Forcing iOS to send messages as text (SMS) instead of using iMessage

My wife has been on holiday overseas for the last couple of weeks. In today’s age of WhatsApp, Skype and Facetime, video calling the kids has been no problem – when she has been able to get to Wi-Fi. But what if I want to get a message to her when she’s away from data networks? And mobile roaming is still an expensive proposition…

iOS Send as Text MessageSMS (text) messages still have their place – even if my wife couldn’t respond without incurring charges, I could get a message to her (e.g. saying check your email/WhatsApp/whatever) and she could get online soon after. But my iPhone wants to send messages as iMessage to anyone it recognises as having an iCloud account.

In cases like this, all you do is compose and send the message in the Messages app as normal, letting it send as a (blue) iMessage. Then, press and hold the message and you’ll see some more options – including to “Send as Text Message” (text messages are shown in green). Select this and the message will be sent over the mobile telecommunications networks instead of the Internet.

iOS activation requires a SIM (after upgrade)

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last couple of days, you probably noticed that Apple had a big event yesterday, and that they also released iOS 9.3.

My son, being the 11 year-old geek that he is, updated the old iPhone 4S that the boys use as a dumb iPod Touch (i.e. not as a phone) so, surprise, surprise, the update was quickly followed by a call of “Daaaaad!” (from his younger brother).

After an update, iOS goes through a welcome sequence. Unfortunately though, that sequence includes activating the device – and if it’s an iPhone it expects to see a SIM.

There appears to be no way around this; however I happened to have some spare giffgaff SIMs around (even better they were the “3-in-1” type that fit standard SIM slots, micro SIMs and nano SIMs). It didn’t matter which network (the device was unlocked anyway) or whether the SIM was active – just the presence of the SIM was enough to get past the activation stage and start using the device again.

Tuning iOS 8 location services to improve battery life

I’m not convinced my second hand iPhone 5S is as “grade A” condition as it might have appeared when I bought it recently from SmartfoneStore as, as well as having a dull patch on the top of the screen (that I was ignoring), last night, with 26% battery remaining it suddenly decided to turn off and insisted it needed charging. A few minutes later it could be started again, before once again deciding that 26% battery was not enough! Hey ho, I’ll be contacting them after this holiday weekend for a replacement (and they do offer a 60 day warranty) so it shouldn’t be a problem but it did get me looking at why my iOS 8 battery life is so poor.

The first clue was the GPS icon at the top of the screen. Even with all applications closed, it persisted – so what was using my GPS?  I found the problem app, following a LifeHacker article to see which app had a purple arrow in Location Services but a bit more googling turned up a great article on iGeeksBlog looking at how to fix always-on location services in iOS 8.

You can read the post yourself but, in summary, it goes through switching off system services that might use the GPS like location-based iAds, Spotlight Suggestions, Diagnostics & Usage, and Popular Near Me; as well as controlling which apps can use Location Services (my problem app was Dropbox – I’m not sure why it needs to know where I am but it’s not allowed to any more).

Hopefully now my iOS 8 battery life will improve – although I really must get my phone swapped too…

Reasons I no longer need to jailbreak my iPhone; and phantom App Store notifications from a shared Apple ID

My home office is a tip. There’s certainly no clear desk policy around here… although I really do like the idea of working in a clear space and I am trying to take advantage of a rare dip in my workload to clear it up.  Consequently there are a few posts that might appear over the coming days/months based on scraps of paper with half-written notes that I’m now trying to decipher and get onto the blog…

This post will concentrate on some of the various iOS-related snippets.

I recently bought myself a second-hand iPhone 5S (about half the price of an iPhone 6) to replace my 4S that took a bath in the washing up a year or so back. After some time in a bag of rice in the airing cupboard, the 4S soldiered on but it’s been showing some signs of damage (the speakers might or might not work, ditto the headphone socket) and was constantly full (it’s only a 16GB model) so in need of an upgrade.

Moving to the 5S means I’ve also upgraded to iOS 8, after a long time with the 4S on 7.0.4 because that was the version I applied a jailbreak to (and therefore where I was stuck).  Looking back, the reasons I jailbroke that phone seem to have gone away but basically it was to:

  • Change the operator logo with Fake Carrier. I use giffgaff but unfortunately the carrier list is set within iOS and my iPhone would only show the network name as O2 (giffgaff is an O2 MVNO). With Fake Carrier I could set the carrier name to show as giffgaff – although since iOS 7.1.1 that is enabled natively.
  • Enable tethering with TetherMe. Although iOS 7 includes a Personal Hotspot, it wouldn’t work on giffgaff… until I tethered.  Again, that issue has since been fixed (from iOS 7.1.1).

