What to do about Apple devices and iCloud content when the owner dies

Losing a loved one is hard enough without feeling like Apple is fighting you. Here’s what you can about someone’s iPhone, their iTunes content, and that Family Sharing you all rely on when a loved one dies.

Apple's Family Sharing iconApple’s Family Sharing icon

No question. When someone dies, Apple should hand over all of the content — iCloud data, iTunes movies, apps — to their next of kin or whoever is listed in the will. You can be sure that even Apple thinks that, but thinking it is not the same as being able to do it.

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Apple threatens to pull Amphetamine macOS app over branding

The developer behind the macOS app Amphetamine claims Apple has threatened to pull it from the Mac App Store for violating one of the App Store Guidelines due to its name, despite being available to download for over six years.

Dating back to 2014, Amphetamine is an app that is used to keep a Mac awake, preventing macOS from going to sleep. So far, it has been offered on the Mac App Store for six years, but it seems that Apple itself may be preparing to remove it from view entirely, due to its branding.

Posted on Friday to Github, William Gustafson claims an Apple representative got in contact on December 29th, with the threat of removing the app from the Mac App Store. Apple deemed the app was in violation of its App Store Guideline, and it would be delisted on January 12 unless changes were made to the app.

The guideline at issue is 1.4.3, stating “Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco or vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store. Apps that encourage minors to consume any of these substances will be rejected. Facilitating the sale of marijuana, tobacco, or controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies) isn’t allowed.”

Specifically, Apple claims the app “appears to promote inappropriate use of controlled substances. Specifically your app name and icon include references to controlled substances, pills.”

To avoid being in violation, Gustafson would have to effectively rebrand Amphetamine completely, an action that would make it harder for existing users to keep track of the app for future updates. It would also eliminate any benefits from its existing brand awareness, as that would not carry over to the new app’s title.

The timing of the demand for a rebrand is curious, as the app has been in the Mac App Store without issue for six years, and has achieved over 432,800 downloads and a 4.8 out of 5 rating in the US Mac App Store from over 1,400 reviews. Apple itself has even promoted the app in a Mac App Store Story.

Gustafson believes Amphetamine is not in violation of the guidelines. “It is also my belief that there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way as me, and want to see Amphetamine.app continue to flourish without a complete re-branding,” the developer writes.

“How is it that, in all of the interactions I have had with Apple employees (hundreds? dozens?) over the last 6 years with regard to Amphetamine, not a single one of them has been offended by Amphetamine’s name or icon?” asks Gustafson. “Why is the name and icon offensive or dangerous today, but not last week?”

Gustafson also mentions how Amphetamine’s updates have been rejected in the past, but more for technical reasons than for the brand, such as “Preview” screen shot rejections or an objection to a default app behavior in the user interface.

“It is apparent that Apple is indeed paying attention when reviewing apps, and not just blindly approving apps without a real review,” he adds. “Not once has Amphetamine’s name or icon been called into question despite 41 app updates/submissions to Apple for review.”

An appeal to the Guidelines violation accusation has been filed with Apple, but Gustafson doesn’t have “much faith in Apple reversing course” based on the appeal on its own. If Apple maintains its decision, Gustafson says he will either work on a rebranded version of the app to get back into the Mac App Store as soon as possible, or to keep raising awareness “of Apple’s actions” and wait for Apple to change its mind.

Review: Apollo Neuro offers wearable mood management at a price

Apollo Neuro is a wearable that may vibrate you into calmer or more energized states, but its steep price tag may limit its reach.

Apollo Neuro is a wearable that may be able to stimulate or calm youApollo Neuro is a wearable that may be able to stimulate or calm you

Apollo Neuro is an oddball device— it’s a wearable that doesn’t track your steps, check your heart rate, or bug you with notifications. Instead, the company behind it promises “real-time stress control for better sleep, focus, energy, calm, and more” through haptic touch.

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Qi and Magsafe – Everything an iPhone user needs to know about wireless charging

The introduction of MagSafe in the iPhone 12 range has cemented wireless charging as a core technology for smartphones, but not everyone knows how the technology works. Here’s what you need to know about wireless charging systems and how Apple uses them.

In a world that is so used to plugging charging cables into ports to recharge devices, the creation of wireless charging has been useful for many different reasons. From being able to charge without needing to struggle to plug the cable in, the ease of charging at all, and the seeming magical nature of power being transferred without a wire being used, wireless charging has its benefits.

