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  • How to block and filter phone numbers on your iPhone with the tools in iOS

    Unwanted phone calls are a part of everyday life, but the iPhone offers a number of ways to stop them from being a nuisance. AppleInsider explains how to block phone numbers on iOS, as well as other ways to keep those calls and messages from coming through to your mobile devices.

    There are a wide number of reasons why someone would prefer not to receive calls, but at the top of the list is probably telemarketers. Cold callers looking for a sale and other organizations seeking to acquire new customers or to change people's minds during an election can be bothersome, especially if they attempt to ring multiple times a day.

    While there are official "do not call" registries in a number of countries, such as in the United States and the United Kingdom, these do help limit calls from legitimate sources, but not all. Certain types of calls are exempt from the rules, while some unscrupulous firms and scam artists simply ignore the list altogether.

    The final defense against these calls ends up being a user's smartphone, which can be set up in a variety of ways to respond to calls in different ways. This includes the built-in blocking system in iOS, as well as third-party apps and in some cases, out-of-the-box thinking.

    Blocking in Phone, FaceTime, Messages

    There are numerous messaging systems available, each with their own take on blocking systems, but for this guide, we will be focusing on the three main sources of unwanted communications: the Phone app, FaceTime, and Messages. All three also work in roughly the same way.

    In the Phone app, go to Recents and find the contact or number that you wish to block, then tap the "i" icon near to it. Scroll down to the bottom to find the option to Block this Caller.

    For FaceTime, tap the "i" icon next to the contact, scroll to the bottom, and tap Block this Caller.

    In Messages, tap a conversation involving the number or contact, and tap the "i" icon next to it. In the next panel, tap the name or phone number, scroll to the bottom of the contact details to find Block this Caller, and tap it.

    Once blocked, calls from select contacts will not show a notification on the iPhone, but the caller will still have the option of leaving a voicemail. Messages for blocked contacts and numbers will also fail to come through onscreen.

    Block management

    To see a list of all blocked contacts for these three apps, you will need to enter Settings. Select Phone, FaceTime, or Messages from the list, then either Blocked or Call Blocking & Identification.

    To remove people from the list, click Edit in the top left corner, then the red minus symbol on the left of the contact or number, then Unblock.

    This screen also offers another way to prevent communications from contacts. Select Block Contact or Add New to bring up the contacts list, then select the contact you wish to block.

    Spam extras in iMessage

    If you are getting communications though Messages that pass through Apple's iMessage system, you also block messages from non-contacts.

    In the Settings app, select Messages, then under Message Filtering, turn on Filter Unknown Senders. This will create a new tab for Unknown Senders in Messages, which will hold all communications of this type, but crucially without notifying you when they arrive.

    You can also report iMessage spam from unknown contacts directly to Apple. A warning below the message will advise "The sender is not in your contact list," with an option to Report Junk.

    Tapping this will forward the sender's information to Apple and automatically delete the message, but it will not block the contact. Ideally, block the number before reporting to Apple.

    For SMS and MMS messages, this reporting option will not inform your carrier of the message. It is up to the reader to check their carrier's support services to find out how to report the spam messages.

    Call filtering with third-party services

    If manually blocking unwanted calls from unidentified numbers is too much work, or you want advance warning of whether an unknown number is safe to answer or not, it is possible to automate the process by installing one of a number of third-party screening services. Apps like RoboKiller, and Mr Number can, for a charge, automatically look up the identities behind the numbers, warning if the call is likely to belong to some sort of scam or used to commit fraud.

    Some carriers are also providing similar services to their customers, such as AT&T Call Protect. While it only works for AT&T customers in the carrier's coverage areas, as well as some other limitations on blocks, the app itself is free, making it an option for some iPhone users.

    Once installed, the apps can be enabled and disabled via the Settings app, under Phone then Call Blocking & Identification. Under the section labeled Allow These Apps to Block Calls and Provide Caller ID, tick each toggle to turn the individual apps on and off.

