Q. I got a new computer this year as a gift. Are there any essential apps I should install?

A. If you have been purchasing computers or phones for many years, it’s likely you’ve become habituated to installing special software soon after purchase.

One of the best aspects of new devices is that every PC, Mac, smartphone, and tablet sold today comes with a powerful bundle of free software. There is usually no need to go beyond the bundled software unless something does not fit your workflow, and the short list of exceptions grows shorter each year.

Sometimes the bundled apps are preinstalled, and sometimes they are free from their respective app stores.

When it comes to productivity such as word processors, photo editing, and general internet usage, the built-in software is powerful enough for nearly everyone.

In 2024, the best advice for new devices is to stick with what is preinstalled. A new purchase is a great time to review your present needs and explore switching to a bundled app. It will simplify your life and save some money in the long run.


Q. I have an iPhone 6 Plus, which does not have a feature to reduce unwanted calls. Help!

A. I am sorry that your iPhone does not include Silence Unknown Callers. This feature was added five years ago in iOS 13. Unfortunately, the iPhone 6 Plus only supports up to iOS 12. However, there is a workaround that might help.

On the Do Not Disturb settings screen, it’s possible to configure different options so that the phone only rings if the caller is already in your contacts list. This is not an ideal solution for everyone, but I hope it helps.

Your question is a good example of the challenges tech writers wrestle with when they cover a product that has over a billion devices in active use and tiers of new features that change from year to year.

Here are a few other observations that I hope are helpful.

When treated with reasonable care, an iPhone will last for five years, and often longer, especially if the battery is replaced.

As a result of their durability and ongoing system updates, there is a vibrant market for used iPhones. (See also the next question.)

Apple releases a major new version of iOS each year. The most recent release is iOS 17, which is the 17th major release since the iPhone was invented.

The iOS version number never matches the iPhone model number, which is why your iPhone 6 Plus originally shipped with iOS 9 and continued to support major version updates though iOS 12.

Unless I explicitly note that a feature I write about is new, I tend to focus on features that have been around at least several years. According to a number of different sources, about 97% of active Apple devices use iOS 13 or newer.

Sadly, significant system updates on Android devices are less frequent.


Q. Given the cost of a new iPhone, are used iPhones a viable alternative?

A. Purchasing a used iPhone comes with risks, but given their solid state construction, the only two things that go wrong most of the time are a weak battery or a cracked screen.

Cracked screens are visible and easy to avoid, while recent iPhone models show the battery’s overall health in Settings -> Battery.

My advice for locating used iPhones begins and ends online.

The safest option is apple.com/store. The refurbished section is not prominent, but searching for “refurbished” will lead you in the right direction. Refurbished models also qualify for an AppleCare warranty.

Keep in mind that Apple’s refurbished models are priced at modest discounts. Usually the best deals are found on mid-level models with generous installed memory compared to the base models.

Amazon is a bit riskier because it’s a gateway to multiple different sellers with different reputations. But the volume of offerings tends to keep used prices close to fair market value.

In general, I think the best strategy is to focus on devices that are priced at least 50% less than they were new. Much more than that, the risk might not outweigh the potential savings.


Bob has been writing about technology for over three decades. He can be contacted at techtalk@bobdel.com.

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