Tag Archives: iphone

Closing and Managing Phone Apps: A Cautionary Tale

The following tale is absolutely true, and serves as a warning for anyone who owns a smartphone. Don’t let this happen to you!

Symptoms: An Overheated, Data-Munching, Battery-Gobbling Phone

For months after I got my iPhone in November of last year, I thought that the phone battery life was just terrible and there was nothing I could do about it. It seemed that if I used the phone for an hour straight, I’d lose almost 50% of the battery and have to charge it again. But since most people I talked to had similar results out of their phones, I thought it was just something I’d have to live with.

After a few months, I began noticing that my phone’s Otterbox case had begun to warp, without ever being exposed to high heat (or at least that’s what I thought). The “Home” button became harder to push–I had to align the soft silicone part of the case just right to get the Home button to press down, and in other areas of the case, the silicone no longer made a tight seal with the plastic part of the case. I had been really careful with my phone not to let it spend time in the sun or in a hot car, so I had no idea what was going on.

At the same time, I also noticed that my data usage was going up, and that the phone’s back was often very warm to the touch, even when I wasn’t actively using it and it was set aside on a cool surface. What in the world?

A Simple Little Fix…

About a month ago, I was talking with one of my friends who also owns an iPhone, and he mentioned something about “closing” apps to prolong battery life. “Do you ever close your apps?” he asked. “That might be what’s heating up your phone.”

“Well, yeah,” I replied. “I hit the Home button when I’m done with an app and it disappears, so it’s closed, right?”

“Nope,” he said, shaking his head. “You actually have to CLOSE the app. Lemme show you.” And he double-tapped the Home button on his phone, so that his recently used apps appeared…then he held his finger on one of the icons. It began to jiggle around, with a red minus-symbol circle in its top left corner. He tapped that little symbol–and the icon vanished!

“What’d you do?” I asked.

“I closed the app,” he replied. “That’s what you have to do to really close ’em–otherwise they just keep running in the background. And too many apps running in the background can heat up your phone.”

This was an epiphany to me, as I double-tapped my own Home button and realized just exactly how many apps I had running (almost 30!). I closed each one of them, then checked the phone about an hour later–it was much cooler to the touch, and it had not lost nearly as much battery as I had been used to it losing.

The Story’s Not Quite Over

Unfortunately, though I had seemingly solved the battery life loss problem, I still had an issue with the phone getting very hot very quickly when I used it, and my data usage was still strangely high. This problem took a bit of Googling to fix, and finally I ran across this little file path to view my Usage Data:

Settings > General > About > Diagnostics and Usage > Diagnostics and Usage Data

Once I checked this data file, I discovered that an app I wasn’t even using all that much (RedLaser) was constantly trying to connect to some server and always failing. And by “constantly,” I mean that the file was literally FULL of failed requests–screenful after screenful of them. I was flabbergasted. And it was doing this even when I thought I had closed the app!

Since I wasn’t using the app anyway, I went ahead and deleted it…and for the last month, I have enjoyed regular data usage and regular temperatures while my phone is in use!

Moral of the Story: Close and Manage Your Apps!

If you’re having any of the problems I was having with my phone, try the following solutions:

  • Completely close all apps when you’re finished with them
  • Disable or delete any apps that keep using data even when you’ve tried to close them
  • Keep an eye on your data usage and your phone’s temperature

For more information about keeping up with your data usage, Lifehacker’s smartphone data article gives a range of solutions for any smartphone.

“Closing Apps” Guides for Various Smartphones

How to Close iPhone Apps
How to Close Android Apps
How to Close BlackBerry Apps

Making Your Own iPhone Backgrounds

No longer do you have to download pictures from other websites for your iPhone backgrounds, nor do you have to rely on pictures you’ve taken with your iPhone. If you’ve made an image you want to move to your iPhone, you can!

Please pardon my enthusiasm–after a few months of owning my iPhone, I finally figured out how to load self-made pictures onto my iPhone, and I’m very happy about it, as you can tell. 😀 If you’re like me and enjoy playing around in image creation programs, your iPhone provides you yet another outlet for your creative expression; it just takes a little time!

Some Visual Examples!

Here are a few (shrunken) examples of iPhone background images I either made myself or edited:


sagegray starry

The first three images are edited from images I downloaded from the Internet; credits are at the bottom of this article. The last two are simpler abstract images I made myself.

