The Guided Tour - The iPad Basics - iPad: The Missing Manual (2014)

iPad: The Missing Manual (2014)

Part 1. The iPad Basics

Chapter 1. The Guided Tour

Imagine your grandparents coming across the iPad lying on your desk. They might not guess it was a computer (let alone a music player/Web browser/alarm clock/stopwatch/voice recorder/musical instrument/compass/camera).

It’s all there, though, hidden inside this sleek, thin slab.

For the rest of this book, and for the rest of your life with the iPad, you’ll be expected to know what’s meant by, for example, “the Home button” and “the Sleep switch.” A guided tour, therefore, is in order.

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Sleep Switch (On/Off)

You could argue that knowing how to turn on your tablet might be a useful skill. For that, you need the Sleep switch. It’s a metal button shaped like a dash on the top-right edge.

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It has several functions:

§ Sleep/Wake. Tapping it once puts the iPad to sleep—into Standby mode, ready for receiving Internet data but consuming very little power. Tapping it again turns on the screen so it’s ready for action.

§ On/Off. The same switch can also turn the iPad off completely so it consumes no power at all. You might turn the iPad off whenever you’re not going to use it for a few days.

To turn the iPad off, press the Sleep switch for 3 seconds. The screen changes to say slide to power off.

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Confirm your decision by placing a fingertip on the and sliding to the right. The device shuts off completely.


If you change your mind about turning the iPad off, tap the Cancel button or do nothing; after a moment, the iPad backs out of the slide to power off screen automatically.

To turn the iPad back on, press the switch again for 1 second. The Apple logo appears as the tablet boots up. (The Apple logo is black if your iPad is white and white if your iPad is black. Nice touch.)

§ Force restart. The Sleep switch has one more function. If your iPad is frozen, and no buttons work, and you can’t even turn the thing off, this button is also involved in force-restarting the whole machine. Steps for this last-ditch procedure are on Seven Ways to Reset the iPad.

Locked Mode

When you don’t touch the screen for 1 minute (or another interval you choose), or when you put the iPad to sleep, the tablet locks itself. When it’s locked, the screen is dark and doesn’t respond to touch. If music is playing, it keeps going; if you’re recording audio, the recording proceeds.

But when the tablet is locked, you don’t have to worry about accidental button pushes. You wouldn’t want to discover that your iPad has been taking photos from the depths of your bag.


Deep in SettingsGeneral, you’ll find the Lock/Unlock switch. That refers to Apple’s magnetic-closure iPad cases. If this switch is on, then closing the case’s cover puts the iPad to sleep automatically, and opening the cover wakes it. A nice arrangement, really.

The Lock Screen

To wake the iPad when it’s locked, press either the Sleep switch or the Home button.

That gesture alone doesn’t fire up the full iPad world, though. Instead, it presents the Lock screen.

From here, slide your finger rightward across the screen (anywhere—you don’t have to aim for the slide to unlock area!) to unlock the tablet with your password or fingerprint. (See Miscellaneous Weirdness or Fingerprint Security (Touch ID).)


You can adjust how quickly the tablet locks itself, or make it stop locking itself altogether; see General.

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Things to Do on the Lock Screen

These days, though, the Lock screen is more than just a big Do Not Disturb sign. It’s a lively bulletin board for up-to-date information about your life—information you can scan or work with right at the Lock screen.

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For starters, you can use the iPad as a watch—lots of people do. Just tap the Sleep switch to consult the Lock screen’s time and date display, and put the tablet right down again. The iPad goes back to sleep after a few seconds.

Better yet, the Lock screen is a handy status screen. Here you see a record of everything that happened while you weren’t paying attention. It’s a list of messages received, notifications from your apps, and other essential information.

Now, each of these notices has come from a different app (software program). To see a Facebook post, for example, you’d want to open the Facebook app; to reply to a message, you’d want the Messages app, and so on.

So here’s a handy shortcut: You can dive directly into the relevant app by swiping your finger across the notification itself, like this:

That shortcut saves you the trouble of unlocking the iPad and trying to find the corresponding app.


If you’d rather not have all these details show up on the Lock screen, you can turn them off. (Privacy is the main reason you might want to do so—the bad guys don’t need a password to view your Lock screen. They just have to tap the Sleep switch or the Home button.)

You can hide these items from your Lock screen on an app-by-app basis. For example, you might want missed calls to show up here but not missed text messages. To set this up, choose SettingsNotifications. Tap the app in question; turn off Show on Lock Screen.

More ways to accomplish things on the Lock screen:

§ Swipe down from the top of the screen to view your Notification Center—a detailed one-stop screen that shows your missed calls, texts, and emails; upcoming appointments; stock and weather alerts; and so on. (See The Notification Center.)

§ Swipe up from the bottom edge to open the Control Center, with all the important settings (volume, brightness, play/pause music, Airplane mode, flashlight, and more) in one place. See Control Center.

§ Swipe up on the camera () icon to open the Camera app (The Camera App).

§ Swipe up on the app icon at lower left, if you see one. This feature, new in iOS 8, is supposed to let you know when there’s an app you might find useful based on your location right now.

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If you’re entering a Starbucks, the Starbucks app icon might appear there, so that you can pay wirelessly. If you’re at a train station, your tablet might use this opportunity to let you know about a schedule app for that train line. You may also see this little icon as you enter a bank, store, hospital, college, and so on (assuming your iPad can get online at the time).

In each case, the suggested app opens when you swipe up on this icon. Or, if you don’t have the app already, the App Store opens to the right page, so that you can download the app.


Creeped out? You can turn off this lower-left app-suggestion feature easily enough. Choose SettingsNotifications. Tap App Store, and then turn off Show on Lock Screen.

Locking Down the Lock Screen

Now, remember: You can enjoy any of the activities described above even before you’ve entered your password or used your fingerprint.

In other words, some stranger picking up your iPad can do all of these things, too. If that bothers you, don’t worry; you can turn all of those features off on the corresponding Settings screens. For example, to block Lock-screen access to your Control Center, open SettingsControl Center. Turn off Access on Lock Screen. To turn off individual apps’ presence on the Lock screen, open SettingsControl Center; tap the app’s name, and then turn off Show on Lock Screen.

Home Button

Here it is: the one and only button on the front of this tablet. Push it to summon the Home screen, which is your gateway to everything the iPad can do. (You can read more about the Home screen at the end of this chapter.)

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The Home button is a wonderful thing. It means you can never get lost. No matter how deeply you burrow into the iPad’s software, no matter how far off track you find yourself, one push of the Home button takes you back to the beginning.

On the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 models, of course, the Home button is also a fingerprint scanner—one that actually works.

But, as time goes on, Apple keeps saddling the Home button with more and more functions. It’s become Apple’s only way to provide shortcuts for common features; that’s what you get when you design a tablet that has only one button. In iPad Land, you can press the Home button one, two, or three times for different functions—or even hold it down. Here’s the rundown.

