How (and why) to make your own power-only USB cable

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Title image
Assemble your tools for a fun hack attack
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

USB is dirty. Just like you’d never stick your body parts into a mysterious public hole, neither should you plug your iPhone into a public charging station. iOS is pretty good at rejecting unknown connections from USB, but why take the risk?

There are a few ways to make public iPhone charging safe. One is to plug into a power outlet using your own plug and cable. But what about on a plane or train, or other public spot where only USB outlets are available? Or a friend’s computer, one that might be riddled with malware? Then you need a custom USB cable, one that only passes power, and not data. The good news is that, if you have an old Lightning USB cable laying around, you can easily fashion your own, just by yanking out two pins from inside the USB plug.

Here’s how.

Dual wireless charger takes the fuss out of juicing up [Review]

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Choetech Dual Wireless Fast Charger
Is a five-coil wireless charger bananas?
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

You wanted an AirPower, but Apple failed you. While the Choetech Dual Wireless Fast Charger does not pack all the advanced features of Apple’s infamous vaporware, this five-coil wireless charger does deliver several welcome advantages over standard Qi chargers.

And these come at a fraction of the price Cupertino probably planned to extract from your overburdened wallet. If you want to charge two devices at once, this could be the charger for you.

How to stop apps using background refresh to snoop your data

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Refreshing background refresh drink
What could be more refreshing than a rhubarb and soda drink, with something in the background?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Background refresh is what lets your iPhone and iPad download your email while your iPhone is sleeping, to update your weather app while you are sleeping, and to grab all kinds of data so that it’s ready before you need it — news feeds, notes-app syncing, and pretty much anything else.

However, as revealed this week by the Washington Post, plenty of bad apps are abusing the background refresh mechanism. They are using it to send your private data — you location, your email address, your phone number, and much much more.

It’s likely that this is happening to you, because background refresh is enabled by default for newly-installed apps. Fortunately, it’s an easy problem to fix. Today we’ll see how.

How to use a GIF for your iPhone wallpaper

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Look at this wallpaper. Just look at it.Look at this wallpaper. Just look at it.
Look at this wallpaper. Just look at it.
Photo: Jake Cvnningham/Flickr CC

Wouldn’t it be great if you could take that awesome (and hilarious!) GIF, and use it as an animated wallpaper for your iPhone? You could wake your iPhone, press on the screen, and watch the action unfold. Over and over. And over.

Sadly, GIF wallpapers are impossible. Or are they? Well, you can’t set an actual GIF to run as your lock-screen wallpaper, but you can convert any GIF into a Live Photo, and use that to animate your iPhone’s lock screen.

Here’s how.

Apple’s biggest supplier suffers disappointing Q1 profits

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Foxconn
Foxconn was down 17.7% from the same quarter one year ago.
Photo: CBS

Foxconn is Apple’s biggest supplier, and the world’s largest contract manufacturer. However, that wasn’t enough to stop it from underperforming in its latest quarterly earnings.

The company, whose official title is Hon Hai Precision Industry, reported net profits of T$19.82 billion ($637.26 million) for the first three months of 2019. That might sound good, but it’s down 17.7% from the year-ago quarter.

Professional portfolio case supports your iPad Pro at any angle [Review]

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STM Atlas has a strong Apple Pencil holder, and holds up the the iPad Pro at a wide array of angles.
STM Atlas has a strong Apple Pencil holder, and holds up the latest iPad Pro at a wide array of angles.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The STM Atlas portfolio case protects the latest iPad Pro models while also serving as a portable stand. This case can hold up the tablet at a broad range of angles, giving it an advantage over most of its rivals.

This device also comes with a slot to very securely store an Apple Pencil 2. Don’t miss our hands-on review of this handy accessory.

How to back up your iMessages (and why it’s essential)

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Never lose your old messages again.
Never lose your old messages again.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Why would you bother to back up your iMessages? After all, they’re all stored in iCloud these days, right? Well, yes your messages are all stored in iCloud, but they’re not backed up up there. They’re synced, which means that if you delete a message thread, it’s gone forever. The answer is to make a local backup, which requires a Mac. Which is ridiculous in 2019, but there you go.

Here’s how to back up your iMessages in case the worst happens.

Spring has sprung! Keep it fresh with these colorful Apple Watch bands

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Time to get a fresh start and look the part.
Time to get a fresh start and look the part.
Photo: Juuk

Whether you’re in need of a sport band, a luxe leather strap, or cool stainless steel, your search ends here.

Sure, you could go all out on Apple’s new Spring lineup with prices reaching as high as $489, but if you’re like me and putting away the cash for bigger and better hardware upgrades down the road, then these totally affordable and equally stylish bands are just for you.

Check out this watch store guide and find your perfect color match this season for price tags as low as $25.

AirPods 2 make great a little greater [Review – updated]

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AirPods 2 with box on desk
This limited-time discount won’t last long.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

Back in December 2016, I was ecstatic to receive my AirPods. In the first few days after they arrived, I had them in my ears almost every moment I wasn’t sleeping or in conversations with others.

Since then, I’ve worn my AirPods, on average, something like four hours every day. When they aren’t in my ears, they are in their case, in my front left pocket. They are as much a part of me as the iPhone they’re typically paired to.

With the second-generation AirPods (can we agree to call them AirPods 2?), Apple took the product I’ve loved dearly for the last 800-plus days, and made it just a little better.

How to email huge attachments with Mail Drop

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Imagine stuffing a packaged sofa and armchairs in here. That’s MailDrop.
Imagine stuffing a packaged sofa and armchairs in here. That’s MailDrop.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Problem: You want to send a bunch of photos, or maybe a couple of big PDFs, to a client/friend/family member. The trouble is that the files are too big. Say your photos total 50MB. That’s way too much for email.

The old solutions: Split the photos up and send smaller emails. That’s a real pain for you and for the recipient. What about Dropbox? Sure, but then you have to copy the files to Dropbox, and get a link. Do you even have the Dropbox app on your iPhone?

What about WeTransfer? Sure. Just try to enjoy waiting for the upload.

The fix: Mail Drop. Just compose your too-big email as usual, and let Mail Drop take care of it.