How to stop spam texts on iPhone and Android phones | Digital Trends

How to stop spam texts on iPhone and Android phones | Digital Trends

Everyone from legitimate marketers to outright scammers wants to get your attention these days. With a mobile phone in nearly every pocket, many of these have turned to SMS text messages as a way to extend their reach. After all, it’s a fast means of communication that’s much more likely to be noticed than traditional email messages. Plus, there aren’t nearly as many spam filtering solutions available for dealing with text messages, making them ripe for abuse. Here, we explore your options for reducing spam, depending on your phone type.

Regardless of your smartphone platform of choice, the first rule of dealing with suspicious text messages is the same as for email: Don’t interact with them in any way. Don’t reply to a spam text, even if it seems like there’s a valid “opt-out” option, as you’ll just be confirming your existence. And definitely don’t click on any links in a text, as some of these can lead to sites that will try to install malware on your phone. Contrary to popular belief, smartphones aren’t immune to such things. Instead, check out our guides below for ways in which you can deal with unwanted text messages.

Looking for tips on how to stop spam calls instead? See our guide on how to stop spam calls on iPhone and Android phones!

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How to report spam texts on an iPhone

While it’s nearly impossible to avoid text message spam entirely, you can help cut down on it by reporting spam texts to your carrier and Apple. Thankfully, Apple has made this very easy to do in iOS 16 with a one-tap reporting feature. This can also be used to report the rare bit of text spam that comes through Apple’s iMessage service, but it’s best at helping you report SMS/MMS spam — as long as your carrier supports it. Here’s how to do this.

Step 1: Open the Messages app on your phone.

Step 2: Select a conversation that contains a spam text.

iPhone showing a spam text with the Report Junk option.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 3: Select the blue Report Junk link below the most recent message. As long as your carrier supports it, this should appear for any conversation for which the sender is not in your contact list, and to which you have not replied.

iPhone showing the prompt in Messages to Delete and Report Junk.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 4: Select Delete and Report Junk from the pop-up that appears at the bottom of your screen.

*Note that this does not automatically prevent future spam texts from this messager, but you can block the number manually. We’ll explain how to do that in the next section. *

How to block spam texts on an iPhone

You can block any number to prevent text messages from that number from getting through to your phone. Spam texts often come from a wide assortment of seemingly random numbers, so it probably isn’t worth your time to block every single one, but this can be handy if a large number of unwanted texts are coming in from the same number.

Step 1: Open the Messages app on your phone.

Step 2: Select a conversation that contains a spam text.

Example of a spam message in iPhone Messages app.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 3: Select the icon with the number at the top of the conversation.

Example of a spam message in iPhone Messages app.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 4: Select the Info button from the card that appears.

Option to block caller in iPhone Messages app.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 5: Select Block this Caller at the bottom of the next screen.

Block Contact confirmation in iPhone Messages app.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 6: From the pop-up that appears, select Block Contact to confirm.

This will block both texts and phone calls from the selected number — including FaceTime audio and video calls. Incoming cellular calls will be sent to voicemail, FaceTime calls will be ignored, and texts will be silently discarded. Note that texts coming in from a blocked number cannot be recovered even if you later unblock the number.

You can view and manage your list of blocked contacts in the iPhone Settings app under Messages > Blocked Contacts.

How to filter spam messages on iPhone

You can automatically filter out messages from unknown senders — those not in your contacts list. Filtered messages will still appear in the Messages app, but they’ll be grouped into their own folder. You can also disable notifications for messages from unknown senders so they won’t disturb you or light up a badge on your Messages app icon. Here’s how to set this up:

Step 1: Open the Settings app on your iPhone.

iPhone showing Messages options in Settings app.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 2: Scroll down and select Messages.

iPhone showing Filter Unknown Senders switch in Messages settings.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 3: Scroll down and find Filter Unknown Senders and select the switch to toggle it on.

iPhone showing Messages settings screen.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 4: To also disable notifications for messages from unknown senders, scroll back up and select Notifications near the top of the Messages settings.

iPhone showing how to Customize Notifications for Messages.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 5: Select Customize Notifications at the bottom.

iPhone showing option to disable message notifications for unknown senders.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 6: Toggle Unknown Senders off. Note that this setting only applies to notifications on your iPhone; you’ll need to turn it on separately on your iPad or Mac if you’re syncing your text messages to those devices.

Step 7: Once you’ve enabled the option to Filter Unknown Senders, a new Filters option will appear in the top-left corner of the conversation view in the Messages app. Selecting this will allow you to choose between viewing all messages or filtering the list by either known or unknown senders. There are also options here to filter by unread messages and view recently deleted conversations.

Two iPhones showing how to permanently delete a conversation in the Messages app.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 8: Note that Apple considers any active conversation you’ve replied to as coming from a known sender, even if the number isn’t listed in your contacts. If you’ve replied to a spam text and want to revert that number to being treated as an unknown sender, you’ll need to permanently delete the conversation: 

  1. In the Messages app, swipe to the left on the conversation you would like to delete and continue swiping until you feel some haptic feedback and see the red banner expand all the way across the screen.
  2. Select Delete from the pop-up that appears.
  3. Select Filters from the top-left corner.
  4. Select Recently Deleted.
  5. Choose the conversation you just deleted. A blue checkmark should appear on the left side to indicate it’s selected.
  6. Select Delete from the bottom-left corner.
  7. Choose Delete Message to confirm.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra next to the Google Pixel 7 Pro.

