Technical Difficulties

Like a normal tech podcast, but broken.

Gabe and Erik take a look at what it takes to get a new iOS device up and running for a non-technical user. Along the way they talk about system settings, built in, and third party applications.

“Okay, how do I set it up?”

Gabe and Erik start by reminiscing about all the times they tried to give tech gifts and ended up doing a lot of support. iOS helped a bunch. iOS 7 hasn’t.

Apple Account Set Up


Users are faced with a decision about Apple accounts as soon as they start using a new device and, for the sake of discussion, Gabe and Erik go right into setting up first party iCloud accounts. Surprising no one in this show’s audience, we recommend 1Password to help keep track of all the various user accounts required on a functional iOS device.

If you install 1Password early in the process, then as the setup of the device progresses you’ll have the chance to show your new user how to input the accounts they already know, while also showing them how easy it is to add new ones. If you are a saint (or masochist), you can even have them set new stronger passwords and show them how 1Password can generate them itself.

Then, after performing these consecutive miracles, you can teach them to count to F in hex.

  • iCloud accounts are good for a user’s own data, such as calendars, reminders, etc.
  • A shared Apple ID can be good for app management, but it’s best for when the user is savvy enough to even understand that there are two different account types.

Apple Accounts

As far as first-party accounts are concerned, the two Apple data silos on iOS are iCloud and the App Store, but since these two don’t necessarily share the same Apple ID, the distinction between the two logins can be tough to keep straight.

Gabe and Erik even “pretended” to confuse the terms during their discussion as an object lesson for the rest of us. They’re givers.

  • Setting up a shared calendar is a great way to show new users how online services and sync can make day-to-day things a little easier.
  • Almost everyone already has email, and setting this up on the iOS device ensures at least its basic utility.


Gabe is not Daddy Warbucks. Nope, Gabe is not.

Third-party Account Set up

Setting up a new iOS user with some useful non-Apple apps and accounts can make their device shine. It also might expand their appreciation of mobile technology in general.

  • Dropbox and Evernote are a core part of a nerd’s workflow, but virtually everyone can benefit from these services thanks to ubiquitous developer support.
  • Dropbox photo support is continually improving, but turning Camera Uploads off will reduce confusion and preserve the limited disk space available with a free account.

Good input

Bradley Chambers brought up a good point on Twitter:

This policy is detailed here, and 3 GB is a good amount of storage for iOS pictures, but the Dropbox desktop app will offer to backup any photos attached by USB, so the issue is more complicated if your new user is shutterbug. For illustration proposes, I use Camera Upload to sync two iPhones and a DSLR, and since June 15, 2012, which is when I think Dropbox began the 3 GB policy for everyone, I have uploaded at least 44 GB of photos and videos. I am not a standard user, but I doubt am an outlier

One other point, if you choose to tackle the issue of photo backup and want to use Dropbox for that purpose, recommend turning on background uploading, because backup is best if it’s automatic. You can set it to only occur on wifi, and I haven’t noticed an effect on battery life.

  • Evernote is a great everything bucket and there are plenty of resources you can suggest later if they want to learn more.

Evernote for the Family

Investing some time into teaching your family how and when to use Evernote will pay dividends later. I’ve purchased Brett Kelley’s excellent Evernote Essentials book and uploaded the PDF to the new Evernote app on the iOS device.

Here are some of the things that will make everyone’s life easier with Evernote:

  • Photos of receipts
  • Photo notes of recipes, because (let’s face it) they are not going to stick with a recipe app
  • Photo notes of price tags at stores for comparison shopping
  • List of prescriptions with photos of labels
  • Grocery shopping list. The bonus is showing them how to share the note link to anyone they send to the store
  • Vehicle mileage tracking
  • Document the annual garden layout
  • Google apps, such as Maps, Search, and Chrome can provide familiarity and easy syncing for existing Google users.


Apple Maps has definitely improved, but Erik has a point.

Freeway No Freeway

Literally 100 feet away from the Apple Store.

“Speaking of creepy”

“Don’t Be Creepy”

Critical Settings

Gabe and Erik briefly touch on good ways to customize an iOS device for someone else.

  • The aesthetics of iOS 7 are polarizing, for sure, but many users can’t use the default font setting. Adjusting the font size and weight is mandatory in this case.
  • The new motion effects are impressive to demo, but many would like to make iOS 7 less nausea-inducing. Beyond that, these effects can diminish general performance and battery life if you are setting up a device without the M7 motion coprocessor.
  • iOS 7 Multitasking Gestures are very useful, but learning to use them is best saved for some point after the initial shakedown period in question here. It’s not a bad idea to turn them on, however, because they aren’t disruptive.
  • Spotlight’s changes have arguably reduced its usefulness, but when app organization is unlikely, providing some tips for using Spotlight can prevent the frustration of “losing an app.”
  • Dictation is another great demo item that has an unequal adoption rate. It is a further case where providing some pointers could go a long way.
  • The Do Not Disturb feature is a perfect example of software making a device fit better into real life. It’s a great way to segue into how to use Control Center too.


Erik alluded to already discussed iOS 7 critiques. Shhhh, spoilers.

Other Apps to Setup or Install

Gabe and Erik close out the show by listing some great apps to setup or install for a new user.

Too Easy

Since I am a professional, I will not even make a drone joke.

Besides this one

  • If you are setting up an iPad, in particular, it will likely see a lot of duty as a video player. The Netflix and YouTube apps are two great additions to that role.
  • Speaking of video watching, the whole second screen idea is very nearly perfected by using apps such as Flixter and IMDB to figure out “what else she’s been in.”
  • The Facebook apps on iOS might be the best way to connect distant relatives to the rest of the family
  • You may be the only one who’ll ever use the AirPort Utility app on their device, but having it installed will likely be a boon to your later household tech support.
  • While the mobile webview of Wikipedia may suffice for most people, Wikipanion Plus for iPhone or iPad is a wonderful upgrade to the experience.
  • Google Earth remains a great way to interact with a map, and a well-designed navigation app such as Navigon North America outshines the free alternatives as a real Garmin replacement.


The value of a good GPS app is undervalued with free alternatives like Google and Apple Maps. Navigon is superior to both. It’s also a great way to tour a city when on vacation with the pedestrian directions and excellent POIs.

  • There are countless ways to track a flight, but installing an app like Flight Update Pro will minimize the complexity, and a distinct app for this purpose will make it much more likely to be of real use to them.

Quick Checklists

Here are a couple of quick lists of apps and settings you may want to configure if you’re helping a new user out with an iOS device.

Apps to Install

  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • 1Password
  • Google Search
  • Google Maps
  • Google Earth
  • Starbucks
  • Amazon
  • Netflix
  • Flixter
  • YouTube
  • IMDB
  • AirPort Utility
  • Wikipanion (maybe)
  • Navigon (maybe)
  • Flight Update Pro

Settings to Configure

  • iCloud
  • Mail, Calendar, Notes
  • Accessibilty Font Size
  • Reduced Motion
  • Do Not Disturb for late nights
  • Ad tracking
  • Turn off Bluetooth if they don’t need it
  • Turn off most notifications
  • Enable iTunes in the Cloud if they have it
  • iCloud backup

Until next week

Well, that’s all for this week. If you have anything that you’d like to add to or correct in the show notes you can find me on Twitter @potatowire or feel free to send an email to me at potatowire dot com.

Download Gabe’s iThoughts mind map on this week’s topic.