    If you tap Edit on this screen, you can also drag the apps into an order of priority, with the second or later enabled apps showing its results if the first app fails to find the number.

    An alternative: Whitelisting

    If you only want to get notifications on your phone from people you know, consider having Do Not Disturb enabled as an extreme form of whitelisting.

    Within the Settings app, select Do Not Disturb, then navigate down to Allow Calls From. Tap this and select All Contacts, or the group you wish to call you. This will automatically suppress notifications from unknown numbers while Do Not Disturb is active. .

    There is an option to allow Repeated Calls to come through. As this will permit a second call from an unknown number to automatically pass through if it occurs within three minutes of the previous call, this could be left on if spam or telemarketing callers that try to contact you have a longer gap between contact attempts.

    Note that this method may interfere with other notifications you may want to see on your iPhone or iPad.

    Another alternative is to make a silent ringtone, and use that for the default tone on your iPhone. At the same time, you give a custom non-silent tone to those that you want to hear your phone ring for. This doesn't block the calls, but your iPhone won't disturb you when you get the nuisance calls, at least.
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  • Kuo: Budget 6.1-inch LCD iPhone lineup could start at $550

    Apple is predicted to launch two versions of a rumored 6.1-inch LCD iPhone later this year, one with a starting price as low as $550 and another potentially outfitted with dual-SIM dual standby (DSDS) technology, according to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

    In a note to investors seen by AppleInsider, Kuo says Apple may be planning a DSDS-capable LCD iPhone with two physical SIM card slots and no eSIM support. A second LCD variant will be outfitted with a traditional single-SIM arrangement and could sell for between $550 and $650, much lower than initial estimates of $700 to $800 aired in January. Based on the new bottom-tier pricing, a DSDS model might cost between $650 to $750, the analyst says.

    DSDS is also expected to show up in a rumored 6.5-inch OLED iPhone positioned at the top of Apple's 2018 lineup. Interestingly, the analyst believes the company's smallest-screened offering, a revamp of iPhone X with 5.8-inch OLED panel, will not include a dual-SIM option.

    DSDS technology provides a number of benefits to end users, the most obvious being the ability to travel across borders or coverage zones without swapping SIM cards. This is a key consideration for users in China who often jump cellular providers between provinces. Dual-SIM configurations are also attractive to businesses that manage their own mobile device deployments.

    Kuo in February said DSDS would arrive on iPhone thanks to next-generation Intel baseband chips. At the time, the analyst said he expects Apple to rely solely on Intel silicon to power iPhone's communications suite in 2018, ditching longtime modem supplier Qualcomm.

    Mass production of the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone is estimated to begin some three to five weeks after Apple's rumored OLED versions, due in part to the last-minute addition of DSDS. Reports earlier this week claim OLED panel production will start in May, with assembly to follow shortly thereafter.

    With a low price point and optional DSDS capability, Kuo believes the 6.1-inch iPhone is shaping up to be Apple's most popular 2018 iPhone.

    Apple is expected to launch three iPhone models this fall. Anchored by the 6.1-inch LCD version, the lineup is said to include two OLED models in a 5.8-inch "iPhone X 2" and larger 6.5-inch "iPhone X Plus." Reports suggest Apple is looking to retain high margins by integrating mature hardware in the bottom rung iPhone, from less expensive LCD screens to Touch ID biometrics. This year's top-tier OLED models are expected to carry over the more complex -- and expensive -- TrueDepth camera that powers Face ID on iPhone X.

    The 6.5-inch variant will undoubtedly be the most expensive offering, but should attract early adopters with the usual assortment of cutting edge technology befitting a flagship device. If Kuo's pricing estimates are correct, the "low end" LCD iPhone could be a huge hit with upgraders and Android switchers. Kuo sees a downside risk for the 5.8-inch OLED iPhone, saying Apple could have trouble selling customers on a smaller-screened, more expensive device that lacks DSDS.
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  • AMD releases Mac versions of Radeon ProRender plugin for Blender & Maya

    AMD this week published Mac versions of its Radeon ProRender plugins for 3D creation mainstays Blender and Maya -- enabling Macs with compatible hardware to take advantage of ProRender for physics-based rendering.

