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Apple Releases International Collection of Apple Watch Bands

Colin Edge

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Get ready to show your national pride – on your wrist.

The Summer Olympics are next month, and to celebrate the occasion, Apple has released a special collection of watch bands. The limited-edition bands will feature colors from the flags of 22 nations across the globe.


According to Apple’s announcement today, the bands will “celebrate the indescribable drive and competitive spirit of all athletes and fans.” Each band can be paired with a downloadable watch face to match that nation’s colors. The faces feature a sleek and simple striped design.

The bands are made in the same model of Apple Watch’s sport loop: a soft, light, and breathable woven nylon style. They are sold in 40mm and 44mm sizes on Apple’s website for $49 each. If you purchase a band, you’ll be able to download the matching face via App Clip in the band’s packaging. 

The countries represented in the International Collection are Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the US.

This collection marks the second time Apple has sold patriotic bands to celebrate the Summer Games. The company also released a collection to celebrate the 2016 Olympics, but the bands sported the colors of only 14 nations, and could only be bought in the Barra da Tijuca Apple store in that year’s host country of Brazil. 

Apple will release the downloadable colorful faces for all owners of the Apple Watch series 4 and up, not only those who purchase watch bands. While the bands are available today, the faces are coming to all Apple Watch users sometime soon.


Now we can watch our favorite runners, swimmers, and gymnasts in full patriotic regalia, all the way down to our watches. 

I’m a writer and creative professional who loves pop culture, music, games, and anything else that allows people to express themselves and share their passion.

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Apple

FaceTime in iOS 15 Guide

Colin Edge

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The iOS 15 public beta is currently available, and official release is planned for the fall of 2021. If you want to try out the public beta, you can get it here, but it’s advised to download it onto a nonessential phone. It’s a test beta, after all, so it likely has bugs.

Apple’s newest iPhone software offers lots of updated features. So many, that it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed! So let’s just focus on Apple’s video conferencing app, FaceTime. Video calling is the new normal, and enhancements to FaceTime are a major selling point for iOS 15. Here are a few important features of FaceTime in iOS 15, and how to use them:


SharePlay

It’s safe to say that SharePlay will be a gamechanger in the Apple ecosystem. With this feature, you can watch a show or listen to a song in real time with a friend or group over FaceTime. Virtual Ted Lasso watch party? Yes, please. 

You’ll be able to see each other’s faces and reactions as you watch a show or listen to an album together. Playback stays in sync, and volume automatically adjusts to voices on the call. So when your friend says, “I totally saw that coming,” she won’t be cut off by the movie score’s volume.

In order to use SharePlay, every device involved needs to be running iOS 15, and have subscriptions to the streaming platform you plan to use. In true Apple fashion, this feature is intuitive and user-friendly! Here’s how it works:

  1. Start a FaceTime call.
  2. While still on the call, open your streaming app of choice.
  3. Play a show or song. 
  4. Your phone will prompt you with the choice to SharePlay the media you’re currently enjoying or to “Play only for me”. 
  5. It will also display the message “‘[untitled app]’ may be able to determine who uses SharePlay together in the app.” This just means to watch a streaming service together, you all need to be subscribers to that service, like TV+.
  6. Tap “SharePlay.”

Apple will automatically play the show or music for every device on the call in sync. Everyone on the call will have control of play/pause, queue and other playback features. Unfortunately, your iPhone cannot dispense popcorn.

Sharing a FaceTime link with non-Apple users

If you’ve ever been unable to FaceTime a buddy because he uses an Android or Windows phone, you know how frustrating it can be. With FaceTime links, you’ll be able to invite everyone to your FaceTime call, iPhone and Android alike. 


While opening up FaceTime to the broader smartphone community is a huge step in the right direction for Apple, we wish the actual FaceTime app could be available to Android phones. In the meantime, at least one iPhone will be needed to host the call. Here’s how:

  1. Open the FaceTime app. 
  2. You’ll notice two large rectangular buttons: “Create Link” and “New FaceTime.”
  3. Tap “Create Link”
  4. This will open a box with sharing options. You can copy/paste the link anywhere you’d like, or share it through apps, like email or Slack.
  5. After sharing the link, you’ll see a list of “Upcoming Calls” in your main FaceTime app menu. 
  6. When you’re ready, tap the link you created and then tap “Join.” This starts the call!

Android and Windows users will be directed to a web app on their default browser. They do not need to have an Apple ID to join. They’ll just put in their name, and join the call!

