Creating contacts for an Explorer

I learned several new things about iOS Contacts when I wrote a book section on entering an Explorer’s Contacts.


Contacts can be added to an Explorer’s iPhone in several different ways. They can be typed in the iPhone directly or typed into the on an Explorer’s iCloud account. A Guide or other person may also share their contacts by Message or Mail (see user guide on sharing contacts). There are also ways to share many contacts at once 1 that can save time for some Guides.

Whether Contacts are shared to an Explorer’s phone or entered as new there are ways to make them more useful and less confusing. Keep the list relatively short at first — usually family members, aides, key friends and support staff. When you’ve assembled your list choose a few, ideally 3-8, to be “Favorites” (see below). Even if an Explorer never uses the Favorites list the iPhone’s increasing intelligence can use that knowledge, including automatically bypassing “do not disturb” settings. I’ve summarized recommendations for entering Contacts in table form, I’ve omitted fields that I haven’t found a use for (social profile, instant message, etc):


Contact field(s)


First and Last name and Company


For businesses or organizations leave the name fields empty and enter the Company only. If you want to create an entry for a couple, like “Aunt Emily and Uncle John” put this into the Company field.


When a call comes in the iPhone uses this number to display a name. So while you want to enter as few numbers as possible to reduce confusion, you may need to include a Favorite’s work number if they call from there. Tap on the default “home” label to specify if this is an “iPhone” or “mobile” or “work” or “home 2” number.


As with the phone example this information will be used to lookup an email correspondent. Most people have multiple emails, in general you want to put as few as possible here. Again tap on the label to specify “home”, “work” etc.

Ringtone and Text Tone

Don’t skip over these! You may want to enable “Emergency Bypass” for some callers, particularly if an Explorer enables “Do Not Disturb” to avoid pesky calls they truly need to get (obviously be thoughtful about this). You can set distinct ring or text tones for key people.


Even if an Explorer never looks at Contacts, much less sends a letter, this information is used by Maps and other apps for directions. Include it for places that an Explorer may travel too. Don’t forget to enter the Explorer’s own home and work addresses, many parts of the iPhone rely on this information.

Add Birthday (but not other dates)

If you add a Contacts birthday it will show up on the iPhone calendar and Siri will answer question about when it is. You can add other dates, like anniversary or custom labels (Adoption Day) — but they are currently seen only in Contacts. Siri and don’t use them.

Add related name

If you define a relationship here Siri will understand commands like “Call my brother Tim”. Instead of typing a name in use the “i” text button to select it from the Explorer’s Contacts list.

Add Field: Nickname and Phonetic.

At the bottom of the edit screen there’s an “add field” text button. If you click here you’ll see choices like “Phonetic last name”, and “Nickname”. Both of these features work well with Siri and you should add them where appropriate 3.


Once you’ve finished editing and saved contact information you will return a screen showing completed contact information. From there you can “Add to Favorites”. You can also choose to share an Explorer’s location with a specific person (See ____ for a detailed discussion on location sharing.)



1 See

2 Power user tip: If several contacts in a house share an old-fashioned landline then incoming calls will show one of those contact names. For our own home I put our home number in a special contact called “Home Number” and removed it from individual family member contacts.

3 There are other ways to train Siri to recognize names, but I find this is the easiest. As of the time I write this nobody knows how the “Pronunciation” field is used, my guess is that it’s used by iOS’s built-in screen reader. That’s an accessibility feature for visually impaired persons.

Teaching Messaging to an Explorer: stay within the Notification budget

From the Smartphones for All chapter on messaging:

The first step in teaching messaging to an Explorer is to simplify the iPhone’s as much as possible. I review this in the Setting up an Explorer’s iPhone chapter.  The iPhone’s has become harder to use as Apple has added more features, but most Explorers seem able to work around the confusion.


If an Explorer has even modest reading abilities they will learn Messaging quickly. Using to communicate from room to room in a house is one way to practice. Many families do this for neurotypicals, but for our Explorers this practice has been particularly helpful. I believe this is generally true for Explorers prone to intense focus or who use earphones to reduce distraction.

Once an Explorer is good at reading a message the next step is to encourage responses — typically by texting a question. There are many options here. “Y” or “N” are single letter responses to a yes or no question and the letter “k”is a widely recognized abbreviation for a neutral “ok” response. The iPhone’s autocorrect feature makes many Explorers more comfortable with longer text responses. Both Siri and the iPhone’s “speech to text” feature can be used to send verbal responses as text. Other Explorers may prefer to respond with emoji or even sound recordings (though the latter is a bit complex to do). There are many options to choose from.

The last step is initiating messages — typically a request for something. This is a small step beyond responding, and it’s easy to encourage by responding quickly and positively (when possible). Most Explorers, like most users, will send a new message by tapping on an existing message collection rather than by browsing contacts or typing in a name. Alternatively, saying “Hey Siri, text Mum to get me a snack” works better than most Siri functions (see iPhone setup – Siri to learn how to teach Siri who “Mum” is).

Once an Explorer can receive, respond to and initiate messages the last step is managing group or “Chat” type messages. These are hard for everyone — all of us have accidentally message a group of people when we meant to message a single person. This can be more than a bit embarrasing; I hope future improvements will make this easier to avoid. For many Explorers it may be best to avoid use of this feature in favor of a direct message. If a group message is being accidentally reused it can be deleted from an Explorer’s phone.

