iOS 13 Hands-On: Best iOS 13 Features Coming to Your iPhone
WWDC 2019 was one of the most packed WWDC events that have happened in the past few years. There are a lot of things to unpack and we will slowly but surely cover all the details. If you followed our live Twitter coverage, you already have a brief idea about everything. Now, our work is to expand upon everything announced at the event to give our readers an in-depth look at all the new features. In this article, we will focus on iOS 13 which is bringing a ton of new enhancements. I have installed the iOS 13 beta on my iPhone X and here the best iOS 13 features you should know.
Note: iOS 13 is in developer beta so you need an Apple developer account to install it on your device. That said, the beta is buggy and I suggest that you wait for the public beta which will come out in July before installing it on your device.
Best iOS 13 Features You Should Know About
1. Dark Mode
The feature that received the biggest applause from WWDC attendees was the Dark Mode and it is finally here. After releasing dark mode on watchOS and macOS, Apple has finally made it available for iPhones. Dark Mode looks gorgeous in iOS 13. Not only it changes the color of the entire UI but also the first party apps. It’s way better than the half-hearted dark mode that exists on Android right now. Apart from the native UI and apps which adhere to the dark mode, Apple has also introduced four new wallpapers which follow dark mode.
I love the new wallpapers and hope that Apple releases even more of them. You can enable dark mode by either going to Settings → Display & Brightness or by using the brightness controller in the Control Center. There is also an automatic mode where your iPhone will automatically change between dark and light mode depending on your preferences. This alone is a reason that should be enough for you to update to iOS 13.
2. Swipe Typing Keyboard
One of my favorite features that come with iOS 13 is the swipe typing feature in the keyboard. While most publications covering this feature are not giving it much importance, for me, it is a game changer. Before making my switch to iPhone, I used to be an Android guy, and I sorely missed the swipe typing feature once I started using the iPhone.
Swipe typing is important for me because I hate using phones with both hands. I want one of my hands to be free to do anything while I use my phone with the other hand. That’s why I always buy the smaller iPhones and love the swipe typing feature. The swipe typing feature allows me to type easily with one hand and that too with incredible speed. Believe me, once you get used to this feature, you will never go back to regular typing.
3. Photos App Update
The Photos app is getting a huge update with iOS 13 and I have no complaints. The Photos app have to be one of the most used apps of every iPhone user and I appreciate any new update. There is so much new in the Photos app that I am thinking of devoting a small article only to this. Let’s start with the UI first. Now, the Photos app offer four different view modes including days, months, years, and all photos. In each of these views, the app displays your photos in a beautiful grid. The Photos app used on device AI to feature the best pictures of the day, the month, and the year. I cannot tell you how many old photos I have rediscovered since I am using the new Photos app.
Photos app is also bringing new editing tools which now will not only let you edit your photos but also videos. You can now rotate videos, change perspective in videos, and apply all those cool filters you were using on your Photos. That is just mind-boggling. In photo editing, you are getting a variety of additional parameters, such as vibrancy, white balance, sharpening, noise reduction, and more. You can also edit and adjust the intensity of lighting in Portrait Lighting photos. The bottom line here is that you will now not need any third-party app for editing Photos for basic editing needs.
4. Siri and Shortcuts Updates
Apple introduced the Shortcuts app with iOS 12 and it has received a major update with iOS 13. For those who are not familiar with the Shortcuts app, it's basically an automation app for iOS devices. We have already published a getting started guide for Shortcuts app and a how-to on creating your first Shortcut guide which you can check out by clicking on the links. The biggest update coming to the Shortcuts app is the new “Automation” tab. Inside this tab, you will find several triggers and rules which can automatically execute your shortcuts.
Some examples of triggers include the time of day, when you start your workout when you leave or reach home/office/store when you enable or disable WiFi/airplane mode/Bluetooth when you connect to CarPlay, and more. You can use these triggers to either automatically run your shortcuts or send you a notification which you can tap to run the shortcuts. This is a huge improvement and will enhance how shortcuts work. Shortcuts app is also getting some UI tweaks and especially good in the dark mode. Finally, the Shortcuts app is built into iOS 13 and comes pre-installed. You no longer have to download it from the App Store.
Siri is also receiving improvements. Now, it sounds more like a human and less like a robot. It’s also becoming more conversational, a feature you can exploit in Shortcuts. For example, when a user says “Order takeout,” Siri can ask, “Which order would you like?” and present a list of favorite orders to choose from a food ordering app.
5. First-Party App Improvements
Apart from the photos app, iOS 13 is also giving love to other first-party apps including Apple Maps, Reminders, Find My, and more.
Reminders is getting a huge overhaul with iOS 13 and the new app not only looks great but is also more functional. The textured background and awkward card systems are gone and are replaced by a clean and modern UI with clear white or black background (depending on whether you are using night mode), and splashes of color in the icons. As for functionality, the new Reminders app now supports natural language processing. It’s not as good as the one Fantastical 2 but it’s better than having nothing at all.
