS support to Messages on such devices by routing through your iPhone. In the iPhone’s Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding, you can specify which of your devices can send and receive SMS/MMS messages through your iPhone.

Keep this setting in mind if you stop receiving SMS/MMS text messages on your Mac or iPad, for instance. It’s not unheard of for it to get turned off after a major operating system upgrade.

How are iMessages addressed, and can that cause problems?

As cellular technologies, SMS and MMS are tied to a phone number. iMessage, however, can send and receive messages from one or more phone numbers and email addresses. The first time someone sets up an iPhone, it registers that iPhone’s number with Apple’s iMessage servers. That’s why, when you type in a phone number to start a new Messages conversation, Messages knows whether to make the conversation blue or green.

Because iMessage also supports email addresses, you can start Messages conversations with a fellow iMessage user when all you know is their email address, as long as they’ve enabled that email address to send and receive messages.

In Settings > Messages > Send & Receive, you can specify which of your email addresses can receive messages and reply to them. If you want to be easily findable, select all of them, in addition to your phone number. Otherwise, turn off the email addresses you don’t want used. You can add an email address or phone number to this list on in Personal Information > Reachable At.

You can also specify which of your phone numbers or email addresses is used to start new iMessage conversations. In general, we recommend sticking with your phone number unless you plan to change it soon.

As you can imagine, changing these settings can cause problems. If you disable receiving for an email address used by an existing conversation, people in that conversation won’t be able to send you messages anymore. Even worse would be changing your main Apple ID address, which would break a lot of conversations, all of which would have to be started afresh with the new Apple ID.

Changing phone numbers is also problematic for the same reasons, though that probably happens less often. If you’ve temporarily attached a second phone number to your iPhone using eSIM while traveling, for instance, be careful how you initiate conversations from it because they’ll break as soon as you disable the associated plan.

Finally, switching from an iPhone to a non-Apple phone can cause delivery problems for SMS/MMS messages. To prevent that, either turn off iMessage in Settings > Messages before you switch or deregister iMessage online.

What happens when a message fails to send, and how do I fix it?

Occasionally, when you try to send a message, you may see one or more red exclamation points and an alert that says “Not Delivered.”

Most of the time, the problem is just poor connectivity, either for you or your recipient. First, just click an exclamation point and try again in case it was a one-time problem. If a second try doesn’t succeed, check your Internet connection in Safari, and if it seems to be working, tap Try Again. If you’re using iMessage and it remains stuck, tap Send as Text Message, which switches from iMessage to SMS. If that’s not it, there are a few other possibilities:

  • Make sure iMessage is enabled in Settings > Messages.
  • See if you have another phone number or email address for the recipient. If they disabled message receiving for the one you were using, that could cause failures.
  • If the problem occurs when sending to an SMS recipient while using a device without cellular connectivity, make sure the device is enabled in Settings> Messages > Text Forwarding.
  • If the problem occurs with an image or other file sent via MMS, it might be too large. If so, you may have to resort to email.
  • To ensure the iPhone isn’t temporarily confused, restart it (which is best done using Siri if you’re running iOS 16—just say, “Hey Siri, reboot.”) and try again.

Why do I see slightly different conversations on my iPhone and Mac?

With text message forwarding turned on for all your devices and each device logged into the same Apple ID, Messages should have the same conversations everywhere. In practice, that’s not always true, so Apple introduced Messages in iCloud, which uses iCloud as a centralized location for all messages. When it’s turned on, everything (other than failed SMS messages) should stay in sync.

Turn on Messages in iCloud in Messages > Settings/Preferences > iMessage on the Mac and in Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Apps Using iCloud > Show All > Messages on the iPhone or iPad. Make sure to enable it for every device.

Can someone eavesdrop on my Messages conversations?

SMS isn’t at all secure, so don’t use it for truly sensitive information (and whenever possible, use an authentication app instead of SMS for two-factor authentication codes). In contrast, Apple encrypts all iMessage conversations, so there’s no worry about someone listening in when you’re using a public Wi-Fi network at a hotel. However, iMessage conversations are not end-to-end encrypted by default, which means that law enforcement could compel Apple to turn over your data stored in its data centers. To provide full end-to-end encryption, Apple lets you turn on Advanced Data Protection for iCloud; the downside is that Apple can no longer help you recover your account if you forget your Apple ID password.

Other messaging apps also focus on security, most notably the free Signal, which is open source, provides end-to-end encryption, and lets you secure the app with an additional password. Messages can be set to self-destruct after a certain amount of time. The only downside is that you have to convince the people you want to message to use it. WhatsApp also provides end-to-end encryption, but you have to enable encryption for backups. It also shares a boatload of other information with Facebook to help it personalize ads, including your phone number, contacts, location information, device information, and more.

Don’t get the wrong impression—Messages usually works well. But on those rare occasions when you have problems, we hope this information explains more of what’s happening and helps you work around your issues.

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Social Media: You probably use Messages every day to send texts from your iPhone, but do you know the answers to these frequently asked questions about Messages?