Silencing unknown callers

Screenshot of the iOS option to silence unknown callers
My recent calls list, showing lots of missed calls from numbers not in my contacts

Over recent weeks, I’ve been plagued by calls from numbers not in my contacts. Sometimes, as per the screenshot, I’ll get three calls from three different UK mobile numbers within seconds of each other. So, I’ve enabled Silence unknown callers on my iPhone.

I made a mistake by answering the first call, and it turned out to be some kind of cryptocurrency scam. However, it wasn’t just a random dial; they had my name and email address as well as my phone number. This suggests that they’ve hoovered up my personal data from a previous breach – possibly the Patreon breach of 2015, but there have been many others.

Since then, I’ve been getting three or four calls at a time, usually twice per day. It’s a different number every time, so whilst I may have not been fully convinced it was a scam when I answered the first time, I am convinced now. I’ve tried to hide the numbers in the screenshot because the numbers have almost certainly been faked and probably belong to innocent people. It also suggests to me a deliberate effort to get around call blocking apps like Truecaller, for which I have a premium subscription.

What this means is, if people call me, my phone will only ring if the number is in my contacts, if I’ve called it recently, or it’s a ‘Siri suggestion’. The latter could include numbers in recent text messages and emails, for example.

If you want to enable this yourself, open Settings on your iPhone, go to Phone and then scroll down to ‘Silence Unknown Callers’.

I’ll keep this on until the random calls stop. At the time of writing, they’ve slowed down but haven’t stopped completely. Maybe they’ll get the hint in time.

New new new new new iPhone

A photo of an iPhone 13 Mini with iOS 15 showing the home screen

Last week, I bought myself a new iPhone 13 Mini. This is the fifth iPhone model I’ve owned:

  • iPhone 4 (black, 16 GB), bought in autumn 2010
  • iPhone 5 (white, 64 GB), bought in autumn 2012
  • iPhone 5s (white, 64 GB), bought in spring 2015
  • iPhone 8 (Product RED, 64 GB), bought in summer 2018
  • iPhone 13 Mini (blue, 128 GB), bough in spring 2023

As you can see, with each model I’ve kept it a little longer than the previous one. Before my first iPhone, I would generally keep a phone handset for 18-24 months at a time, and indeed that was the case with my first iPhone – it was on its last legs by the time I traded it in. Its replacement, the iPhone 5 laster a little longer but I had issues charging it after a while. The iPhone 5s laster slightly longer again, but in the hot summer of 2018 its battery started expanding and the back was coming away from the phone body, so I decided it was high time for a replacement.

I was hoping to get my iPhone 8 to make it to five years, and in late 2021 I even had the battery replaced to give it some extra life. Alas, this new battery was also starting to wear out – I would have to recharge my phone more than once a day to get through.

Whilst I could have had yet another new battery fitted, I suspect that Apple won’t support such an old model much longer with new iOS updates, and they were offering up to two years 0% finance on new models. I’m not eligible to upgrade with my current phone network, as I’m on a 2 year fixed SIM-only contract, so buying the new phone direct from Apple on 0% finance seemed like the best option.

Apple conveniently provides a Compare iPhone models tool, and so I was able to decide between the various models on offer to work out which was best for me. As you may note from the above, my purchases of the 5s and 8 were at times when physically larger models were available, but I’ve generally preferred the smaller iPhone models. That pretty much ruled out buying an iPhone 14, as there’s ‘mini’ version available – and it was also £200 more than the iPhone 13 Mini.

Apple also offers its iPhone SE range, and the current third generation is essentially an iPhone 8 body with iPhone 13 internals. However, that means a smaller screen, and Touch ID rather than Face ID, as well as a more basic camera, slower 5G, less water resistance and no support for MagSafe, when compared with the iPhone 13 Mini.

A photo of an iPhone 13 Mini (left) next to an iPhone 8 (right)

The iPhone 13 Mini is also slightly smaller and lighter (albeit by a mere four grammes) than the iPhone SE. Despite this, the screen is bigger, as the bezel is smaller – it doesn’t need to accommodate the home button for Touch ID.

As for the iPhone 14, as well as it being too large for my liking and more expensive, it’s not much of an upgrade. Again, there’s an even better camera, the ability to make SOS calls via satellite, crash detection and slightly better battery life, but the processor is the same as the 13 Mini and SE; the only benefit is one extra GPU core.

Having had the new phone for a week, I’ve appreciated the extra speed, and the convenience of Face ID which seems to work well, even when I’m wearing glasses. The transfer process from old phone to new also went pretty well and I was mostly up and running on the new phone in a couple of hours – some of which was spent installing iOS 16.4. The new camera is also great and I’ve taken a couple of photos with the ultra-wide aperture lens (giving a fish-eye appearance).

Hopefully I’ll be able to keep this new phone going for the full five years. Whilst it’s always nice to have the latest and greatest device, I also appreciate the cost savings of not upgrading regularly. If everyone held onto their phones for several years, I’m sure there would be wider environmental benefits.

How to: fix wrong location on iPhone

A screenshot showing how to reset settings on iOS 16

Over the Christmas break, my iPhone would randomly decide that I was in my office. I’d have an app open that used my location, but instead of showing me where I actually was, it’d suggest that I was in Bradford. Which isn’t so useful when, in reality, you’re at home, or in York.

It caused particular problems when using Google Maps for directions, as it’d randomly jump to Bradford and then back again. Swarm was basically unusable. And it completely broke the ‘Track Exercise’ function of the Fitbit app. I had to actually uninstall and reinstall the Fitbit app a couple of times because it wouldn’t let me stop the exercise. This was even after restarting the app.

Turning Wifi off helped. Apple’s iPhones, and indeed many other devices, use the SSIDs of available Wifi networks to approximate your location. This is done by querying a web service, which means that you can still get an approximate location even when indoors, and out of view of GPS satellites. But turning off Wifi was hardly a long term solution.

How to actually fix the location problem

A bit of Googling uncovered this article about fixing your location. It offers several solutions, depending on whether the issue affects just one application, or all. In my case, it was all applications, and the solution that worked was the fifth on the list. This involves resetting your phone’s location and privacy settings.

To do this, open Settings, and choose General. Then, scroll right down to the bottom and choose Reset, then select ‘Reset Location & Privacy’ – on iOS 10.2, this is the last option. Your device will ask you for your unlock password – pop this in, confirm, and hopefully your device will get the location correct from now on.

There is a drawback to doing this, however. You’ll have noted that this resets both your location and privacy settings. This means that any apps that you have granted access to your contacts, photos, calendars, camera, microphone, media library and so on will need to request them again. Although, oddly, apps will retain their location permissions, along with any permissions regarding background app refresh, notifications or mobile data access.

Despite these issues, it was a relief to fix the problem.

This blog post was updated in November 2023 with an updated screenshot, but the instructions are broadly the same.