With Apple’s adoption of the technology in its iPhone lineup, more people have been exposed to the idea of wireless charging. Add in the wealth of wireless chargers made by various vendors you can pick up quite cheaply, and the barrier to entry is remarkably low.

In this article, we explain what it is, how it reached its current form, and how Apple embraced the technology in its products.

What is Inductive Charging?

At its core, modern wireless charging relies on the properties of magnetic fields and their ability to influence other magnet-sensitive things. The simplest example of this would be a magnet passing through a coil of wire, with the movement of the magnet creating a current in the wire, which could be used to power a small light bulb.

Inductive charging follows the same principle but goes quite a few steps further.

Inductive charging uses two wire coils, where electricity run through one creates a magnetic field, which can generate a current in a second nearby coil.

Inductive charging uses two wire coils, where electricity run through one creates a magnetic field, which can generate a current in a second nearby coil.

For a start, instead of using a magnet to influence a coil of wire without touching it, inductive charging instead uses its own coil of wire, with the passing of current able to generate a magnetic field. If close enough, the magnetic field generated by the current in one coil could create a current in a second nearby coil.

Over short distances, such systems are quite useful, but the current of the “receiving” coil will always be lower than the “transmitting” coil. These can be rectified by increasing the coils’ size and increasing the power, but there’s only so far you can take it realistically.

The charging coil in an iPhone is quite small, and is located in the middle of the rear casing.

The charging coil in an iPhone is quite small, and is located in the middle of the rear casing.

To consumer devices, this has resulted in a system where a charging puck, stand, or other point includes a coil, which can interact with another coil contained within a host device, like a smartphone. The coils typically range from the size of a large coin to maybe two inches, depending on hardware. In contrast, the distance between the two coils tends to be less than a centimeter, separated by plastic or other materials not affected by magnetic fields.

Of course, the system can be scaled up, potentially to allow an electric car to recharge from a parking bay equipped with a larger coil, which could be useful in a future Apple Car. For the moment, devices with smaller coils are the type you will see with wireless charging.

Competing Standards

While the history of inductive charging goes back to the 1800s and Nikola Tesla, the modern history of device-based wireless charging is defined by the battle to be the dominant standard used by the electronics industry.

There are quite a few different standards out there for wireless charging technology, but for our purposes, we will cover the main two key standards groups working on competing wireless charging systems. The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) offered its Qi charging system from 2008, and PMA technology championed by Power Matters Alliance (PMA) and Airfuel Alliance, licensed by Powermat.

Each of the groups had support, and their technology adopted by different companies, such as Google, Samsung, and various smartphone producers for Qi, while PMA included companies such as AT&T, Duracell, and Starbucks.

Starbucks had wireless charging points in its stores supporting PMA over Qi, ones that had to be updated to recharge iPhones

Starbucks had wireless charging points in its stores supporting PMA over Qi, ones that had to be updated to recharge iPhones

Since the two standards were warring with each other, there are some compatibility issues between the two, but they are similar in concept and implementation. The only real differences preventing them from working with each other were using different wavelength bands for the magnetic field and software.

The public battle for wireless charging played out with supporters of each side implementing the technology differently. The smartphone producer-heavy Qi enjoyed mobile devices’ support, the most apparent device category to use wireless charging.

On the other side of the fence, PMA benefited from more corporate-focused support, with Duracell being a significant name in batteries, a critical component. Starbucks did its bit by rolling out PMA-supporting charging points across the United States.

While Qi had a narrow lead over PMA, things didn’t change until 2017, when Apple decided to join the WPC as a member. At the time, rumors circulated that the iPhone 8 would have wireless charging, a rumor that would be confirmed later that year alongside the iPhone X having Qi support.

With Apple on board, things swung more heavily in Qi’s favor, to the point that a software update was rolled out to the Starbucks Powermat charging plates to make them compatible with Qi in late 2017, followed by Powermat formally joining the WPC in 2018.

Since then, Qi has practically become the dominant technology in use for mobile wireless charging. The vast majority of wireless charging accessories support it, as do most portable devices offering the feature. To consumers, this makes things considerably easier to acquire and use wireless charging hardware without needing to do much research beforehand.