    Macs must be running at least macOS 10.13.3, and using hardware that supports Apple's Metal 2 graphics platform. When those are in effect, ProRender offers a scalable ray-tracing engine exploiting maximum CPU and GPU power.

    The new plugins also include AMD's updated Uber Shader, with touches like better subsurface scattering for elements like skin. In Maya, "interactive" denoising attempts to strip noise while retaining detail, simultaneously lowering render times.

    Several Blender upgrades have been made, among them adaptive subdivision of surfaces, more AOV options like reflections and diffuse lighting, and volumetric effects such as fog, smoke, and clouds.

    The plugins are mostly of interest to graphics professionals with the iMac Pro or any recent model with a connected eGPU. Most Macs use integrated or mobile-level GPUs not suited to professional work.
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  • App Roundup: Canary for iOS, Handbrake 1.1.0 for Mac, plus Office 2016 for Mac, Moog Model...

    In the constantly-changing landscape of the App Store and the software marketplace, new apps and updates to existing titles are announced all the time. AppleInsider highlights some of the more notable app introductions and software updates for iOS and macOS that surfaced in the past week.

    This week's collection includes the new apps Textlicious, Moog Model D, Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration, Project Highrise for iOS, and the macOS client for Vimeo. The updates list includes changes made to Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac, Handbrake 1.1.0, iMovie for Mac 10.1.9, Canary's new Apple Watch addition, and the Focus feature for Instagram.


    From Wil Shipley, developer of Delicious Library, is a new app available for both macOS and iOS. From the description, "Textlicious is a tiny service that lets you enter styled text in places that normally accept only plain text. Make your tweets more expressive, your texts stand out, and your posts on the book the envy of all your friends."

    To use the app on macOS, you highlight text you're typing in any app, right-click (control-click), and select the style you want from the Services pop-up menu. On iOS, highlight the text you're typing in any app, tap on the "Share" menu item, choose the style you want from Textlicious, and then paste the newly styled text over your old words. Available styles include bold, italic, serifed, typewriter, script, double-struck, and more.

    Get it for iOS: $1.99 Requires iOS 11.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone 5s and newer, iPad Air and newer.

    Get it for macOS: $1.99 Requires Mac OS 10.12 or newer

    Moog Model D

    Moog first released the Minimoog Model D synthesizer in 1970. It was the first synth to have an integrated keyboard and have the main synthesizer components built-in without needing to be a towering modular thing. Before this, synthesizers were almost impossible to transport, and the Model D made it easy for gigging keyboard players to take a synth with them. Basically, a synth has three sections: an oscillator that generates the signal, a filter, and an amplifier.

    The Model D has three signal oscillators, a voltage controlled filter, and a voltage controlled amplifier. At the time, it was revolutionary, and it was rapidly adopted by musicians in concert and studio settings. Sun Ra, Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Michael Jackson (Thriller), Rick Wakeman and Trent Reznor all used them, and it was even in use on Whitney Houston recordings. You could buy a Model D for $3500 USD, or the new iOS app for $14.99.

    The app has some advantages, including the ability to play chords with four notes at a time (the hardware keyboard can only play one note at at time), 160 presets, a stereo tempo-synced delay, and a real-time looper with unlimited loops. It also works with MIDI and AUv3, so you can use it in a DAW like GarageBand.

    Get it for iOS: $14.99
    Requires iOS 10.3 or later. Compatible with iPhone 5s, or newer, iPad Air or newer.

