Last week, Apple released a supplemental update for macOS 10.14.6 Mojave to fix serious bugs introduced with the Safari 14.0 update and revealed by Security Update 2020-005. Apple and Google have baked their joint COVID-19 exposure notification technology into iOS and Android, but relatively few public health authorities have taken advantage of it so far. New York State just hopped on the bandwagon with its COVID Alert NY app, so New York resident Adam Engst gives you a look at how the app works and what information it provides. In other pandemic coverage, Julio Ojeda-Zapata examines how the Apple Watch has helped him stay safe and launches an experiment to get his wife to try one. Finally, Adam shares five tips that simplify rearranging your iOS apps. Notable Mac app releases this week include Downcast 2.9.55, FileMaker Pro 19.1.2, Twitterrific 5.4.4, Parallels Desktop 16.0.1, and VMware Fusion 12.
As we warned in “Security Update 2020-005 (Mojave and High Sierra),” (28 September 2020), users of macOS 10.14 Mojave who installed Security Update 2020-005 experienced numerous problems, as well-documented by Mr. Macintosh. Issues included large increases in memory usage, slow boots, overall system slowness, the inability to create new users, and more. Further discussion suggested that the problems might have been related to installing Safari 14.0 (released the previous week) before Security Update 2020-005.
On 30 September 2020, Apple pulled the updates for both Safari 14.0 and Security Update 2020-005. Then, late in the day on 1 October 2020, the company released macOS Mojave 10.14.6 Supplemental Update that, in fact, installs only a fixed version of Safari 14.0 and requires a restart. Apple also re-released Security Update 2020-005 with no changes.
Coverage from Mr. Macintosh suggests that the supplemental update fixes all the previous problems.
Precisely what you’ll see in Software Update depends on what you have already installed. Regardless, the practical upshot is that installing Security Update 2020-005 (if available) and macOS Mojave 10.14.6 Supplemental Update will give you both the updated Safari 14.0 and security update code. If you previously installed Safari 14.0, with or without Security Update 2020-005, we recommend installing this supplemental update immediately.
However, if you want to stay on an earlier version of Safari for some reason, you should be able to install Security Update 2020-005. Just don’t install the supplemental update, which will give you Safari 14.0.
We suspect that the new version of Safari 14.0 installed by the supplemental update addresses only the bugs that triggered problems once Security Update 2020-005 was installed. Quite a few people have reported separate troubles with Safari 14.0, and we’re guessing that Safari 14.0.1, now in beta testing, will address those.
Although Apple responded fairly quickly, it’s still a black eye for the company to ship a security update that caused such problems. In Apple’s defense, the situation was unusual, with the problems originating with the separate Safari 14.0 update and being revealed only after the user installed Security Update 2020-005. Nevertheless, we hope Apple is investigating how such major issues slipped through internal testing.
When we write about Apple’s operating system updates, we always try to offer advice about when to install. It’s now clear that we’ll need to make such recommendations for Safari and security updates in the future as well. The specifics may vary with the severity of the fixed vulnerabilities, but in general, we currently suggest that you should wait at least a week before installing updates like these.
In the morning on October 1st, I was innocently scanning through the haphazardly organized Settings app on my iPhone (see the still-apropos “Bad Apple #2: Alphabetize Settings in iOS,” 21 February 2018), when I noticed the Exposure Notifications option. I hadn’t checked back in since its initial release (see “iOS 13.7 Integrates Apple’s COVID-19 Exposure Notifications,” 1 September 2020), so I tapped through and was surprised to learn that New York State now has an app that’s compatible with the Apple/Google exposure notification technology. I pay close attention, but this was the first I’d heard of such an app. It turned out that I was just lucky—Governor Cuomo’s office announced the app officially later in the day. 9to5Mac has a list of all the US states and territories that are participating so far.
Getting the app proved a little more challenging. The Open App Store link brought up an App Store article that discussed the exposure notification technology and listed some apps but didn’t include the New York app it promised at the top. Hopefully, that has changed now; I can’t find the article anymore.
A search in the App Store revealed the COVID Alert NY app, and I was intrigued to see the extent to which the state emphasizes the privacy aspects of the technology and approach. Just look at how many times they mention privacy in the description. (Click an image to view it larger.)
The first screen of the app has a Learn How It Works link as well, which opens a four-screen tutorial that does an excellent job of summarizing the complex system that Apple and Google developed (for full details, see Glenn Fleishman’s “Apple and Google Partner for Privacy-Preserving COVID-19 Contact Tracing and Notification,” 10 April 2020, and David Shayer’s “Former Apple Engineer: Here’s Why I Trust Apple’s COVID-19 Notification Proposal,” 11 May 2020).