So, I no longer need to jailbreak my phone – that’s a result – but there is still one particularly annoying issue with iOS: despite all of my apps being up-to-date, the App Store icon insists that I have 50-odd updates to apply.  It appears that this is because there are different versions of apps in the App Store for different iOS versions.  My iPad, which is forever stuck on iOS 6 because of Apple’s built-in obsolescence (they decreed there would be no more updates for the first generation iPad when it was just 2 years old) and my wife’s iPhone are effectively creating this problem because all of my devices are using the same Apple ID.  In future, I hope to be able to use Family Sharing but that needs iOS 8 or later.  Updating all the apps on my iOS 8 device seems to have fixed things for now…

One last tweak: if you suffer from a poor signal, try field test mode (on iOS or Android) to see just how strong it is in dB.  Unfortunately I haven’t found a Windows Phone equivalent to see just how bad the EE network (or “nothing nowhere” as I tend to refer to it) is that we use at work…

iOS Mail app lost its settings? Try this…

Over the weekend, my iPhone suddenly “forgot” how to access my email. I hadn’t changed the configuration (just left it on the kitchen counter for a while!) so I was pretty confused.

I tried to add an Exchange account for my Office 365 connection but it said I already had one and, sure enough… it was still there in Settings. So I turned to Twitter, where @TheoCarpenter came back with a suggestion:

Sure enough, that did the trick (if you don’t know how to kill tasks on iOS 7, this post will help) and within a few seconds I was reading email again. Thanks Theo!

Migrating contacts from iOS to Android

Last month I blogged about migrating SMS messages from an iPhone to an Android handset. I ignored my contacts because I figured that Active Sync would do that for me – and it does, except that my Galaxy S3 Mini is subject to mobile device management policies and we use the TouchDown client for ActiveSync access to Exchange so that’s where the contacts end up.  Whilst TouchDown can export contacts to the phone book on the device, I only found that after I’d migrated them a different way, so I thought I’d write a quick post about the options.

Many Android users will be GMail users.  If you fall into that camp then it’s pretty easy – sync to Google Contacts via iTunes.  An alternative (regardless of whether you use GMail) is to export the contacts from iCloud as a vCard (.VCF file).  This can be imported to various places – including GMail – or, as I did, directly on my Android handset.  The post on transferring iPhone contacts to Android uses a Google account to sync the contacts onto the device. I elected to use Dropbox to get the .VCF file into the local storage on my phone, then imported the contacts from there, using the Import/Export option in the Options menu in my contact list.

Migrating SMS messages from iOS to Android

The iPhone 3GS that I use for work is now getting a little long in the tooth, no longer eligible for updates (read security risk) and the battery often runs out before the end of the day.  I still have a 4S that I use (with iOS 7) in my personal life but the company iPhone was replaced today with an Android handset (Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini).  This is my first Android phone – and will be an interesting experience because I want to see how this Google platform gets on with Microsoft Exchange (my previous experience with ActiveSync has been with iOS and Windows Phone 7).

Initial impressions are mixed and it may take me some time to get used to Android (or maybe it’s the O2/Samsung customisations) but I do have one observation: Google Play seems much faster than iTunes for app downloads…

The first apps installed on my phone were iSMS2droid, Dropbox and Spotify. Two of those apps seem pretty obvious, but “what’s iSMS2droid?”, you might ask.  It’s a handy app for importing SMS messages extracted from an iPhone backup to Android format.

The mechanics of transferring SMS messages from iPhone to Android are described in a blog post but, in short, the steps are:

  1. Backup the iPhone in iTunes
  2. Locate the backup file in %appdata%/Apple Computer/Mobile Sync/Backup/ on Windows or ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/ on a Mac
  3. Open the folder with the most recent timestamp (one per synced device, I think)
  4. Search for the file called 3d0d7e5fb2ce288813306e4d4636395e047a3d28 and copy it to your Android phone (I did this via Dropbox)
  5. Open iSMS2droid and tap “Select iPhone SMS Database”, then point the app at the file you transferred from the iPhone backup. This will allow the message database to be converted and will save a file called iSMS2droid.xml (on my phone, it was in /storage/sdcard0/SMSBackupRestore).
  6. At this stage you’ll need another app, called SMS Backup & Restore, which can read the iSMS2droid.xml file (on my phone, it was in /storage/sdcard0/SMSBackupRestore) and import the messages.  All but one of my SMS messages were then restored and availble in the Android app.

Unfortunately, I did have a couple of issues to resolve along the way.

With SMS messages transferred, next step is contacts.  I can see these in Outlook, so pretty sure ActiveSync is handling them for me… let’s see what happens when I connect the ‘droid to the company servers…

Want to update your iPhone voicemail settings? Looks like a jailbreak is needed

Last night, I wrote a post about shopping for second-hand smartphones. Of course, that’s only one half of the deal – the other essential element is a subscription to a mobile network. I’ve been SIM-only for a while now (add up the cost of a contract, take off the cost of the “subsidised” handset, and see how expensive it really is) and, for the last year or so, I’ve been using Giffgaff.