Apple’s wireless charging history

While Apple’s iPhones were the main product to capture the public’s attention, it wasn’t the first to do so. The Apple Watch has provided wireless charging capabilities since the release of the first generation in 2015, predating the iPhone’s use by two years.

The Apple Watch uses wireless charging, but not the same as used to recharge an iPhone.

The Apple Watch uses wireless charging, but not the same as used to recharge an iPhone.

Using the supplied small charging puck, the wearable device line can be charged within a few hours or left overnight and ready to wear in the morning. Opting for an overnight charge also allows the use of Nightstand mode, which will turn the time on the display 90 degrees to be seen more clearly while recharging.

Though the core technology used to charge the Apple Watch wirelessly is fundamentally the same as Qi wireless charging in mechanics, you cannot use a Qi charger to recharge the Apple Watch. There are chargers on the market that have both a charging pad for an iPhone and a puck for an Apple Watch, but you can’t switch those two charging points around.

AirPower

An exploration into Apple’s history of wireless charging wouldn’t be complete without mention of its seeming failure, AirPower.

Teased at the 2017 iPhone launch, AirPower promised a charging mat that did away with the usual rules of wireless charging. Instead of needing to place the iPhone in a specific position on the pad, the use of multiple coils would allow you to set the smartphone anywhere without worrying about alignment issues.

AirPower, the ill-fated multi-device wireless charging pad.

AirPower, the ill-fated multi-device wireless charging pad.

There was also the possibility of recharging three devices at the same time, including an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and an AirPods charging case, in any order and orientation.

However, development troubles, including thermal limitations, charging wattage limits, and fire hazards, caused enough problems before Apple’s release to effectively kill it off. In September 2018, Apple removed all mentions of AirPower from its website, and then admitted 19 months after its initial tease that it had “canceled the project.”

At the time of that announcement, Apple hinted it continued to “believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward.”

Arguably it has met the brief of a multi-device wireless charging station in the form of the MagSafe Duo, a foldable pad that offers MagSafe-based charging and power to an Apple Watch.

MagSafe

Formerly a name used for a magnetic mechanism to attach a charging cable to a MacBook, Apple revived the MagSafe brand for its modified form of wireless charging. Introduced alongside the iPhone 12, MagSafe was an improved version of its existing Qi charging support, adding rings of magnets to the equation.

By surrounding the charging coil inside the iPhone with magnets, this meant it was easier to correctly align the coil in the iPhone with a supported charger, as the MagSafe Charger would snap into place.

Another advantage was Apple’s decision to allow MagSafe to function at a higher level of watts, moving up from the 7.5-watt support for Qi chargers and allowing up to 15W charging on the iPhone 12 and Pro models, or up to 12W at peak on the iPhone 12 mini. Doing so required both the use of a MagSafe-compatible charger and a 20W or greater power adapter.

Since MagSafe still supports Qi chargers, it will continue to function with any existing Qi charging mats and pucks that a user may already own.

As an added benefit, the inclusion of magnets on the back of the iPhone means magnetic accessories can easily be placed and removed. Apple’s offerings include cases and covers, and a wallet attachment, with each also showing a color-matched graphic on the screen when applied.

What Apple products use wireless charging?

There are three product categories that you can use wireless charging with, consisting of iPhones, AirPods Wireless Charging Cases, and Apple Watch.

Out of the three, the Apple Watch has the most significant caveats, in that you can only use an Apple-approved Apple Watch charger, such as its own, to recharge your wearable device. This applies to all Apple Watch models so far and probably will do so for the future until Apple comes up with a better way to provide power to it.

If you own an iPhone with wireless charging support or an AirPods Wireless Charging Case, you can use any Qi-certified charging mat to apply power to it. For iPhones, this consists of laying it face up or facing outward on a stand-type charger, so the coil on the back gets as close as possible to the charger itself.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone X were the first models to offer wireless charging.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone X were the first models to offer wireless charging.

The AirPods Wireless Charging Case can be charged with the lid closed and the status light facing up. If you want to recharge both your AirPods and the charging case simultaneously, you can do so by leaving the AirPods inside the case, but you can also charge the case while you’re using the AirPods or AirPods Pro.

Wireless charging is available on all iPhone models from the iPhone X and iPhone 8 or later, including the second-generation iPhone SE. All will support charging rates of up to 7.5W with compatible chargers.

