7 hidden gems in iOS 7

You may not discover these features quickly on your own, but you'll be happy when you do

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5. Audio-only calls in FaceTime
When you see the video camera icon, you're supposed to think of the FaceTime video chat service that works with Macs and iOS devices. But there's a new icon in iOS 7: a phone, though it doesn't open the Phone app. Instead, it makes FaceTime Audio calls -- on iPads, iPod Touches, and as of OS X Mavericks, Macs, too. FaceTime uses a lot of bandwidth; even though many carriers now allow its use on their cellular networks, it'll chew up your data plan. Also, sometimes you really don't want to be seen. FaceTime Audio helps on both counts: It allows for voice-only chats among iOS 7 devices and OS X Mavericks Macs, sort of an Apple-only Skype.

6. iTunes sharing
One of the cool things about Apple's technology suite is how easily media interoperate among its devices. You can use AirPlay to send video or music from an iOS device or, in iTunes, from a Mac to an AirPlay-compatible speaker, stereo, or Apple TV. Using the free Remote app, an iOS device (including an Apple TV) can play music, movies, podcasts, and even photo slideshows from a Mac, if all devices are logged into the same Home Sharing account.

iOS 7 makes this simpler. In the Videos app, there's now the Shared button at the top, next to Movies, TV Shows, and/or Music Videos (you only see the buttons for the media files on your iOS device). That Shared button lets you access videos stored in iTunes on your computer, if Home Sharing is enabled on the devices and they're on the same network. You also get the Shared button in the Music app for access to your computer's iTunes-managed music, though you may have to tap the More button first to see this option. You'll still need the Remote app to control your Apple TV, but no longer your Mac's or PC's iTunes library.

7. Device lock to your Apple ID
There's been a lot of frustration voiced this year by big-city police chiefs over the rampant thefts of smartphones, which are easily snatched and easily resold in the black market, leading to a rise in robberies -- some of them violent. The police wanted the smartphone makers or the carriers to lock devices, so even if stolen, they couldn't be reused. There's a largely ineffective registry of device IDs the carriers maintain, but those IDs can be spoofed, and it's clear that few carriers overseas -- where the bulk of stolen devices end up -- check the U.S. registry anyhow.

Apple fixes that in iOS 7. If you turn on the Find My iPhone feature in the iCloud pane of the Settings app, your device is locked to your Apple ID. If it's stolen and even wiped, that Apple ID is needed to unlock it. You can even send a message to the stolen device so that anyone who tries to activate it or use it gets a message like "This iPhone was stolen!" It's a no-brainer action for users to protect their iOS devices. Yes, you can still sell or give away the device to someone else; just turn off Find My iPhone first, then the new owner can activate it with his or her carrier.

This article, "7 hidden gems in iOS 7," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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