Pop-up emoji keyboard (Mac)

Here’s a tip for Mac users: Control + Command + Space reveals an emoji keyboard. My friend Glenn Fleishman added an extra tip: “If you type text in the little field, it shows both the literal characters in the preview, but also any matching text among Unicode, etc. And you can select a character, and it shows alternates that live among the Unicode jungle. 👍 — MF

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Clean the earwax out of AirPods

It’s really hard to clean earwax from the speaker meshes in Apple AirPods and EarPods. I’ve assembled a kit of 3 tools to make the job easier. 1) OXO Good Grips Deep Clean Brush Set ($6) — use the smaller of the two brushes and the silicone wiper to loosen up and wipe out as much wax as you can; 2) Poster Putty ($3) — press this into the opening and it will pull out a surprising amount of residual gunk. Resist the temptation to press the putty too hard, or you’ll push the earwax through the mesh; 3) Handheld Illuminated Magnifier ($7) — this will help you make sure you’ve thoroughly cleaned the mesh openings. My AirPods now look great, not grungy. — MF

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Smartphone shortcuts

The ever-helpful David Pogue has a fantastic list of smartphone shortcuts I had no idea were possible. They save lots of taps. I programmed my phone to set up macros ( a series of steps into one step) initiated by a voice command, like “Hush Now” which silences your phone until you leave your current location. — KK

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Magnetic phone mount for cars

I’ve tried many different phone mounts, and this magnetic one ($7) is the best. It’s a rubberized magnet that attaches to a car vent. It comes with a metallic sticker to attach to the back of your phone. When I get in my car, I just hold the phone against the magnetic surface and the phone snaps against it. It is much more convenient than other phone mounts that use spring-loaded clips. — MF

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Control your iPhone cursor

My recent discovery is that I can use my iPhone keyboard as a mouse to scroll through text and place my cursor exactly where I want it. All you have to do is hard press the keyboard. This makes editing text on an iPhone a million times less frustrating. — CD

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Better than Snapchat

I use the Marco Polo Video Walkie Talkie app (iOS, Android) to keep in touch with my family who all live far away. I’m in a “group” with my mom, 2 siblings, and 2 nieces. Even though we live in different time zones we can all carry on a coherent conversation and be more connected. I like that I don’t have to worry about videos expiring, and when I check in at night the videos I missed load automatically so it plays like a mini-movie of what my family did throughout the day. I also think it’s much easier for kids to use than Snapchat. My 6-year-old niece is a pro at using filters to make creative video messages that always crack me up. — CD

PhoneClaudia Dawson
One-finger zoom

Here’s a tip for zooming on smartphone maps. Instead of pinching to zoom, tap the screen twice, but leave your finger on the screen on the second tap. Then slide your finger up or down to zoom in or out. — MF

PhoneClaudia Dawson
How-to fix your phone

My two-year-old iPhone 6 Plus wasn’t holding a charge as well as it used to. I ordered the iFixIt battery replacement kit for $25, which includes necessary tools, and excellent step-by-step instructions (video and PDF). It took less than 30 minutes, and I enjoyed looking at the inside of my iPhone. — MF

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Free app finder

Daily App Advice shows you which paid apps are currently being given away for free in the iTunes App Store. I’ve found many useful free utilities and games here that usually cost between $1 and $10. — MF

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Bulk delete contacts

Somehow I merged Google contacts from both my work and my personal email with my iPhone contacts and I couldn’t figure out an easy way to bulk delete. This article outlines how to delete multiple contacts at one time using Groups. The app is a little clunky, but it was free, and an added bonus was I was able to also merge duplicates pretty easily. — CD

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Selfie helper

We got our teenage daughter a LuMee iPhone case. It has LEDs embedded in the perimeter to illuminate your face when you take a selfie. She loves it and the photos really are a lot better looking. — MF

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Useful protective case

I’ve been dropping my iPhone a lot lately — enough to make me really grateful for my Spigen protective case. It’s slim enough to not feel bulky, and the lip on the front of the case has protected my screen from cracking on 30+ clumsy occasions. The kickstand feature is my favorite. — CD

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Better phone calls

Our house phone sounds awful and we get poor cell phone connectivity at home. But we have wifi and I’ve started using FaceTime Audio as much as possible to make phone calls. It works on any Apple hardware and the sound quality is crystal clear, even when using cellular data. — MF

PhoneClaudia Dawson
HangUnlock

Most carriers lock your subsidized phone so you can’t use a 3rd party SIM card with it. This is inconvenient if you want to buy a cheap SIM card in a foreign country. AT&T says they will unlock your phone, but only under certain conditions. I’ve tried before and it’s a waste of time. I gave up and used HangUnlock. It cost $2 and took less than a day. — MF

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Two sims

I’m still waiting for the ideal phone carrier who will let me use my phone anywhere in the world without thinking. True global coverage at reasonable rates. In the meantime I buy sim cards when I am outside of North America. They are cheap and useful. Downside is my phone has a new number. My solution: I put the foreign sim in a second phone, an older phone I no longer use. (We all seem to have one of those. If you don’t a friend will.) That way, my primary phone number still works on wifi in hotels and cafes, but I get full roaming capabilities such as Google maps, web searches, or texting locally on the other phone as I need them. — KK

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Texting tip

When texting, at the end of a sentence hit the space bar twice and it will easily put a period in the right place. — KK

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Favorite phone service

For many years, I paid $275 a month for an AT&T mobile phone plan (for a family of four iPhone users). Then I switched to T-Mobile. It’s $175 a month, we get unlimited data, and best of all, international data is free. It’s great to travel to another country and freely use the internet (for maps, reviews, texts, Instagram, etc). Phone calls are also free in Mexico and Canada, and other international calls are usually $0.20 a minute. — MF

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Avoid the port-out scam on your mobile phone

If you use 2-factor authentication that sends a text message to your phone to get a code, beware of the port-out scam. This happens when a bad person impersonates you and tricks your phone company into issuing them your phone number. You can prevent this by calling your carrier (dial 611) from your phone and telling them to add a security PIN to your account. Anyone who tries to access your account will be asked for the PIN. Read more about port-out scamming here. — MF

PhoneClaudia Dawson
Stopping phone spam

For the past 2 years I’ve been using the free Nomorobo service to stop spam calls on my landlines, and it works fantastically. A few months ago I started using the paid Nomorobo app on my phone, and suddenly all those dumb spam calls have ceased. There are a number of phone spam eliminator apps, but Nomorobo is one that does not scarf up your friends’ phone numbers in order to make its white list. — KK

PhoneClaudia Dawson