    Korg iMono/Poly

    Korg iMono/Poly's most recent update brought a very cool feature: There's now a free skin based on the Parker Brothers Monopoly board game. That would be a fun toy if they'd just skinned it with fresh images, but instead, they've gone to real effort, 3D rendering all the board pieces as knobs whose shadows and lighting change when rotated. It's still a toy of a skin, and it's wonderful.

    The iMono/Poly is a 4VCO (voltage controlled oscillator) synth with all the options of the original synth from 1981, with two multi-effects units and eight virtual patches added in. It's got some great sounds, and is MIDI compliant. It works in conjunction with the Korg Gadget DAW. If you're at all into making music on iOS, it's an excellent tool to have.

    Get it for iOS: $14.99

    Requires iOS 9.3 or later. Compatible with iPhone 5s and newer, iPad Air and newer. From Korg: "Due to differences in CPU speed of iPads / iPhones, iPad 3rd gen/2/iPad mini/iPhone 4s are not supported, only iPad Air/iPhone 5s or later is recommended."


    Rolling out to users as part of version 39.0 for iOS, Instagram is adding a new "Focus" camera format to its picture-taking function. Appearing next to "Superzoom" under the record button when recording a video, Focus works similar to the iPhone's normal Portrait mode, detecting where the subject is in the frame and applying a soft blur to the background.

    Focus is available to use on the iPhone SE, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S+, and later releases.

    Instagram is also rolling out a new @mention sticker for iOS accounts, which aims to make it easier to connect with friends appearing in the app's stories. After taking a photograph or a video using the stories camera, access the sticker tray to find the @mention sticker, enter the name of the account being mentioned, and then place the sticker on the image. Notably for this version, Instagram has removed Apple Watch support, which formerly provided notifications of follows and likes on photos.

    Get it for iOS: Free
    Requires iOS 9.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.


    It's been a while since we've seen an email application worth talking about on iOS. Canary does all the sorts of things you'd expect an email client to do, as well as having an 'activity stream' which shows a history of emails and replies.

    Canary has added an Apple Watch app to their app, so that you can receive and send email from the Apple Watch while on LTE. The app also lets you quick-reply using scribble, quick replies, and voice dictation. The Apple Watch really shines for notifications and replies, and Canary feels like a must-have app in order to really use the watch as its own platform, independent of iPhone. Canary is a free download with three-day trial, $4.99 USD after that.

    Get it for iOS and Apple Watch: Free 3 day trial, $4.99 to purchase

    Requires iOS 9.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

    Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration

    Feral Interactive's Mac port of the most recent Tomb Raider game is available as of Apr. 12, and sees heroine Lara Croft searching the ancient city of Kitezh for the Divine Source, an artifact said to endow immortality. As might be expected, Croft isn't the only person after it, which means her usual gauntlet of combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving.

    The game should run on all Mac Pros and 15-inch MacBook Pros released since 2013, all 27-inch iMacs since 2014, all 13-inch MacBook Pros since 2016, and last year's 21.5-inch iMac. Some 2012 iMacs equipped with 2-gigabyte Nvidia 680MX GPUs should also be able to run it.

    It's worth noting however that the game is very graphically demanding, and only the most powerful Macs will be able to approach maximum detail.

    Get it for Mac on Steam: $59.99

    Project Highrise for iOS

    Ported from the Mac and PC, Project Highrise is a sandbox construction management simulator where players have to build the best skyscraper in the city. As the architect, the construction of the building's walls, floors, offices, and apartments are under the player's direction.

    At the same time, players have to keep costs within budget and to save for future expansion, and keep tenants happy enough to keep paying rent on time instead of deserting the property.

    As well as the main game, which is said to offer hours of gameplay, Kalypso Media and SomaSim have also included the bonus expansion packs as in-app purchases, providing new apartments, retail options, and scenarios for players to take on.

    Get it for iOS: $3.99

    iMovie for Mac 10.1.9

    Apple's simpler alternative to Final Cut on the Mac has been updated with support for the iPhone X and extra iPad resolutions when creating App Previews for the iOS App Store. Those videos are short clips that appear alongside each listing, giving a better sense for what an app is actually like.

