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Using your iPhone or iPad hands free

Can the iPhone/iPad operate completely hands free?

The short answer is almost.  The long answer follows over the next few blog posts.  iphone6-ios9-ask-siri

There are two ways to operate an iOS device without using hands.  One is with a switch control.  The other way is using Siri as a personal assistant which is what this article is about.  If you are blind or have low vision, have physical impairment or just do lots of things at once, Siri is about to become your new bestie.

What is Siri

So first of all, what is Siri?  Siri is a feature built into iOS devices (and now Mac as well) which is voice operated and which can perform tasks such as:

  • search the internet and read results out loud,
  • make a phone call,
  • send or receive messages,
  • respond to questions about news, weather, and what’s nearby.siri1

Enabling Siri

  • Activate Siri by going to Settings  – Siri. Turn Siri on with the toggle switch.
  • Turn on Access on Lock Screen and Allow “Hey Siri”. Turning on “Hey Siri” allows you to use voice commands only, as long as you have an iPhone 6 or newer or are connected to power with an older phone. When you turn on “Hey Siri”, you will be prompted to speak some phrases so that Siri can learn to recognise your voice.
  • On this settings screen you can also choose which language and accent Siri will use.
  • It’s a good idea to select “Always” under the Voice Feedback setting because this means Siri will always be improving her ability to recognise your voice.
  • Under the My Info setting, select yourself in your contacts list.

Using Siri

When you want to use Siri, press and hold the home button until you hear a chime or say “Hey Siri” and wait for the chime.  Then give your command or question.

Customising Siri

You can teach Siri about how people are related to you if you want to.  If you tell Siri that Mary Smith is your mother, Siri will find Mary in your contacts list and remember the connection.  Then you can say, “Text Mum”.  Even without telling Siri about any relationships you can ask her something like, “Hey Siri…what’s Joe Brown’s email address?” or “Call Joe Brown on his mobile”.

How Siri helps you communicate

You can ask Siri to:

  • redial the last number
  • return that missed call
  • FaceTime Fred
  • Text Tracey
  • Send a message to George
  • Reply to a message
  • Read a message
  • Check my voicemail
  • Play my voicemail
  • Email Jill about the weekend
  • Reply to emails by saying “Reply….”
  • Read my notifications

Next post

More in the next post about using Siri with other apps.

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Apps for early literacy and fine motor control

I was recently asked for the names of some apps to support literacy and letter awareness. Of course there are many ways to help children develop these skills and the iPad is just one method but it is an engaging tool in the toolbox for literacy learning. Prices are in Australian dollars and are correct as of September 2016. 256px-child_with_apple_ipad-212x300
My criteria in choosing the list below were:
  • evidence based theory behind the methods
  • engaging but not over-stimulating

Apps for early phonics

  • Hairy Letters (Nessy Learning Ltd) –  $5.99  (Anything by Nessy is great!)
  • Phonics Under the Big Top (Celeste Musgrave ) – $2.99

Apps for learning sight words

  • Phonics Read CVC (Joe Scrivens) – $2.99 or in a bundle with other apps for $5.99
  • Hairy Words (Nessy Learning Ltd) – $5.99

App bundles

There are two bundles of phonics and sight word apps which are excellent.
  • Tools for Teaching Reading (Reading Doctor) – $129.99 for the bundle of 6, $24.99 each
  • OzPhonics (DSP Learning Pty Ltd) – $7.99 for the bundle, $1.99 or $2.99 each.

Apps for tracing letters

  • School Writing (demografix pty ltd) – $7.99 (Uses Australian states’ handwriting fonts)
  • iWriteWords (gdiplus) – lite or $4.49
  • Little Writer Pro (Innovative) – $2.99
  • Ready to Print (Essare LLC) – $14.99
Most of these have an Australian or English voice which is probably less confusing for Australian children than an American voice
© Jacqui Kirkman, 2016
MEd, Grad Dip Teaching (Primary), BA
Specialist Literacy Teacher
Apple Professional Learning Specialist
Photo credit: By Intel Free Press [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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Accessibility features in Apple devices

Apple features accessibility in all devices
Apple features accessibility in all devices

Apple designs products like iPads and iPhones with assistive features that allow people with disabilities to access the functions of Apple devices to increase their capabilities. These innovative technologies are built in iOS devices to make them powerful. Apple provides a set of tutorials explaining how to use the accessibility features. Assistive technology ensures accessibility of iOS devices to the aged, disabled and even blind. Apple accessibility features include:

Siri

vision_siriThis is Apple’s intelligent virtual assistant. It helps you do with your daily schedule. All you have to do to get its help is ask. It can send messages, leaves voicemails, turn VoiceOver on and off and schedule meetings. It can access all the other apps in an Apple device. All you have to do is give a directive which is something like “Remind me of my meeting on Sunday 10 am”.

Voiceover

This is a screen reader that helps you navigate on your iPhone or iPad screen even if you cannot see.

Speak Screen

Having a hard time reading texts on your screen? You can use speak screen to read your books or emails. You send a command to Siri to turn on Speak Screen for you and have all your documents read to you. It has features such as highlighting, adjusting speaking rate and changing voice dialect.

