Many of the default settings buried deep in our technology force us to share excessive amounts of data with tech companies. In my last column I decided how to close them.
But not all default settings do terrible things to our data. There are also some that need to be enabled or disabled to make our devices more enjoyable to use.
The latest iPhones, for example, come with fancy cameras that can shoot extremely clean videos in ultra-high “4K” resolution – but most people probably don’t use the cameras to their full potential, because by default the phone is set to shoot videos. lower resolution.
Televisions are another example. Many modern TVs have an effect known as motion smoothing turned on to make videos look like they’re playing at a higher frame rate, which should make fast-moving scenes look more detailed. But in many applications, especially when you’re watching movies, it creates a soap opera effect that looks fake to many. This is a TV setting that many tech-inclined people immediately turn off.
Our consumer electronics are some of the most expensive household purchases, so it pays to familiarize yourself with and adjust the default settings to get the most out of them. Here’s what other tech writers and I change to make our phones, computers, and TVs work better.
Apple iPhones include various settings that are disabled by default and should be enabled to make the device more user-friendly and take better photos.
Unlock iPhone while wearing a mask. Although mask mandates have been lifted in many places, many people still wear them to feel safe, especially indoors. One of the biggest problems with using the iPhone was that wearing a mask required hacking a passcode instead of facial recognition. Recent versions of Apple’s iOS now allow iPhone users to unlock the device without removing the mask. Go Settings → Face ID & Passcode → Face ID with mask and enable this option (green).
Capture 4K video. For the iPhone camera to capture video at its highest resolution, go to Settings → Camera → Video recording and select the 4K option. (I prefer “4K 30 fps” because it works well when uploading videos to social media apps and websites like YouTube.) The downside is that 4K recordings will block the phone’s digital memory. But if you paid for this nice camera, why not use it?
Activate the camera grid. In digital photography, photographers use various compositing techniques to make photos more aesthetically pleasing. The iPhone camera has a grid display option to help you compose your shots. Go Settings → Camera → Grid and enable this option.
Android phones also have controls that need to be enabled or changed to make the screen look better and the phone easier to use.
Change the screen color profile. Many Android phones come with large, bright screens, but their colors can look oversaturated or too blue. Ryan Hager, editor of the tech blog Android Police, says he usually changes the default color profile when he installs a new Android phone. Instructions vary from phone to phone. For Samsung phones, go to Settings → Display → Display mode → natural. For Pixel phones, go to Settings → Display → Colors → Natural.
Change shortcuts. On Android phones, you can customize the Quick Settings menu for shortcut functions that you use frequently. Swipe down from the top of the smartphone screen and swipe down again. If you tap the icon that looks like a pencil, you can choose to add tiles that let you, for example, enable hotspotting to share your phone’s cellular connection with your computer.
Activate the camera grid. Like iPhones, some Android phones can also display a grid to make photo composition easier. On Pixel phones, open the Camera app, swipe down from the top of the screen, tap the gear icon, then go to Grid type → 3×3.
On Macs where Apple users work, it’s useful to adjust settings to eliminate distractions and speed up tasks. This involves disabling some features that are enabled by default and enabling some hidden features.
Activate the shortcut to show the desktop. Collapsing 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 immediately hides all windows to show the desktop. Go System Preferences → Mission Control → Show Desktop and select the keyboard key to activate the shortcut. (I use the fn key on my MacBook keyboard.)
Turn off notifications for apps like Messages. In the age of endless video calls, you definitely don’t want text messages bombarding your screen and making noises while you’re in a meeting. Just turn off these notifications permanently. Go System Preferences → Notifications & Focus → Notifications → Allow Notifications and toggle the setting to Off (grayed out). In this menu, turn off notifications for any other noisy apps.
Add a 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, it helps to have quick access to the Bluetooth menu. Go System Settings → Bluetooth → Show Bluetooth in the menu bar and check the box. This displays a Bluetooth icon in the top right of the screen where you can quickly connect and disconnect headphones and other wireless accessories.
Like Macs, Windows computers give us a lot of notifications by default, but the most frustrating are the many beeps and bloops that go off when something goes wrong. Kimber Streams, a Wirecutter editor who reviews laptops, shuts down all those annoyances.
Turn off notifications. Go Settings → System → Notifications. Check all the boxes and clear all the checkboxes to turn off all notifications.
Turn off system sounds. Go Settings → System → Sound → More sound settings → Sounds → Sound scheme: No soundsAnd then hit appeal.
Virtually all televisions come with default settings that are far from ideal for displaying a picture.
As with any TV, it’s worth adjusting the colors, brightness and contrast to suit your space. There is no universal set of steps, as the best settings are different for every TV and living room. But there are TV calibration tools to make it easier, including my go-to tool, Disney’s World of Wonder, a Blu-ray disc with instructional videos for adjusting your TV’s settings.
However, the most important step on any TV is to turn off motion blur. The steps vary from TV to TV, so do a web search on how to turn it off for your model. I went to my LG TV All Settings → Pictures → Picture Mode Settings → Picture Settings → TruMotion → Off.