Back at the initial screen, tapping the Get Started button walks you through an explanation of why the app has to ask for COVID-19 exposure logging and notifications, presents those permission requests, and then confirms that it’s all set up.
It even offers a Share button that, when I used it to send myself a text message, generated a message and provided a link to a COVID Alert NY Web page (which continues to hammer home the privacy protections). If you’re a New Yorker and get the app, I strongly encourage you to share it broadly with your family, friends, and colleagues. (There’s an Android version as well, so you don’t have to worry about confusing your green-bubble friends with an iOS app.)
To give you a reason to load the app regularly, which is helpful for keeping the entire concept of exposure notification fresh in users’ minds, the app provides three graphs for both the state as a whole and for each county. The graphs show the percent of COVID-19 tests that have come back positive, the total number of positives, and the total number of tests performed, all across the last month.
All three numbers are useful because they show the differences even across nearby counties. For instance, I live in Tompkins County, where we had a spike in early September related to thousands of Cornell University students returning to campus. Cornell quickly brought that under control with excellent contract tracing and quarantining of exposed students, and our infection rate is back to well under 1%. The more rural neighboring Tioga County, where I grew up and which has about half the population, has notably higher infection rates. However, a look at the other graphs shows that it’s testing only a few hundred people per day, whereas Cornell’s aggressive regime of testing every student twice per week means that Tompkins County was doing more than 5000 tests most days and is now averaging nearly 10,000 per day.
The next major area of the app, accessed during setup and via a button in the bottom toolbar, is My Health Log, which helps you keep track of your own health and provide anonymized data for public health researchers. Users are encouraged to report in every day, presumably to help provide a baseline should symptoms crop up.
The final part of the app revolves around what to do if you test positive for COVID-19. The app tells you to stay at home and isolate yourself for 14 days, after which it explains that a public health representative will call with more information and ways you can get help. They’ll also ask if you’re willing to share your app’s list of close contact codes, and if you are, they’ll give you a six-digit number that triggers the upload of your codes so others can be notified—completely anonymously!—that they might have come in contact with you.
Overall, I’m impressed. The app is clear, clean, and polished, and does a fine job at giving users a reason to install it beyond the civic duty of helping protect fellow New Yorkers. I hope similar apps from other states and countries are at least as good, and if you’ve used one, let us know what it’s like in the comments.
And, of course, if you live in New York, please install and configure the app to help protect yourself, those close to you, and others in your community!
Communicating with my beloved wife when she is away from the house has become a bit trickier because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I can’t blame her.
COVID-19 has made navigating the outside world stickier and ickier because of the worry about touching potentially contaminated surfaces and a resulting desire to disinfect continually as protection from the coronavirus.
Keeping your hands clean is chore enough, but you also need to worry about your iPhone. “If a mobile phone isn’t exactly an extension of the human hand, it should be treated like one during COVID-19,” Hartford HealthCare recently said, in advice I’ve seen echoed repeatedly online. “Your phone, like your hand, is a bacteria and virus magnet.”
To be fair, the US Centers for Disease Control no longer considers surface transmission to be a primary vector of infection, saying:
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads.
WebMD also has an article from 3 September 2020 discussing the low likelihood of surface transmission. Nevertheless, the CDC still recommends daily disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, including phones, and for electronics refers users to the manufacturer’s instructions. With regard to the iPhone, Apple says:
Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the exterior surfaces of your iPhone. Don’t use bleach. Avoid getting moisture in any openings, and don’t submerge your iPhone in any cleaning agents.
Unsurprisingly, when she’s doing errands, my wife has become reluctant to dig her iPhone out of her handbag to check text messages or answer a call. This makes her irritatingly but understandably difficult to reach.
It recently dawned on me that the Apple Watch may be the solution. My wife has never used or expressed any interest in using one. But if I persuaded her to do so, I reasoned, I would have a better shot at getting in touch with her while she was out and about. All she’d have to do is tap the watch screen with her pinkie when I texted, called, or started a Walkie-Talkie conversation with her.
Hardware hygiene would be easier, too. A quick swipe with a disinfectant wipe would do it. Apple’s advice for disinfecting an Apple Watch is similar to that for the iPhone:
Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the exterior surfaces of your Apple Watch, Sport Band, or metal band. Don’t use on fabric or leather bands. Don’t use bleach. Avoid getting moisture in any openings, and don’t submerge your Apple Watch in any cleaning agents.
