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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Our newsroom is loving these 15 things you might not know your iPhone can do

Times

They title Buzzfeed uses is "15 Things You Didn't Know Your iPhone Could Do" — but odds are you already know one or two of them. And if you're still carrying a well-worn iPhone 4 or 4S like my wife and I, or if you're holding off on upgrading to the latest iOS version, your iPhone won't do some of them. (The "take a 'burst' of photos at once" trick only works in iOS 7, and only on an iPhone 5s, for example.)

I got laughed at, tho', when one of the other editors in our office mentioned that seeing time stamps on messages in her iPhone would help settle arguments between her and her husband. I asked if they had "read receipts" turned on in their Messages settings, and someone joked that I was causing more problems than I was solving.

All I can say is this: When married person A meets spouse B coming in the door and says to B, "I thought you were bringing dinner home," and B has absolutely no idea what you're talking about? And then A points out a message about it 45 minutes earlier, and B had no idea that message was even there? Nobody wins.

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March Madness and your iPhone or iPad

I can promise my status as a Michigan alum and fan played no role whatsoever in my decision to republish this image, mostly.

Turner Sports

I can promise my status as a Michigan alum and fan played no role whatsoever in my decision to republish this image, mostly.

It's that time of year again. You know, the time when inconveniences like work, family and the need to eat and sleep all get in the way of what you really want to do — watch college basketball. Fortunately, technology is here to help.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog has a rundown of a few apps that will help you watch games and monitor your bracket from your iPad or iPhone. It overlaps with this similar list from TechHive, linked to from Macuser.

They're all fine. I had much better luck using CBS's March Madness Live app to watch last night's First Four games than I remember having last year, which was a nice experience. Hopefully it will hold up when the games get better and more people are watching. And don't forget — you don't always need an app to follow the tournament. The NCAA website offers streams for all devices, including your desktop rig.

Sadly, Simple Bracket (last year's Kickstarter project to build a simple tool for filling in your bracket on an iPhone and measuring it against others') is skipping this year's tournament — a decision that angered some backers. So for better or worse, this year will be my first experience using pooltracker.com.

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Apple has released iOS 7.1; update your iThing now

The latest version of Apple's mobile operating system software is out and available for download. To get it, tap "Settings" on the home screen of your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, then "General," then "Software Update." If your device can run the new software, and doesn't already have it, you'll find instructions there.

Apple has posted a brief rundown of the new features and fixes. Of particular interest to those of us who hold onto our older phones as long as we can is that the new update seems to make them work better. Also of particular interest is that this might be the last iOS update ever for the iPhone 4.

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I ordered this thing called a Chil PowerShare Reactor today; I'll let you know how it goes

The PowerShare Reactor 5.1 Amp Multi-Device Charger, available for $50 at chil.com and occasionally cheaper online elsewhere.

CHIL.com

The PowerShare Reactor 5.1 Amp Multi-Device Charger, available for $50 at chil.com and occasionally cheaper online elsewhere.

Why have I had such a hard time finding one gizmo that has a cord I can plug into the wall and a bunch of USB ports on the other end that I can use to charge all of my family's phones, iPods and whatever at the same time?

(You'd think you could just use a powered USB hub, but you can't — at least, you can't just use all of them. Most that I've found require drivers installed on your computer before they'll send power to whatever you have plugged in. And my goal is to charge a whole bunch of iThings without a computer.)

On our last family trip, I brought a power strip and festooned it with all the USB charging plugs I could find in our house. It worked okay, but you still have to pack a little plug-box for everything you want to charge. So yesterday iLounge posted one of their First Looks at the Chil PowerShare Reactor. It's pretty much what I was looking for — a cord that plugs into the wall and powers four USB ports, three at 1 amp, which is what you'd need to charge an iPhone or iPod, and one at 2.1 amps, which will charge an iPad (or iPhone, or iPod). …

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Did you get (loud) weather alerts on your iPhone today?

Apple's latest iPhone software lets you control what government-issued alerts you receive.

KEN WALKER | Times

Apple's latest iPhone software lets you control what government-issued alerts you receive.

When a line of thunderstorms sweeping across Tampa Bay late this morning and early afternoon prompted the National Weather Service to issue a tornado warning for Pinellas County, everyone in our newsroom was instantly alerted — by a cacophany of beeps and buzzes as just about every smartphone in the building relayed the announcement.

While certainly useful and probably even pretty cool, it's a strange feeling to be taken by surprise by something your phone does. Alerts like these might override other settings on your phone — like beeping a warning even when you've switched to vibrate-only mode, for example. Alerts like these are on by default, but you can control settings for them on your iPhone.

In the lastest version of iOS, tap on Settings from your home screen, then tap on Notification Center and scroll to the very bottom of the screen. (If you have many apps on your phone, it might take you some time.) Look for a "GOVERNMENT ALERTS" heading, and you'll see you can toggle AMBER Alerts (issued for missing children) and other emergency alerts (weather, civil defense and other important information) on and off — though I would imagine you'd want to leave them on.

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What would you pay for a bacon scent-enabled iPhone alarm?

Oscar Meyer

Well, however much that is, it's not enough. Oscar Mayer has developed a gizmo that plugs into your iPhone and wakes you to the sound of sizzling and the smell of bacon in the air — but it's not for sale. Instead, you'll have to win one by entering a contest at wakeupandsmellthebacon.com.

The only possible improvement? Bedside technology that wakes you with actual bacon.

(Tip o' the hat to TUAW.)

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