    The update otherwise fixes bugs for issues like Facebook logins, exporting to Final Cut Pro, slow SD imports on the iMac Pro, and HEVC and HEIF files appearing black in the viewer. It should also solve glitches involving Camtwist Studio and/or Sound Designer 2.

    Get it for macOS: Free

    Vimeo for macOS

    Long a staple of the Web and iOS, video hosting service Vimeo has announced a native Mac client. Rather than being aimed at viewers though, the app targets creators. The software "gives Final Cut Pro users more control over file formats and video codecs, the ability to use any captions that come with a video (as opposed to one caption), an upload progress bar, and instant access to share links, review page links, and embed codes," Vimeo said.

    The app requires macOS 10.12 or later.

    Get it for macOS: Free

    Handbrake 1.1.0 for macOS

    The major release of the open source video transcoder refreshes the user interface to make it more consistent and usable, with an overall flow from top to bottom and left to right. New preset controls in the main workflow, a summary tab to show an overview of settings, and new 4K presets for Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku are among the improvements, as well as 10-bit H.265/HEVC encoding support for Kaby Lake and newer Intel processors.

    The app requires Mac OS X 10.7 or later.

    Get it for macOS: Free

    Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac

    Microsoft's main Office productivity suite apps got updates to bring Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook to version 16.12.0.

    For Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, all three include changes to sharing and collaboration using OneDrive, with locally-synchronized documents opening directly from the cloud, allowing for easier autosaving. The trip also gain the ability to insert and edit scalable vector graphics (SVGs) into documents and presentations.

    Outlook version 16.12.0 gains the SVG support, as well as easier scanning of search results, and week numbers displayed in Calendar month view and the mini-calendar in the sidebar. The calendar is also more actionable, with a click of any meeting or event providing associated details for that calendar listing.

    Lastly for Outlook, delegates are now able to schedule Skype for Business Online meetings on behalf of principals using the principal's email address.

    Updates are available through MicroSoft AutoUpdate, via the Help menu in the Office applications themselves.

    Get it for macOS: $149.95 (Home and Student)
  • Our biggest gripes with Apple's 2018 iPad

    Apple's new 2018 iPad is undoubtedly the budget iPad of choice, thanks to it's powerful A10 Fusion processor and Apple Pencil support, which until now, hasn't been available on any iPad other than the Pro line. However, the low-cost build creates some pretty big issues that might make you reconsider.

    Non-Laminated display

    The first issue with the new iPad, which we reviewed in-depth this month, is that it comes with a non-laminated display. The decision to use this sort of screen means there's more glass between the display panel and the cover surface, creating a noticeable and annoying gap around the screen edge.

    Apple iPad vs iPad Pro

    The iPad Pro's laminated screen has an extremely small gap which is less distracting, while also making it feel like the display is almost sitting on top of the glass.

    When you use Apple Pencil, one of the highlight additions to the new iPad, the experience is less impressive when compared to the iPad Pro. The gap is quite noticeable, with the effect of writing above the surface of the display potentially affecting accuracy when creating detailed drawings or when handwriting notes.

    Apple iPad versus iPad Pro

    The 2018 iPad also has an odd hollow feel when you tap the screen, unlike the solid and well-built feel of the iPad Pro. You can even hear the difference between the two screens when tapping them.

    Not only that, but laminated displays are also able to show deeper black shades than the non-laminated versions. By comparison, dark hues look gray on the 2018 iPad's display.

    Even though we think it's worth replacing your old iPad with the 2018 iPad because of the processor improvements and Apple Pencil support, both the iPad Mini 4 and iPad Air 2 have laminated displays, making it tough to go back to a non-laminated display after using those models.