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

How to block spam texts on Android via Google Messages

Blocking spam texts on Android can be trickier since just about every handset maker has its own take on the operating system, which often includes its own app for handling text messages. Thankfully, the most popular smartphone makers have more recently standardized on Google Messages. Here’s how to block spam there:

Step 1: Open the Messages by Google app on your phone.

Step 2: Select your profile picture or initials in the top-right corner.

How to access setting in Google Messages.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 3: Select Messages settings.

Google Messages Spam Protection option in Settings.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 4: Scroll down and select Spam protection.

Google Messages Enable Spam Protection Setting.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 5: Select the toggle beside Enable spam protection to turn it on.

Messages that are identified as spam will go into a Spam & blocked folder that can be accessed from the three-line hamburger menu in the top-left corner of the Messages app (the one with three lines on top of each other).

How to report spam texts on Android

Unfortunately, enabling spam protection for the first time won’t scan your existing messages, meaning any messages you’ve already received will remain exactly where they are. However, you can manually report these as spam. Further, since Google’s algorithms aren’t perfect, some spam messages will slip through. Manual reporting will move these to the spam filter and help train your phone to better recognize similar patterns in the future. Here’s how to do this.

Step 1: Open a spam message in the Messages app on your phone.

Report spam banner in Google Messages.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 2: Select Report spam.

Report spam confirmation in Google Messages.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 3: Select the box beside Block to block the number permanently as well.

Step 4: Choose the Report spam button.

Banner for a blocked number in Google Messages.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 5: Select the back arrow in the top-left corner to return to your message list. The reported conversation will no longer appear on the main list since it’s been moved to the “Spam & blocked” folder.

Step 6: You can also report a message as spam without opening it by long-selecting it in the Messages app and choosing the Block option from the three-dot menu in the top-right corner. This shows a pop-up box with the opposite behavior of the Report spam option; it blocks the message by default, with a separate checkbox to optionally report it as spam.

Close up detail of a man iMessaging on an iPhone.

Neil Godwin / Future/Getty Images

Other tools for stopping spam texts

Apple and Google both provide “hooks” in their messaging platforms that allow third-party apps to scan your incoming text messages to try to determine if they’re spam before passing them on to your phone. As a result, a number of developers have taken up the challenge of trying to build better anti-spam filtering than what Apple and Google’s messaging apps offer on their own.

These range from dedicated apps like Truecaller to more full-featured security suites like Malwarebytes for iPhone or Android.

If you opt for a third-party app, be sure to read the company’s privacy policies very carefully. By necessity, these apps need to scan your text messages to do their job, and that’s usually done by sending copies of the messages from your device to that company’s servers. Thankfully, Apple and Google offer some protections against this turning into a free-for-all on your messaging data, such as only allowing access to messages from unknown senders, but there are still privacy trade-offs with any of these apps, and some apps require that you expose more of your data, such as uploading your entire contact list to their servers.

Blocking a number sending spam SMS on a phone.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

How to identify a spam text

Traditional spam texts are usually pretty easy to spot, as they’re typically trying to sell you something. These are also fairly easy to ignore, but of course, the reporting and blocking options we explained above will help you filter out some of the noise.

Sadly, there’s a more insidious category of spam texts that fall more into the category of scams. These are most commonly used for phishing attacks designed to steal your passwords or make you give up other personal information. They’re often disguised as alerts from your bank or other financial institution, a government agency such as the IRS, or even just an online service like Amazon, Google, Facebook, or Apple’s iCloud. They can also appear in other forms such as job offers. Some of these phishing scams can even be used to install malware on your phone.

In every case, these messages should be considered highly suspect and treated with extreme caution. Do NOT click on any links in these messages, as they’ll usually just lead you to a fake website that looks just real enough to convince you to enter a password or credit card number to “confirm your identity.” If you’re worried one of your online accounts may be compromised, open a separate browser window and visit it directly by typing in the address rather than clicking on a link in an email or text message.

There’s another category of spam/scam texts that have been making the rounds in recent years that may seem much more innocuous on the surface. Rather than offering up links or alerts, these are incoming messages are phrased in such a way to make you think somebody simply sent a text to your number by mistake. They can begin with everything from a simple greeting to a message that looks like it’s following up on a referral or another conversation, such as the examples shown in the screenshots above about a “golfing party tomorrow” or “a pet dog for sale.”

These are almost never real texts. Instead, they’re designed to draw the recipient in to a conversation with a scammer as a form of “social engineering” attack. Many folks will be tempted to respond either out of curiosity or a genuine desire to be helpful by letting the person know they have the wrong number. The scammer will then try to engage you with some friendly banter that will ultimately lead to a request for some kind of help that will involve clicking a link they provide or sending them some money.

It’s usually easy to recognize these messages by the numbers they come from — folks in South Carolina or San Bernardino aren’t likely to be legitimately mistyping a Toronto number asking about a pet dog for sale or announcing a golfing party.

