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Explore the New Features of iOS 13

iOS is awesome. According to Apple, it enjoys a 97% customer satisfaction. In other words, almost everyone who uses an iOS phone is happy with it. They’re quick to upgrade too. Apple reports that 85% of iOS users are using the latest version, iOS 12. This compares very favourably with its main rival, as only 10% of Android users are on Android 9. But can the iPhone’s amazing operating system go from strength to strength with the next version, iOS 13?

Obviously, Apple thinks it can. “iOS 13 brings new capabilities to the apps you use every day, with rich updates to Photos and Maps, and privacy-protecting features like Sign In with Apple, all while delivering faster performance,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “We’re excited for customers to experience what’s coming to iPhone this fall and can’t wait for them to see how great everything looks in Dark Mode.”

At the Worldwide Developer’s Conference in June 2019, Apple lifted the lid on this forthcoming free update and these features. Here’s what they showed.

Performance Boost

Apple has made under-the-hood enhancements and optimisations to make iOS run faster on your iPhone. We’re promised Face ID will unlock your phone 30% faster in iOS 13. The way apps are stored on the App Store is also going to change, making downloads 50% smaller and updates 60% quicker. Apps will launch twice as fast too.

Dark Mode

On the Macs, the last version of macOS, Mojave, introduced a Dark Mode, whereby the Mac’s colour scheme would be changed, with black backgrounds replacing white ones for a much darker overall appearance. With iOS 13, this feature comes to the iPhone.

It works system-wide, that is, on all the iOS screens such as the Home screen, Notification Centre, the Widget screen and more, and it also extends to Apple’s native apps such as Safari, Mail, Maps and Notes. It’s available for third-party developers to integrate into their own apps too. It can be scheduled to turn on automatically at sunset or at a certain time, so if you prefer your iPhone dark in the evenings when lights are dim, the choice is yours.

The Camera and Photos Apps

The way the Photos app organises your snaps has had an overhaul too. Using on-device machine learning, it curates the entire library to highlight the best images according to the day, month or year they were taken. Similar photos and duplicates are hidden, and junk like snaps of till receipts and notices are ignored. Obviously, they’re still there and are still accessible, but when you’re browsing this new ‘diary’ view, they don’t get in the way.

If you’re looking through a year view, you can cycle through similar events in previous years. For example, if you take photos at a family meeting at Christmas every year, while perusing last year’s party, you can flick through your collections to see previous years’ festive photo collections.

ios 13 camera app

There are several new editing options, and these now extend to videos too. For the first time, you can rotate and crop a movie, and add filters and other enhancements to your footage. The strength of these added effects can be increased or decreased with a swipe, giving you greater control over your images.

Portrait Lighting is being taken to a new level. You know the way professional photographers light up a subject? The Camera app’s Portrait Lighting mode reproduces this. In iOS 13, it’s been enhanced so you can intensify or soften the effects, in a similar way to a pro snapper moving the lights towards and away from his model. Moving the light in sharpens the eyes and brightens and smooths facial features, while moving the light farther away creates a more subtle, refined look.

A new High-Key Mono effect creates a beautiful, monochromatic look for Portrait mode photos too.

A Matter of Privacy

Ever come across an app or a website that lets you log in with Facebook or Google instead of using a username and password? This can be very convenient, but some people might not like having to go through social media sites or search engine giants, fearing this log-in might be used for tracking and advertising purposes.

iOS 13 offers an alternative. An option to Sign in With Apple will be made available to developers, allowing iPhone users to access their apps and services with no tracking concerns. Face ID (and presumably Touch ID too) can be used to authenticate the log-in, and the app is given no new info.

Sometimes an app asks to use your email address, to send you further information. While you can still opt to do this, if you want the information without revealing your email address, you can hide it and iOS 13 will assign a random privacy address which is sent to the app. Incoming emails to that address are then forwarded to your own. This is done on a per-app basis, so you can stop incoming emails from an app that no longer interests without blocking them all.

When an app asks if it can use your location, as well as the usual ‘yes’ and ‘no’, iOS 13 allows you to allow this just once then ask again next time it wants to use it. If you allow an app to use your location on an ongoing basis, you can get a summary of when and where the app in question has used this information.

