Distraction-free apps won’t help you focus. Here’s what will.

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Like a Vegas casino carpet, our devices overstimulate our brains. Distraction-free apps won't help.
Like a Vegas casino carpet, our devices overstimulate our brains.
Photo: Michael Winters/Flickr CC

“Distraction-free” apps are ridiculous. They don’t help at all. In fact, if you have trouble focusing on the task on hand, then the problem isn’t the app. The problem is you.

Removing clutter from an app’s interface won’t stop you from flipping to Twitter every five minutes. A carefully chosen font won’t stop you from whipping your iPhone from your pocket every time a question pops into your head.

The problem is not even distraction. The problem is overstimulation, and it’s going to take some effort for you to fix it.

How to add Low Power Mode (and other handy things) to iOS Control Center

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Take control of your iPhone's Control Center.
Take control of your iPhone's Control Center.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The Control Center on your iPhone or iPad comes with a bunch of preset icons so you can quickly open the Camera app, toggle Do Not Disturb and do plenty of other tricks. But you also can customize it, adding your choice of one-swipe shortcuts. You can even set the order of the icons.

Today we’ll see how to add Low Power Mode, and take a look at the other options available.

How to stop Siri logging and sharing recordings

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Even Siri can manage to set alarms and timers without screwing it up.
Siri is always listening (depending on your settings).
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Apple shares recordings made by Siri with third-party contractors, according to a recent report. The goal is to improve Siri’s responses, but the fact is, you probably didn’t know that this was happening — and almost certainly want it to stop.

Today, I will show you how to prevent these diagnostic recordings from going to Apple. The good news? You can do it using only Apple’s tools. The bad news is that you’ll have to get your hands dirty in the process.

Finally, iOS 13 can create reminders from Mail

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iOS 13's new Reminders app.
iOS 13's new Reminders app.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

We already know that Apple has completely made over the Reminders app in iOS 13, adding a new, more powerful layout, and some excellent quick-entry tools so you don’t have to tap the screen like a million times just to remember to take out the trash when you get home.

But the app has also gotten its virtual claws deeper into the rest of iOS. Today we’ll see two great integrations that you might not have heard about yet.

How to stop your Photos library from taking over your Mac

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Film Contact sheet
Don't let your photos take over your whole SSD.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The Photos app on the Mac has two options for storing your photos. You can tell it to keep the full-size originals of everything, or you can have it self-manage, keeping your master library in iCloud and storing a mixture of full-resolution and low-res versions locally to save space.

The trouble is, even when you choose the “Optimize Mac Storage” option, the Photos app’s storage can metastasize and take over your whole drive. Today we’ll see how to cap this storage, giving Photos a hard limit on how much space it can use. For instance, if you have a MacBook with a 128GB SSD, you could choose to only use 30GB for Photos — and it will never, ever use more.

How to use Safari’s amazing new settings in iOS 13

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safari
Not this kind of safari.
Photo: Cult of Mac/Charlie Sorrel

Safari’s new “desktop-class” features are getting all the press in iPadOS, but the new download folder, and better website support aren’t everything. There’s also a new in-app settings panels with a ton of options — per-site text size, for example — and even a new font in the Safari Reader View. Let’s check it out.

Apple hires top Drive.ai talent as self-driving startup shuts down

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Drive.ai self-driving car
Drive.ai is dead.
Photo: Drive.ai

Self-driving car startup Drive.ai is reportedly shutting down — and Apple is scooping up the talent.

Drive.ai, which made kits that turn regular cars into self-driving cars, notified the Employment Development Department of California that it was shutting down and laying off all 90 of its employees. Apple was reportedly looking into acquiring the company earlier this month. Instead, Cupertino decided to just hire some of its key employees.

Learners will love Roli’s colorful, light-up piano keyboard

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musician playing roli lumi
Look at how much fun it is to play. Just look.
Photo: Roli

Roli is best known for its squishy, multitouch, pressure-sensitive music keyboards and controllers. Those are great. But the new Roli Lumi goes in a different direction. It’s a small portable keyboard with light-up keys. And not the kind of light-up keys you might see in a movie set during the 1970s disco scene: These light up keys help you learn to play the piano.

Piano lessons will never be the same.

Apple Pencil and QuickPath floating keyboard revolutionize iPad typing

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What can't the iPad do in iPadOS?
What can't the iPad do in iPadOS?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Were you ever drawing a diagram in the Notes app, and then realized you needed to type a note? Did you then find yourself frustrated at having to drop the Apple Pencil and type on the huge, half-screen QWERTY keyboard?

In iPadOS, Apple removed that frustration. You still can’t do Newton-style handwriting and have it turn into text. But you can shrink the keyboard to a tiny floating panel, and use the Apple Pencil to swipe-type on it.