Image management on iPhone is a mess for Explorers … and everyone else

Today I worked on my chapter on Photos and Video management for Guides and Explorers. Before I could write out about how to incorporate still images into Notes as a memory tool I felt I had to address issues with managing storage demands of video and still images for an Explorer’s iPhone. Ironically this hasn’t been a problem for our Explorers — #1 deletes liberally and #2 isn’t that interested in images. It’s been a problem for the rest of the family though!

I’ve been afraid of this topic. I knew it was ugly. Apple cultivates a deserved reputation for creating beautiful images, but Apple geeks know that Apple’s photo management strategy went off the rails years ago.  Thirty minutes of 4K video (10GB) can consume all the free storage in lower end iPhones.

Today I put out my first draft and I feel my fears were justified. It will be interesting to see if iOS 11 and updated iCloud features help — but I’m not too hopeful. Apple’s iCloud Photo Library is their “solution”, but it’s too expensive (Wifi and high quality broadband, $120/year data fee) for many Explorers.

I hope someone has a better solution. Here’s the draft for the storage management chapter (draft form, footnotes omitted):


iPhones in current use may have as little as 32 GB of storage (some of which is used for Apple’s basic apps) or as much as 256GB. Once upon a time this was a vast amount of storage, but 30 minutes of modern video may use all the local storage on a low capacity iPhone. Eventually video use will consume any amount of iPhone storage. Generous use of the still image “burst” feature will also use storage quickly.

There are no great solutions to this problem. Apple’s solution is to purchase iCloud Photo Library storage (see the user guide for how to do this). At the moment 2TB of iCloud Photo Library storage costs $120 a year and practical use of iCloud Photo Library requires high capacity WiFi. If an Explorer has the money to spend, and if they have high quality WiFi, then the iPhone will automatically move photos to Apple’s servers and free up storage on the iPhone. All the Explorers images will be saved — at least until they hit the 2TB storage limit (200 30 minute videos will do that).

With iCloud Photo Library there is an option for Guide to manage the Library. A Guide can use a web browser and an Explorer’s iCloud credentials to view their iCloud Photo Library. A Guide may then delete videos and images to free up space. Items deleted from the iCloud Photo Library will eventually be removed from the iPhone. Unfortunately there is no way to select more than one item at a time in the iCloud web view, so this is only practical for deleting large videos.

Apple’s iCloud Photo Library solution is not affordable for many adult Explorers. Technically inclined Guides may find Google Photos is a cost-effective way to manage iPhone images, but the complexity of using Google to mange iPhone storage use is well beyond what I can address in this book. Heck, it gives me headaches to contemplate it!

For an Explorer without WiFi the simplest practical approach is to go to Settings:Photos & Camera and turn off “iCloud Photo Library” and “My Photo Stream”. For simplicity I also recommend disabling “iCloud Photo Sharing”.

With these settings images will be stored locally. If the iPhone is backed up (see Chapter ___) then images will also be backed up, and they will use iCloud backup storage.

These images they need to be periodically deleted. This can’t be done remotely, a Guide or Explorer has to have the iPhone in hand to remove Photos. This is tedious, though deleting “moments” can help, or a Guide can go to Albums:Camera Roll and slide a finger over many images to select and then delete them.

What about images that an Explorer or Guide wants to keep? The simplest approach here is to select them on the Explorer’s iPhone and mail them one at a time to a Guide’s account for archiving. Another approach is to “share” them to, I’ll discuss that in the next section.

The bottom line is that image management on the iPhone is a mess. Apple’s iCloud Photo Library is a solution for higher income Explorers, but limitations in the web browser view make it hard for a Guide to help manage storage. Most Explorers will need to keep their images on their device, and either the or a Guide will need to periodically remove them. Only a few images will be saved by mailing them to a Guide or keeping then as Notes.

Special needs iPhone – Down Syndrome

I spoke yesterday at the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota Adult Matters conference. I spoke about supporting independence through an iPhone.

I think it went well, I know I learned a lot listening to parents and speakers. It looks like the book should work well for parents of teens and adults with Down Syndrome. There was special interest in safety, managing Facebook, and using Notes (for lists). I’m going to expand my chapter on Notes to discuss incorporating photos, including photos of hand written sketches, into a Notes library.

I was impressed by the use of texting to communicate with less verbal Down Syndrome adults — even those who may read a grade 1/2 level. My own experience has been that texting often works better than conversation; guess I’m not the only one.

Smartphones for all: Ten sample chapters and a presentation for Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota (DSAM)

In advance of my September 9 2017 presentation to the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota I’ve made my presentation powerpoint and 10 sample (PDF) chapters available online.

There are some user warnings …

These draft book chapters are available for download. Some are up to a year old and all will have more revisions before publication. They haven’t been proofread, so they have many typos and similar errors. Don’t worry about reporting those.

When I started my book project I planned to do both iPhone and Android in a single book. I’ve since focused on iPhone and I hope to do Android as a separate, later book. These chapters still contain Android material. It is harder to write about Android because devices vary and there are usual several different generations of Android software in use.