FaceTime links do not automatically expire, so they have to be deleted manually. When you’re ready to delete, just swipe left on the call link icon and tap “delete”. 


Screen Sharing

With FaceTime in iOS 15, Apple is playing catch-up. Services like Zoom have supported screen sharing for quite some time, while FaceTime has not. Until now.

Whether making a presentation for work, or helping your grandma figure out how to find her grocery list in the Notes app, you can allow someone on the other end of a FaceTime call to see your screen. Here’s how:

  1. Begin a FaceTime call.
  2. At the top of your screen you will see a new FaceTime control panel for iOS 15. The button on the far right is a “screen share” button (a rectangle with a person in the bottom right corner of it.) Tap it.
  3. It will then prompt a “Share My Screen” button – tap it. After a short 3, 2, 1 countdown, your phone will begin sharing its screen with others on the call! Navigate to Safari, Notes, or whatever app you want to display on your call.

Portrait Mode

Just like portrait mode on an iPhone camera, this feature will visually blur your background while you’re on a FaceTime call. Now you will be the focus of your screen, not your dog eating leftover cereal in the background. 

To take advantage of portrait mode, you’ll need to be using an iPhone with an A12 Bionic chip or newer. (That’s an iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iPhone 11, iPhone 12, or iPhone SE from 2020) With one of those devices, and iOS 15, enabling FaceTime Portrait Mode is simple!


  1. Tap the FaceTime icon to open the app.
  2. Make a FaceTime video call.
  3. When the call has begun, tap the small square with you in it. This will expand your window and show all your options.
  4. Just tap the “Portrait Mode” button in the upper left corner, and your background will be blurred!

There’s also a “video effects” button in the iOS 15 control center, creating another easy way to enable portrait mode.

Audio Options: Voice Isolation & Wide Spectrum

We’ve all seen the stressed parent trying to keep their kids quiet while on FaceTime. Maybe you’ve been that stressed parent. If you need to blur out background noise, FaceTime in iOS 15 has you covered. Voice Isolation filters ambient sound and singles out your voice. Here’s how to enable it:

  1. Tap the FaceTime icon to open the app.
  2. Make a FaceTime video call.
  3. Swipe down from the top right of your iPhone screen (or swipe up from the bottom if your iPhone has a “home” button). This will open the Control Center. 
  4. Tap the “Mic Mode” button.
  5. Select your mode, in this case “Voice Isolation”

But maybe you need to hear the whole room. If you’re in a conference room with several meeting members, or the whole family is gathered around a single phone to FaceTime grandma, you’ll want to hear each voice with equal clarity. Wide Spectrum gives you that option. 

After pressing the “Mic Mode” button, you’ll notice three options: Standard, Voice Isolation, and Wide Spectrum. For every type of FaceTime call you make, there’s an audio option to suit your needs! Also, Portrait and Mic Modes are compatible with any video conferencing app, like Zoom or WhatsApp.


Happy FaceTiming.

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Apple

Keeping Your Apple iPhone Secure and Hack-Free

Tara Ragone

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Apple has publicly stated that their iPhones are designed with security of your information and privacy in mind. Your iPhone is said to have protections built into it that prevent anyone from accessing data contained in your device itself or the iCloud. While this sounds convincing, Apple recommends you take some of the extra cautions listed below to prevent a security incident such as hacking:

  • Set a strong password – Make sure you set a password that is required to be entered prior to gaining access to anything in your iPhone. Do not use common or obvious words or phrases and ensure it is very unique.
  • Utilize Face ID or Touch ID – Supported iPhone models allow you to add security features that only authorize access to content in your phone upon physically seeing your face or identifying your fingerprint.
  • Activate ‘Find My iPhone’ – By activating the ‘find my iPhone’ feature on your device you will be able to locate it in the unfortunate case that it is stolen or lost. This may allow you to find the phone before anyone is able to somehow gain access or report it to authorities if warranted. 
  • Secure your Apple ID – Your Apple ID is what permits you to gain access to your iCloud and apps so ensuring this is protected sufficiently is important.

Additional security methods in the iPhone that can fight against hacks include adequately controlling data and location, reviewing privacy notices of apps prior to downloading them, and gaining an understanding of your browsing privacy. Apple links are provided for further information on all of the security suggestions mentioned hereinabove.


vpnMentor has admitted that Apple sets high standards for their users’ privacy and that their iPhones are likely more challenging for hackers to break into. Despite this though, it is believed that hackers can find ways around the sophisticated security measures set forth by Apple and even have used their creativity to spy on users through iPhone cameras. This information reiterates the idea that being extremely careful and mindful about apps that are downloaded and what is shared during that event can make or break a hacker’s malicious goal. 