This got me thinking about how the Apple Watch can be a helpful—even essential—piece of personal technology during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In some ways, this is obvious. For instance, the Apple Watch now nags you about washing your hands, a highly recommended way to protect yourself from viruses (see “watchOS 7 Introduces Sleep Tracking, Handwashing Detection, and More,” 22 June 2020). The Handwashing Timer feature prompts you to scrub for the recommended 20 seconds. A companion capability called Handwashing Reminders nudges you to wash your hands after you get home. Enable them in the Watch app, in My Watch > Handwashing.
I really need the Handwashing Timer since I am otherwise prone to wash for only five seconds or so, as my stopwatch-wielding wife has informed me. The feature needs work, though. As my household’s designated dishwasher (a duty I adore since it’s my tech-podcast listening time), I’m irritated at how the timer keeps kicking in as I wash up from dinner.
Handwashing Reminders also is helpful. More than six months into the pandemic, I still forget to wash my hands upon getting home some of the time, so I definitely appreciate the nudge. But it too isn’t perfect—if I’ve merely been out for a walk around the neighborhood, there’s no real need to wash, not that a few extra washes are a problem.
Blood oxygen tracking in the Apple Watch Series 6 could be another boon for pandemic-perturbed users (see “Apple Unveils Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE,” 15 September 2020). I’ve been told repeatedly to invest in a basic fingertip pulse oximeter since blood-oxygen monitoring is a way to monitor for the possible onset of COVID-19, but procrastination is one of my superpowers. How awesome is it that I now have that capability on my wrist?
But we should reserve judgment on this capability for the moment. Apple doesn’t market the Apple Watch as a medical device, and rigorous studies of how its blood-oxygen monitoring compares to medical-grade gadgetry are scarce. A Washington Post reviewer recently said he is not impressed by the feature, and the IEEE Spectrum site urges caution for now.
Other Useful Features During a Pandemic
Time-tested Apple Watch features have potential utility in these confusing times as well. If your goal is to reduce the need to touch surfaces in public—notably credit card payment terminals, along with your iPhone—the Apple Watch has much to offer. Casual users are often unaware of these features, as I’ve come to learn after numerous conversations with such people.
Tap-to-pay with Apple Pay is an important one. It involves using your iPhone or your Apple Watch to make purchases at brick-and-mortar establishments simply by bringing the device into close proximity with an NFC-enabled payment terminal. The payment tech has particular resonance during a pandemic since you typically touch nothing (including your iPhone if you have set up your watch for Apple Pay) during such a transaction.
Apple has done a good job of popularizing Apple Pay, but barriers to greater adoption remain. Some people worry that it is less secure than paying with a card, which is entirely incorrect—Apple Pay is far more secure. To this day, I cannot get my wife to consider it. Apple might want to promote the security and zero-touch nature of Apple Pay in a pandemic context.
Also, Apple Pay can be a pain to set up, and Apple doesn’t score any points by having iPadOS nag you to set it up even on an iPad you’ll never take out of the house. (You can use it for some in-app and online payments, which is why Apple does this.) Setting up Apple Pay with my credit union was a nightmare, but I’ve heard that the process is getting easier. Your experience will likely vary depending on which financial institution you use—the larger the bank, the more likely they’ve eliminated unnecessary signup hurdles.
Because of the pandemic, I have taken a closer look at other Apple Watch features lately. Although I’m far more iPhone-focused than my wife, I’ve found numerous ways where I’ve migrated my on-the-go usage patterns over to the watch, including:
- Responding to texts and other messages: Before the pandemic, I rarely replied to incoming messages on my watch using an emoji or a quick text reply via voice dictation, and now I’m amazed I neglected these features.
- Answering voice calls: There’s a cool Dick Tracy vibe to this capability, but I have worried about seeming rude to those around me, so I’ve generally abstained. I still worry about that, but the pandemic is prompting me to use the feature in brief spurts.
- Managing tasks: I’m a recent convert to the Reminders app. I invariably interact with it through Siri on my Apple Watch.
- Managing notes: I noted a while back how my preferred notes app Google Keep had gained Apple Watch support (see “Google Keep Now Supports the Apple Watch, Apple’s Notes Still AWOL,” 18 April 2019), and I’m using this feature a lot more because of the pandemic.
- Queuing up podcasts: Podcast management on the Apple Watch is another feature I’ve written about (see “Overcast and Apple’s Podcasts Make the Apple Watch a Decent Podcast Player,” 15 October 2018). I haven’t used it as much as I’d like because Overcast, my preferred podcatcher, hasn’t quite nailed its Apple Watch support. But, because of the pandemic, I’m making more of an effort.