Chapters are distributed here as PDFs. The writing tool I use creates Endnotes rather than Footnotes when I save as PDF.

iOS 11 is coming out on September 12 so they will all need some revision after that!

On reviewing this I feel like I’ve done a large amount of work, but there’s a lot still to do. I just keep swimming. iOS 11 is coming out soon and it will of course require rewrites. As much as possible I refer to the iPhone User Guide rather than recreate it, in part to reduce version dependency.

Presentation Sept 9 Minneapolis area to Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota

I’ll be doing a workshop on Sept 9 2017 for the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota (DSAM) Adult Matters Conference.

There’s a Facebook Event for my workshop, here’s the description from the conference site:

Independent Living with an iPhone

This presentation is about using a smartphone to support independent living for teens and adults with special needs. Dr. Faughnan has been using iPhones for six years to promote independence of his child with a cognitive disability and another child on the autism spectrum. The focus of the workshop is on iPhone use but also describes Android options. Topics will include phone setup, calendaring, notes, and related topics.

Dr. John Faughnan has a professional background in software development, health computing, and primary care medicine. He is writing a book titled ‘Smartphones for All: Independent Living with an iPhone’. In addition to his medical and software work Dr. Faughnan has been a coach and manager for Minnesota Special Hockey since its inception.

I’ll make my conference materials and presentations available online at

Setting up an Explorer’s iPhone – Backup and Photos

I knew it was tiring to setup a new iPhone for an Explorer, but I only understood why after I wrote up all the steps and considerations:


I’ve read that iOS 11 might includes some kind of automated iPhone setup — we really and truly need a one click base consideration for a minimal data use and maximal simplicity environment.

The section on Backup and Photos surprised me. I hadn’t really thought about Backup for my Explorers before. It’s not as critical as I’d long thought …

Every book on using technologies emphasizes how important it is to backup regularly. I’m not going to do that. For the iPhone Explorer backup is a good idea, but it’s not absolutely essential.

The reason backup is less important now is that most of an Explorer’s critical data will be “in the Cloud”. It will be on Apple’s servers, which are backed up by Apple. If an Explorer loses their phone and gets a new one, they will still have their Notes and Calendars and Email and Music and Videos 1. The critical information, that must not be lost, is the Explorer’s iCloud email address and password.

There are still reasons to Backup though. For one thing, of that setup work we’ve described in this chapter isn’t in the Cloud! A Guide won’t want to lose that work. Other apps, like games, may not store their data in the Cloud 2. Only a backup can protect their data.

So even though it’s not absolutely essential, it’s still a good idea to backup. Unfortunately the iPhone won’t do a backup over a cellular connection, even for an Explorer with unlimited data. Backup only happens to a device that’s on a WiFi network 3. It will happen automatically for an iPhone that’s locked and plugged in, or it can be started manually (see iPhone User Guide for manual backup directions).

Apple enforces the WiFi-only backup limitation because most iPhones users have limited cellular data plans 4. That limitation means, however, that Explorers without WiFi aren’t getting any backup. The best advice I can give is for a Guide to do a periodic manual backup on a WiFi network. Many Explorers can also learn to do this at a local library, coffee shop, or public WiFi location.

Apple currently provides every customer with 5 GB of free storage for backup and iCloud data. That’s usually enough for a single iPhone — unless an Explorer likes to record videos. Videos, and to a lesser extent still images, are a problem for iPhone backup 5.

The problem is that “Photos” (videos and still images) use a lot of storage. Even if an iPhone has adequate local storage, free iCloud accounts are limited to 5 GB — and once an Explorer hits that limit they may not be able to backup anything else!

There are a few ways to manage the Photo storage problem. I go over them in a later chapter. To start with a Guide or Explorer can simply delete old Video recordings from the iPhone to free up storage. A more aggressive option is to turn off backup of Photos (Videos, images) 6 and also turn off “iCloud Photo Library” and “My Photo Stream” 7.  With these settings iCloud storage won’t be used, but a Guide or Explorer may still need to remove Videos and Images to free up space on an iPhone.



1 There are always exceptions, but this rule is generally true.

2 Many do these days.

3 It’s also possible to backup to a computer using iTunes, see the manual for details. Apple is moving away from using an iPhone with iTunes though.

4 I wish they’d enabled a manual override, but there’s no doubt iPhone settings are already too complicated.

5 In Apple land sometimes Photos means “images and video”, sometimes it means just images. It’s kind of annoying.

6 It’s not obvious how to do this though. See and follow the directions carefully.

7 In Photos & Camera settings, see User Guide.


Simplifying the iPhone for special needs users: Notifications

I’m nearing the end of my Smartphones for All book chapter on initial iPhone setup. I thought this would be short chapter, but of course I started I learned there was a lot to walk through. This chapter needs to be simplified but I’ll need to rewrite it anyway once iOS 11 is out.

Writing this short section on Notifications made me revisit my own iPhone’s settings. In particular I realized how little value I get from the Notification Center screen…

Notifications are how the iPhone gets an Explorer’s attention through Sounds, Badges, and Banners/Alerts 1. You can change the Sounds for some apps, but most use the system standard Alert sound. Badges appear as red disks atop App icons showing counts of tasks undone. Banners float down over the screen even when an iPhone is locked.