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9 Retrofuturistic Predictions That Came True

9 Retrofuturistic Predictions That Came True

British actress Margaret Tyzack on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey
Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis (Getty Images)

In 2024, it feels as if our society’s technology is propelling forward in an unknown trajectory. Just this week, a person had a computer chip installed in their brain.

Commentators and reporters annually try to predict where technology will go, but many fail to get it right year after year. Who gets it right? More often than not, the world resembles the pop culture of the past’s vision for the future. Looking to retrofuturism, an old version of the future, can often predict where our advanced society will go.

The reason for this is that technologists are often inspired by the vision of the future they grow up watching. Comic books, television, and movies have a knack for predicting the future, often because they are giving innovators a guidebook for what to build. Elon Musk built his AI chatbot, Grok, to resemble the omnipotent helper in The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy. Upon inspection, much of our technologically advanced reality seems to be built on the futuristic ideas from the past.

How to Check Data Usage on an iPhone or iPad | Digital Trends

How to Check Data Usage on an iPhone or iPad | Digital Trends

Even as more plans are selling “infinite data” you may still wonder how to check data usage on your iPhone. Partially, this can come from the fear that you use too much data on the supposedly infinite data packages and get dinged with bonus charges. It can also come down to worrying about how much data you have left after some intense downloads or movie-watching on your data plan. Finally, keeping track of our digital lives is important, from how much time we spend doom scrolling to what Google knows about us. Knowing if you use more data in the bleakest days of January than a fine summer day is an interesting fact about you.

No matter the reason, however, checking your data usage on iPhone is not difficult. We’ll cover several ways here.

There’s good news. In recent versions of Apple’s operating system, including iOS 17, Apple makes it easier than ever to obsess over your data usage and take steps to mitigate it. We’ll show you how to check data usage on an iPhone whenever you like with this quick process, and we’ll explain how it can be used to limit your data use.

Check your data usage

Understanding your data usage is extremely important, especially if you’re on a limited data plan. Keeping an eye on how much data you’re using can prevent you from encountering pricey overage charges or having your data speeds throttled. Here’s how to check how much data you’ve been using with tools built into iOS:

Step 1: On your iPhone or iPad, open the Settings app.

Step 2: Tap the Cellular option. Note that it may be called Mobile Data or Cellular Data in some cases, depending on your device, iOS version, and regional settings.

Step 3: Scroll down to the section labelled Cellular Data.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 4: From here, you can see an overview of your data usage for the current period, including the total data used, data used while roaming (which usually costs more), and data used by each of your apps, sorted from the highest to the lowest. A toggle switch beside each app allows you to disable cellular data access for that app to help reduce your data usage.

Reset your data usage counters

When you check your data usage, the Current Period indicator can be a bit misleading. It may sound like this automatically resets with each billing period, but that’s actually not the case. The numbers simply keep accumulating until you reset it manually, and there’s no way to schedule this — you’ll have to set a reminder for yourself every month if you want to ensure the numbers are for a specific time frame. Here’s how to reset your data usage counters:

Step 1: On your iPhone or iPad, open the Settings app.

Step 2: Tap the Cellular option. Note that it may be called Mobile Data or Cellular Data in some cases, depending on your device, iOS version, and regional settings.

Step 3: Scroll all the way down to the very bottom of this screen.

Step 4: Note the Last Reset_ date and time. This indicates the beginning of the Current Period for all the numbers above this.

how to check data usage on an iphone reset cellular statistics

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 5: Tap Reset Statistics. This clears all of the data counters, as well as the Current Period call time. Note that the Lifetime call time is tied to your specific iPhone hardware and cannot be reset.

Calling it in

An alternative way to find out your data usage is to call you network. While this sounds troubling at first, don’t worry, as you won’t have to talk to anyone and the process is automated.

Pick up your phone and dial out the following, depending on your choice of phone carrier. Here are some common ones that include these codes.
* AT&T Dial *3282# to receive a text with info about your data and messaging usage.
* T-Mobile Dial #932# to get information about your data usage, plan, and important dates.
* Verizon Dial #3282 to get an estimate of the data and messaging you’ve used this billing cycle. Verizon will also audibly tell you if you listen into the phone after the call.

Turn off cellular data

If you find yourself approaching the limits of your monthly data allotment, you may need to take the extreme approach and disable cellular data entirely. This will limit your communication options to voice calls and SMS/MMS text messages whenever you’re away from a Wi-Fi network, but it will also guarantee that you won’t be charged for any extra data use. Off really means off in this case. Here’s how to quickly toggle cellular data:

Step 1: From your iPhone or iPad home screen, swipe down from the top-right corner to bring up the iOS Control Center. If you’re using an iPhone with a Home button, such as an iPhone 8 or iPhone SE, swipe up from the bottom instead.

Step 2: Tap the green button in the top-left panel of the control center to turn off cellular data. The button should turn grey.

how to check data usage on an iphone control centre turn off cellular

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 3: You can also tap and hold on this panel and expand it to confirm that cellular data is off.

Step 4: Repeat the above steps to turn your cellular data back on. The button should turn green when cellular data is enabled.