For the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and iPhone 12 mini, these models have MagSafe, which means they support both Qi chargers and MagSafe chargers. When attached to MagSafe, they can charge at up to 15W under ideal conditions, but will return to 7.5W when using non-MagSafe chargers.

Best Practices

When using wireless charging, there are a few things you should remember at all times.

For a start, alignment is critical. Optimal positioning of the device on the charging mat will result in better power reception and quicker charging times than misaligned devices. As charging only takes place when there is sufficient alignment, there is a chance that the iPhone won’t recharge at all if it’s placed incorrectly.

Typically placing an iPhone on a wireless charger will prompt a chime to be played and for the display to turn on, showing it is starting to recharge. Keep an eye or an ear out for these each time you place a device down on a pad to make sure it’s receiving power.

This is less of a problem for MagSafe due to its ring of magnets, as it will automatically align itself correctly.

The MagSafe Duo charger used to recharge two devices at the same time.

The MagSafe Duo charger used to recharge two devices at the same time.

Since distance is a factor, make sure there’s as little material as possible between the two charging coils. While a case may be OK, items such as the MagSafe card holder attachment could cause problems for charging to occur and could end up causing damage to the item in the middle.

It may also be worth removing the case from your iPhone, especially if it is a battery case or made of metal, as these could interfere with wireless charging.

You may also find the iPhone could get a little warm after a long charging session. This is normal, and Apple includes a software limit that can halt charging beyond 80 percent if the battery gets too warm as a safety mechanism.

You will want to remove that wallet before you try to recharge your iPhone wirelessly.

You will want to remove that wallet before you try to recharge your iPhone wirelessly.

As tempting as it may be to use both wired and wireless charging simultaneously for one device to speed up recharging, it’s not possible to do so. Apple disables wireless charging when the Lightning port is in use, so you would have to disconnect any physical connections beforehand.

Lastly, remember that wireless charging is not the most efficient way to recharge your iPhone. If you want to get as much power into your iPhone in as short a space of time as possible, you are better off using the Lightning port.

2020 Year in Review on the AppleInsider podcast

Special guest Jason Aten joins us for a year in review episode as we discuss everything Apple launched in 2020, our favorite hardware releases, software updates, and what we hope to see in 2021.

Despite the challenges of 2020, Apple had a huge year of hardware and software releases. We start the episode with a rundown of everything Apple announced since January, including the iPad Magic Keyboard, updates to iOS and macOS, refreshed 27-inch iMac, the new iPhone lineup and M1 Macs.

Your hosts pick their favorite Apple products and software updates, plus the most interesting non-Apple devices and technologies. Then we look forward to 2021, what we hope Apple launches and changes over the next year.

We’d love to interact with you on Twitter. If you have questions or comments on the show, tweet at @stephenrobles and @JasonAten, or email us here. Find us in your favorite podcast player by searching for “AppleInsider” and support the show by leaving a 5-Star rating and comment in Apple Podcasts .

Tune in to our HomeKit Insider podcast covering the latest news, products, apps and everything HomeKit related. Subscribe in Apple Podcasts, Overcast, or just search for HomeKit Insider wherever you get your podcasts.

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AirPods Max, App Store privacy, and Charlie Brown — December 2020 in review

Apple brought us many things in December, and most got a mixed reception. AirPods Max are expensive, Facebook says App Store privacy will be “devastating” to businesses, and Apple TV+ has nabbed “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

No one is ever going to say, “enough already” when Apple brings out some more hardware. But for a year where the coronavirus wrecked so much, Apple was startlingly able to keep on pushing out new products, and didn’t stop simply because it was December — and because it had done so much in November 2020.

Apple didn’t stop even though it had just done three major online events with world-class production values, and some of the company’s most keenly awaited devices.

AirPods Max came out this month and if the lack of an event, the lack of any fanfare at all really, was unusual for Apple, the price wasn’t. Nor, to be fair, was the design or the build quality which were, of course, superb.

At $549, there was no review, no commentary, no initial tweet, that didn’t start with some variation on the word “ouch.” And there were few that didn’t seem to blush a little at describing the AirPods Max case as looking like a bra. We’d just have liked it to be a bra that came with underwire — which could plug into a headphone socket without our having to pay separately.