Quick Press: Wake Up

Pressing the Home button once wakes the tablet if it’s in locked mode. That’s sometimes easier than finding the Sleep switch on the edge. It gives you a quick glance at your notifications and missed texts—or the time and date.

Momentary Touch: Unlock (iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3)

If you’ve taught the iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3 to recognize your fingerprint, then just resting your finger on the Home button is enough to unlock the tablet, bypassing the password screen. In other words, you should get into the habit of pressing the Home button (to wake the tablet) and thenleaving your finger on it for about a half-second to unlock it. Miscellaneous Weirdness has more on fingerprints.

Long Press: Siri

If you hold down the Home button for about 3 seconds, you wake up Siri, your virtual voice-controlled assistant. Details are in Chapter 3.

Two Quick Presses: App Switcher

If, once the tablet is awake, you press the Home button twice quickly, the current image fades away—to reveal the app switcher screen, the key to the iPad’s multitasking feature.

What you see here are icons and currently open screens of the programs you’ve used most recently (older ones are to the right), as shown below. Swipe horizontally to bring more apps into view; the Home screen is always at the far left.

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With a single tap (on either the icon or the screen miniature), you can jump right back into a program you had open, without waiting for it to start up, show its welcome screen, and so on—and without having to scroll through 11 Home screens trying to find the icon of a favorite app.

In short, the app switcher gives you a way to jump directly to another app, without a layover at the Home screen first.


On this screen, you can also quit a program by flicking it upward. In fact, you can quit several programs at once, using two or three fingers. Fun for the whole family!

This app switcher is the only visible element of the iPad’s multitasking feature. Once you get used to it, that double-press of the Home button will become second nature—and your first choice for jumping among apps.

Two Quick Presses: Your VIP List

In iOS 8, the app switcher screen offers another new feature that you may eventually rank as one of iOS 8’s finest: the VIP list.

That’s not what Apple calls it, but that’s what it is: a row of headshots, at the top of the screen, that represent the people you’ve contacted most recently and most often. See Your Favorite People for details on this extraordinarily handy feature.

Three Presses: VoiceOver, Zoom, Inverted Colors…

In SettingsGeneralAccessibility, you can set up a triple-press of the Home button to turn one of several accessibility features on or off: VoiceOver (the tablet speaks whatever you touch), Invert Colors (white-on-black type, which is sometimes easier to see), Grayscale (a new mode that makes the whole iPad black-and-white); Zoom (magnifies the screen), Switch Control (accommodates external gadgets like sip-and-puff straws), and AssistiveTouch (help for people who have trouble with physical switches).

All of these features are described beginning on VoiceOver.


The Home button is also part of the force quit sequence—a good troubleshooting technique when a particular program seems to be acting up. See Seven Ways to Reset the iPad.

Mute Switch, Volume Keys

The mute switch is a tiny flipper on the right edge at the top.


There’s a mute switch on every model until the iPad Air 2, which doesn’t have one. The Air 2 has a mute switch on the screen—in the Control Center, described on Control Center.

On a phone, the mute switch means that no ringer will humiliate you in a meeting, at a movie, or in church. Since you can’t receive traditional phone calls with the iPad, though, this switch isn’t quite as essential. Which is probably why Apple lets you change it into a Lock Rotation switch instead (Control Center). And why Apple killed it off in the Air 2.


Even when silenced, the iPad still makes noise in certain circumstances: when an alarm goes off; when you’re playing music; when you’re using Find My iPad (Control Center); when you’re using VoiceOver; or, sometimes, when a game is playing.

On the same right edge, you’ll find the volume controls. They work in various ways:

§ When you’re listening to music, they adjust the playback volume—even when the tablet is locked and dark.

§ When you’re taking a picture, either one serves as a shutter button or a camcorder start/stop button.

§ At all other times, they adjust the volume of sound effects like the ringer, alarms, and Siri.

§ When a FaceTime call comes in, they silence the ringing or vibrating.

In each case, if the screen is on, a corresponding volume graphic appears on the screen to show you where you are on the volume scale.


The touchscreen is your mouse, keyboard, and notepad. You might expect it to get fingerprinty and streaky.

But the iPad has an oleophobic screen. That may sound like an irrational fear of yodeling, but it actually refers to a coating that repels grease. A wipe on your clothes restores the screen to its right-out-of-the-box crystal sheen.

You can also use the screen as a mirror when the iPad is off.

The iPad models with Retina screens have crazy high resolution (the number of tiny pixels per inch). It’s really, really sharp, as you’ll discover when reading text or making out the details of a map or a photo. The Retina models manage 2048 x 1536 pixels (more dots than a high-definition TV); earlier models have 1024 x 768.

The front of the iPad is made of Gorilla Glass, a special formulation made by Corning. It’s unbelievably resistant to scratching. (You can still shatter it if you drop it just the wrong way.)


This is how Corning’s Web site says this glass is made: “The glass is placed in a hot bath of molten salt at a temperature of approximately 400°C. Smaller sodium ions leave the glass, and larger potassium ions from the salt bath replace them. These larger ions take up more room and are pressed together when the glass cools, producing a layer of compressive stress on the surface of the glass. This layer of compression creates a surface that is more resistant to damage from everyday use.”

But you probably guessed as much.

If you’re nervous about protecting your iPad, you can always get a case for it. But if you’re worried about scratching the glass, you’re probably worrying too much. It’s really hard to scratch.

Radio signals can’t pass through metal. That’s why there’s a plastic strip on the top back.

Screen Icons

Here’s a roundup of the icons you may see in the status bar at the top of the iPad screen, from left to right:

§ Cell signal. As on a phone, the number of bars—or dots, in iOS 8’s case—indicates the strength of your cell signal (if you have a cellular iPad), and thus the quality of your Internet connection when you’re beyond a WiFi hotspot. If there are no dots, then the dreaded words “No service” appear here.

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§ Network name and type. These days, different parts of the country—and even your street—are blanketed by cellular Internet signals of different speeds, types, and ages. Your status bar always shows you the kind of signal it has right now. From slowest to fastest:

or means your cellular iPad is connected to your carrier’s slowest, oldest Internet system. You might be able to check email, but you’ll lose your mind waiting for a Web page to load.

If you see the logo, you’re in a city where your cell company has installed a 3G network—meaning fairly decent Internet speed. A logo is better yet; you have speed in between 3G and LTE.

And if you see up there—well, then, get psyched. You have a fairly recent iPad (3rd Generation or later), and you’re in a city with a 4G LTE cellular network. And that means very fast Internet (maybe even faster than you have at home), fast Web browsing, fast app downloading—just fast.

§ Airplane Mode. If you see the airplane instead of signal and WiFi bars, then the iPad is in Airplane mode (Airplane Mode and WiFi Off Mode).

§ Do Not Disturb. When the tablet is in Do Not Disturb mode, nothing can make it ring, buzz, or light up except communications from the most important people. Details on Do Not Disturb.