Turn off Wi-Fi Assist

Your iPhone includes a feature called Wi-Fi Assist that uses cellular data to back up your Wi-Fi connection when it’s not quite working the way it should. While this doesn’t normally use a lot of data, it can become a problem if you regularly hang out on slow or spotty Wi-Fi networks. Fortunately, you can check how much data it’s been using, and turn it off if you don’t want to risk any surprises. Here’s how:

Step 1: On your iPhone or iPad, open the Settings app.

Step 2: Tap the Cellular option. Note that it may be called Mobile Data or Cellular Data in some cases, depending on your device, iOS version, and regional settings.

Step 3: Scroll all the way down to the very bottom of this screen.

Step 4: Look for Wi-Fi Assist. It should be right below your list of apps.

how to check data usage on an iphone wi fi assist setting

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 5: Note the amount of data that has been used by Wi-Fi Assist during the current period. This represents those times that your iPhone or iPad was connected to Wi-Fi, but needed to fall back to the cellular network. In most, cases this number shouldn’t be more than a few hundred kilobytes.

Step 6: If you find this number is higher than you’d like, or you just don’t want to take the risk of using too much data, tap the switch to turn Wi-Fi Assist off. This will ensure that what happens on your Wi-Fi network stays on your Wi-Fi network.

Turn off cellular data when traveling (roaming)

Using cellular data when traveling can quickly get very expensive, as you normally pay extra for using other carrier’s cellular networks. This is called Roaming. Fortunately, your iPhone and iPad know when they’re on your carrier’s network or when they’re roaming on a foreign network, so you can easily disable cellular data only while roaming without the need to worry about turning it off entirely. Best of all, this means you can just leave it off entirely so you’ll never risk roaming charges in the first place. Here’s how:

Step 1: On your iPhone or iPad, open the Settings app.

Step 2: Tap the Cellular option. Note that it may be called Mobile Data or Cellular Data in some cases, depending on your device, iOS version, and regional settings.

Step 3: At the top of this screen, look for Cellular Data Options. If this says Roaming Off, then you’re OK — cellular data will be automatically disabled as soon your device detects that it’s roaming on another carrier’s network.

how to check data usage on an iphone cellular roaming settings

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 4: If you see Roaming On instead, tap this to open your Cellular Data Options.

Step 5: Tap the switch beside Data Roaming at the very top of the screen to toggle it off.

Save data with Low Data Mode

If you’re frequently bumping up against the limits of your data plan, but still want to get as much out of it as possible, then you can take advantage of the built-in Low Data Mode feature on your iPhone or iPad. This single option will automatically reduce your data usage across the board, and is actually the only way to turn on data-saving settings in many of Apple’s built-in apps. This doesn’t disable cellular data for any of your apps, but it makes sure that they use less of it.

For example, enabling Low Data Mode will lower the video bit rate for FaceTime calls to optimize it for lower bandwidth. This saves data and also makes FaceTime run more smoothly when you’re on a slower connection, like an older 3G network. There’s no individual setting for this — the only way to get at it is by turning on Low Data Mode.

Enabling Low Data Mode_ will also disable automatic downloads and iCloud backups, pause updates to your iCloud Photo Library, and disable background refresh for all of your apps. It also reduces the quality of streaming content in all of Apple’s built-in apps, such as Music, TV, and Podcasts, although you’ll still want to be cautious as not all third-party apps respect this setting.

Here’s how to enable Low Data Mode:

Step 1: On your iPhone or iPad, open the Settings app.

Step 2: Tap the Cellular option. Note that it may be called Mobile Data or Cellular Data in some cases, depending on your device, iOS version, and regional settings.

Step 3: Tap Cellular Data Options.

Step 4: Tap Data Mode.

how to check data usage on an iphone low mode setting

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 5: TapLow Data Mode.

Note that if you have an iPhone 12 or newer and you’re on a 5G plan, you’ll see another option here to Allow More Data on 5G. This does the opposite, allowing higher-speed 5G data to be used for things that normally only run over a Wi-Fi connection, such as automatic iCloud backups and software updates.

Keeping track of your data usage can be crucial in avoiding nasty overage charges at the end of the month, especially if you’re on a limited data plan. Although many carriers are offering more generous data allotments these days, an equal number of apps are increasing their data usage to take advantage of those higher caps, so just because you have more data in your plan doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still keep and eye on what’s using it.

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How To Use Your Android Phone or iPhone as a Webcam

How To Use Your Android Phone or iPhone as a Webcam

Smartphones can take on the roles of many other gadgets—cameras, calculators, e-readers, dictaphones, and all the rest—and they can also do double duty as webcams. In fact, this functionality is now built into both Android and iOS, so it’s easier than ever to use a phone as a webcam when it’s connected to your computer.

You might want to do this for a few reasons, not least because you might not already have a webcam hooked up to your computer. Or perhaps you do, but the quality isn’t very good—certainly not up to the quality that the rear cameras on your smartphone of choice can offer.

Here, we’ll cover what you can do out of the box with the latest versions of Android and iOS and what else you can do with the help of a third-party app or two.