Messaging, by design, grabs the recipient’s attention. This isn’t too bad for a low volume of Messages, but every iPhone app is clamoring for attention. Almost all applications try to turn on all possible Notifications when they are installed.  Explorers will have low tolerance for unwanted interruptions and may end up turning off iPhone volume — defeating the value of Messages. The trick to prevent this problem is to regularly review the iPhone’s Notification settings and disable almost all notifications, leaving only those for Messages, Reminders, Calendars and the like (see Apple’s User Guide and Setting up an Explorer’s iPhone). 

Sadly this isn’t a one time chore, smartphone applications are alway fighting to enable Notifications, particularly when first installed. If an application’s Notification lust is truly annoying it may be due for deletion. 

Another way to reduce annoying Messaging interruptions is to enable the “Do Not Disturb” feature to accept messages only from “Favorites”, where a Favorite might be a Guide or sibling.  Our goal with Notifications is to make each one of them useful.

In the last resort an Explorer may be reminded that their iPhone is an important tool as well as a fun device, but I encourage optimizing Notifications first.

Smartphones for All: Preprint chapter – Calendars.pdf

I’ve updated the preprint of my book chapter on Calendars. You can read the PDF for free, my September presentation to the Down Syndrome association has other preprints.

This is one of my favorite chapters – iOS Calendars are a great tool for Explorers (and Guides as well). From the Key Points section (I’m adding these to all the chapters):

• The Calendar is a key tool to help Explorers learn and practice the fundamental life skill of planning.
• iPhone Cloud calendars are a huge improvement over paper calendars for all Explorers. They can be managed by Guides and they support sharing and alerts. They are always at hand. Explorers will lose paper calendars, but few will lose their iPhones.
• To support an Explorer’s use of a Calendar a Guide needs to use an iPhone Calendar themselves. They need to demonstrate use.
• When an Explorer asks when an event is, there’s always one answer – “It’s on your calendar”.
• Explorers can start with a simple Calendar managed by a Guide with event alerts. In time most will learn to add events, to work with Family Calendar Sharing (or the non-family equivalent), and to manage invitations.
• There is a longstanding and complicated Apple bug with Calendar invitations. If you send an iPhone calendar invitation to someone and they don’t get it you’ve run into the bug. There’s nothing you can do, Apple has to fix this. It’s just useful to know the bug exists. With luck you’ll never see it.
• It’s possible to substitute Google’s Calendar for Apple’s iCloud Calendar and still use the base iPhone This can be a good option for a Guide who is invested in Google Calendar but it’s technically trickier.

As always with preprints don’t worry about the typos and grammar blunders.

I’m mostly done with new chapters, moving to rewrites and updates. Editing on the way …

iOS 11 for Guides and Explorers – restrictions and simplification

With each release of iOS there’s obviously a lot of book updating to do. I very much hope I get my first edition out during iOS 11’s tenure — and then get updates out thereafter.

iOS 11 has made the iPad significantly more complex than it was, but the impact on the iPhone is smaller and generally positive. It continues to get harder to avoid two-factor authentication (how to disable it if you accidentally enabled). That’s a problem for Explorers because it makes Guide remote management harder — I’m going to have to figure out how to support the Guide role with two-factor enabled. (Apple, some help here would be appreciated!)

Restrictions haven’t changed much. There’s still room for a lot of improvement — particularly in control of cellular data use. There is a new restriction to lock “Do Not Disturb While Driving” — but very few Explorers will be driving a car.

The new Notifications review screen (pull down from top) now pulls down an image of a Lock Screen — with notifications overlying it. The image even says “Press home to open” even though the phone is actually … open. Nobody has been able to explain how this makes sense and I hope it will be quietly fixed in a future small update.

Sweeping down always shows Notifications, you then sweep right to see Widgets. In iOS 10 this screen defaulted to showing whatever was last used; the new behavior is consistent and easier to understand. If all Notifications are disabled and all Widgets removed the weird “not-lock” pulldown screen is only mildly confusing.

Sweeping up from the bottom shows the new Control Center. This is a real improvement! There’s no more left/right double pane, the background goes blank, and it can set it to only work from the Home Screen. Controls can be customized and many removed. (The behavior of the WiFi and Bluetooth Control Center controls has become more complex and confusing to expert users, but for Explorers the new “smart” behaviors should be fine.)

Siri is a bit harder to disable now. Instead of one switch there are three, but if all three are disabled it behaves the same way. Siri can also be disabled in restrictions along with voice dictation — that will be a better option for most Explorers. Of course some Explorers like Siri, so mileage will vary.

There’s a new setting for Emergency SOS that’s disabled by default. I suggest leaving it off. Accidentally activating emergency services can be traumatic for an Explorer — and may have legal consequences.

Which brings us to is a key tool for Explorers and iOS 10 made it unfortunately more complex. Things are not better in iOS 11.  Heaven help anyone, Guide or Explorer, who accidentally taps the App Store button. There’s no setting to disable this danged thing — even though the mass of iPhone users is pleading for one. There’s also a new bottom button bar that lists almost entirely useless Message widgets. These can be individually removed from Messages, but to hide the bar one has to know to gently drag the gray App Store icon downwards. The button bar will return though if one accidentally taps the App Store icon.

These changes to are not popular. There’s a chance Apple will fix some of this in a future version of iOS. I advise leaving a comment on – I’ve read that Apple actually monitors those. I’ve requested they add a restriction for Messages App Store and a setting to disable the bottom menu bar in Settings.

That’s all I’ve found so far, I’m sure I’ll see a few more things when I update the Settings chapter. If you see more things leave a note via Twitter or Facebook or email me at

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