Here are some tips and tricks I came up with while I was making, editing, and transferring these images:

Image Styles Technical Stuff
  • For home screens, it’s generally best to have more abstract/simpler backgrounds, since most of your picture will be covered up by app icons.
  • For lock screens, anything goes–recognizable images or photos work great, since you’ll be able to see more of the picture.
  • Want to be able to read the app icons’ text? Then make sure your background image is darker so the white text stands out.
  • Images can be in JPEG, GIF, or PNG format.
  • Because you can move and scale the image once you load it onto your iPhone, the picture’s width and length doesn’t much matter–but pictures which are taller than they are wide usually work the best.
  • Keep your file sizes as small as possible without skimping on quality, so that your iPhone’s memory isn’t stuffed full of just background pictures. Photos saved as JPEGs usually have smaller file sizes; so do fairly simple abstract images saved as PNGs.

Putting These Works of Art on Your iPhone

WonderShare.com has an excellent, simple tutorial to help you through transferring your images to your iPhone. If you don’t want to sync all your photos/images to your iPhone, simply make a separate folder for your created/edited iPhone backgrounds, and just sync that folder to your iPhone.


There are lots of image resources on the Internet which can provide you with beautiful pictures to use as iPhone backgrounds (and lots more). Here are some of my favorites:


Swans on a Colorful Lake Photo

Flow Free

Looking for a puzzle game with plenty of little challenges? Then I suggest you check out Flow Free, a neat little game app by the folks at BigDuckGames.

Basic Gameplay

The point behind Flow Free is to connect all the dots on a grid of a certain size, using the connecting lines to fill up the entire grid, without any lines overlapping each other. Seems pretty simply and straightforward, right? Well, it is–for the first few levels.

Image Credit: iTunes App Store
At first, you start out with levels like this 5×5 grid at left, with only a few different colors of dots. These puzzles don’t take too long to solve–you just have to figure out how to wrap the lines around each other rather than crossing over each other. With grids this small, you also don’t have to worry too much about filling up all the allotted grid space–it pretty well happens by nature.
Image Credit: iOSApps.com
But, as you can see at the extreme right of this screenshot, there are levels beyond the 5×5 grid. More space is introduced; more colors of dots are introduced. You wouldn’t think the game would get harder with MORE space, but it does–you still have to fill up the grid, so sometimes you have to come up with interesting ways to take up space with a line or two. And above all, the lines can’t block each other off!

Image Credit: GamesDreams.com
Eventually, you end up with levels like this and beyond, where colors interweave in a careful, angular dance that’s often more about thinking outside the box and taking up space rather than getting things connected in the most efficient manner. (The website I just linked to, GamesDreams.com, has solutions for every level, which is helpful if you get flat-out stuck as I have a few times!) Rest assured, each level presents new challenges!

Game Levels

The game comes with several 150-levels-apiece packs for free:

  • Regular Pack (5×5 to9x9 boards)
  • Bonus Pack (5×5 to 9×9)
  • 8×8 Mania (lots and lots of 8×8 boards)
  • 9×9 Mania
  • Jumbo Pack for iPad (10×10 to 14×14 boards–super difficult!)

There are also some extra packs you can buy for 99 cents each, or buy for about $4.00 all together:

  • Green Pack (5×5-9×9)
  • Blue Pack (5×5-9×9)
  • 10×10 Mania
  • Kids Pack (5×5 and 6×6)
  • Rainbow Pack (5×5-9×9)
  • Purple Pack for iPad (10×10-14×14)
  • Pink Pack for iPad (10×10-14×14)

Completing a Level vs. Perfecting a Level

In Flow Free, just “completing” a level can be different from finishing it perfectly. You can finish a level and move on to the next one, no matter how many times you had to retrace your lines or undo moves, but you get extra points if you can finish it with the minimum number of moves. Completed levels are marked with a check mark; perfected levels are marked with a star. Try to perfect them all!

Bonus: Time Trials

Once you complete the game’s Free Play levels, which are not timed, you can try your hand (or fingertip) at the timed levels, which test how many puzzles you can solve in a certain length of time (30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, and 4 minutes). All of the Time Trial puzzles are 5×5 boards, so they aren’t too terribly hard, but some of them can be a little tricky!