FaceTime

FaceTime video calls lets you catch every gesture and facial expression. It enables you to communicate in many ways. FaceTime is very useful to people who cannot speak. It is a high quality video with a fast frame rate. All Apple devices are equipped with FaceTime.

Hearing Aids for iPhone and iPad

Apple has collaborated with manufacturers who have designed hearing aids. They are efficient with a very high quality audio experience to help you have a wonderful iPhone or iPad experience.

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How to Get the Most Out Of Your Battery

One of the biggest concerns for people buying new phones and laptops is the device’s battery life. New devices are batterysporting longer and longer battery life. Apple even claims that their 13-inch Macbook Air can last for up to 12 hours! You need to be able to rely on your device when you’re on the go, so here are a few tips to make the most out of your battery life.

1. Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

If you don’t need them at the time, try turning off your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are usually set to be looking for potential networks or connections, so by stopping them from doing that, you’re limiting a whole lot of background activity. They both also use a lot of energy while connected. So if you’re not browsing the web or using your bluetooth mouse, for example, try switching them off to see some extended usage time

2. Turn off Location Tracking

The same thing goes for GPS and Location Services. These are constantly tracking your location in case an app requires it. Making sure these are switched off should see a big drop in background activity and battery drain.

3. Lower Screen Brightness or Keyboard Backlight

This one’s probably pretty obvious. The brighter your screen and keyboard light need to shine, the more power they’re going to use. It may be hard to drop the brightness sometimes, especially if you’re outside. However this is one of the biggest power consumers your device has. So drop the brightness as low as you can, and you should see a much longer battery life. Also be sure to switch off any auto brightness settings, as these will keep trying to make your screen brighter, even though you’re trying to save battery

4. Enable Battery Saver Mode

Look for your devices battery saver mode, most devices have one. This may seem like a bit of a no brainer, but can sometimes be overlooked. Battery saver modes are absolutely essentially if you’re taking your device off charge for a long period of time. You may see a slight decrease in the performance of your machine, but the extended battery life will almost surely make it worth while.

5. Look for Battery Draining Applications

Most phones or laptops give you a way to check what’s using the bulk of your device’s power. Accessing ‘Battery’ from your iPhone settings for example, will tell you exactly what is draining your battery. It can show you as a percentage, what has used the most power in the last 24 hours or the last week. By analysing these lists, you can try to cut down on certain applications or programs in order to give you the most out of your charge.

6. Look for Background Battery Drainers

These same lists will also often show you how much of that power drain was while on screen, and how much was in the background. This is also important to make note of when trying to cut down on app usage. You may have to restrict apps from using your location while outside the app, sending push notifications or whether it can use your cellular connection. Background battery drain is usually the most overlooked when trying to save battery life, so make sure you look into it.

7. Service Battery

Finally, if you’re still noticing low battery life after all these steps, there could be an issue with your battery. If you take your device to an Authorised Service Provider, they are able to run the necessary tests to find out if there really is something wrong with your battery. If there is an issue, you can then take the necessary steps to have your battery serviced and get it back up and running.

Running out of charge while out and about can cause any number of issues like being out of contact with family or missing out on catching a rare Pokemon. You need to be sure that when you need it, your phone or laptop is going to be there for you. So by following these steps, your faithful mobile companion should be with you the whole entire day.

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My phone got wet! What will I do?

Liquid damage is something we see come through the store incredibly often. It can cause extremely widespread damage throughout a device, sometimes ending its life.

What to do if your phone gets wet
What can you do if your phone gets wet?

But should the worst happen, with a couple of easy steps, you can try to stop the damage from spreading.

  1. The first most obvious step is to remove it from the source of liquid. If it is sitting in a pool of water be sure to move it to a dry area to begin trying to save the device.
  2. Allow the liquid to drain from anywhere that it can. If it’s a phone, try standing it up and leaning it against something so that the liquid can hopefully drain from the bottom. If it’s a laptop, try laying a towel on the side of a table, placing the laptop keyboard down onto the towel and letting the screen hang off the edge. This will allow the liquid to drain out through the keyboard and away from the main components.
  3. If you are able to, set up a small fan to blow air onto the device. You can use things like a hair dryer to try to evaporate the liquid, but extended heat on the device can cause issues, so be sure to not use it for too long.
  4. Leave the device be. It can be tempting to start up the device to check if it’s working, but starting up the device while it is still wet can cause it to short out. To be safe, if it’s best to leave the device to dry out for 2-4 days.
  5. After that time has passed, see if the device works. If the unit does boot up, then you may be in luck. However, even if the device is working now, liquid damage can present issues later down the track. Corrosion on the internal components can mean that the device may stop working weeks or months down the track. Be sure that your data is backed up, because it could die at any time.
  6. Lastly, get the machine looked at. If you bring the machine to us for diagnosis, we can assess if liquid has damaged your machine and if so, how badly. We are able to provide an in depth diagnosis and even an insurance report if you’re looking to claim with your home and contents insurance. Unfortunately, liquid damage does void most warranties, but diagnosis fees are often reimbursed by your insurance company.

Liquid and your electronic devices are definitely not friends. The best thing to do is to prevent liquid damage before it happens. Keep liquids away from your machines, or use a bottle with a seal if you need some water nearby.

But if your devices do come in contact with liquid, remember these steps, and you can hopefully save their lives.