Change these default settings and be more satisfied with your technology
Many default settings buried deep within our technology force us to share superfluous amounts of data with tech companies. In my last column, I explained how to disable them.
But not all default settings do sneaky things with our information. Some must also be activated or deactivated to make our devices more pleasant to use.
The new iPhones, for example, have a sophisticated camera capable of shooting crystal-clear video in ultra-high “4K” resolution – but most people probably aren’t using their camera to its full potential because, by default, the phone is set to shoot video at a lower resolution.
Televisions are another example. Many modern televisions have an effect known as motion smoothing turned on to make videos appear to play at a higher frame rate, which is supposed to make fast moving scenes look more detailed. . But in many applications, especially when watching movies, it creates a soap opera effect that many find untrue. It’s the setting on a TV that many tech-savvy people immediately turn off.
Our consumer electronics are some of our most expensive household purchases, so it’s worth browsing and tweaking the default settings to get the most benefit. Here’s what I and other tech writers are always changing 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 convenient to use and to take better photos.
— Unlock an 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 barriers to using an iPhone was having to enter a passcode, rather than using Face ID, when wearing a mask. Recent versions of Apple’s iOS now allow iPhone users to unlock the device without removing their mask. Go to Settings → Face ID & Passcode → Face ID with a Mask and enable this setting (green).
— Record 4K videos. To have an iPhone camera record video at its highest resolution, go to Settings → Camera → Record Video and choose a 4K option. (I prefer “4K at 30 fps” because it works well when uploading videos to social media apps and internet sites like YouTube.) The downside is that 4K recordings will further clog up the phone’s digital storage. But if you paid for that fancy camera, why not use it?
— Activate the camera grid. In digital photography, photographers use various composition techniques to make photos more aesthetically pleasing. The iPhone camera has a setting to display a grid to help compose shots. Go to Settings → Camera → Grid and enable this setting.
Android phones also include controls that need to be enabled or changed to make the screen look better and the phone easier to use.
— Change the display color profile. Many Android phones have large, bright screens, but their colors can seem oversaturated or too blue. Ryne Hager, editor of the Android Police tech blog, said he usually turns off the default color profile whenever he sets up a new Android phone. Instructions vary from phone to phone. For Samsung phones, go to Settings → Display → Screen Mode → Natural. For Pixel phones, go to Settings → Display → Colors → Natural.
— Edit shortcuts. On Android phones, you can customize the “Quick Settings” menu to get shortcuts to features you use often. 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 that let you, for example, turn on the hotspot to share the phone’s cellular connection with a computer.
— Activate the camera grid. Similar to iPhones, some Android phones can also display a grid to help compose photos. 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 tend to work, it helps 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 a shortcut to display the desktop. Minimizing 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 to System Preferences → Mission Control → Show Desktop and choose a keyboard key to trigger the shortcut. (I use the fn key on my MacBook keyboard.)
— Disable notifications for annoying apps like Messages. In an age of endless video calls, you definitely don’t want text messages bombarding your screen and blasting sounds when you’re in a meeting. Simply disable these notifications permanently. Go to System Preferences → Notifications & Focus → Messages → Allow Notifications and disable the setting (gray). In this menu, turn off notifications for all 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 a Mac, it helps to have quick access to the Bluetooth menu. Go to System Preferences → Bluetooth → Show Bluetooth in menu bar and check the box. This will display the Bluetooth icon in the upper right of the screen, where you can quickly connect and disconnect headphones and other wireless accessories.
Like Macs, Windows computers, by default, send us lots of notifications, but the most frustrating are the many beeps and bloops that go off when something goes wrong. Kimber Streams, a Wirecutter editor who tests laptops, takes all that annoyance out of the way.
— Deactivate the notifications. Go to Settings → System → Notifications. Uncheck all boxes and turn off all switches to turn off all notifications.
— Turn off system sounds. Go to Settings → System → Sound → More audio settings → Sounds → Sound model: No sound, then tap Apply.
Virtually all TVs come with default settings that are less than ideal for displaying the best picture.
With any TV, it’s worth adjusting colors, brightness, and contrast to suit your space. There is no universal set of steps as the best settings will be different for every TV and living room. But there are useful TV calibration tools to make this simple, including my tool of choice, Disney’s World of Wonder, a Blu-ray disc with instructional videos on adjusting your TV settings.
By far the most important step on any TV, however, is turning off the hideous motion smoothing effect. The steps vary by TV, so do a web search to turn it off for your model. On my LG TV, I went to All Settings → Pictures → Picture Mode Settings → Picture Options → TruMotion → Off.