§ WiFi signal. When you’re connected to a wireless Internet hotspot, this indicator appears. The more “sound waves,” the stronger the signal.

§ 9:50 AM. When the iPad is unlocked, a digital clock appears on the status bar.

§ Alarm. You’ve got an alarm set. This reminder, too, can be valuable, especially when you intend to sleep late and don’t want an alarm to go off.

§ Bluetooth. The iPad is connected wirelessly to a Bluetooth earpiece, speaker, or car system. (If this symbol is gray, then it means Bluetooth is turned on but not connected to any other gear—and not sucking down battery power.)

§ VPN. You corporate stud, you! You’ve managed to connect to your corporate network over a secure Internet connection, probably with the assistance of a systems administrator—or by consulting Virtual Private Networking (VPN).

§ Syncing. The iPad is currently syncing with some Internet service—iCloud, for example (Chapter 15).

§ Battery meter. When the iPad is charging, the lightning bolt appears. Otherwise, the battery logo “empties out” from right to left to indicate how much charge remains. (You can even add a “% full” indicator to this gauge; see Control Center.)

§ Navigation active. You’re running a GPS navigation program in the background (yay, multitasking!). Why is a special icon necessary? Because those GPS apps slurp down battery power like a thirsty golden retriever. Apple wants to make sure you don’t forget you’re running it.

§ Lock Rotation. This icon reminds you that you’ve deliberately turned off the screen-rotation feature, where the screen image turns 90 degrees when you rotate the tablet. Why would you want to? And how do you turn the rotation lock on or off? See Control Center.


At the top of the iPad, the tiny pinhole is the front-facing camera. Its primary purpose is to let you conduct video chats using the FaceTime feature, but it’s also handy for taking self-portraits or just checking to see if you have spinach in your teeth.

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It’s not as good a camera as the one on the back, though. It’s not as good in low light, and takes much lower-resolution shots (1.2 megapixels).

The camera on the back of the iPad, meanwhile, takes very good photos indeed—8 megapixels on the iPad Air 2, 5 megapixels on the other iOS 8 models.

The tiny pinhole next to the lens (recent models only) is a microphone. It’s used for recording clearer sound with video, for better noise cancellation on FaceTime calls, and for better directional sound pickup.

There’s more on the iPad’s cameras in Chapter 8.


Behind the glass, front center, is a very tiny sensor. It’s hard to see.

It’s an ambient-light sensor that brightens the display when you’re in sunlight and dims it in darker places.

Many people prefer to adjust the screen brightness themselves. Fortunately, it’s easy to turn off this automatic brightness-setting feature; see Display & Brightness.

SIM Card Slot

There are two kinds of iPad: the WiFi-only models and the more expensive cellular + WiFi models, which can also get online anywhere there’s cellular coverage. You don’t have to sign up for two years of cellular service, as you usually do with a cellphone; on the iPad, you can sign up for a month of data at a time, only when you need it. (Signing Up for Service has the details.)

On the right edge of the cellular models, there’s a pinhole next to what looks like a very thin slot cover. If you push an unfolded paper clip straight into the hole, the SIM card tray pops out.

So what’s a SIM card?

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Every cellphone and cellular tablet stores your account info—things like your carrier account details—on a tiny memory card known as a SIM (subscriber identity module) card. These days, every iPad is identical; only the SIM card inside makes it a T-Mobile iPad, a Verizon iPad, or whatever.

So if you travel, you can rent a temporary SIM card when you get to the destination country. That’s a lot less expensive than paying your U.S. carrier’s insane roaming fees.

The Universal Apple SIM Card

With the iPad Air 2, Apple executed a mind-blowing feat of engineering and negotiation: It created a single SIM card that works with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint (and other carriers around the world). It’s the same tablet and the same SIM card, no matter which of those three companies you buy it from.

In theory, Apple’s universal SIM card should mean that you can use the same iPad on anyone’s network. You can hop around, shop around, using T-Mobile when its signal is best, Sprint when its signal is best, and so on.

In reality, things work that way only if you plan to hop between Sprint and T-Mobile. If you ever choose an AT&T plan, the SIM becomes locked to AT&T forever. (And if you choose another carrier, you lose the option to choose AT&T in the future.)

Note, furthermore, that you get an Apple SIM only if you buy the iPad from Apple. If you buy it from one of the carriers, you usually get a card locked to the carrier. (T-Mobile is the exception.)

And Verizon, of course, refuses to play ball with Apple at all; a Verizon iPad has a Verizon SIM card, period.

Headphone Jack

On the top-left edge of the iPad, there’s a miniplug. That’s where you can plug in earbuds (not included).

It’s more than an ordinary 3.5-millimeter audio jack, however. It contains a secret fourth pin that conducts sound into the tablet from the microphone, if your earbuds have one on the cord. On a FaceTime audio call, for example, you hear the other person through your earbuds, and the mike on the cord picks up your voice.


On the bottom edge, Apple has parked another important component: the speakers.

The Charge/Sync Connector

Directly below the Home button, on the bottom edge of the tablet, you’ll find the connector that charges and syncs the iPad with your computer.

The Lightning Connector

For nearly 10 years, the charge/sync connector was identical on every iPad, iPod, and iPhone—the famous 30-pin connector. But on the iPad Air and later models, Apple replaced that inch-wide connector with a new, far smaller one it calls Lightning.

The Lightning connector is a great design: It clicks nicely into place (you can even dangle the iPad from it), yet you can yank it right out. You can insert the Lightning into the tablet either way—there’s no “right-side up” anymore. It’s much sturdier than the old connector. And it’s tiny, which was Apple’s primary goal—only 0.3 inches wide (the old one was almost 0.9 inches wide).

Unfortunately, as a result, the latest iPads don’t fit a lot of existing charging cables, docks, chargers, car adapters, hotel-room alarm clocks, speakers, or accessories.

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The makers of those accessories will happily sell you new models that have Lightning connectors. Or you can buy an adapter from Apple:

§ Additional USB charging cables, like the one that came with your iPad, cost $20.

§ A white adapter plug costs $30. It connects the modern iPad to any accessory that was built for the old 30-pin connector.

§ If the iPad doesn’t quite fit the older accessory, sometimes the solution is the $40 adapter plug with an 8-inch cable “tail.”

In time, as the Lightning connectors come on all new iPads, iPods, and iPhones, a new ecosystem of accessories will arise. We’ll arrive at a new era of standardization—until Apple changes jacks again in another 10 years.

In the Box

Inside the minimalist box, you get the iPad and these items:

§ The USB charging/syncing cable. When you connect your iPad to your computer using this white USB cable, it simultaneously syncs and charges. See Chapter 14.

§ The AC adapter. When you’re traveling without a computer, you can plug the USB cable into the included two-prong outlet adapter, so you can charge the iPad directly from a wall socket.

§ Decals and info card. iPad essentials.

You don’t need a copy of the iTunes software, or even a computer, to use the iPad—but it makes loading up the tablet a lot easier, as described in Chapter 14.