Giffgaff is a no-frills MVNO, owned by and operating on O2’s network. Sometimes though, I have to remind myself that you get what you pay for – for example, tethering still doesn’t work properly on an iPhone and there is no visual voicemail service. Whilst tethering is potentially an issue, visual voicemail is not a problem – my Lumia and my iPhone both tell me when I have new messages and I dial 443 (GIF) to get to my voice mailbox. Annoyingly though, iOS includes an icon in the phone app labelled Voicemail – and that’s still set to O2’s 901 number instead of Giffgaff’s 443.

It used to be possible to change this by dialling 500586*443# but Apple killed this feature in iOS4. It seems that now, the only way is to use a third party voicemail app (like Hullomail), or to jailbreak the phone and start messing around with plist files…

…guess what I’m looking into doing now…

Stuck in the wrong App Store with iOS 6

Account Not in This Store Your account is not valid for use in the U.S. store. You must switch to the U.K. store before purchasing. Earlier this evening, I tried to download an app that’s only available in the US App Store. iOS helpfully redirected me, where the store said my account was no use to it…

But, after that, I seemed to be stuck in the States with an account that doesn’t work in the US store and a load of apps that need to be updated from the UK App Store.

This Apple ID is only valid for purchased in the UK iTunes Store. You will be switched to that Store.But there is a fix. It seems it’s a problem in iOS 6 (has there ever been a release of iOS as problematic as this? Or is it just that the major bugs in iOS 6 have been related to ActiveSync and have all affected me*).

There is a fix though – as described by Apurva Tripathi, the resolution is to switch to the Featured tab, then scroll down to the bottom of the page. Click on your Apple ID  and select Sign Out. Then sign back in to be redirected to the correct store.  Reading around on the ‘net suggests this is not just a UK/US thing – it could affect users in various geographies.

*because Apple stuff “Just Works”

Short takes: cyber security; stock images; PowerPoint presenter view; smart TVs, iPads and YouTube

Lots of ideas for blog posts this week but limited time to commit pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard for that matter. Here are the highlights of what might have been…

Cyber security

Last year, I assisted one of the lecturers at University College London (UCL) with some “expert” opinion on the bring your own device phenomenon, for a module as part of the MSc course in Human Computer Interaction. It seemed to go reasonably well and I was invited back to speak on this year’s topic – cyber security.  I can’t claim to be an expert, but I could present some supplier-side views on the UK Government’s “10 steps to cyber security” advice which seems very sensible but is also based on aspirational and tactical solutions which could be costly to implement in full, so need to be considered with an understanding of the relative risks and an eye to the future.

For anyone who’s interested, my presentation is available for viewing/download on SlideShare, although it’s very visual – full narrative is available in the notes.

[slideshare id=15977303&doc=ucl-cybersecurity-130113165157-phpapp01]


Searching for good images

I’m a fan of full-page images on slides and limited text. I find it keeps the audience engaged and listening to the presenter, rather than reading pages of bullet points.  The down side is that it can be very time consuming to find the right images, especially without access to an account at a good stock library.

As my presentation to UCL was as in individual, not representing my employer, I was able to use images licensed for non-commercial use under Creative Commons and Compfight is a great tool for searching Flickr for these.  I’ve attributed all of the photographers used in the deck above, and if you don’t have access to iStockPhoto, Fotolia, etc. then this can be a good way to find images.

PowerPoint Presenter View

I’ve blogged before about PowerPoint’s presenter view and I’m amazed that more people don’t use it (although, the people who don’t are generally fans of dull corporate decks with lots of bullet points – yawn!). Somehow though, my PC had reverted to not using it, and I needed to Google to find where the option is in the PowerPoint 2007/2010 ribbon!  In the end, it was this Cybernet New post that showed me the important option: on the Slide Show tab, in the Monitors section.

YouTube smart TV and mobile apps

I wanted to re-watch a presentation that I’d missed last year and that I knew was on YouTube. Given that it was nearly an hour long, I thought the comfort of my living room would be a good place to do this, using the YouTube app on my smart TV. It was. At least until I lost the stream part way through and the Samsung YouTube app refused to play ball with the fast forward control. Another annoyance was that the “Watch Later” functionality in YouTube isn’t recognised by the a-little-bit-dumb app on the “smart” TV, so I needed to add the video to another playlist first.

Eventually, I finished up watching the second half of the video on my iPad. Here, again, it’s useful to know that the built-in iOS YouTube app is feature light and that there is a newer version available from Google in Apple’s AppStore.