Sunday, October 30, 2011

Using iCloud to Restore deleted iPhone photos and videos

Say you've done something silly, like delete some photos or videos from your iPhone. How do you recover them? You can read the iCloud: Backup and restore overview, but it's missing a few details.

Step 0: Set up iCloud Backup. That is, in Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup:

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Obviously, you have to do this before you lose any data. This is by far the best way to do it, because your data will be backed up every night. This is because the iCloud backup runs daily, when your iPhone is:
  • Connected to the Internet over Wi-Fi
  • Connected to a power source
  • Screen locked
This means that an important part of your backup process is to charge your phone every night where it can get Wi-Fi.

Step 1: Make sure that you've got something to restore. You'd hate to erase all your settings and data and find out you don't have anything to restore. A good way to make sure you have something to restore is to make sure you don't do any more backups. That means don't plug your iPhone into a power source and allow the screen to lock while you're connected via Wi-Fi; it just might cause the next backup to happen. iCloud stores 3 backups, but you don't want to push your luck.

Once you have iCloud backups, your last backup is visible on your iPhone via Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup > Manage Storage > Device Name.

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Notice that Emily's iPhone was last backed up at 5:34 PM, and the backup is 3.5 GB. Also note that the Camera Roll wants to take 1.4 GB of space. This is a good sign; it probably means that her Camera Roll fits in the backup. Another clue is that the Next Backup Size is only 18.3 MB, which is the new information to back up, and most of her pictures are already in the backup. In any case, it might be a good idea to go to Step 1.5:

Step 1.5: Import photos and videos into iPhoto. It's likely this is the most important content you have. If you're using Photo Stream, your photos should be all safe, but none of your videos are uploaded into Photo Stream. Make sure you get a copy of them, but don't bother deleting them once iPhoto is done importing. That will be the next step.

Step 2: Now is the point of no return; you're going to erase your iPhone. More information about this procedure is available on Apple's Support site: iOS: Understanding 'Erase All Content and Settings'. You do this by tapping:

Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings

It will first ask you for your unlock PIN (if set), and then ask you twice with a big red button if you really, really want to do this. You have to decide how much you trust your iCloud backups to get everything back that you didn't backup otherwise.

Step 3: Restore from iCloud Backup in Setup Assistant. After you choose Erase All Content and Settings, your iPhone will reset itself, show a boot screen with an Apple logo, and a progress bar, etc. Once the reset is complete, Setup Assistant will begin. It will ask you what language and region you use, and you can set up Wi-Fi (which you must do to restore).

Finally you arrive at the screen you want to see:

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The answer is obvious. Select Restore from iCloud Backup. You then enter the iTunes username and password that you used to create your iCloud backups. Then you're asked to agree to the Terms and Conditions.

Finally you are on the Choose Backup screen; note that you can select Older Backups if necessary. The total number of backups for any device will not exceed 3. Select the appropriate backup and tap on Restore.

Step 4: Wait for your backup to complete. Note that once the progress bar is done, that doesn't mean everything is restored, just enough to get things going. Once settings are restored, the phone will reboot, show you an Apple logo and a progress bar again, and then you can start using your phone again.

But you're still not done...

Step 5: The iPhone will tell you "Restore is complete."

It will then proceed to ask you more questions. If you had a lock code it will ask you to recreate it. If you had logged into FaceTime it will ask for your password again. You may also have to re-enter passwords in other apps.

What you're probably most interested in is the restore of your Camera Roll. Just go to the Photos app, and you can see in your Albums page that it's downloading your photos and videos back into your Camera Roll:

You can check to see if the restore is complete by going to: Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup again.