If you don’t have iTunes on your computer, then you can download it from

Seven Basic Finger Techniques

The iPad isn’t quite like any machine that came before it. You do everything on the touchscreen instead of with physical buttons, like this:


The iPad’s onscreen buttons are nice and big, giving your fleshy fingertip a fat target.

You can’t use a fingernail or a pen tip; only skin contact works. (You can also buy an iPad stylus. But a fingertip is cheaper and much harder to misplace.)


In some situations, you’ll be asked to confirm an action by swiping your finger across the screen. That’s how you unlock the tablet, for example.

You also have to swipe to confirm that you want to turn off the iPad, or to shut off an alarm. Swiping like this is also a great shortcut for deleting an email or a text message.


When you’re zoomed into a map, Web page, email, or photo, you can scroll around just by sliding your finger across the glass in any direction—like a flick (described later), but slower and more controlled. It’s a huge improvement over scroll bars, especially when you want to scroll diagonally.


A flick is a faster, less-controlled slide. You flick vertically to scroll lists on the iPad. The faster you flick, the faster the list spins downward or upward. But lists have a real-world sort of momentum; they slow down after a second or two, so you can see where you wound up.

At any point during the scrolling of a list, you can flick again (if you didn’t go far enough) or tap to stop the scrolling (if you see the item you want to choose).

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Pinch and Spread

In apps like Photos, Mail, Safari, and Maps, you can zoom in on a photo, message, Web page, or map by spreading.

That’s when you place two fingers (usually thumb and forefinger) on the glass and spread them. The image magically grows, as though it’s printed on a sheet of rubber.


The English language has failed Apple here. Moving your thumb and forefinger closer together has a perfect verb: pinching. But there’s no word to describe moving them in the opposite direction.

Apple uses the oxymoronic expression pinch out to describe that move (along with the redundant-sounding pinch in). In this book, the opposite of “pinching” is “spreading.”

Once you’ve zoomed in like this, you can zoom out again by putting two fingers on the glass and pinching them together.

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Double-tapping is pretty rare on the iPad, at least among the programs supplied by Apple. It’s generally reserved for two functions:

§ In the Safari Web browser, Photos, and Maps apps, double-tapping zooms in on whatever you tap, magnifying it. (At that point, double-tapping means “Restore to original size.”) Double-tapping also zooms into formatted email messages, PDF files, Microsoft Office files, and others.

§ When you’re watching a video (or recording one), double-tapping switches the aspect ratio (video screen shape).

Edge Swipes

Swiping your finger inward from outside the screen has a few variations:

§ From the top edge. Opens the Notification Center, which lists all your missed FaceTime calls and texts, appointments, and so on.

§ From the bottom edge. Opens the Control Center, a unified miniature control panel for brightness, volume, WiFi, and so on.

§ From the left edge. In many apps, this means “Go back to the previous screen.” It works in Mail, Settings, Notes, Messages, Safari, Facebook, and some other apps.

It sometimes makes a big difference whether you begin your swipe within the screen or outside it. At the Home screen, for example, starting your downward swipe within the screen area doesn’t open the Notification Center—it opens Spotlight, the iPad’s search function.

Charging the iPad

The iPad has a built-in, rechargeable battery that fills up most of its interior. How long a charge lasts depends on what you’re doing—music playback saps the battery the least, 3-D games sap it the most. But one thing is for sure: You’ll have to recharge the iPad regularly. For most people, it’s every couple of days.


The iPad’s battery isn’t user-replaceable. It’s rechargeable, but after 400 or 500 charges, it starts to hold less juice. Eventually, you’ll have to pay Apple to install a new battery. (Apple says the added bulk of a protective plastic battery compartment, a removable door and latch, and battery-retaining springs would have meant a much smaller battery—or a much thicker iPad.)

You recharge the iPad by connecting the white USB cable that came with it. You can plug the far end into either of two places to supply power:

§ Your computer’s USB jack. In general, the iPad charges even if your computer is asleep. (If it’s a laptop that itself is not plugged in, though, then the tablet charges only if the laptop is awake. Otherwise, you’d come home to a depleted laptop.)

§ The AC adapter. The little white two-prong cube that came with the iPad connects to the end of the cradle’s USB cable—and then plugs into the wall.

You can usually use the iPad while it’s charging. Usually. It depends on how you’re charging it and how you’re using it.

A low-powered USB jack, like the one on a Windows computer or a USB hub, doesn’t supply enough juice to charge the tablet while you’re using it; you may even see a “Not charging” indication while you’re using the tablet.

The USB jack on a recent Mac should be able to charge your iPad slowly, even if you’re using the thing.

The wall plug is the best of all.

What you’re doing also affects charging speed. Video games with full screen brightness may use up more energy than your charger is supplying; simple activities, like typing or answering email, don’t consume nearly as much power.

If you really want your iPad to charge quickly, then put it to sleep and plug it into the wall.

Battery Life Tips

The battery life of the iPad is either terrific or terrible, depending on your point of view.

If you were an optimist, you’d point out that the iPad gets longer battery life than most rival tablets. If you were a pessimist, you’d observe that you sometimes can’t even make it through a single day without needing a recharge.

So knowing how to scale back your iPad’s power appetite could come in extremely handy.

The biggest wolfers of electricity are the screen and the wireless features. Therefore, these ideas will help you squeeze more life out of each charge:

§ Dim the screen. Turning down your screen saves a lot of power. The quickest way is to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center (Control Center), and then drag the brightness slider.

On a new iPad, Auto Brightness is turned on, too. In bright light, the screen brightens automatically; in dim light, it darkens. That’s because when you unlock the tablet after waking it, it samples the ambient light and adjusts the brightness. (You can turn this auto-brightness feature off altogether in SettingsDisplay & Brightness.)

§ Turn off WiFi. If you’re not in a wireless hotspot, you may as well stop the thing from using its radio. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center, and tap the icon to turn it off.

Or at the very least tell the iPad to stop searching for WiFi networks it can connect to. Sequence of Connections has the details.

§ Turn off “push” data. This is a big one. Your iPad can keep itself wirelessly up to date with your latest email, calendar, and address book information. Unfortunately, all that continual sniffing of the airwaves, looking for updates, costs you battery power. If you can do without the immediacy, then visit SettingsMail, Contacts, CalendarsFetch New Data. If you turn off the Push feature and set it to Manually instead, then your iPad checks for email and new appointments only when you actually open the Mail or Calendar apps. Your battery goes a lot further.

§ Turn off background updating. Non-Apple apps check for frequent updates, too: Facebook, Twitter, stock-reporting apps, and so on. Not all of them need to be busily toiling in the background. Your best bet on battery life, then, involves visiting SettingsGeneralBackground App Refresh and turning the switch Off for each app whose background activity isn’t strictly necessary.

§ Turn off automatic app updates. App companies update their wares far more often than PC or Mac apps, sometimes many times a year.

The iPad comes set to download them automatically when they become available. But that constant checking and downloading costs you battery life.

