I’ve been looking at ways to make the iPhone’s email program work better for me, and would like to pass on some tips:


IOS Mail IconOnly want to receive new emails when it’s convenient for you?

I don’t like my phone to make a noise telling me there’s new mail, only to find that it’s spam. Also, I think it’s not very good to have a phone pinging away when I’m with a client: there’s always the temptation to be rude and look at the phone (see this earlier blog on the subject of “phubbing”). If you agree with me, then you can change your settings so that you only receive email when you want it:

  • Go to Settings
  • Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  • Fetch New Data
  • Tap on each email account in turn and tap on “Manual”
  • Scroll down to the heading “Fetch” and tap against “manually”

Now, when you open your email app and tap on the inbox (or “All Inboxes”), your iphone will fetch your email for you. It will stay calm and quiet when you are doing other things.

IOS Mail Inbox

You can see twice as many items in the inbox by turning the number of lines to “none”.


Want to see more inbox items per screen?

When you go to your email inbox(es), the app shows who a message is from, the subject, and two lines of the body of the email. This means that you can only see a few messages per screen. You can see more if you change the setting so that only the sender and subject are displayed:

  • Go to Settings
  • Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  • Scroll down to the “Mail” section and tap on “Preview”
  • Tap against “none”


Jump straight to “Drafts”

If you tend to write emails a bit at a time, such as when you’ve got a few tube stops to travel, you will probably often wish to go to email drafts. This is easily achieved with a long press on the icon for creating a new email. Instead of starting to create a new email, a long press takes you straight to Drafts.


Reply to a specific part of an email

If you wish to send an email reply, but are only addressing one part of the incoming email, it is easy to quote just that part in your reply:

  • Highlight the text you wish to quote in your reply
  • Press the “reply” button in the usual way

You will see that only the quoted part of the original email is included below your reply.

IOS Settings

There are loads of tweakables in “Settings”, “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”


Change your email signature

If you would like a more personalised signature at the bottom of your emails than “Sent from my iPhone”, here is how it is done:

  • Go to Settings
  • Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  • Scroll down and tap on “Signatures”
  • Choose whether to use one signature for all your email accounts or vary it by account
  • Replace the default text with your own signature(s)

When I first started using an iPhone, I was quick to replace the original email signature as I didn’t want to give Apple free advertising on the bottom of my emails. I later re-instated the default as it does indicate that the email came from a smartphone and might, therefore, be expected to be shorter than my normal longer, more considered message, would have been.


Always send a BCC to yourself

A “BCC” is a “blind carbon copy”. This means sending a copy (“carbon copy”) without the message’s recipient knowing you are doing it (“blind”). This is useful if your email account is a “POP” account as you wouldn’t otherwise have a copy of the message you sent from your iPhone in any other place (eg the email program on your main computer). It’s then easy enough to move that copy from the inbox of your “main” computer to the “sent” folder just as if you had sent it from there in the first place. To do this:

  • Go to Settings
  • Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  • Scroll down and slide the switch to the right that is next to “Always Bcc Myself”

Have you ever wanted to increase the storage space on your idevice?

Apotop DW-17 Wi-Reader

Apotop DW-17 Wi-Reader

However much you like your idevice, it can be a pain that you can not connect either a USB flashdrive or an SD card to increase the storage capacity. This is particularly irritating at this time of year, of course, if you want to take some extra stuff on holiday with you – such as more music, downloaded movies, TV programs, and the like.

Well, I’ve found something that can go a great deal of the way to solving this problem. The specific item that I bought calls itself a Wi-Reader. There are other brands available and the specifications differ slightly.

The idea at the heart of this device is that it can read either an SD card or a USB flashdrive and transmit (stream) the contents via its own wifi signal direct to your iPad, iPhone etc. Clever, huh?

It’s not a perfect substitute for “onboard” extended storage as the contents are only available to a specific (free) app that you install on your idevice. That’s not quite literally true as you can make the contents available via FTP, but I don’t think that my own computer support clients would be likely to want to go off-piste into such rocky terrain.

I’ve been testing this device for a week now, and it works very well indeed within its limitations. The types of content that I’ve tested with it are:

  • Music – both aac format and mp3 format
  • Video – MP4 format
  • PDF files
  • Microsoft Word documents (docx files)
  • Microsoft Excel spreadsheets (xlsx files) – but it only show the first sheet in a workbook
  • Image files in tif and jpg formats

DW-17 Music View

Using the app’s “Music” view mixes all the albums together and lists tracks alphabetically…

I haven’t checked this out thoroughly, but I think it’s fairly safe to assume that all of the data is available in a “read only” format. In other words, I don’t think you can use this device to create or edit files.

I have almost filled a 128gb San Disk Cruzer Blade flashdrive (mainly with music and TV programs converted from DVD format to MP4) and the response time in finding anything specific is perfectly acceptable. This 128gb flashdrive is currently available from Amazon at the very reasonable price of £23.99.

The device itself is called an Apotop DW17 Wi-Reader. I bought it from Maplin for £39.99. If you look at these links, you will see that this particular model can also act as a battery charger for your iDevice. It will also work with Android devices using the freely available Android app, but I think it’s less likely to be needed on an Android device as they typically have SD or micro SD slots of their own.

DW-17 Folder View

…but using the alternative “Folder” view solves the problem

The only slight disadvantage that I’ve encountered is that you (obviously) need to connect to the wifi signal coming from the device in order to access its content. That means that you don’t have a wifi connection to the internet while you are accessing the wi-reader and the iPhone doesn’t attempt to connect to the internet using a 4G connection while the wifi connection is busy doing something else. Several times, I have wondered why I can’t check my email, only to remember that the iPhone’s wifi connection is otherwise occupied. However, that’s a small price to pay.

This solution is obviously not quite as convenient as having external storage slots available on the device itself, but it’s a very good alternative solution for anyone – like myself – who would like to have his entire record collection of about 1500 albums available with only about 120gm weight overhead in their luggage (including the charging cable and the San Disk USB drive). That comes to about 0.1gm per album, and at a cost of about 4p per album. Result!

© 2011-2017 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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