Using an Android phone as a webcam

If you want to use the functionality built into Android to turn your phone into a webcam, you need to run Android 14 or later. If that’s what you’ve got, and you have a spare USB cable handy, all you need to do is connect your phone to a computer running Windows or macOS, and you’re almost ready to go.

Swipe down from the top of the screen on your phone, and you’ll see a notification saying that it’s charging over USB. Tap on the notification to get a selection of connection options (for tethering, file transfer, and so on). One of those should be Webcam, so select that to turn your phone into a camera your computer can use.

Android 14 offers a webcam connection option.
Screenshot: Android

Yet another notification will then pop up—tap on this to configure your phone in webcam mode. You’re able to choose whether you use the rear or forward-facing cameras, for example, and switch between different camera modes (such as ultrawide) if they’re available on your handset. You can also see a preview of the webcam output.

All being well, every application on Windows or macOS that can utilize a webcam will now recognize your Android phone as one. If you want to test this out, launch the Camera app on Windows or the FaceTime app on macOS to make sure everything is working—note that your phone will show that the camera is being accessed when the webcam is live.

Using an iPhone as a webcam

If you’re using an iPhone, you might not be shocked to find out that you can only use it as a webcam with macOS without resorting to third-party apps. It’s a feature called Continuity Camera, and you need to be running iOS 16 or later on your phone and macOS 13 Ventura or later on your Mac.

Make sure both phone and computer are logged into the same Apple ID and that both have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled. Apple recommends that you attach your iPhone to a mount to keep it stable, but it’s not essential. The feature will work wirelessly, but you can attach your iPhone to your Mac with a cable if you prefer.

The on-screen message when an iPhone is connected to a webcam.

The on-screen message when an iPhone is connected to a webcam.
Screenshot: iOS

Get everything set up as we’ve explained above, and Continuity Camera is enabled automatically—you don’t need to do anything else for your iPhone to appear as a webcam option in your macOS applications. With FaceTime, for example, open the Video menu, and your iPhone should show up on the list.

While your iPhone is being used as a webcam, you’ll see a message on its display to this effect, together with options to Pause or Disconnect the link. You’ll also have the option to pause the webcam feed from your Mac if a call comes in on your iPhone. Note that Wi-Fi is disabled on your iPhone if you’re using it wirelessly as a webcam—use a cable if you’d like to keep Wi-Fi enabled on the handset.

Using third-party tools instead

If the built-in webcam options don’t meet your needs—or you don’t have Android 14—then several third-party tools are around to do the job for you. One of the best for Android is Camo, which works with both Windows and macOS, comes with a bunch of options and filters and is controlled via an intuitive dashboard on your computer desktop.

Then there’s DroidCam, which has been around for years—so you know you can rely on it. Again, you’ve got wired and wireless options for connecting and plenty of settings to play around with, though it’ll only work on Windows (so it’s not an option for Macs). One of the extras you get with this app is the ability to access the webcam feed over the web. You can also get DroidCam for iOS.

DroidCam gives you the option of connecting via an IP address.

DroidCam gives you the option of connecting via an IP address.
Screenshot: DroidCam

If you’re using an iPhone, one of the best third-party apps we’ve come across is EpocCam. It’s really simple to use, it’ll work wirelessly or over a USB cable, and it works with Windows and macOS too. The app also brings with it a number of useful features and filters it, including a background blur option if you’d rather your untidy home didn’t appear on your video feed.

Another option is iVCam, though it can only connect your iPhone up to Windows computers, so it doesn’t cover Macs. The options here cover video feeds and still image capture, and you can adjust the webcam video in various ways. You can also run multiple feeds (utilizing different cameras, for example) from the same phone.

Apple tvOS 17.2 has a redesigned TV experience and no iTunes Movies or TV Shows apps

Apple tvOS 17.2 has a redesigned TV experience and no iTunes Movies or TV Shows apps

Alongside iOS, iPadOS and watchOS updates, Apple has rolled out the latest version of tvOS. The main change this time around is a redesign of the core Apple TV app.

You’ll now see a sidebar that blends content from Apple’s own services (such as Apple TV+, MLS Season Pass and a Store where users can buy and rent popular movies) with access to third-party channels and apps such as Disney+ and Max. It seems that Apple is aiming to improve navigation and discoverability without straying too far from the industry standard tile browsing format on the homepage.

On living room devices (i.e. Apple TV hardware and the eponymous app on smart TVs and other devices), the sidebar will include profiles. Apple says this will allow you to swiftly switch between users for more personalized recommendations across the app and in the Up Next section. Meanwhile, Watch Now has been rebranded as Home.


The Apple TV app’s Store tab is where you’ll want to go to buy or rent movies and TV shows. Starting today, the iTunes Movies and TV Shows apps on Apple TV 4K and HD devices will redirect users to the Apple TV app’s Store tab to find and manage their purchases. The same goes for the iTunes Store app on iPhone and iPad.

Meanwhile, you’ll now be able to answer FaceTime calls directly on Apple TV 4K devices. Apple has added support for FaceTime audio calls as well.