    No Anti-Reflective Coating

    The 2018 iPad's display is distractingly reflective. Every iPad that that comes with a laminated display also gets an anti-reflective coating, but since the 2018 is not laminated, it doesn't receive this extra treatment during production.

    Apple iPad vs iPad Pro

    We didn't think it was a big deal until we actually started using both the new iPad and the iPad Pro at the same time. Even using them indoors, we could still see a huge difference in reflectiveness.

    Taking the two tablets outside, reflections on the new iPad were even more distracting, forcing us to set the brightness to the maximum to see what was onscreen, even on an overcast day. By contrast, the iPad Pro was less reflective in tests, even at lower brightness.

    Because the anti-reflective coating cuts down on glare, iPad Pro users don't need to crank up brightness, equating to potential battery life savings even when outdoors.

    Old Touch ID Technology

    Another issue with the new iPad is that it still uses Apple's first-generation Touch ID. The iPhone line and current iPad Pro models have moved on to the second-generation version, yet the iPad sticks with the first.

    Apple 2018 iPad

    Even before comparing it against the version used on the new iPad Pro, we noticed it was fairly slow and not very reliable.

    Since the second-generation of Touch ID was introduced with the iPhone 6S, most iPhone users will probably notice the difference, unless they're using an iPhone 6 or iPhone 5S.

    The iPad's Touch ID sensor can be tapped repeatedly without unlocking, due to its slowness, and won't unlock unless you rest your finger on it for an extended period. On the iPad Pro, Touch ID is so fast that it unlocks while pressing the home button to wake the screen.

    Just using the power button to try out the same tap test on the iPad, it is lightning fast to lock and unlock. When compared side-by-side, the faster Touch ID unlocking offered by the iPad Pro provides an enhanced sense of reliability compared to the newer iPad.

    Old Selfie camera

    The FaceTime selfie camera mounted on iPad's front fascia continues to be an issue, with the latest version using an absolutely awful 1.2-megapixel sensor capable of recording a meager 720p video.

    Apple iPad versus iPad Pro camera comparison

    This is effectively the same FaceTime camera that came with the fourth-generation iPad from 2012. It's the year 2018, six years later, and it's shocking that we still have devices like these that are limited to 720P recording.

    The iPad Pro comes with a 7-megapixel FaceTime camera capable of recording in 1080p. While it may not seem like a big difference, it actually is an important upgrade due to the 1080p resolution using more than double the number of pixels as a 720p image.

    It's a huge disappointment that Apple continues to use such a low-resolution selfie camera that hasn't seen any major change in so many years.

    Old Display Technology

    The last issue also relates to the display, specifically about the technology used to render an image. The new iPad is still using the same old Retina display that Apple introduced with the 3rd-generation iPad in 2012.

    Apple iPad and iPad Pro camera compare

    Many of Apple's latest products are now being equipped with displays that support P3 wide-color gamut, which produces more vibrant and accurate colors. On the iPhone side, the iPhone X has moved on to a better OLED display compared to its predecessors, and it's quite likely OLED-equipped iPad Pro models will make an appearance in the near future.

    Even Samsung's Galaxy Tab S2 has a Super AMOLED display, and that tablet dates back to 2015.

    It's extremely disappointing that the new iPad is effectively stuck with a 6-year-old display, instead of progressing to newer display technologies.

    The 2017 iPad Pro also has ProMotion, which allows the screen to increase its refresh rate to a maximum of 120Hz, double the refresh rate of the 2018 iPad. ProMotion's higher refresh rate makes the overall experience more fluid, and it dramatically reduces input lag while using the Apple Pencil, bringing drawing on the screen even closer to how it would feel to use pen and paper.

    Even though the 2018 iPad gets an extremely powerful processor and Apple Pencil support, and we definitely recommend buying it, the lacking display, slow Touch ID, and woeful front-facing camera makes it feel like an older iPad model.

    Nobody wants to feel stuck in the past, especially in 2018, but in some ways, the iPad still is.