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Apple

Apple AirTag Vs. Tile – Which Tracking Device Should You Buy?

Colin Edge

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Are you prone to forgetting your stuff? Relax, most of us are! When you need to find your lost purse, wallet, backpack, or nearly anything else, there’s nothing better for the job than a Bluetooth item tracker. 

Attach the little gadgets to any item you want to keep tabs on, and it’s easy to find using your smartphone with an app and a ding. And with Apple AirTags now on the market, you have choices. Several brands offer item trackers, including Cube, Samsung Galaxy SmartTag, Chipolo and more. 


But before Apple’s AirTag arrived on the scene, Tile was hands-down the most widely used tracker. So we’ve pitted the two brands against each other to see how they stack up – and to help you decide which one to buy.

Design & Price

Tile: 

Out the gate, Tile offers more in the way of design. Depending on your needs and preferences, there are four options:

  • Sticker ($24.99) is the smallest Tile tracker. Adhesive on one side provides an easy way to attach it to an item right out of the box.
  • Slim ($29.99) looks like a credit card and slips into your wallet. Apple currently doesn’t offer anything like it.
  • Mate ($24.99) is Tile’s standard tracker. It’s water-resistant with a user-replaceable battery.
  • Pro ($34.99) offers the longest tracking range, and rings the loudest.

A distinguishing feature of the Tile Mate and Pro is a keyring-sized hole built-in, allowing you to hook it to anything without needing to buy an accessory.

AirTag:


AirTag’s design is pretty straightforward – there’s only one. AirTags are little silver pucks with white rounded edges. They’re $29 for one or $99 for a four-pack. However, they have no built-in adhesive or keyhole, so you will need an accessory to go with it. 

Apple sells plenty of stylish keyrings and loops on their website, and there’s an expanding market for third-party AirTag accessories. But, depending on which accessory you buy, you’re looking at something in the neighborhood of $50 for an AirTag, versus Tile’s $24.99.

And finally, Apple offers free engraving for personalization. So yes, you can put a fire emoji on it if you want.


Functionality

Tile:

Tile is the better choice for compatibility. It works with Android, Windows, and iOS. In order to find your tracker, you’ll have to download the Tile app. Setting your tracker up with and locating it with the app includes more steps, compared with AirTag’s pairing process. Tile also offers alerts when you’ve left something behind and free battery replacement for its premium subscribers, at $3 per month.

AirTag: 

AirTag fits seamlessly into the Apple ecosystem. It pairs quickly and automatically with your Apple ID. It doesn’t require its own app, since AirTag works on Apple’s preexisting Find My app, and you can use Siri to find it. 


Precision finding also sets AirTag apart. With an iPhone 11 or newer, your AirTag communicates with the U1 chip in your phone via ultra wideband to give you step-by-step directions to it. Precision Finding updates how many feet away your item is in real time, as you approach it. As of now, no other tracker offers this kind of feature.

AirTag isn’t compatible with Android, since it relies on the Find My Network (more on that next). 

Network

Tile: 

Both Tile and AirTag work the same way, using compatible devices within the vicinity of your tracker to anonymously connect via bluetooth, and let you know its location. For Tile, that means every device with the Tile app creates a network that can be used to find your stuff. There are millions of Tile-compatible devices worldwide. But Apple’s network is almost a billion.


AirTag:

With Apple’s Find My network, you’re on the grid of every device that supports Find My, which Apple says is approaching a billion. This makes for more accuracy and a much broader range. But what about privacy? 


Before you don a tin foil hat and live out the rest of your days on a remote island, you may find it comforting to know that both Tile and AirTag trackers have privacy features built-in. According to Apple’s website, “location data is encrypted every step of the way. So not even Apple knows the location of your AirTag or the identity of the device that helps find it.”

Summary

On a very basic level, the question of Tile vs. AirTag comes down to whether you’re Apple or Android. Android or other smartphone users can’t pair an AirTag to their phone, so Tile will be an obvious choice. And most Apple users will favor AirTag, for its easy integration into the Apple ecosystem, Precision Finding, and broader network. But in factors of design and price, Tile still has the upper hand. 


Cheers to never losing your keys again!

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