Yet Apple is as smart with its pricing as it is picky about details. If the AirPods Max are worth $549 to you, you’ll buy them. If they’re not, you won’t.

And if we’ll never see as many people wearing AirPods Max as we do the regular AirPods or AirPods Pro now, there seem to be plenty of people for whom they’re worth the price.

Something for everyone

AirPods Max were launched on December 8, and by coincidence that date was also a firm deadline for developers. If you wanted your iOS 14 app to be on the App Store, you absolutely, totally, entirely had to inform Apple of some very specific information about privacy.

Except you didn’t.

This information was for what started out being referred to as “nutrition labels.” And while we hope that term doesn’t catch on, it seems that the whole idea has struggled to get any traction with developers.

Privacy labels, as they are properly known, are call-out sections in every app’s description on the App Store. There are currently three versions and they list different types of things an app does with your data. Tap on any label and you get more detail, although in truth that detail is rarely all that helpful.

Every app must have these new privacy labels, except the ones that don't.

Every app must have these new privacy labels, except the ones that don’t.

Ahead of its own December 8 deadline, Apple said no, actually, it’s okay. Developers were explicitly told that their apps would not be removed from the App Store if they didn’t comply.

Apple says that basically this is fine, but good luck getting an update or a new app onto the App Store until you’ve provided the information. So everybody will comply, you know they will but at launch, some very big names had not.

Google didn’t bother, not with its own-branded apps like Gmail and Google Maps, not with YouTube. Amazon hasn’t done it for its shopping app, nor for Kindle or Audible.

The list goes on, and it even includes some of Apple’s best apps of 2020, such as Endel. And Disney+.

Microsoft, on the other hand, filled out all the forms and every one of its apps has the correct privacy label. Whatsapp complained about it, but also complied.

And so did Facebook, though it’s possible that the company regrets that now. Its answers to Apple meant that it got two of the three possible labels, but before you tap on one, you’d best get a coffee.

Facebook’s list of what it does with your data turns out to be a long, long read.

Speaking of Facebook

Facebook has previously objected to Apple’s whole “privacy” schtick, but in December it decided it had to stick up for the little person. Chiefly because sticking up for itself wasn’t likely to work.

Whereas if you can make a case that you are on the side of small businesses, now you’re no longer a worldwide corporation out for its own ends, you are a champion. Find a way to make Apple the bad guy, too, and somehow you are a hero.

It’s still not clear that this is likely to work. But still Facebook shouted that Apple’s new ad tracking privacy feature will be “devastating” to small businesses and only whispered that it would hurt its own bottom line.

Interestingly, while Facebook did say this online in a blog post, and later with iOS banners, it also took out two full-page newspaper ads. While you Google what a newspaper was, Facebook might well be reaching an audience sufficiently confused about technology that they will believe the social media giant.

Such as government officials, politicians, and anyone running probes into antitrust and anticompetitive moves by big tech companies. Also, to be fair, more of us talked about the newspaper ads than we ever would have if Facebook had just, you know, tweeted or something.

For its part, Apple did respond to AppleInsider with a statement.

“We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not,” Apple said. “App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires they give users a choice.”

As Facebook pressed on with what the Electronic Frontier Foundation officially described as a “laughable campaign,” Tim Cook also took to Twitter to say calm down.

Apple’s legal December

Facebook’s hoping that people will just believe it rather follows the Epic Games playbook. That “Fortnite” developer has similarly taken the stance that its dispute with Apple is not about a games company wanting to make more money.

“Fortnite” certainly got more attention because of this dispute, but Epic Games is now into the next chapter of its plan. Although a trial won’t take place until May 2021, both sides are now getting ready, and taking up their starting positions.

For instance, Epic Games set out some of its stall in a December hearing where it demanded that Apple’s Craig Federighi and Eddy Cue be deposed to testify. Apple responded with how they’ve already got Tim Cook and others, what more do they want?

Craig Federighi and Eddy Cue, they replied. The judge didn’t go so far as to insist Apple provide them, but did say that the company had better be ready with some really good arguments if it doesn’t.

It’s Christmas, Charlie Brown

This isn’t the season for disagreement and arguments. It’s the season to sit down together and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” like we have every year since 1965.