- Ordering pizza for curbside pickup: My family tends to order the exact same Domino’s pie every time, so the pizza chain’s Apple Watch app comes in handy. It’s basically just a button that triggers my standard pickup order. Nice!
Speaking of My Wife
My theory that my wife would be more available when away from the house if she wore an Apple Watch is just that, a theory. To test it, I’ve taken delivery of a 40mm Apple Watch SE for her.
I honestly have no idea how this will go. My wife is far from a tech power user, tending more towards the Luddite end of the spectrum. While she’s fond of her iPhone, she takes advantage of only a tiny fraction of its capabilities, and she likes it that way. She has only one third-party app on it, Google Photos, which I installed so it would automatically upload her photos for safekeeping.
She does seem abstractly interested in the Apple Watch’s communication capabilities, but she also seems averse to having something other than a loose bracelet on her wrist, and she has not used a traditional watch in a decade. Still, she is being a good sport about participating in my little experiment. We all need amusements during these dark and confusing days, and this is apparently one of them for her.
I’ll provide updates in the comments below about how our family Apple Watch adventure unfolds.
After Josh Centers wrote “iOS 14’s App Library: The FAQ” (9 September 2020), we got a great response in the comments. Several people noted that they have long relied on a technique not dissimilar to the App Library, in that they devote one or more Home screens to a carefully organized set of folders that contain all their less-used apps. I admire such attention to detail, and in an ideal world, I’d use a similar approach.
However, I have 352 apps installed (check your number in Settings > General > About). Since the loss of the organizational tools in iTunes, the immense effort in dragging hundreds of icons around has dissuaded me from cleaning things up. Adding Home screen widgets in iOS 14 can also mess up app organization—something I did while playing with widgets deleted about half of my folders on one Home screen. So I was stoked to read John Clark’s post explaining how to move multiple apps at once. Even better, as soon as I started using multiple fingers, I discovered yet another app rearrangement tip that makes life much easier.
So, as welcome as iOS 14’s App Library may be for many of us, particularly alongside being able to hide Home screens, here is a collection of tips that will help anyone rearrange their app icons more easily, regardless of iOS version or device.
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.
- To move an app, start by touching and holding it. In recent versions of iOS, you can start dragging the app as soon as you feel a click, or you can pause until you see a popover, in which you can tap Edit Home Screen. In earlier versions of iOS, you’d touch and hold until you entered jiggle mode. (Interestingly, the Apple Style Guide is clear that it’s not “wiggle mode.”) Drag the app to the desired location.
- To put the app on a different Home screen, drag to the left or right edge of the screen and pause briefly to switch screens.
- To create a new folder, drag one app on top of another and pause briefly. Rename the folder as desired.
- To put an app in a folder, drag it into the folder. If you pause over the folder, it opens, and you can drag the app into place within the folder or even to other pages within the folder.
- To delete a folder, drag all the apps in it to another folder or Home screen.
- When you’re done, press the Home button or swipe up from the bottom of the screen to leave jiggle mode.
Want to see a demo of this? Josh Centers whipped up this quick video.
Clear Space on the Dock and Use It as a Temporary Holding Zone
This tip isn’t new, but it’s worth repeating. If you’re doing a lot of app cleanup across multiple Home screens, dragging the app a long distance can be tiring and frustrating, particularly if you end up hovering over another app just slightly too long and invoking the folder creation process.
But if you think about it, you can save yourself a lot of the stress of moving apps by moving one or more of your Dock apps to a temporary spot and then using the Dock as a holding zone. You can then put some number of apps on the Dock, navigate to the desired Home screen, and drag them out in multiple small steps, without having to keep your finger down the entire time.
It’s much faster than moving each app, one a time, especially if you have a lot of Home screens.
Josh made another short video to show how this works.
Move a Stack of Apps All at Once
John Clark’s tip takes the idea of working with multiple apps to a higher level, letting you assemble a stack of apps and put them in a new location with a single drop. Here’s how.
Start by moving one app. Once you’ve picked it up, I recommend dragging it to the lower-right corner of its Home screen. That’s not necessary, but it makes seeing what you’re doing easier. Without letting go of the app you’ve picked up, using another finger (from your other hand, most easily) to tap additional apps that are jiggling. Each app you tap is added to the stack you’re holding, and a blue badge increments to tell you how many are in the stack. Repeat as many times as you like—I found no limit to the number of apps you can stack up like this. You can also drag the stack to other Home screens to add icons from them as well.
Once you’ve assembled your stack, drag it to the desired location and lift your finger to drop the icons. They’ll fill in the destination folder or Home screen from left to right, top to bottom, in first-in/first-out order.
This snazzy tip would be great just for dumping apps in folders quickly to reduce the number of Home screens you have.