Reminders also support the creation of sub-tasks. You can also add images to your reminders and even scan and attach documents using iOS’s document scanning feature. One of my favorite new Reminder features is the ability to flag important reminders. There’s a separate “Flags” list where you can find all your flagged reminders. The list in reminders now offers more customization options with 12 different colors and 60 different symbols. With this new update, Reminders will be enough for the task management needs of most iOS users.
The beloved Messages app is also getting a few new features. First, now you can enable sharing of your profile photo and name with anyone you text. When you share your profile photo and name, the other party can either go with your preference or keep the details they have saved in the contact. Second, Memoji is becoming more customizable so you can make it look more like you. You can even add AirPods to your Memoji now. Both Memoji and Animoji can act as stickers. The best part is that we can use these stickers even in third-party apps like WhatsApp.
Apple Maps is getting a big update this year with iOS 13. The biggest feature coming to Apple Maps is “Look Around” which is Apple’s answer to Google Map’s Street View feature. The locations where this feature is supported, you will now be able to get a 360-degree view of the area. In classic Apple fashion, while Apple Maps is late to the party with this feature, it works really well and is easier to navigate. The feature is available in limited locations and is expected to cover the entire US by the end of 2019. A new feature called Collection is coming to Apple Maps which allows you to create collections of your favorite locations. Apple Maps is also making it easier to access favorites. Other new features include improved improvement to Siri guidance system, the addition of flight status information (gate number, departure time, and more), the ability to share ETAs easily with your favorite contacts, real-time transit information and more.
With iOS 13, Apple has combined the “Find My Friends” and “Find my iPhone” apps into one app called “Find My”. The app is also making a debut on macOS Catalina which released alongside iOS 13. One of the biggest new feature coming to this Find My app is the ability to track even offline devices. If your iOS or macOS device is offline, now it can communicate its location using the Bluetooth LE connection. It will ping all nearby Apple devices, and share the location of your device by piggybacking on the connection of other Apple devices. Apple encrypts this communication so no one else can track your device. The app itself is well designed is far better than its predecessors it’s replacing.
Apple Notes is getting several new features with iOS 13. First, there’s a new Gallery view feature which lets you your notes in neat cards. I love the new view and am using it since I updated my iPhone to iOS 13. One big new feature is the ability to share entire folders of Notes which was not possible before. Also, now you can give “View” only permission to your shared notes which was not possible before. Talking about folders, now you can create sub-folders and manually organize them. This was such a nuisance in previous versions of iOS and I am happy that Apple has finally implemented this feature.
Apple Books is getting a new “Goals” feature which allows you to set daily reading goals and track your reading progress. You can create streaks and share your reading stats with your contacts. I welcome this new feature as it means to help people read more.
6. Security Enhancements
With iOS 13, Apple is continuing its positive stance on privacy. There are several major improvements coming with iOS 13 which will enhance your online security.
Sign-in with Apple
The first big feature is “Sign-in with Apple”. With this feature, now app developers will have to include a new “Sing-in with Apple” button (similar to Sign-in with Google and Facebook) in their app. Users can use this button to sign securely into apps, sharing no personal information. In fact, you can even choose to not share your email ID. In such cases, Apple will automatically create a random email address and share with the app. Any mail sent to that email ID will be forwarded to your main email so you don’t have to worry about losing any emails. The big benefit of this random email system is that Apple will generate unique emails on a per-app basis. So once you are fed up of an app, you can uninstall it and block the particular email to stop receiving any promotional emails.
“Just Once” Location Sharing
In the previous versions of iOS, users could decide whether to give app location privileges in three dimensions. They could either allow location access always, while using the app or never. However, selecting the “Never” option rendered the app useless. With iOS 13, you are getting another location sharing dimension called “Just Once” in which you can share location data with an app just once. This will allow you to use the app without sharing any location data. Even if you grant perpetual location access to an app, you now have more control. Apple will automatically remind you if an app is misusing its location privileges and you can then disable that app from accessing your location data.
HomeKit Secure Video
More and more users are now installing HomeKit enabled video security devices in their homes. These videos contain highly sensitive and personal video recording. With HomeKit Secure Video, now recordings will be encrypted before storing in your iCloud account. The best part is that this will not count against your iCloud storage plans. Logitech has confirmed that it will use this feature with more brands to follow soon.
7. Voice Control
Apple has always remained at the forefront of accessibility and with iOS 13, it is taking a huge next step. Now, physically challenged users can control their iPhone entirely with their voice. While this feature was available in previous versions of iOS in a limited capacity, in iOS 13, it’s getting super powers. Using a system of labels and grids, iOS will now allow users to control their iPhone with just their voice. You can see an example of Voice Control being used in the video below. This is a great feature and will go a long way in making the iPhone accessible to even more users.