To shut that feature down, open SettingsiTunes & App Store. Scroll down to the Automatic Downloads section. Turn off Updates. (The other switches—Music, Apps, Books—are responsible for auto-downloading things that you or your brood have downloaded on other iOS gadgets. You might want to make sure they’re off, too, if battery life is a concern.)

§ Consider Airplane mode. In Airplane mode, you shut off all the iPad’s power-hungry radios. Even a nearly dead iPad can hobble on for a few hours in Airplane mode—something to remember when you’re desperate. To enter Airplane mode, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center, and tap the icon.

§ Turn off Cellular Data. This option on cellular iPads (in SettingsCellular) turns off the cellular Internet features. You can still get online in a WiFi hotspot.

This feature is designed for people who have a capped data plan—a limited amount of Internet use per month—which is almost everybody. If you discover that you’ve used up almost all your data allotment for the month, and you don’t want to go over your limit (and thereby trigger an overage charge), you can use this option to shut off all data. Now your iPad uses less power, too.

§ Turn off GPS checks. In SettingsPrivacyLocation Services, there’s a list of all the apps on your tablet that are using its location feature to know where you are. (It’s a combination of GPS, cell tower triangulation, and WiFi hotspot triangulation.) All that checking uses battery power, too.

Some apps, like Maps, Find My Friends, and Yelp, don’t do you much good unless they know your location. But plenty of apps don’t really need to know where you are. Facebook and Twitter, for example, want that information only so that they can location-stamp your posts. In any case, the point is to turn off Location Services for each app that doesn’t really need to know where you are.


In the list of apps under Location Services, tiny icons show you which apps are using GPS right now (the appears in purple), and which have used it in the past 24 hours. These icons can help guide you in shutting off the GPS use of various apps.

§ Turn off Bluetooth. If you’re not using a Bluetooth speaker or the Mac’s Handoff feature (iPad as Speakerphone), then shut down that Bluetooth radio. Open the Control Center and tap the icon to turn it off.

§ Turn off the screen. You can actually turn off the screen, rendering it totally black and saving incredible amounts of battery power. Music playback and Maps navigation continue to work just fine.

By the way, beware of 3-D games and other graphically intensive apps, which can be serious power hogs. And turn off EQ when playing your music (see AirPlay).

If your battery still seems to be draining faster than it should, a new iOS 8 feature awaits you. It’s this amazing table, which shows you exactly which apps are using the most power:

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To see it, open SettingsGeneralUsageBattery Usage. You can switch between battery readouts for the past 24 hours or for the past 4 days. Keep special watch for labels like these:

§ Low signal. A cellular iPad uses the most power of all when it’s hunting for a cellular signal, because the tablet amplifies its radios in hopes of finding one. If your battery seems to be running down faster than usual, the “Low Signal” notation is a great clue—and a suggestion that maybe you should use Airplane mode when you’re on the fringes of cellular coverage.

§ Background activity. As hinted on the previous pages, background Internet connections are especially insidious. These apps do online work invisibly, without your awareness—and drain the battery. Now, for the first time, you can clearly see which apps are doing it.

Once you know the culprit app, it’s easy to shut its background work down. Open SettingsGeneralBackground App Refresh and switch Off each app whose background activity isn’t strictly necessary.

The Home Screen

The Home screen is the launching pad for every iPad activity. It’s what appears when you press the Home button. It’s the immortal grid of colorful icons.

It’s such an essential landmark, in fact, that a quick tour might be helpful.

§ Icons. Each icon represents one of your iPad apps (programs)—Mail, Maps, Camera, and so on—or a folder that you’ve made to contain some apps. Tap one to open that program or folder.

The iPad comes with about 25 apps preinstalled by Apple; you can’t remove them. The real fun, of course, comes when you download more apps from the App Store (Chapter 9).

§ Badges. Every now and then, you’ll see a tiny, red number “badge” (like ) on one of your app icons. It’s telling you that something new awaits: new email, new text messages, new chat entries, new updates for the apps on your iPad. It’s saying, “Hey, you! Tap me!”

§ Home page dots. The standard Home screen can’t hold more than 20 or 24 icons. As you install more and more programs on your iPad, you’ll need more and more room for their icons. Fortunately, the iPad creates additional Home screens automatically. You can spread your new programs’ icons across 11 such launch screens.

The little white dots are your map. Each represents one Home screen. If the third one is “lit up,” then you’re on the third Home screen.

To move among the screens, swipe horizontally—or tap to the right or left of the little dots to change screens.

And if you ever scroll too far away from the first Home screen, here’s a handy shortcut: Press the Home button (yes, even though you’re technically already home). That takes you back to the first Home screen.


Note to upgraders: The very first “page,” at the far left, used to be the Spotlight (search) screen. But in iOS 7 and iOS 8, you open Spotlight by dragging down anywhere on any Home screen; there’s nothing to the left of the Home screens anymore. You can tug down on any “page” of the Home screens—you don’t have to scroll all the way to the left of them anymore.

§ The Dock. At the bottom of the Home screen, four exalted icons sit in a row on a tinted panel. This is the Dock—a place to park the most important icons on your iPad. These, presumably, are the ones you use most often. Apple starts you off with Messages, Mail, Safari, Music, and App Store.

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What’s so special about this row? As you flip among Home screens, the Dock never changes. You can never lose one of your five most cherished icons by straying from the first page; they’re always handy.

§ The background. You can replace the background image (behind your app icons) with a photo. A complicated, busy picture won’t do you any favors—it will just make the icon names harder to read—so Apple provides a selection of handsome, relatively subdued wallpaper photos. But you can also choose one of your own photos.

For instructions on changing the wallpaper, see Assign to Contact.

It’s easy (and fun!) to rearrange the icons on your Home screens. Put the most frequently used icons on the first page, put similar apps into folders, and reorganize your Dock. Full details are on Rearranging/Deleting Apps Right on the iPad.


In iOS 8, you can set up a completely empty first Home screen by moving all of its app icons onto other Home “pages.” (In previous versions of iOS, the tablet automatically deleted the first Home screen if it was empty.) That’s a weird little arrangement for anyone who wants to show off a really great wallpaper photo.

Control Center

For such a tiny device, there are an awful lot of settings you can change—hundreds of them. Trouble is, some of them need changing (volume, brightness) a lot more often than others (language preference, cookie settings).

That’s why Apple invented the Control Center: a panel that offers quick access to the controls you need the most.

To open the Control Center, no matter what app you’re using, swipe upward from beneath the screen.


You can even open the Control Center from the Lock screen, unless you’ve turned off that feature (Locking Down the Lock Screen).

The Control Center is a translucent gray panel filled with one-touch icons for the settings you’ll probably change most often.


Truth be told, the Control Center is easier to use when it’s not translucent. Visit SettingsGeneralAccessibility and turn on Increase Contrast. Now the Control Center’s background is solid gray instead of see-through gray.