Just don’t turn that dial to ABC anymore.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”

After 19 years on ABC — it was on CBS from 1965 to 2000 — the annual tradition is gone. And if we don’t know why, we do know where.

It’s not known whether Apple bought the special from ABC as it was buying all other past and future Charlie Brown shows, or whether ABC’s rights just expired. Either way, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is streaming now on Apple TV+.

With a little nod to tradition, though, and perhaps a larger nod to the terms of its contract, Apple did take steps to still bring Charlie Brown to everyone. From December 11 to 13, Apple made it free to watch the special on Apple TV+.

And then on the evening of December 13, 2020, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was aired on PBS and PBS Kids, too.

Happy App Store stories

The good cheer spread briefly to and through Apple’s App Store this December, too. Given how much we all rely on the App Store, it has become more of a punching bag this year, but this month it showed a little love to those who love it.

Each trophy is approximately the size and shape of a Mac mini. It’s not known whether Disney+ or Endel’s ones had a notice anywhere about their not supplying privacy information on time.

Taking privacy seriously

It is, of course, possible that Apple has given out those trophies, and it has cut commission fees, as a cynical preparation for anticipated legal battles. Equally, it’s possible that Apple glommed on to privacy purely as a unique selling point.

Certainly privacy is a differentiator that marks the company out as different to its competitors.

Yet if that is the case, we really need to applaud how far-sighted Apple’s marketing teams have been over the years. For it’s a decade since Steve Jobs made his well-known comment about the importance of privacy.

It’s arguably even far longer since Apple started taking a stance on the issue.

But if you want a more recent example that Apple is genuine about all of this, you got one in December 2020. Apple wrote and published a 20-page guide that listed all of its devices very many features — and exactly how to switch each one off.

“Device and Data Access when Personal Safety is At Risk,” was immediately praised for how clear and useful it is to people such as those facing domestic abuse.

Apple didn’t publish it to get praise. The company surely knew that it is studied so closely that anything it said would be noticed, but it did not launch this publication. It quietly added it to its support pages.

So this document is right there for you when you search. It is right there to help you. It is not part of some privacy ad campaign.

It was a sobering end to Apple’s work in December, but an important one in the kind of year none of us could have conceived of back in January 2020.

Review: SanDisk Ixpand Wireless Charger Sync backs up your data while keeping an iPhone charged

SanDisk’s Ixpand Wireless Charger Sync is a wireless charging pad with up to 256 gigabytes of storage, intended for backing up your photos, videos, and contacts — with some issues.

Review: Ixpand Sync wireless charging pad backs up your photos and videos while keeping your phone chargedFor those who don’t keep their photos and videos backed up into iCloud, SanDisk’s Ixpand Sync promises to provide an invaluable service— the ability to easily back up content on their iPhone every time they charge it.It comes in three capacities — 64, 128, or 256 gigabytes — which allows you to free up some of the space on your iPhone if you’re not ready to purchase additional iCloud storage.

Read more…

New York adds Apple Pay support to all subway stations, bus routes

Apple Pay is now accepted by MTA at all stations, and on all buses, across New York’s five boroughs.

More than 18 months since it first trialled Apple Pay on selected subway stations, New York’s MTA has completed rolling it out to all lines, stations, and boroughs. The Metropolitan Transport Authority has installed its One Metro New York (OMNY) system across its entire network, for most users.

Although Apple Pay and other contactless options are now accepted across the network, their use is limited to individual rides. It’s not yet possible to pay in advance for an equivalent of the unlimited ride MetroCard pass.

“OMNY is available at all subway stations and on all buses, allowing you to tap and go throughout New York City,” said MTA in a statement. “You can use OMNY with your own contactless card or smart device. OMNY currently supports a full-fare, pay-per-ride option for now, including free transfers.”

In a press conference, relayed over Twitter, MTA called this “the first phase of the OMNY rollout.” The plan is to entirely replace MetroCard in 2023.

MTA has been accepting Apple Pay, in particular, at selected stations since the end of May 2019. In January 2020, there were reports of extra charges as turnstiles were triggering Apple Pay Express Transit even if a user had swiped a regular MetroCard.

How to set up a backup plan for your Mac, iPhone, and iPad for your New Year's resolution

Don’t get caught out with lost data on your iPhone, or a Mac that won’t start up. Make a plan to backup all of your documents and apps, then make sure you do — and test — that backup.