8. Connectivity Improvements
IOS 13 is bringing several connectivity improvements which will make it easier for users to connect to networks devices. Now, both Bluetooth and WiFi toggles in the Control Center support network selection features. Just long-press on the toggles and you will see the list of available devices and networks. You can tap on the desired option to initiate a connection.
Now, iOS users will be able to remove mobile data install limits. Previously, users could not download a file over 200 MB in size. But now, iOS will prompt you whenever a file is larger than 200 MB asking if you want to download it now or over WiFi later. If you have a limited data plan, you can go with the WiFi option. There’s also a new low data mode which will save data by reducing network data usage of apps.
There’s a new “Family HotSpot Sharing” feature which will allow your family members to connect to your iPhone’s hotspot. Also, now the hotspot feature is automatically enabled when you want to connect to it. You won’t have to toggle the hotspot manually before connecting.
9. Performance Improvements
iOS 12 was a dedicated performance improvement update for iOS devices and Apple made our devices faster with that update. Since iOS 13 is packing so many features I assumed that it will not bring any performance improvements. However, according to Apple, iOS 13 will make our devices faster with 2X faster app launches and faster FaceID. Now, this is the first developer beta so I cannot comment on app launch speeds (although my iPhone feels faster), one thing I can say is that FaceID is wicked fast.
The improved FaceID speed is not as much visible on the lock screen as we still have to swipe up to go to the home screen. But it’s clear in places like banking apps, password managers, or any other app that supports FaceID. Previously, the unlocking mechanism required a whole animation to unlock which took a few seconds. But now, it happens in an instant. It’s so fast that there is no time for animation to take place. I am enjoying this performance boost.
10. Optimized Battery Charging
Apple had to deal with a whole scandal when it was found that it was deliberately slowing devices with old batteries. After the scandal, Apple gave users more info into their iPhone’s battery performance and how it was affecting their iPhone. With iOS 13, Apple aims to elongate your iPhone’s battery life by bringing an optimized battery charging feature.
Now, when you plug in your iPhone, it will not automatically charge your phone to 100%. Rather it will learn from your daily charging routine and stop the charging at 80%, allowing the final 20% charge to happen just before you unplug your iPhone. This is only helpful if you keep a set charging pattern like an overnight charge. Also, it will be very hard to prove that this new feature will elongate your battery’s life. The feature is enabled by default. You can disable it by going to Settings → Battery → Battery Health.
Apart from the above mentioned main features, iOS 13 is bringing a plethora of other small features which will improve your iPhone’s user experience. For example, the ugly volume HUD is dead. Apple replaced it with a simple HUD which appears next to the volume buttons. We can operate the HUD with touch which makes it easier to set exact volume levels. Also, now you can delete apps directly from the App Store. Just swipe right on the app’s name and you will see a delete app button.
Now, you can silence unknown callers in the phone app. Use Siri to play music or podcast from your favorite app. Apple Music now shows synced lyrics. There is a better text selection when you double tap. For example, it will automatically select the whole link, address, and even famous names. There’s a new automatic tab closing feature in Safari. Screen Time is now getting a contact usage limit options just like apps. This is great for parents as they can now set a limit based on per contact basis.
Share Sheet is becoming better with better-predicted options for both contacts and apps. The suggestions will change depending on the app you are using and based on your previous usage. There is support for game controllers. As Apple Arcade is just around the corner, the controller support is a welcome change. The good news is that iOS 13 supports both Xbox and PS4 controllers. Talking about Apple Arcade, there is a new Arcade tab in the App Store which for now is empty. There are many such small and nifty features sprinkled across the entire iOS 13 and we will slowly but surely cover all of them in future articles.
The Death of 3D Touch
Before we end this article, there is one thing I want to get off my chest. This is the only thing I hate about iOS 13 and it’s the death of 3D touch. It was rumored a couple of weeks before WWDC 1 that the next generation of iPhones will not come with 3D touch and the latest iOS 13 pretty much proves that. The 3D touch has been replaced by the Haptic touch which was introduced with iPhone XR. Now, instead of physically pressing on a screen you will do a long-press gesture.
I hate this new haptic touch feature especially because my iPhone X is capable of 3D touch but I am forced to use the former. What’s worse is that the haptic touch is not working perfectly on my iPhone X and is kind of hit and miss situation. I understand that it’s the first developer beta and haptic touch will improve with future updates but I desperately want my 3D touch feature back as I used to love it. I am mourning the death of 3D touch. It’s nowhere as big a change as the death of headphone jack but I will still miss it.
iOS 13 Hands-on Final Thoughts: It’s an Awesome Update
iOS 13 is an excellent iOS update. It is bringing everything we hoped for and more. Of course, there are always some grievances with any change, but on the whole, I am happy with the update. I love the dark mode and swipe typing keyword. The performance boost is welcomed and the privacy enhancements are great. I also love the new Photos app along with new editing features.
That is how I feel about it. Let us know what you feel about this new update. Are you happy with it or were you expecting something more? Will you install it once the public beta comes out or will you wait for the final update in September? Let us know your thoughts. The comments section is all yours.
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