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Now, many of these settings are even faster to change using Siri, the voice-command feature described in Chapter 3. When it’s not socially awkward to speak to your tablet (like at the symphony or during a golf game), you can use spoken commands—listed below under each button description—to adjust settings without even touching the screen.

Here’s what’s in the Control Center:

§ Airplane mode (). Tap to turn the icon white. Now you’re in Airplane mode; the tablet’s wireless features are all turned off. You’re saving the battery and obeying flight attendant instructions. Tap again to turn off Airplane mode.

Sample Siri command: “Turn Airplane mode on.” (Siri warns you that if you turn Airplane mode on, Siri herself will stop working. Say “OK.”)

§ WiFi (). Tap to turn your tablet’s WiFi off (black) or on (white).

Sample Siri commands: “Turn off WiFi.” “Turn WiFi back on.”

§ Bluetooth (). Tap to turn your Bluetooth transmitter off (black) or on (white). That feature alone is a godsend to anyone who uses the iPad with a car’s Bluetooth audio system. Bluetooth isn’t the battery drain it once was, but it’s still nice to be able to flick it on so easily when you get into the car.

Sample Siri commands: “Turn Bluetooth on.” “Turn off Bluetooth.”

§ Do Not Disturb (). Do Not Disturb mode, described in Chapter 4, means that the tablet won’t ring or buzz at all—except when a few handpicked people are trying to reach you. Perfect for sleeping hours; in fact, you can set up an automated schedule for Do Not Disturb (say, midnight to 7 a.m.).

But what if you wake up early or want to stay up late? Now you can tap to turn Do Not Disturb on (white) or off (black).

Sample Siri commands: “Turn on Do Not Disturb.” “Turn Do Not Disturb off.”

§ Mute (), Lock Rotation (). Mute () means your iPad won’t ring, chime, or beep—nothing to embarrass you in a meeting or at a funeral service.

When Lock Rotation () is turned on (white), the screen no longer rotates when you turn the tablet. Sometimes, like when you’re reading on your side in bed, you don’t want the screen picture to turn; you want it to stay upright relative to your eyes. (The icon appears at the top of the screen to remind you why the screen isn’t turning.)


You probably have only one of these two buttons on your Control Center—and you decide which.

Most iPad models have a physical switch on the right edge. It can be either Mute or Lock Rotation; you make your choice in Settings (see Control Center).

Whichever function you don’t assign to the side switch appears in the Control Center, for your convenience. If you’ve set your side switch to mean Mute, then the button appears in the Control Center, and vice versa.

The iPad Air 2 doesn’t have a physical switch on the right edge. So on this mode, both buttons— and —appear in the Control Center.

§ Brightness. Hallelujah! Here’s a screen-brightness slider. Drag the little white ball to change the screen brightness.

Sample Siri commands: “Make the screen brighter.” “Decrease the brightness.” “Dim the screen.” “Brighten up!”

§ Playback controls ( , , ). These controls govern playback in whatever app is playing music or podcasts in the background: the Music app, Pandora, Spotify, whatever it is. You can skip a horrible song quickly and efficiently without having to interrupt what you’re doing, or pause the music to chat with a colleague. (Tap the song name to open whatever app is playing.)

You also get a scrubber bar that shows where you are in the song, the name of the song and the performer, and the album name. And, of course, there’s a volume slider. It lets you make big volume jumps faster than you would by pressing the volume buttons on the side of the tablet.

Sample Siri commands: “Pause the music.” “Skip to the next song.” “Play some Billy Joel.”

§ AirDrop (). AirDrop gives you a quick, effortless way to shoot photos, maps, Web pages, and other stuff to nearby iPads, iPhones, iPod Touches, and even Macs. (See Battery Life Is Terrible for details.)

On the Control Center, the AirDrop button isn’t an on/off switch like most of the other icons here. Instead it produces a pop-up menu of options that control whose i-gadgets can “see” your iPad: Contacts Only (people in your address book), Everyone, or Off (nobody).

§ AirPlay (). The AirPlay button lets you send your iPad’s video and audio to a wireless speaker system or TV—if you have an AirPlay receiver, of which the most famous is the Apple TV. Details are on AirPlay.

§ Timer (). Tap to open the Clock app—specifically, the Timer mode, which counts down to zero. Apple figures you might appreciate having direct access to it when you’re cooking, for example, or waiting for your hair color to set.

Sample Siri commands: “Open the Timer.” Or, better yet, bypass the Clock and Timer apps altogether: “Start the timer for three minutes.” “Count down from six minutes.” (Siri counts down right there on the Siri screen.)

§ Camera (). Tap to jump directly into the Camera app. Because photo ops don’t wait around.

Sample Siri commands: “Take a picture.” “Open the camera.”

The Control Center closes when any of these things happen:

§ You tap the Timer or Camera button

§ You tap the button

§ You tap or drag downward from any spot above the Control Center (the dimmed background of the screen).

§ You press the Home button.


In some apps, swiping up doesn’t open the Control Center on the first try, much to your probable bafflement. Instead, swiping up just makes a tiny tab appear at the edge of the screen. (You’ll see this behavior whenever the status bar—the strip at the top that shows the time and battery gauge—is hidden, as can happen in the full-screen modes of iBooks, Maps, Videos, and so on. It also happens in the Camera.)

In those situations, Apple is trying to protect you from opening the Control Center accidentally—for example, when what you really wanted to do was scroll the image up. No big deal; once the appears, swipe up a second time to open the Control Center panel.

If you find yourself opening the Control Center accidentally—when playing games, for example—you can turn it off. Open SettingsControl Center. Turn off Access Within Apps. Now swiping up opens the Control Center only at the Home screen. (You can also turn off Access on Lock Screen here, to make sure the Control Center never appears when the tablet is asleep.)


A notification is an important status message. You get one every time a message comes in, an alarm goes off, a calendar appointment is imminent, or your battery is running low.

Responding to Notifications

These days, there’s a lot more you can do with a notification than just read it and nod OK. Apple has gone to a lot of effort to ensure that notifications disrupt your important tablet activities as rarely as possible. So:

§ Flick it away. When a notification appears at the top of the screen, it’s sometimes covering up whatever you were doing. If you wait a couple of seconds, the message goes away by itself. But you don’t have to wait. You can just flick it upward with your finger to make it disappear.

§ Answer it. Often, a notification displays an incoming text message, email, or calendar invitation. In iOS 8, you can swipe down on it to reveal buttons that let you take action: Reply, for example, or Decline and Accept (for an invitation). And you never have to leave the app you were using, which is deliciously efficient.


This trick works even on the Lock screen. That is, you can respond to something even without unlocking the tablet.

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§ Open it. Finally, the obvious one: You can tap a notification to open the app it came from. Tap an email notification to open the message in Mail; tap a message notification to open it in Messages; and so on. That’s handy when you want to dig in and see the full context of the notification.

The Notification Center

No matter what kind of notification pops up, you still see only one alert at a time. And once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. Or can you?

Meet the Notification Center screen. It lists every notification you’ve recently received, in a tidy, scrolling list.