Call it a New Year’s Resolution if you like, yet this could be much more important than promising yourself you’ll go to the gym more. Apple devices are study, long-lasting, and very well made — but none of that will save your data if your iPhone is stolen.

These days we can be deeply grateful that so much of what we keep on all of our devices is automatically backed up by iCloud. But let us put it another way: that iCloud backup won’t save your data if you accidentally delete it yourself.

Backups are for protecting you against your own mistakes — which absolutely every one makes — and for protecting you against theft. You know this, even if you put off thinking about it, but what gets even more forgotten is that backups keep you working.

They protect you against the time you would lose having to install apps on a new device, and having re-authenticate yourself everywhere. You’ve had your devices for a long time and on every single one you have made myriad tiny settings changes, so many that you can’t count, and which you’ll have trouble remembering to do again.

So you unquestionably need backups. You need a backup plan — which you need to put into action, and which you need to test.

Start backing up now

When you’re done, your Mac will be quite able to backup itself at regular intervals without you giving it another thought. Your iOS devices won’t, though, or at least not as thoroughly as you will.

Plus, backing up is not something you do once. You have to do it regularly, and one way to help you do that is to make it part of your schedule.

Add a repeating monthly reminder to your To Do list, pop it every two weeks into your calendar. And begin it now, at the start of the year when you’ve hopefully got some time to get it going.

What you need

You have to end up with a regularly-updated copy of all the data, documents, and settings on your Mac, iPhone, and iPad. If you’ve got an Apple Watch, that backs itself up to your iPhone, so backing up the iPhone covers it.

There is one more thing. You need this backup copy to be available to you quickly.

Consider getting one external backup drive now, and another in a few months' time. Then alternate between them.

Consider getting one external backup drive now, and another in a few months’ time. Then alternate between them.

If your Mac doesn’t even start up when you get back to work after the holidays, or after a weekend, then every day it takes to get going again is costing you money. So plan to make two kinds of backups — an archive, and an emergency one that gets you back on your feet as fast as possible.

Emergency Mac backups

If you have a spare Mac, at least keep the same apps on it. Few of us can afford to buy a Mac just to leave around idle, but the next time you go to buy, consider not trading in the last one. That may be a slightly easier choice now that Gazelle is no longer taking devices for trade-in.

Keep a second Mac with all of your most-used apps, and you can at least start creating new work if your main machine fails. Keep a second Mac with all of your data on, and you can probably carry on as if nothing has happened.

That rather depends on what old Mac you have, though. Unless it’s exactly the same model, there could be issues over what macOS it supports, and therefore some issues over what versions of apps it uses.

What may be more practical is to not have a spare Mac, and instead create a spare startup disk for your main one. Depending on what goes wrong with that main Mac, you can probably just boot from an external startup disk and get back to work.

Except this isn’t something you can leave until later. It never was, really, but now Apple rather forces you to think ahead because of the T2 security processor.

Apple's T2 processor

Apple’s T2 processor

The T2 chip prevents Macs from booting from an external drive. That’s an excellent security feature, until it’s you who needs to use an external startup disk.

Right now the only thing you can do is to make the T2 processor allow external startup drives, then make such a drive. It takes several steps to do, but it must be done now. If you wait until there’s a problem starting up your Mac, you cannot do it.

Use external drives for your Mac

An external drive that you can use to startup your Mac from is key, but actually any external drive is good for backing up. Plug in a drive, copy your files across, and you have a safety copy of everything.

It’s not that great a safety copy if you forget to copy the files regularly, though. And you will — if people were able to remember to do this themselves, there wouldn’t be a market for apps like Carbon Copy Cloner, or SuperDuper!.

Carbon Copy Cloner can automatically backup specified files to specified drives

Carbon Copy Cloner can automatically backup specified files to specified drives

Those are robust, capable, customizable backup apps that copy specified files at specified times. You can also just use the simpler Time Machine from Apple.

You’ve already got Time Machine. Go to System Preferences on your Mac and click on the Time Machine icon. This lets you pick an external drive — which is already connected — and then say that you want to use it for backups.

That’s just about it. Time Machine is built to be as simple as possible, in part by giving you the fewest options it can.

Use external drives as offsite storage

You can call this offsite storage, or you can just call it taking the drive to your garage, your parents’ house, or work. The most regularly updated backup on an external drive is worthless if that drive gets stolen right alongside your Mac.