The living room tripod is now officially a thing you need | Digital Trends

The living room tripod is now officially a thing you need | Digital Trends

A carbon fiber Peak Design Travel Tripod is overkill for living room video calls — but it also is very cool. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Now that you can choose between using FaceTime or Zoom on an Apple TV — and that really isn’t as much of a lesser of two evils scenario as it sounds — it’s time to consider one more accessory to stash inside your living room closet for those special occasions: a proper tripod for your phone.

It’s not quite as silly as you might think (OK, it’s a little silly, but stay with me here). We should all be calling our friends and family a lot more than we do. And being able to use your TV as a giant display (or at least way bigger than your phone screen) really does change the entire look and feel of the operation. And it’s a thousand times better than trying to cram three or four people (or more) around a laptop with a disappointing 1080p webcam.

So assuming you have an Apple TV — which is still our pick for the best streaming device you can buy — and assuming you’ve got an iPhone, it’s time to snag a tripod to really tie the room together.

Here are a few picks, at various budgets:

Expensive: Peak Design Travel Tripod

The Peak Design Travel Tripod has a clever phone mount.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod has a clever phone mount. Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Let’s get this out of the way: The Peak Design Travel Tripod is a very expensive tripod that you should not buy if you only intend on using it with your phone in your living room. You can get it in any color you want, so long as it’s black. But it does come in either aluminum or carbon fiber. The former costs $380, and the latter a whopping $600. So unless weight is of the utmost concern, aluminum may well be the way to go. (But carbon fiber is so very cool.)

Who should buy this thing, then, given its price? Someone who does more than Zoom calls from the living room, of course. It’s a very good travel tripod for someone who takes pictures with a proper camera on the regular. It’s got a smooth ball head and is compatible with all Peak Design plates, as well as most Arca-style plates. And it keeps the phone mount tucked away inside until you need it.

And the whole thing folds down into something about the size of a water bottle.

Expensive? Yeah. But also excellent.

Perfectly sane: Joby GorillaPod

If you’re not looking to spend several hundred dollars on a tripod (and I don’t blame you), the Joby GorillaPod line remains an excellent option.

The octopus-style legs (that’s what I call them in my head, anyway) let you attach this tripod to just about anything. A handrail. A lamp. A ceiling fan. Seriously, go nuts. Just remember that you have a phone that’s worth a few hundred dollars attached to the end of it.

It’s really the flexibility — no pun intended — that makes the GorillaPod a fan favorite after all these years. It’s relatively inexpensive. It’s extensible — with accessories that make it better and allow it to do even more. And it’s great for phones or mirrorless cameras. Basically it’ll handle whatever you want to throw at it. And if your holiday call gets heated, it should survive should you choose to throw it instead.

Just make sure you get an attachment for your phone, and not just something with a quarter-inch mount for phones.

Part selfie stick: Sensyne

Some days you want a tripod. Some days you want a selfie stick. The Sensyne 60-inch tripod selfie stick … thing (selfiepod?) does both.

I haven’t used it. Can’t speak to it. But you know what? It looks cool. And like Alton Brown, I love a good multitasker. It also kind of looks like a lightsaber, which is always a good thing.

Amazon says it’s made with a high-quality aluminum alloy, and a “premium piano baking paint process.” I’ve never known a piano that could bake, but maybe I just haven’t known enough pianos. It also comes with a removable Bluetooth remote so you can take pics and shoot video without having to run back and forth to your phone, which is definitely a good thing.

And perhaps most important? The price is right.

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Apple TV with Zoom means it’s finally time to call your mother | Digital Trends

Apple TV with Zoom means it’s finally time to call your mother | Digital Trends

Zoom on Apple TV uses your iPhone as a camera (sweet dog blanket not included). Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Zoom is now available on Apple TV, complete with Continuity Camera. That means you can use your iPhone camera as, well, the camera and your TV as the screen on which to see the folks on the other side of the call. And because Zoom is a cross-platform app, it means you don’t have anymore excuses for your Android-wielding family.

All of which means: it’s time to call your mother.

OK, so there have been other ways to call home via video, of course, even using your iPhone in conjunction with Apple TV. FaceTime has worked on tvOS with Continuity Camera with the rollout of tvOS 17. And it’s very cool. But if you’re looking to talk with someone who isn’t on an iPhone, or who just prefers a different app for this sort of thing? Zoom is going to be a very cool option.

And because we’re talking about Continuity Camera and not just static lens that’s pointed in your general direction, it’ll zoom in on most important face (or faces, if you’ve got the family on the couch with you), and even track your ugly mug if and when you start to drift a little bit.

There’s not much you have to do to get things going. It just requires Zoom on your Apple TV — which, by the way, is our pick for the best streaming device — and then a few taps to get things going (you don’t even have to log in if you don’t want to). Then you approve using your phone as the camera, and Bob’s your uncle.

One strong recommendation, though: If you’re at all serious about this sort of thing — whether using Zoom or any other video calling app with Apple TV, and whether you’re alone or with family — spend a few bucks and invest in a basic tripod that’ll hold your phone. Nobody wants motion sickness because you’re weaving all over the place. And going hands-free lets you pay more attention to what’s really important — the family on the other side of the call.