Notifications can be … distracting. Indeed, that’s the intent. Apps want attention, and Notifications are how they get attention. 

Notifications can be a good thing. A ringing phone is a notification. Most people want to be notified of incoming iMessages — at least most of the time.

Notifications can also be an energy draining attention sucking black hole. Like Facebook notifications, for example. Each distraction cuts into an Explorer’s attention budget. For an Explorer who may struggle with managing distractions this can be more than a nuisance.

Happily it’s relatively easy to get control of Notifications. I recommend a Guide turn off almost all Notifications to begin with. Notifications can’t be locked by iPhone Restrictions, but if an Explorer turns on too many this can be a good learning opportunity 2.

Notification Settings are divide into two sections – GOVERNMENT ALERTS and the oddly named NOTIFICATION STYLE. I recommend turning AMBER Alerts off; in a city these are not rare and they are very disruptive. Emergency Alerts are more of a judgment call, particularly for Tornado prone regions. I do turn these off.

The NOTIFICATION SYLE section holds all App notifications. When an App is installed it tries to turn on every Notification type. So this section needs regular maintenance! Fortunately it’s easy to turn off all Notifications for an App. Tap on the App name, then toggle Allow Notifications to off.

I recommend turning every Notification off except for,,,, and Even when Notifications are enabled I recommend turning “Show in Notification Center” off. The Notification Center confuses most users; it’s best to keep it empty.

There are other ways to adjust notifications, but the key thing is to limit what apps get to use up an Explorer’s attention budget and to keep the confusing Notification Center screen empty.


1 There’s an option in iOS Notification settings to switch the Alert Style for an unlocked iPhone between Alerts and Banners. Alerts stay up until they are dismissed, Banners appear briefly then go away. This is so obscure almost nobody knows about it. Forget you read this.

2 If an App like Facebook is too distracting it may, of course, be a candidate for removal depending on the needs of an individual Explorer.

Simplifying the iPhone for Explorers: Accessibility options

From a Smartphones for All book chapter on initial setup of an Explorer’s iPhone …

The iPhone Accessibility settings are largely organized for users with vision, hearing, and movement problems. These may be very important for many Explorers but that’s a topic for another book. Apple’s iPhone User Guide and especially their Support pages have good discussions of Accessibility features like the VoiceOver screen reader.

One day there may be be an Accessibility setting that would simplify the iPhone for Explorers with cognitive disabilities but for now most Accessibility settings make the iPhone more confusing to use. For example, Magnifier enables a triple click shortcut to turn the iPhone into a great magnifying glass, but it’s too easy to trigger by accident.

There are a few accessibility settings that do simplify the user interface. For most Explorers, indeed for most iPhone users, 3D Touch is a low value feature that is mostly activated by accident. I recommend disabling it in Accessibility. Shake to Undo is often activated by accident — turn that one off too. If Vibration bothers an Explorer that can also be disabled.

If an Explorer is bothered by “special effects” there’s an Accessibility setting called Reduce Motion that can help. It gets rid of annoying effects that can bother some Explorers — and me! I turn it off on my iPhone.

If an Explorer is accidentally triggering Siri with the home button there’s an option to turn that off in Accessibility Home Button. It’s generally easier to just disable Siri though.3D touch. Siri is surprisingly hard to use effectively, many iPhone users ignore her.

There are five ways to make the iPhone display easier to read for people who don’t have perfect reading vision. Yes, this is confusing! Apple will probably revise these in future.

The first way is to buy a “Plus” sized iPhone. Text and everything else is a bit larger on Plus devices. These cost more money and are too big for many situations, but if you don’t already own an iPhone this is something to consider.

The second, and best option for most users, is to enable “Display Zoom”  in the Display & Brightness. This causes few problems and is a great option for many iPhone users, including many users over age 45. It makes touch targets a bit bigger too, so it’s helpful for Explorers who miss their taps.

There are more options in Accessibility if Display Zoom doesn’t suffice. Larger Text works reasonably well as long as you don’t enable “Larger Accessibility Sizes”. Some application screen text will crowd together. 

The next options are more problematic. Larger Text with “Larger Accessibility Sizes” enables super large text — but most apps have trouble with this text size. There’s a “Zoom option” in Accessibility, not to be confused with “Display Zoom” described above, that can be used to magnify parts of the screen. It can work very well for low vision users, but it is complex to use.

See also sphone4all posts in the best you can be blog.

Reintroducing the book project

I’ve taken a day from writing to do some long delayed marketing work. I’ve replaced my old site with this wordpress based site.

I’ll move and redo some material from the book’s Facebook Page to this blog. That page won’t go away, but instead of publishing on Facebook I’ll reference what I post here.

This site has an RSS feed of course – Just in case you’re a member of the ancient society of RSS (like me)!

I’ve launched a Twitter account as well.

I think that’s enough marketing for the moment. Now to go back to writing…