For a demonstration of how this works, see Josh’s video.
Swipe to Change Home Screens While Dragging
John’s tip got me started using both hands to rearrange apps, something I’d never done before. But once I did, I stumbled on a tremendously useful and painfully obvious (well, it is now, anyway) tip.
Dragging an app or a stack of apps from Home screen to Home screen is slow and error-prone. All too often you end up hovering too long over another app, which causes iOS to try to create a folder. The only way out is to drop the app in the folder, pick it up again, and drag it out. Maddening!
But here’s the thing. If you start dragging an app or a stack with one hand and then use a finger on the other hand to swipe left and right to move between Home screens, it’s vastly easier. In essence, you’re moving the Home screen underneath the app or stack you’re holding. If you hold the app or stack in the lower-right corner, it’s easy to see everything that’s on each Home screen you reveal, and there’s no worry about hovering over another app or accidentally entering a folder.
Is this not quite clear from my description? Josh’s video will give you a preview.
Search for an App’s Full Name to Find Its Folder
John Clark turned me on to this little fact as well. I hadn’t realized that, when you search for an app by swiping down on the Home screen and typing in the Search field, if your search reveals only a single app, iOS will also display the name of the folder that contains the found app. That gives you a better chance of being able to find the app, assuming you can find its enclosing folder.
Obviously, this trick has its limitations. If the app you want to find is strewn among your Home screens but not in a folder, no folder name appears. And if you can’t narrow the search to a single result (I have too many apps whose names start with “Weather”), you’re out of luck.
It’s also unnecessary if you’ve upgraded to iOS 14 because you can always find the app and move it to a new Home screen location from within the App Library. But for those who haven’t yet upgraded, or who are working in iPadOS, it might be helpful.
(Don’t) Use Apple Configurator 2 to Rearrange Apps from Your Mac
There is one last way that you can theoretically rearrange apps more easily—by using Apple Configurator 2 to do it from your Mac. Apple Configurator 2 is designed to help IT admins create and install profiles on multiple Apple devices at once in an institutional setting, but it also lets you rearrange the icons on your iPhone or iPad from the comfort of your Mac.
Or at least it’s supposed to. I include the instructions below in case Apple releases an update that addresses the problem, but whenever I tried to save my changes by clicking the Apply button, I got this error dialog, and my changes were ignored. Apple released version 2.13.1 of Apple Configurator 2 just a few days ago, so I would have expected it to be compatible with iOS 14, but perhaps not. Plus, it does have quite a few reviews for previous versions suggesting that the Home screen layout feature doesn’t work even when this error doesn’t appear. So don’t waste your time, or if you’re testing a new version of Apple Configurator 2, verify that it works by moving a single icon before spending much time on it.
Should it ever work, here’s how the process should go. To get started, download Apple Configurator 2 from the Mac App Store. When you first launch it with your iPhone connected via USB, you may get one of those inscrutable Mobile Device Updater dialogs that indicates your Mac lacks the software necessary to communicate with the version of iOS on your device. Unfortunately, Apple’s support note is useless, apart from confirming that it is an official alert and that there’s no problem with installing.
Once you have Apple Configurator 2 and any necessary updates installed and your iPhone connected via USB, follow these steps:
- On the first screen of Apple Configurator 2, click your device to select it.
- Choose Actions > Modify > Home Screen Layout.
- In the sheet that appears, drag the app icons to rearrange them.
- When you’re done, click Apply.
Although it’s relatively apparent what to do, the interface has a few hidden quirks.
- There’s no indication that this is true, but the sheet displaying all your Home screens is resizable in every direction, which lets you make it much larger and easier to work with. Click and drag from any edge.
- No scroll bars appear, but you should be able to scroll left and right with trackpad or Magic Mouse 2 gestures, or with a scroll wheel. You can also drag an icon to the edge of the sheet to scroll.
- You can select multiple icons at once by Shift-clicking or dragging a rectangle around them, as you’d expect from a Mac-like icon view.
- You cannot move more icons to a Home screen than will fit on it. In other words, if you select four icons, Apple Configurator 2 won’t let you drop them on a Home screen with fewer than four open spots.
- Just as on an iPhone or iPad, drag one icon on top of another to create a folder.
- To open a folder without adding an icon to it, double-click it.
- To navigate out of a folder, click anywhere in the gray area around the white folder outline, or click the X button in the upper-left corner. Or press the Escape key.
- To remove an icon from a folder, drag it to the X button in the upper-left corner.
Have you come up with any other tricks for rearranging or organizing apps on your iPhone or iPad? Let us know in the comments!