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Apple Offering Bonus to Users in India When Adding Funds to Apple ID

Apple Offering Bonus to Users in India When Adding Funds to Apple ID

Apple is currently offering a 10 percent bonus to its Indian customers who add money straight from the App Store to their Apple ID. A user’s Apple ID is the username and password that they use to log into all Apple services and it claims to enable seamless device integration. They can access multiple Apple services like the App Store, Apple Music, iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime, and more through the Apple ID. The ID also stores all of the user’s data including contact, financial, and security information, alongside email and password details, that they use for different Apple services.

Users can use this ‘bonus’ money to buy games and applications from the App Store and help sign up for services like Apple TV+ and Apple Music. As soon as the money is added to your Apple ID, the bonus amount will also be applied. Users can also utilise this fund to buy more iCloud storage.

A 10 percent bonus will translate to an additional Rs. 200 if you choose to add Rs. 2,000 to your Apple ID. Similarly, your Apple ID funds will reflect a ‘bonus’ of Rs. 500 for Rs. 5,000. These are the two amounts that Apple says are eligible for the bonus offers.

To add funds, you have to go to Settings > Name > Payment & Shipping > Apple ID > Add Funds from any Apple device.

The ongoing deal will last in India for Apple users till November 13. A user can avail of this bonus only once from one Apple ID. The Cupertino-based tech giant also notes that the offer eligibility can vary based on account information or transaction history. Other than these, the company adds that other terms and conditions are also applied.

Meanwhile, Apple assembler Foxconn is expected to raise the number of iPhone units assembled in India by 2024. Currently, up to 14 percent of global iPhone units are produced in the country. The number is expected to rise between 20 percent and 25 percent by next year. The move is said to come alongside the company cutting down its China production.

Is the iQoo Neo 7 Pro the best smartphone you can buy under Rs. 40,000 in India? We discuss the company’s recently launched handset and what it has to offer on the latest episode of Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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How to send animated reactions on FaceTime with iOS 17

How to send animated reactions on FaceTime with iOS 17

Apple’s latest iOS 17 update has introduced FaceTime Reactions, which are animated effects that pop up on your screen during a video chat. These reactions are like the ones commonly used in Messages with other iPhone users, such as hearts, fireworks and thumbs-ups. These can sometimes serve as expressive substitutes for written responses or, in the case of FaceTime, punctuate your body language with 3D animations.

However, during video calls, these animated effects are a little different. You can activate them manually or using hand gestures. For example, you can create a heart shape with your hands and little red hearts will start erupting from the middle. Or you can toss up dual metal signs to get a laser light show. These 3D animated reactions will also show up in macOS Sonoma and iPadOS 17.

If you haven’t yet explored this feature, this step-by-step guide will walk you through how to make the most of FaceTime Reactions in your calls.

How to manually trigger an effect on FaceTime and video calls

The most reliable way to make a visual reaction appear on screen during a FaceTime call is by pressing down on your picture during a call. This will force a popup menu to appear above you. You will see eight reactions to choose from.

You can select the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down icon to make a bubble with the respective symbol appear next to your face. Tap the heart and a trail of red hearts will appear on screen. To showcase your excitement, you can select the balloon icon or the confetti symbol to trigger a colorful on-screen display. Like in Messages, you can trigger a funky fireworks or laser beam show. Maybe you’re feeling down? You can make the screen turn dark and gloomy when you tap the rain icon.

Malak Saleh

With each symbol you select, the on-screen effect will last a few seconds for you and whoever is on the other side of the FaceTime call.

How to use hand gestures to trigger an effect on FaceTime and video calls

Rather than relying on manual taps, you can also activate these animated effects with specific gestures, although some may be more intuitive than others. For the most part, they worked as expected, even when I had a Memoji filter on. For instance, you can create a thumbs-up or thumbs-down bubble on the screen by performing the corresponding gesture – easy enough.

Hearts animated reaction on FaceTime

Malak Saleh

If you give a double thumbs-up with both hands, your screen goes dark, and you’ll get fireworks popping in the background. On the flip side, if you do a double thumbs-down, you’ll see a rainy animation take over the screen. And, if you’re feeling lovey-dovey and make a heart shape with your hands, your screen will light up with a bunch of heart emojis where your palms are.

FaceTime screen grab

Malak Saleh

While it might not be immediately obvious, throwing up a peace sign will fill your screen with a bunch of colorful floating balloons. Make it two peace signs and party confetti will appear, perfect for a celebratory mood. Now, for the trickiest one: if you want to see the laser light show appear, you’ll need to throw up two metal horns (🤘🤘).

Fireworks reaction

Malak Saleh

How to use iOS 17 FaceTime gestures (and what they look like) | Digital Trends

How to use iOS 17 FaceTime gestures (and what they look like) | Digital Trends

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Thanks to new features in iOS 17, your FaceTime calls and other online video meetings are about to get much more fun. The powerful new silicon in Apple’s recent iPhone models has made it possible for Apple to create a new feature that not only lets you send cool 3D animations like balloons, confetti, and fireworks to your friends — but it even lets you trigger them with natural physical gestures.