To Download and Play:

For iPhone/iPod touch/iPad: iTunes App Store link
For Android: Google Play link
For Windows 8/RT: Windows Store link

9 Apps I Can’t Do Without

Since getting my smartphone, an iPhone 4S, back in November, I’ve quickly moved into the 2010s with everyone else. I can now receive email through my phone (no more waiting for an hour on dialup to load email!), text more often because it’s easier, and most importantly, make use of great apps.

But great apps for any smartphone aren’t just the social networking apps or the games, as I’ve found out. Below are the apps I’ve used to literally revolutionize my life–all of them are free, and most of them have both iPhone and Android versions!


alarmed This little app has transformed the way I complete tasks and keep up with obligations. I have used it so far to keep up with household chores, pet flea treatments, meetings, reminders to do small tasks, and tons of other stuff. Now my house stays cleaner, things get done on time, and Mr. Kitty stays flea-free! I find that it’s a much more organized reminder app than the onboard Reminders app for iPhone–you can see your reminders organized by day instead of the haphazard way you entered them into the app, which for me is a big bonus.

Recently there’s been a big fuss about Alarmed dropping its “alarm clock” feature, but I find that the app is great even without the alarm clocks; plus, there’s a separate alarm clock app by the same developer, so you can download that as well. All in all, a wonderful free app.

iPhone version
Yoctoville.com (developer)


flashlight Before I found this app, I used to trip and stumble trying to get into my house every evening. Living deep in the forest, with no outdoor lighting to speak of and lots of tree roots crisscrossing the yard, made it an adventure just trying to get into the house at all, never mind getting in without a broken ankle. With this app, which uses the flash from the iPhone’s camera to provide light, I can now see easily and avoid any obstacles.

This is a very handy thing to have, not just for navigating tough front yards, but for finding small lost objects under furniture, for changing your tire on the side of the road…you name it! You can dial the brightness up or down, and turn it off in-app when you don’t need it anymore. The other cool thing? It’s got a compass included!

iPhone version
Android version

Google Chrome

googlechrome Okay, okay, I know, what is an iPhone user doing using a mobile version of Chrome? Simple: because Safari is slow as molasses for no reason. I downloaded Chrome after a few weeks of using Safari on the iPhone, and haven’t looked back; it loads faster, doesn’t take up near as much memory (it seems) as Safari does, and I have the option to go Incognito with my tabs if I so wish. (Now if I could just make Chrome my default browser on the iPhone, we’d be ALL good to go. LOL)

Android version
iPhone version


redlaser For saving money, RedLaser is a great little app. Scan a barcode off any item with your phone camera, and RedLaser will tell you what the cheapest price is for online shopping and local shopping. Using this app, I saw that I could save 3 bucks off my favorite deodorant just by buying it online, and could save almost 4 bucks on cat food by buying it from a different store than usual. These days, saving a few dollars here or there is a BIG bonus!

Android version
iPhone version
RedLaser (app site)

Echofon for Twitter

echofon I never thought I’d find an app that let me access all my Twitter accounts through one interface without logging out and back in. But Echofon does exactly that–it helps me manage my Twitter accounts for my various websites, lets me know when new people have followed or mentioned me on any of them, and I can post and read Tweets as normal. It’s been a real time-saver!

(Admittedly, I don’t know if the regular Twitter app does this or not–I could never get the Twitter for iPhone app to download, so I went with this one instead. I’ve been happy with Echofon’s performance, though!)

iPhone version
Android version (beta)


biblegateway For those of you who want to have a quick reference for Bible verses literally at your fingertips, the BibleGateway app (from biblegateway.com) is a must-have. I find myself using this during church sermons, when I need to follow along with the pastor’s Bible verse references (and when I need to keep myself on-task, lol). All you have to do is open the app and search for the book, chapter, and verse you want, and the verse appears within its context! You can also choose which translation you want, or you can start reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, all within the app itself.

BibleGateway.com App Page


scanlife For all those neat QR codes you see posted everywhere, here’s the scanning app I use. It scans even in low light, and not only takes you to the page the QR code leads to, but also lets you share to Facebook, see what codes other people have scanned, and keeps a history of the past codes you’ve scanned in. (You can also make your own QR code for your contact info!)

Scanlife App Page


machash If you own any Apple products (like the iPhone), MacHash is a wonderful news aggregator for everything pertaining to the Mac brand. Pulling from several dozen Mac-news websites, it arranges them by most recent, and you can easily scroll through, reading headlines. When you find a page you like, just click on it to see a quick summary, and then go on to read the full article if you so choose.

