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Tech Matters: Time for an annual settings review for iPhone users

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jan 25, 2023

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Leslie Meredith

A new year brings the promise of a fresh start, and while that could include a new exercise program or just cutting back on sweets, don’t ignore your iPhone. The longer you’ve had your phone, the more important a review of its settings becomes. You may have gone several years making updates to the operating system and your apps without reviewing what you’re using and new settings available to you. What better time to take some time to do a thorough review to make sure your phone is secure and operating at its best?

Before you change anything on your phone, remove any unused apps and then back up your phone. Using iCloud is the easiest way to do this. Go to “Settings,” tap on your name, tap “iCloud” and then “iCloud backup.” Turn iCloud Backup on. If this was already on, iCloud automatically makes a backup each day, so you shouldn’t have to do this again before tinkering with your settings. To make a manual backup, simply tap “Back Up Now.”

Start with your phone’s individual settings. Choose whether you’d like to do a clean sweep refresh all at once or if you’d prefer to review and fine-tune each setting. For the all-in-one option, open “Settings,” tap “General,” scroll down to the bottom of the list to select “Transfer of Reset iPhone” and finally, “Reset.” When you choose Reset, tap “Reset All Settings” and your phone will return network settings, keyboard dictionary, home screen layout, location settings, privacy settings and Apple Pay cards to their original state. This will not delete your contacts, photos, apps or other media.

You can also be selective about choosing which settings to reset. For instance, if you’re having trouble connecting to WiFi, you could choose “Reset Network Settings” instead of “Reset All Settings” as a way to troubleshoot the issue. When you do this, previously used networks and VPN settings are removed. Wi-Fi is turned off and then back on, disconnecting you from any network you’re on. The Wi-Fi and “Ask to Join Networks” settings remain turned on. Resetting network settings is a lot like restarting your computer when processing goes awry and often fixes an unreliable WiFi or other network connection.

Minor annoyances can also be solved with different resets. Reset the keyboard dictionary if you notice autofill and autocorrect are not working properly. The system learns your word choices to complete these functions, but things can go wrong over time. If you let a child play with your phone, he or she could be the culprit. If you’d like to restore the home screen, which will also restore Apple’s built-in apps, just tap that choice.

On a more serious note, you may want to increase your iPhone’s privacy and security. There was a time when apps were not required to notify you about what data they were accessing on your phone, including your location. If it’s been awhile since you’ve checked the various app permissions on your phone, now is the time. In the same menu, tap “Reset Location and Privacy.” This will revoke location sharing permission from your apps. When you open Maps, you’ll be asked if you want to share location. For some apps, this makes sense and you can choose to share your location “only while using” rather than all the time or never.

You can also use Apple’s Safety Check, a new security feature introduced in iOS 16. This hub allows you to review which people and apps can access your information, but it also provides an emergency reset to immediately cut off sharing from all people and apps, change your Apple ID password and add or remove emergency contacts. The emergency reset was designed for people in harmful situations such as domestic abuse. Aside from emergency use, this is a convenient place to stop sharing with people who are no longer in your life. The fewer people and apps that have access to your data, the more secure your phone will be.

To access Safety Check, go to “Settings,” “Privacy & Security” and then scroll down nearly to the bottom of the screen. You’ll see “Emergency Reset” and underneath “Manage Sharing & Access.” The latter is for nonemergency situations. The guided process is divided into three steps: review people, review apps and account security. The first step will show you a list of people and what is shared with them, including Find My (location), Health, Photos, Notes, Calendar and Home. You can select individuals or the full list to stop sharing data. Tap continue and review app permissions. You will then have the opportunity to change your Apple ID and phone passwords and update your emergency contacts.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness, and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com

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