While the new FaceTime gestures, which Apple officially calls “reactions,” are pretty easy to use once you get the hang of it, not all the gestures that trigger these reactions are immediately obvious. Plus, you’ll need to make sure a few other things are ready to go beyond simply updating to iOS 17. Let’s dive in and take a look at how this cool new feature works.

How to make a FaceTime gesture in iOS 17

Video reactions in macOS Sonoma, with the balloons effect in use.
Alex Blake / Digital Trends

For the most part, Apple’s gesture-based video reactions just work — and not only as FaceTime gestures; you can trigger them in almost any video conferencing app that supports the standard iPhone camera APIs, including Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom. It’s not even necessary for the other party (or parties) to be running iOS 17 or even using an iPhone or other Apple device, as all the effects are generated on your own iPhone and sent over as part of the video stream.

This means you’ll need an iPhone 12 or newer model to use FaceTime gestures and video reactions. That’s not merely a function of the more powerful A14 chip used in that model but also the TrueDepth camera that gained some significant improvements over the iPhone 11 and those that came before. It’s no coincidence that the iPhone 12 is also the oldest model that supports mask-aware Face ID.

This is because the video reaction effects triggered by FaceTime gestures aren’t just overlaid in front of your face. Instead, they’re immersive three-dimensional effects that use the same kind of depth measurements as Portrait Mode photos to put you in the middle of the action. Balloons will float up around your head, fireworks will explode behind you, and confetti will drop surrounding you.

If you have an iPhone 12 or later (excluding the iPhone SE), and you’ve upgraded to iOS 17, there’s one more thing you need to check to ensure that FaceTime gestures are enabled.

  1. While on a video call in FaceTime or another compatible video conferencing app, swipe down from the top-right corner of your screen to open Control Center.
  2. You should see two extra buttons at the top, above the normal controls for Airplane mode and Now Playing. Select Video Effects
  3. Under your camera preview, ensure that the Reactions button is enabled.
  4. Swipe up to dismiss Control Center.
Enabling FaceTime Gestures and Video Reactions in iOS 17.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Note that these steps are only needed to enable the recognition of hand gestures. You can turn Reactions off in step 3 instead if you find they’re getting in the way; you’ll still be able to send video reactions in FaceTime manually even when this is off, although you won’t be able to trigger them in other video conferencing apps like Teams and Zoom.

What FaceTime gestures can you make in iOS 17?

Sending video reactions in FaceTime on iOS 17.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

If you’re using FaceTime, you can manually trigger video reactions by long-pressing your video preview tile in the call. A list of buttons will pop up showing all eight possible reactions. Select any one of these to activate it.

However, the real fun part of video reactions comes from using FaceTime gestures, which allow you to add animated effects more naturally without touching your iPhone. They’re also the only way to trigger these video reaction effects when using third-party video conferencing apps.

Here are the eight possible effects and the gestures you can use to trigger them. Note that you’ll need to hold your hands at least a few inches away from your face and pause for a moment or two to activate the reaction effect. This ensures it’s only triggered by a relatively deliberate attempt. However, you don’t have to jerk your hands into position or make any other rapid movements, as it’s not the motion your iPhone is looking for, merely the gesture.


iOS 17 FaceTime Gesture Thumbs Up.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

The first gesture is very intuitive. Just stick up your thumb with your hand a few inches away from your face and leave it there for a second or two, and you’ll see a thumbs-up bubble animate beside your head.


iOS 17 FaceTime Gesture Thumbs Down.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Like the thumbs-up, the thumbs-down is easier to figure out and works the same way.


iOS 17 FaceTime Gesture Hearts.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

This one is easy to figure out once you know it’s there. Take two hands and make a heart gesture with the thumbs at the bottom point, and floating red hearts will emanate from the center of your hands.


iOS 17 FaceTime Gesture Fireworks.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

A single thumbs up is a “like,” but if you’re excited enough to put two thumbs up at the same time, you’ll get a burst of fireworks going off behind your head.


iOS 17 FaceTime Gesture Rain.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

While it’s not the first thing that comes to mind if you really disapprove of an idea, two thumbs down will cast down some rain on your parade.


iOS 17 FaceTime Gesture Balloons.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

The next few gestures get a bit more obscure as there’s no apparent relationship between the gesture and the effect. The first of these is a two-fingered “peace” sign that triggers colored balloons floating up around you. Note that your hand needs to be facing palm-forward to start this one, with the back of your hand toward your face. Your thumb must also be folded in.


iOS 17 FaceTime Gesture Confetti.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Think of this one as “balloons times two,” as it’s essentially the same two-fingered gesture, but now done with both hands.

Laser Burst

iOS 17 FaceTime Gesture Laser burst.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

The last and perhaps most challenging to figure out of Apple’s FaceTime gestures is the Laser Burst, which is triggered by holding up two hands palm-forward with the index finger and little finger up in a “sign of the horns” rock-n’-roll salute. As with the two-finger gestures, your thumbs must also be tucked in for your iPhone to recognize this one.

FaceTime gestures can also be recognized and used on supported iPad models running iPadOS 17 and Apple silicon Macs running macOS Sonoma. Any video reactions you send will be visible to everybody in the call, regardless of the platform they’re using. However, they’ll only be able to respond with a FaceTime gesture if they’re using a supported iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

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