You can check it out right now: Swipe down from above the iPad’s screen. The Notification Center pulls down like a classy window shade, printed in white with every recent item of interest.

Here you’ll find all your apps’ notifications, as well as your recent messages, reminders, and upcoming calendar appointments.

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You can inspect two different lists here (a redesign in iOS 8):

§ Today. The Today screen presents an executive summary of everything you need to know today, in plain English: your upcoming appointments (“‘Salary meeting’ is next up on your calendar, at 2 PM”); reminders coming due; weather and stock information; and a preview of your schedule tomorrow. If you’re away from your home or office, you’ll even see an estimated commuting time, based on current traffic conditions. Pretty slick.

In iOS 8, the Today screen has become a much bigger deal. Apple now allows apps to add their own sections to the Today list.

For example, Dropbox can show a list of files that have been added to your Dropbox folder; Evernote can add buttons for creating new notes or reminders; The New York Times, Yahoo Digest, and Huffington Post apps can add headlines; Yahoo Weather can add weather information, including a photo of current conditions; the Kindle app offers links to the books you’re reading right now; and so on.

To manage all of this, scroll down to the bottom of the Today list and tap Edit. In the resulting list, you can tap to remove a module from the Today list, drag the up or down to move it higher or lower in the list, or tap to add a module. Then tap Done.

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§ Notifications. On this tab, you see every notification you’ve received, sorted by app: all the FaceTime calls, texts, and other notifications that came in while your tablet was asleep or turned off. (They disappear after a day.) It can be a very long list.

Tap a line in the Notification Center to open the relevant app for more details—for example, to see more information about that appointment, or to read the whole message in context.

Tap the next to an app’s name, and then tap Clear to remove that app’s current listings from the Notification Center—for now. That app’s heading will reappear the next time it has anything to tell you.

And if you see an email message or a text message, drag left across it to reveal handy instant buttons: Reply, Mark as Read, Archive, or Delete, for example (as shown in the illustration on The Notification Center).


To switch between the Today and Notification views, you can tap the tabs or just swipe across the screen.

To close the Notification Center, press the Home button or drag the bottom handle () upward. (Actually, you don’t have to aim for the handle. You can just swipe upward from beneath the screen, quickly and sloppily.)

Customizing Notifications

You can (and should) specify which apps are allowed to junk up your Notification Center. Open SettingsNotifications to see the master list (shown on What Notifications Look Like), with one entry for every app that might ever want your attention. (Or just tell Siri, “Open notification settings.”)

Under Notifications View, you can specify the order of the various apps’ notifications in the center. If you tap Sort By Time, then the apps with the newest alerts appear at the top. But if you tap Sort Manually and then Edit, you can drag the handles up or down to specify the order of your apps’ notifications on the Notification Center screen.

The most important work you can do in Notifications settings, though, is to control the behavior of each individual app. You’ll quickly discover that every app thinks it’s important; every app wants its notifications to blast into your face when you’re working.

You, however, may disagree. You may not consider it essential to know when your kid’s Plants vs. Zombies game score has changed, for example.

So: Tap an app’s name to open its individual Notifications screen (at right on the next page—the Messages app, in this example). Here you’ll find settings that vary by app, but they generally run along these lines:

§ Allow Notifications. If you don’t want this app to make any notifications pop up at all, then turn this off.

§ Show in Notification Center. How many recent notifications from this app are allowed to appear in your Notification Center? You can choose anything from No Recent Items (the app can still get your attention with banners or alert bubbles—but it won’t appear in the Notification Center) to 10 Recent Items (for really important things like emails).

§ Sounds. Some apps try to get your attention with a sound effect when a notification appears. Turn this off if you think your tablet makes too many beeps and burbles as it is.

§ Notification Sound. Some apps offer this control. It lets you choose which sound effect plays to get your attention. You can change the sound or choose None.

§ Badge App Icon. A badge is a little red circled number (, for example). It appears right on an app’s icon to indicate how many updates are waiting for you. Turn it off if you really don’t need that reminder.

§ Show on Lock Screen. The Lock screen (Locked Mode) is another place to see what’s been trying to get your attention while the tablet was in your bag: new messages and email, Facebook updates, and so on.

The Lock screen may seem just like the Notification Center—but there are differences. For example, each time you wake the tablet, whatever notifications are on the Lock screen are wiped clear. They don’t stay put, as they do on the Notification Center.

You might want a different set of apps to list their nags on the Lock screen. Maybe you want the Lock screen to show only new text messages and new mail—but you’d like the Notification Center to be fully stocked with Twitter and Facebook updates, for example. Or maybe you’d rather not permit passing evildoers to pick up your tablet and see your notifications without even having to unlock it.

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That’s why you have this switch. It governs your ability to see this app’s updates on the Lock screen (and the Notification Center when you open it while at the Lock screen).

What Notifications Look Like

Notifications can appear in any of three styles—and you get to choose which you prefer, for each app.

On the same screen described above (open SettingsNotifications and tap the app’s name), you can choose one of these three styles:

§ None. If a certain app bugs you with news you really don’t care about, you can shut it up forever. Tap None.

§ Banners are incoming notifications that appear quietly and briefly at the top of the screen (below, top). The message holds still long enough for you to read it, but it doesn’t interrupt your work and goes away after a few seconds. Banners are a good option for things like Facebook and Twitter updates and incoming email messages.


A reminder: If you tap a banner before it disappears, you jump directly to the app that’s trying to get your attention. You can also flick a banner up off the screen if it’s in your way.

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§ Alerts. A white alert box appears, center screen, to get your attention (above, bottom). You might use this option for apps whose messages are too important to miss, like alarms, flight updates, and messages.


You can also use the Include setting to specify how much of the Notification Center this app is allowed to use up—that is, how many lines of information. Maybe you need only the most recent alert about your upcoming flight (1 Item), but you want to see a lot more of your upcoming appointments (10 Items).

Miscellaneous Weirdness

As you poke around in the Notification Center settings, you’ll discover that certain oddball apps offer some options that don’t match up with the settings you see for most apps. Don’t freak out. It’s all part of Apple’s master plan to put controls where it hopes you’ll find them.

Password (or Fingerprint) Protection

About half of iPad owners don’t bother setting up a password to protect the tablet. Maybe they never set the thing down in public, so they don’t worry about thieves. Or maybe there’s just not that much personal information on the tablet—and, meanwhile, having to enter a password every single time you wake the tablet gets to be a hassle.


Besides—if you ever do lose your tablet, you can put a password on it by remote control; see Find My iPad.

The other half of people reason that the inconvenience of entering a password many times a day is a small price to pay for the knowledge that nobody can get into your stuff if you lose it.

If you think your tablet is worth protecting, here’s how to set up a password—and, if you have an iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3, how to use the fingerprint reader instead.

Setting Up a Password

If you didn’t already create a tablet password the first time you turned your iPad on, here’s how to do it. (And just because you’re an Air 2 or mini 3 owner, don’t be smug; you have to create a password even if you plan to use the fingerprint reader. As a backup.)