Marvellous Maps

Apple has been busy improving the Maps app, sending out cars and planes to take more detailed photos, from which they build better street maps. Roads, beaches, parks and buildings are all presented with greater clarity in these new-style maps. Naturally, they’ll take time to roll out in countries outside the USA, but they’re certainly worth waiting for. We can look forward to broader road coverage, better pedestrian data, more precise addresses and more detailed landcover.

Apple maps

Another new Maps feature is Look Around, powered by 3D images taken by Apple’s cars while out mapping. Tap a binoculars icon on the main Maps screen and you can get a 3D view of a particular feature, or a silky smooth street view.

Other new Maps features include Collections, to share favourite local amenities like cafes or shops with your friends, and Favourites, for navigating to frequently visited destinations like home, work, the local shops or the pub with a simple tap from the launch screen.

Reminders and Messages Revamped

Another app that’s had a much-welcome tune-up is Reminders. It has a new toolbar to quickly add times, dates, locations and flags, and a revamped user interface, with more ways to organise your reminders and keep track of them too. The app is more deeply integrated with Messages too. You can tag someone in a reminder, so that reminder is brought to your attention when you’re messaged by that person.

ios reminders

Talking of Messages, this app has also had a refresh. You can now share a photo or emoji and your name inside a message, so when the person receives it, they get to see your picture and who’s messaging them even if you’re not in their Contacts app. Memojis have been beefed up, with lots more features available, such as make-up, more glasses options, new hats and hairstyles, jewellery and more. You can even add AirPods.

Every time you create a new memoji a sticker pack built into the iOS keyboard is created, which you can use in Messages and more. The feature is being brought to older iPhones too. Obviously, you can’t animate a memoji without a Face ID camera, but you can soon put them together on any iPhone with an A9 chip, which is the iPhone 6s/6s Plus or later.

Sensational Siri!

Siri Shortcuts was introduced with iOS 12, and gets a boost in iOS 13. The app is to become more powerful than ever, with suggested automations making it even easier to build multistep actions. Siri’s voice has changed too. Previously, it was delivered in pre-recorded snippets using an actor’s voice.

With the new operating system, it uses Neural TTS (Text To Speech). This generates the words and creates the spoken sentences on the fly, making it more natural to the ears, and less of an audio cut-and-paste.

The Best of the Rest

What else does iOS 13 have in store for us?

QuickPath: The on-screen keyboard benefits from a new feature that lets you type by dragging your finger from key to key, without lifting it in between. It’s great for one-handed typing.

CarPlay: Massively updated with a new Dashboard, you can view Music and Maps at the same time and still have room for Siri. Third-party navigation and audio apps are to support Siri too.

Music: A new feature presents song lyrics on the screen in time with the music, so you can sing along to your tunes. Don’t do it on the bus or the train, though. It’s really annoying.

AirPods: When you’re wearing AirPods, Siri can read incoming Messages and you can reply to them immediately using speech. A new Audio Sharing feature lets you share your sounds with another AirPod user with just a tap too.

HomePods: Handoff is coming to the HomePod. As you walk through the door listening to your tunes, you can switch to listening through the Apple speaker by moving your iPhone to it. When you’re about to leave the house, you can transfer play back to your iPhone in the same way.

Voice Control: Coming to Accessibility, Voice Control allows those who have difficulty using a keyboard and mouse the chance to control their Apple devices – including iPhones, iPads and Macs – using their voice. This is more than straightforward speech to text. All sorts of actions and interactions are accommodated.

Notes: Notes has a new Gallery View, more powerful collaboration with shared folders, new search tools and checklist options.

Health: Activity Monitor is to compare your fitness routines from the last 90 days with those from the previous 360, to ascertain whether you’re getting fitter or slacking off. A new Cycle Tracking feature helps keep on top of menstrual health, tracking cycles and showing fertile windows.

Files App: A few new features are offered, including sharing folders with iCloud Drive, and accessing files on external devices such as SD cards and flash drives.

iOS 13 is out this Autumn, and as usual, it will be a free upgrade. To run iOS 13, you need an iPhone 6s/6s Plus or later, or an iPhone SE. We can’t wait!

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Ian Osborne

Ian has worked on computer and video games magazines since the legendary Crash and Zzap! 64 in the early Nineties, so he’s seen many changes over the years (including an expanding waistline and receding hairline). A lifelong Mac user, he bought his first Mac in the year 2000. It’s a testament to the resilience of the Mac that his mother is still using that computer to this very day.

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