Don’t think this sounds all that exciting? For the iPhone, at least, this app has served as a troubleshooter–for instance, I had a weird problem with the Do Not Disturb feature not turning on properly. I read a few articles, learned how to fix it, and in 5 minutes’ time the issue was resolved! Moral of the story: having a mobile news source for mobile technology can definitely be a good thing!

Download for iPhone


imdb Being able to pull up info on movies and TV shows without having to open a web browser first? EXCELLENT. The interface for the IMDB app is clean and easy to navigate, and provides you not only with the search function for the database, but also movie showtimes near you, featured articles, and the message boards as well. Great for impromptu movie outings as well as proving your friends wrong (or right) about a movie or TV show.

IMDB.com App Page

Virtual City Playground

Did you love SimCity and/or other games like it? Ever wanted to REALLY run your dream virtual city instead of just building it and watching it go? Then Virtual City Playground might be just the game you’re looking for!

I recently discovered this free game for the iPhone (though it’s also available through iPad, Google Play, Mac, Kindle, and what looks like a Web game in the future), and I’ve become pretty addicted to it already. It’s got all the road-building, city-planning fun of my old favorite SimCity, except it’s a little more involved and detailed–which is definitely a good thing!

Basic Gameplay

Image credit: geardiary.com

Instead of building huge zones like SimCity has you build, Virtual City Playground has you build actual buildings, like houses, factories, shopping malls, monuments, etc. Building roads and buildings takes energy, though, and you start out with a set amount of Energy Points. When you’ve run out of energy, you’ll have to wait a few minutes for your Energy to regenerate (takes about 4 minutes to get 1 point back).

Constructing roads functions about the same as it does in other city-building games–you lay out the roads bit by bit with your mouse/fingertip. In this game, though, you’ve got to make sure you have a road leading to your building before you build it. And if you find out you’ve placed a building wrong, don’t worry; buildings can be moved around easily, and it only costs 1 Energy to do so.

The main part of the game is building factories (a few at a time) and linking them together with delivery trucks, so that they can use each other’s raw materials to make products–that realism is one of the coolest things about this game. You also need to build houses so that people can come live in your city. Route a few dumpster trucks around to take care of garbage, set up a public transport system with some Buses and Bus Stations, and you’ve got a city in no time!

As you level up in the game through building, routing roads, and upgrading buildings, you’ll get access to more types of factories and buildings. Keep track of the game’s various City Goals to accomplish, which will appear on the left side of the game window. You’ll have some long-term goals (like building very expensive monuments) and some short-term goals (like shipping so many products to the Shopping Mall, or transporting so many passengers to public places). Be prepared for your city to grow very very fast once you start completing goals!

The Difference Between City Coins and Invest Points

You start out with a set number of City Coins to help build your city, buy trucks and buses, etc.; you also start out with a few Invest Points. Invest Points are specialized rewards which can be bought with real money, or can be earned through accomplishing certain game goals.

Invest Points can be tempting to use, especially if you want a goal finished RIGHT NOW, but don’t give in. Instead, save up Invest Points for really important things, like buying more city territory and leveling out the land (because you can’t build anything on hills).

Two of the best ways I’ve found to gain Invest Points:

  • Log into the game every day; you’ll get an Invest Point every day until you’ve logged in for 5 consecutive days…and on the fifth day, you’ll be rewarded with 5 more Invest Points!
  • Link your Facebook account so that you can post “goal completed!” announcements–some of these completion announcements reward you with yet another Invest Point when you post to Facebook. Look for the Invest Points icon beside the Facebook “Post” button on the “Goal Completed” announcement to see whether posting is worth your while.

Side Note: Your Citizens’ Happiness and the Environment

Image Credit: apprecap.wordpress.com

Aside from your regular city-building concerns, the game also tracks your citizens’ Happiness score and Environment score. After playing this game for a while, I would recommend you not worry too much about your Environment and Happiness scores at first–I’m currently around Lv 23 and am just now starting to see numerical scores without a negative sign out front. LOL!

Happiness and Environment scores do not detract much at all from your gameplay; they are just informational, though some City Goals do give you rewards for having at or above a particular level of Happiness, etc.


This game is great for gamers like me who play long-term achievement games; I find this to be a very rewarding, relaxing game to play, and it allows me to exercise my creativity at city planning, too. Check it out and see how your own dream city can grow!