How to Change These Default Settings and Be Happier With Your Tech

Many default settings buried deep inside our technology make us share superfluous amounts of data with tech companies. In my last column, I went over how to shut those off.

But not all default settings do sneaky things with our information. There are also some that need to be activated or disabled to make our devices more enjoyable to use.

Newer iPhones, for one, come with a fancy camera that can shoot extremely clear videos in ultrahigh “4K” resolution — but most people probably aren’t using their cameras to their full potential because, by default, the phone is set to shoot videos at a lower resolution.

TVs are another example. Many modern televisions come with an effect known as motion smoothing turned on to make videos look as if they are playing at a higher frame rate, which is supposed to make fast-motion scenes look more detailed. But in many applications, especially when you’re watching movies, it creates a soap-opera effect that many find looks fake. It’s the setting on a TV that many tech-inclined people switch off immediately.

Our consumer electronics are among our most expensive household purchases, so it’s worthwhile to peruse and change the default settings to reap their maximum benefits. Here’s what I and other tech writers always change to make our phones, computers and televisions work better.

Apple’s iPhones include various settings that are turned off by default and must be activated to make the device more convenient to use and to take better photos.

  • Unlock an iPhone while wearing a mask. Though mask mandates have been lifted in many places, plenty of people still wear them to feel safe, especially indoors. One of the biggest drags to using an iPhone was having to punch in a passcode, rather than use facial identification, when wearing a mask. Recent versions of Apple’s iOS now let iPhone users unlock the device without removing their mask. Go to Settings → Face ID & Passcode → Face ID with a Mask and toggle this setting on (green).

  • Shoot 4K video. To make an iPhone camera shoot video at its highest resolution, go to Settings → Camera → Record Video and choose a 4K option. (I prefer “4K at 30 fps” because it works well when uploading videos to social media apps and internet sites like YouTube.) The downside is that 4K recordings will clog more of the phone’s digital storage. But if you paid for that fancy camera, why not put it to use?‌

  • Activate the camera grid. In digital photography, photographers use various composition techniques to make photos more aesthetically pleasing. The iPhone camera has a setting to show a grid to help compose shots. Go to Settings → Camera → Grid and toggle this setting on.

Android phones also include controls that have to be activated or modified to make the screen look better and the phone easier to use.

  • Change the display’s color profile. Many Android phones come with big, bright screens, but their colors may look oversaturated or too blue. Ryne Hager, an editor at the tech blog Android Police, said he typically switched out the default color profile whenever he set up a new Android phone. Instructions vary from phone to phone. For Samsung phones, go to Settings → Display → Screen mode Natural. For Pixel phones, go to Settings → Display → Colors → Natural.

  • Modify the shortcuts. On Android phones, you can customize the “quick settings” menu for shortcuts to features that you use often. Swipe down from the top of the smartphone screen, and swipe down again. If you tap the icon that looks like a pencil, you can choose to add tiles that let you, for example, activate hotspotting to share the phone’s cellular connection with a computer.

  • Activate the camera grid. Similar to iPhones, some Android phones can also show a grid to make photo composition easier. On Pixel phones, open the camera app, swipe down from the top of the screen, tap the gear icon and then go to Grid type → 3×3.

On Macs, where Apple users tend to do work, it’s useful to adjust settings to eliminate distractions and make tasks quicker. That involves switching off some features that were on by default and turning on some hidden features.

  • Activate a shortcut to show the desktop. Shrinking and moving around windows just to find a file on the desktop can be tedious. The first thing I do with any Mac is activate a shortcut that immediately hides all windows to show the desktop. Go to System Preferences → Mission Control → Show Desktop and choose a keyboard key to trigger the shortcut. (I use the fn key on my MacBook keyboard.)

  • Turn off notifications for distracting apps like Messages. In an era of never-ending video calls, you definitely don’t want text messages bombarding your screen and making sounds when you’re in a meeting. Just switch those notifications off permanently. Go to System Preferences → Notifications & Focus → Messages → Allow Notifications and toggle the setting to off (gray). In this menu, turn off notifications for any other noisy apps.

  • Add the Bluetooth icon to the menu bar. Most of us use Bluetooth accessories like wireless earphones and mice, so to make it easier to connect and disconnect these devices on a Mac, it helps to have quick access to the Bluetooth menu. Go to System Preferences → Bluetooth → Show Bluetooth in menu bar and check the box. This will show the Bluetooth icon in the upper-right portion of the screen, where you can quickly connect and disconnect earbuds and other wireless accessories.

Like Macs, Windows computers, by default, blast us with lots of notifications, but most frustrating are the many bleeps and bloops that go off when something goes wrong. Kimber Streams, a Wirecutter editor who tests laptops, shuts all these annoyances off.

  • Turn off notifications. Go to Settings → System → Notifications. Uncheck all the boxes and toggle off all the switches to disable all notifications.

  • Turn off system sounds. Go to Settings → System → Sound → More Sound Settings → Sounds → Sound Scheme: No sounds, and then hit Apply.

Virtually every TV comes with default settings that are far from ideal for showing the best picture.

