Q: I’m new to Instagram. Aside from the service suggesting Facebook friends who also have Instagram accounts, how do I find new people to follow?
A: Like Twitter, LinkedIn and other networks, Instagram has a search function you can use to look for acquaintances other than those you already have on Facebook (which owns Instagram, hence the social synergy). Tap the magnifying glass in the Instagram tool bar to go to the search page, where you can seek out specific people, hashtags or places that match your keywords. The search page also lists so-called top accounts in the results.
Hashtags are labels prefaced with a “#” character (as in #FlyEaglesFly, for example). Users add them to captions as a simple way to whittle down broader categories into narrower subjects. An Instagram hashtag page lists all the posts using the same tag.
Just as you can add certain people and businesses to the list of accounts you follow, you can now follow particular hashtags, a feature Instagram introduced late last year. When you are browsing your feed and see a hashtag that piques your interest, tap it. Instagram takes you to a page showing posts using that hashtag and if you like what you see, tap the blue Follow button at the top. New posts that contain that hashtag will then appear in your feed.
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Later, if you lose interest in the topic, you can remove it from your feed. Tap the hashtag to return to its page and tap the Following button at the top to stop tracking the tag.
Asking Siri to Play a Newscast
Q: On my Amazon Echo at home, I can ask “What’s new?” and get a briefing from sources I’ve selected for news, business, sports and so on. Is there anything similar to that for an iPhone so I can get this type of information read to me while I’m in the car?
A: Along the lines of Amazon’s Alexa flash briefing feature, Apple’s Siri virtual assistant has a new skill to help users keep up with current events. (Apple’s own Echo competitor, the HomePod speaker, arrives next month.) In response to the command, “Hey, Siri, give me the news,” the software plays the latest newscast from National Public Radio. If you prefer another news source you can tell Siri to switch to Fox News, CNN or an audio update from The Washington Post.
If you have news shows in your iPhone’s Podcasts app, you can also order the software to start playing a show by name, as in “Hey, Siri, play ‘The Daily.’” If the program does not respond to the sound of your voice saying “Hey, Siri,” check your settings to make sure the hands-free control is enabled. Tap the Settings icon on the home screen, select Siri & Search and turn on the button next to the “Listen for ‘Hey Siri’” option.
The iPhone 6s or later (or at least an iPad Pro) does not need to be connected to power to use the “Hey, Siri” command, but older models must be plugged in to a charger or USB jack. Alternative ways of summoning Siri include pressing the Home or side buttons, depending on your model — but are not the safest way of interacting with the phone while driving.
The Google Assistant app for Android and iOS can also handle the request when you say something like, “OK Google, I want to listen to the news.” Other third-party apps that stream news shows are available in the App Store.