Many default settings buried deep in our technology cause us to share too much data with tech companies. In my last column, I discussed how to turn them off.
But not all default settings do sneaky things with our information. Still others need to be activated or deactivated to make our device easier to use.
Newer iPhones, for example, come with a fancy camera that shoots incredibly sharp video at super high “4K” resolution – but most people probably aren’t making the most of their camera because by default the phone is set to Shoot video at a lower resolution.
Television is another example. Many modern TVs come with an effect called motion smoothing that can make video appear to be playing at a higher frame rate, which should make fast-moving scenes look more detailed. But in many applications, especially when you’re watching a movie, it creates a soap opera effect that many people think looks fake. It’s a setting many tech-lovers immediately turn off on their TV.
Our consumer electronics are among our most expensive home purchases, so it’s worth perusing and changing the defaults to get the most bang for your buck. This is what I and other tech writers are constantly changing in order to make our phones, computers, and TVs work better.
Apple’s iPhone includes various settings that are turned off by default and must be activated to make the device easier to use and take better photos.
Unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask. Even though masks have been lifted in many places, many people still wear masks to feel safe, especially indoors. One of the biggest obstacles to using an iPhone is having to enter a passcode when wearing a mask, rather than using facial recognition. The latest version of Apple’s iOS now allows iPhone users to unlock their devices without taking off their masks.go Settings → Face ID & Passcode → Face ID with Mask and turn this setting on (green).
Shoot 4K video. To get your iPhone camera to shoot video at its highest resolution, visit Settings → Camera → Record Video and select the 4K option. (I prefer “4K at 30 fps” because it works well when uploading videos to social media apps and sites like YouTube.) The downside is that 4K recordings take up more of your phone’s digital storage. But if you’re paying for that fancy camera, why not use it?
Activate the camera grid. In digital photography, photographers use a variety of composition techniques to make photos more aesthetically pleasing. The iPhone camera has a setting to display a grid to aid in composition.go Settings → Camera → Grid and turn this setting on.
Android phones also include controls that must be activated or modified to make the screen look better and the phone easier to use.
Change the monitor’s color profile. Many Android phones have large, bright screens, but their colors can look oversaturated or too blue. Ryne Hager, editor of tech blog Android Police, says he usually turns off the default color profile when setting up a new Android phone. Instructions vary by phone.For Samsung phones, please visit Settings → Display → Screen Mode → nature. For Pixel phones, visit Settings→Display→Color→Natural.
Modify shortcuts. On an Android phone, you can customize the Quick Settings menu to get shortcuts to frequently used functions. Swipe down from the top of the smartphone screen, then swipe down again. If you tap the icon that looks like a pencil, you can choose to add tiles, for example, to activate a hotspot to share your phone’s cellular connection with your computer.
Activate the camera grid. Similar to the iPhone, some Android phones can also display grids to make photo composition easier.On a Pixel phone, open the Camera app, swipe down from the top of the screen, tap the gear icon, and go to Grid Type → 3×3.
On Macs where Apple users tend to work, it’s useful to adjust settings to remove distractions and speed up tasks. This involves turning off some features that are turned on by default and turning on some hidden features.
Activate the shortcut to show the desktop. Shrinking and moving windows just to find a file on the desktop can be tedious. The first thing I do with any Mac is activate a shortcut that instantly hides all windows to reveal the desktop.go System Preferences→Mission Control→Show Desktop and select a keyboard key to trigger the shortcut. (I use the fn key on a MacBook keyboard.)
Close distracting apps like message notifications. In an age of never-ending video calls, you definitely don’t want text messages bombarding your screen and making sounds during a meeting. Just turn off these notifications permanently.go System Preferences → Notifications & Focus → Messages → Allow Notifications and toggle the setting to off (grey). In this menu, turn off notifications for any other noisy apps.
Add the bluetooth icon to the menu bar. Most of us use Bluetooth accessories like wireless headphones and mice, so to make it easier to connect and disconnect these devices on your Mac, a quick access to the Bluetooth menu can help.go System Preferences → Bluetooth → Show Bluetooth in Menu Bar and check the box. This will bring up the Bluetooth icon in the upper right corner of the screen, where you can quickly connect and disconnect earbuds and other wireless accessories.
Like Macs, Windows computers send us lots of notifications by default, but the most frustrating thing is the many beeps when something goes wrong. Wirecutter editor Kimber Streams, who tested the laptop, shuts down all those annoyances.
Turn off notifications. go Settings → System → Notifications. Uncheck all boxes and turn off all switches to disable all notifications.
Turn off system sounds. go Settings → System → Sound → More Sound Settings → Sound → Sound Scheme: No Soundthen hit Application.
Almost every TV comes with default settings that are far from ideal for displaying the best picture.
As with any TV, it pays to adjust the color, brightness and contrast to suit your space. There are no universal steps, as the optimal setup will vary for every TV and living room. But there are some useful TV calibration tools that make this easy, including my go-to tool, Disney’s World of Wonder, which is a Blu-ray disc with instructional videos on adjusting TV settings.
However, by far the most important step on any TV is turning off the dreaded motion smoothing effect. The steps vary by TV, so do a web search to disable it for your model.On my LG TV, I went All Settings → Picture → Picture Mode Settings → Picture Options → TruMotion → Off.