With any TV, it’s worthwhile to adjust colors, brightness and contrast to suit your space. There’s no universal set of steps because the best settings will differ for every TV and living room. But there are helpful TV calibration tools to make this simple, including my go-to tool, Disney’s World of Wonder, a Blu-ray Disc with instructional videos on adjusting your TV settings.

By far the most important step on any TV, though, is to turn off the hideous motion smoothing effect. Steps vary across TVs, so do a web search on disabling it for your model. On my LG TV, I went to All Settings → Pictures → Picture Mode Settings → Picture Options → TruMotion → Off.

The Default Tech Settings You Should Turn Off Right Away

There’s a catchy saying going round with a worthwhile lesson about our private expertise: The satan is within the defaults.

The saying refers back to the default settings that tech firms embed deep within the units, apps and web sites we use. These settings sometimes make us share information about our actions and site. We are able to normally decide out of this information assortment, however the firms make the menus and buttons arduous to note, doubtless within the hope that we don’t instantly tweak them.

Apple, Google, Amazon, Meta and Microsoft usually need us to go away some default settings on, purportedly to coach their algorithms and catch bugs, which then make their merchandise simpler for us to make use of. However pointless information sharing isn’t at all times in our greatest curiosity.

So with each tech product we use, it’s necessary to take time to peruse the numerous menus, buttons and switches to pare down the information we share. Right here’s a streamlined information to most of the default settings that I and different tech writers at all times change.

With iPhones, customers can open the settings app and enter the privateness menu to vary how they share information about their app use and site.

  • Choose Monitoring and toggle off Permit Apps to Request to Observe. This tells all apps to not share information with third events for advertising functions.

  • Choose Apple Promoting and toggle off Customized Adverts in order that Apple can’t use details about you to serve focused adverts on its App Retailer, Apple Information and Shares.

  • Choose Analytics & Enhancements and toggle off Share iPhone Analytics to forestall the iPhone from sending machine information to Apple to enhance its merchandise.

  • Choose Location Companies, faucet System Companies and toggle off iPhone Analytics and Routing & Visitors to forestall the machine from sharing geodata with Apple for bettering Apple Maps.

Google merchandise, together with Android telephones and internet providers like Google search, YouTube and Google Maps, are tied to Google accounts, and the management panel for tweaking information administration is on the web site myactivity.google.com.

  • For all three classes — Net & App Exercise, Location Historical past and YouTube Historical past — set auto-delete to delete exercise older than three months. This fashion, as a substitute of making a everlasting document of each search, Google purges entries which can be greater than 90 days previous. Within the close to time period, it may well nonetheless make useful suggestions primarily based on latest searches.

  • A bonus tip for Android telephones comes from Ryne Hager, an editor of the tech weblog “Android Police”: Newer variations of Android supply folks the flexibility to share an approximate location relatively than their exact location with apps. For a lot of apps, like climate software program, sharing approximate information needs to be the way in which to go, and exact geodata needs to be shared solely with software program that wants it to work correctly, like maps apps.

Meta’s most necessary settings will be reached via the privateness checkup device contained in the settings menu. These are some necessary tweaks to forestall snooping by employers and entrepreneurs:

  • For “Who can see what you share,” choose “Solely me” for folks with entry to your folks listing and pages you comply with, and choose “Buddies” for who can see your birthday.

  • For “How folks can discover you on Fb,” select “Solely me” for individuals who can look you up by way of electronic mail or cellphone quantity.

  • For “Your advert preferences on Fb,” toggle off the switches for relationship standing, employer, job title and training. This fashion, entrepreneurs can’t serve focused adverts primarily based on this info.

Amazon provides some management over how info is shared via its web site and merchandise like Alexa and Nest cameras. There are two settings that I extremely advocate turning off:

  • Amazon final 12 months launched Amazon Sidewalk, a program that routinely makes newer Amazon merchandise share web connections with different units close by. Critics say Sidewalk may open doorways for unhealthy actors to realize entry to folks’s information.

    To disable it for an Echo speaker, open the Amazon Alexa app and faucet Extra within the decrease right-hand aspect of the display. Contained in the settings, faucet Account Settings, select Amazon Sidewalk and toggle Sidewalk to the off place.

    For a Ring digicam, within the Ring app, faucet the three-lined icon within the higher left after which faucet Management Middle. Faucet Amazon Sidewalk, and slide the button to the off place.

  • On Amazon’s web site, some procuring lists — like objects saved on a want listing — are shared with the general public by default, which will be revealing info. Go to the Your Lists web page and set every procuring listing to personal.

Home windows PCs include a bunch of data-sharing settings turned on by default to assist Microsoft, advertisers and web sites be taught extra about us. The switches to toggle these settings off will be discovered by opening the settings menu and clicking on Privateness and safety after which Basic.

But the worst default setting on Home windows might don’t have anything to do with privateness. At any time when Kimber Streams, a Wirecutter editor, assessments new laptops, one in every of their first steps is to open the sound menu and choose No Sounds to mute the numerous annoying chimes that play each time one thing goes improper with Home windows.