Open SettingsTouch ID & Passcode. (On pre-2014 models, it’s just called Passcode Lock.)

You can set up either a four-digit number—convenient, but not so impossible to guess—or a full-blown alphanumeric password of any length. You decide, using the Simple Passcode on/off switch.

Now tap Turn Passcode On. You’re asked to type the password you want, either on the number keypad (for Simple Passcodes) or the alphabet keyboard. You’re asked to do it again to make sure you didn’t make a typo.


Don’t kid around with this passcode. If you forget the iPad code, you’ll have to restore your iPad (Seven Ways to Reset the iPad), which wipes out everything on it. You’ve still got most of the data on your computer, of course (music, video, contacts, calendar), but you may lose text messages, mail, and so on.

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§ Once you confirm your password, you return to the Passcode Lock screen. Here you have a few more options.

§ For example, the Require Passcode option lets you specify how quickly the password is requested before locking somebody out: immediately after the iPad wakes or 1, 15, 30, 60, or 240 minutes later. (Those options are a convenience to you, so you can quickly check your calendar or missed messages without having to enter the passcode—while still protecting your data from, for example, evildoers who pick up your iPad while you’re out getting coffee.)

§ Certain features are accessible on the Lock screen even before you’ve entered your password: the Today and Notifications tabs of the Notification Center, and Siri. These are huge conveniences, but also, technically, a security risk. Somebody who finds your tablet on your desk could, for example, look up your schedule or use Siri to send a text. If you turn these switches off, then nobody can use these features without entering the password (or using your fingerprint).

§ Finally, here is Erase Data—an option that’s scary and reassuring at the same time. When this option is on, then if someone makes 10 incorrect guesses at your passcode, your iPad erases itself. It’s assuming that some lowlife burglar is trying to crack into it to have a look at all your personal data.

§ This option, a pertinent one for professional people, presents potent protection from patient password prospectors.

And that is all. From now on, each time you wake your iPad (if it’s not within the window of repeat visits you established), you’re asked for your password.

Fingerprint Security (Touch ID)

If you have an iPad Air 2 or mini 3—you lucky thing—you have the option of using a more secure and much more convenient kind of “password”: your fingertip.

The lens built right into the Home button (clever!) actually works—every time. It’s not fussy, it’s not balky. It reads your finger at any angle. It can’t be faked out by a plastic finger or even a chopped-off finger. You can teach it to recognize up to five fingerprints; they can all be yours, or some can belong to other people you trust.

Before you can use your fingertip as a password, though, you have to teach the tablet to recognize it. Here’s how that goes:

1. Create a passcode. That’s right: You can’t use a fingerprint instead of a password; you can only use a fingerprint in addition to one. You’ll still need a password from time to time to keep the tablet’s security tight. For example, you need to enter your password if you can’t make your fingerprint work (maybe it got encased in acrylic in a hideous crafts accident), or if you restart the tablet, or if you haven’t used the tablet in 48 hours or more.

So open SettingsTouch ID & Passcode and create a password, as described on the previous pages.

2. Teach a fingerprint. At the top of the Touch ID & Passcode screen, you see the on/off switches for the three things your fingerprint can do: It can unlock the tablet (iPad Unlock), buy things online from within shopping apps (Apple Pay), and serve as your password when you buy books, music, apps, and videos from Apple’s online stores (iTunes & App Store).

But what you really want to tap here, of course, is Add a fingerprint.

Now comes the cool part. Place the finger you want to train onto the Home button—your thumb or index finger are the most logical candidates. Touch it to the Home button over and over, maybe six times. Each time, the gray lines of the onscreen fingerprint darken a little more.

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Once you’ve filled in the fingerprint, you see the Adjust Your Grip screen. Tap Continue. Now the iPad wants you to touch the Home button another few times, this time tipping the finger a little each time so the sensor gets a better view of your finger’s edges.

Once that’s done, the screen says “Success!”

You are now ready to start using your fingerprint. Try it: Put the tablet to sleep. Then wake it (press the Sleep switch or press the Home button), and then leave your finger on the Home button for about a second. The tablet reads your fingerprint and instantly unlocks itself.

And now, a few notes about using your fingerprint as a password:

§ Yes, you can touch your finger to the Home button at the Lock screen. But you can also touch it at any Enter Passcode screen.

Suppose, for example, that your Lock screen shows that you missed a text message. And you want to reply. Well, you can swipe across that notification to open it in its native habitat—the Messages app—but first you’re shown the Enter Passcode screen. Ignore that. Just touch the Home button with the finger whose print you recorded.

§ Apple says the image of your fingerprint is encrypted and stored in the iPad’s processor chip. It’s never transmitted anywhere, it never goes online, and it’s never collected by Apple.

§ If you return to the Touch ID & Passcode screens, you can tap Add a Fingerprint again to teach your tablet to recognize a second finger. And a third, fourth, and fifth.

The five “registered” fingerprints don’t all have to belong to you. If you share the tablet with a spouse or a child, for example, that special somebody can use up some of the fingerprint slots.

§ To rename a fingerprint, tap its current name (“Finger 1” or whatever). To delete one, tap its name and then tap Delete Fingerprint. (You can figure out which finger label is which by touching the Home button; the corresponding label blinks. Sweet!)

§ You can register your toes instead of fingers, if that’s helpful. Or even patches of your wrist or arm, if you’re patient (and weird).

§ The Touch ID scanner may have trouble recognizing your finger if it (your finger) is wet, greasy, or scarred.

§ The iPad’s finger reader isn’t just a camera; it doesn’t just look for the image of your fingerprint. It’s actually measuring the tiny differences in electrical conductivity between the raised parts of your fingerprint (which aren’t conductive) and the skin just beneath the surface (which is). That’s why a plastic finger won’t work—and even your own finger won’t work if it’s been chopped off (or if you’ve passed away).

Fingerprints for Apps, Web Sites, and Apple Pay

So if your fingerprint is such a great solution to password overload, how come it works only to unlock the tablet and to buy stuff from Apple’s online stores? Wouldn’t it be great if your fingerprint could also log you into secure Web sites? Or serve as your ID when you buy stuff online?

In iOS 8, that dream has become a reality. Software companies can now use your Touch ID fingerprint to log into their apps. Mint (for checking your personal finances), Evernote (for storing notes, pictures, and to-do lists), Amazon (for buying stuff), and other apps now permit you to substitute a fingerprint touch for typing a password.

What’s really wild is that password-storing apps like 1Password and LastPass have been updated, too. Those apps are designed to memorize your passwords for all sites on the Web, of every type—and now you can use your fingerprint to unlock them.

Moreover, your fingerprint is now the key to the magical door of Apple Pay, the buy-with-your-fingerprint technology described on Apple Pay (iPad Air 2, Mini 3).

All of this is great news. Most of us would be happy if we never, ever had to type in another password.