Consequently, taking a regular copy, and then taking that regular copy to some other location, is sensible. It’s also a bit tedious, though, and rarely convenient.

So you could look at an alternative. Rather than you making a backup to a drive and then taking that drive of yours somewhere safe, use someone else’s drive.

There used to be several companies that would let you backup to their drives, and in theory there still are. Most appear to have pivoted to only dealing with larger businesses, though. If you’re a small business, or an individual, look at Backblaze.

For one small, flat fee every year, Backblaze will backup your Mac and every drive attached to it. When you’ve got it all setup, it’s invisible and everything you do, everything you save, it is all backed up automatically, all the time.

Setting it up can take a time, though. That’s because the very first thing you have to do is point Backblaze at your drives and tell it to get on with backing up.

Apple's Time Machine has few options, but can't be beaten for its simplicity

Apple’s Time Machine has few options, but can’t be beaten for its simplicity

Depending on your internet connection, and on the capacity of your drives, that initial backup could take weeks. Which is yet another reason to start doing this now.

There is a way to save on those weeks, though. For a fee, Backblaze can send you an external drive that you make your own initial backup to, and then send back to them.

Backing up your iPhone and iPad

If it seems that there is more to say about backing up your Mac, there is. If it seems like there are more options when you’re talking about a Mac, there would be. As much as you might do on an iPad, the chances are that you will be creating much more data on a Mac than on an iOS device.

Nonetheless, especially with an iPad Pro which could well be your sole computing device, the data you create is crucial. It must be backed up.

If that iPad is genuinely your sole device, you’re both in luck and a little out of it. The luck comes from how everything on that device may be backed up to iCloud — although you’ll have to pay for extra iCloud storage.

You’re a little out of luck because without, say, a Mac to connect to, you can’t make your own local backups of your iPad or iPhone. This is far less important than it used to be, as iCloud can now store practically everything.

Plug your iOS device into your Mac, and the Finder can show you backup options

Plug your iOS device into your Mac, and the Finder can show you backup options

Yet if you lose all of your apps, all of your documents, and all of your settings, at the very best, it’s going to take a time to redownload them all from iCloud. And while in theory you can always redownload any app you’ve previously bought, in practice that just is not the case.

A developer can decide to entirely delete their app from the App Store, for instance. Or Apple can — and does.

So if you can make a local backup, you’ll protect yourself from apps vanishing — and you’ll also have a faster option for getting that data back. It just has to be the right kind of local backup.

Use a Mac to backup iOS devices

If you have a Mac, and you have enough storage space on its main drive to hold a backup of your iOS devices, Apple makes backing up most things simple. If you haven’t enough space left, Apple at least makes it possible.

The simple option is to plug your iOS device into your Mac and then open a Finder window. In the list of Favorites on the left, there will be a section labelled Locations. You may have to hover next to it and click the Show button that appears.

When you do, you’ll see a list of any drives connected to your Mac — and that Mac will see your iOS device as an external drive. Click on it and wait a few moments.

The regular Finder view will change to show a control panel for the iOS device. it will include a section called Backups in the middle.

Click on Back up all the data on your iPhone to this Mac and that’s exactly what it will do. Except the key word is data. This will not make a local copy of your apps.

In order to backup your apps themselves, you need to use a separate Mac app. Apple provides one on the Mac App Store called Apple Configurator 2, and there is a third-party alternative called iMazing.

Third-party app iMazing can backup your iOS apps

Third-party app iMazing can backup your iOS apps

Test your backups now

When you’ve done all of this, you’re set, you’re safe, and your data is well protected. Probably. In fact, it’s almost certain that your backup is complete and ready — but you’ve got to check, and you’ve got to check regularly.

Backing up becomes second nature, and it’s never really hard, but starting it up and keeping a regular backup is a chore. If there is something worse than discovering you’ve lost data, it’s finding out that you’ve lost it despite having gone to the trouble of backing it up.

So every new year, every month, or at some other specific time, try to get back a document from your backup. Whether it’s to an external drive, Time Machine, an online service like Backblaze, or just to iCloud, try getting an important file back.

You can buy all the external drives you want, and you can subscribe to any backup service, but above all else you need a plan. And you need to do that plan.