iCloud Photo Stream issues

Photo Stream is really cool, but:
  • No way to exclude a new photo in Photo Stream. This means that all the devices that are in your Photo Stream get new pictures that you take. Suppose you're at work, and you want to take a picture of a whiteboard with some proprietary information, to share with your colleagues. Less than a minute later your kid at home is looking at it on your family iPad.
  • No way to delete photos in the Photo Stream. Suppose you've accidentally shared a photo that you didn't want to share. You can't fix the issue by deleting the photo. Actually, you can delete photos in your photo stream: all you have to do is reset your Photo Stream, which removes all the content, and then you re-add all your content in iPhoto minus the photo you don't want.
  • Uses your mobile data. Whether you like it or not, a photo taken by you is uploaded into iCloud, and photos taken by others that you're sharing Photo Stream with is downloaded from iCloud. If you're on AT&T's 200MB data plan, you're not going to make it.
  • Doesn't do videos. Videos on your device must be sync'd to iPhoto with a cable. I assume this is a compromise because of concerns over the amount of data iCloud will use on your mobile data plan. The Android Google+ app syncs video.
  • Every photo is in a single event in iPhoto. This can make it difficult to figure out where your pictures are; you're looking for a recent photo you took, but it's in an event called "Oct 2011 Photo Stream" many events past, because the first picture in the event is close to the beginning of the month.
  • Integration with iPhoto import. There's no integration beyond the fact that iPhoto 9.2 by default won't re-import photos it already has. This means that unless you take extra steps, your camera roll will keep getting bigger and bigger, because you're not deleting the photos after import.
  • Drops the raw tag on raw photos. This is a subtle issue, but annoying. I often shoot raw on my Canon. When my photos are imported onto an iPad, they are sync'd to my iMac without the raw tag that they usually have. Maybe this is an issue with the iPad import? However, all those photos are tagged with "Photo Stream" so at least they are easy to identify.
I really like the Android Google+ app and the way it's handled in Google+, but it's a different use case Photos and videos you take are instantly uploaded into a Google+ private album, which you can then optionally share. Whether you consider your Google+ albums to be the final archive location of your photos or not is another question.

Instead of Photo Stream, you can use WiFi sync to your iPhone(s)/iPad(s). It can work pretty well, because you can set up your devices to sync the last n events over WiFi. It's not the same, because:
  • You can't upload new photos unless you connect a cable to your device.
  • The hub of your collection is now iPhoto/iTunes, not iCloud. So your Mac needs to be up and iTunes open for this to happen.
  • Requires manual initiation, even if you don't have to plug in a cable.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Forward AT&T Voicemail to Google Voice

Let's say you have an iPhone, and you don't want to use Visual Voicemail, but prefer a different service. After much searching, and conflicting information, I found a procedure which appears to work.

First check your current Voicemail settings:
*#61# Call
Interrogate your forwarding settings.

Record the phone number where
Unanswered calls are forwarded.

Record the information that's presented, specifically the phone number your Voicemail current goes to. You should be able to reset everything later, but this is good confirmation that a reset gets you back to your original Voicemail settings.

Now configure it to forward your Voicemail to your Google Voice number. When Google Voice knows to record Voicemail when this happens. In the following sequence, be sure to replace the phone number with your own Google Voice number:
**61*+14085551234*11*30# Call
Forward your unanswered calls. Be sure to use
your own Google Voice number, not 408-555-1234.

Note the number 30 at the end; you can change this value to 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30. That's how many seconds your phone will ring before it's forwarded to Voicemail.

Now you can retrieve your settings again and validate that it all worked:

*#61# Call
From Dacoach in the comments, here is the complete list:

  • Immediate Call Forwarding: Dial *21* plus the 10-digit number to which your calls should be forwarded and #. Press Send.
  • Busy Call Forwarding: Dial *67* plus the 10-digit number to which your calls should be forwarded and #. Press Send.
  • Call Forwarding No Reply: Dial *61* plus the 10-digit number to which your calls should be forwarded and #. Press Send.
  • Call Forwarding Not Reachable: Dial *62* plus the 10-digit number to which your calls should be forwarded and #. Press Send.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Does the new iPhone antenna make up for AT&T?

Now that the iPhone 4S has a fancy new antenna system, does this make up for AT&T's poor coverage? I've certainly noticed a big improvement in voice quality, while talking on the phone, using the speakerphone and over Bluetooth. Also, I have fewer dropped calls.

Or is it that the iPhone -> iPhone 4 had sub-standard antennas?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Siri and Bluetooth

Today I found that your iPhone + Siri through your car's Bluetooth works fairly well. To get it to work:

  1. Pair your iPhone with your car's Bluetooth.
  2. While iPhone is connected via Bluetooth, hold down home button to activate Siri.
  3. Talk to Siri through Bluetooth. She'll respond back over Bluetooth.
There are a few issues with this:
  • The first time you press the home button and Siri beeps, it doesn't seem to work--I've had to press it a second time for her to start listening.
  • Obviously this isn't an ideal solution; it's not hands-free. You still have to press the home-button on your iPhone, but at least you don't have to look at the screen to do so.
  • Many of Siri's answers are visual which means you do have to look at the screen. For instance, I asked Siri to read my email, and she said "sorry, I can't do that yet."
Leave comments here with your experience...