Jonathan Wylie is a writer, educator and podcaster. You can hear the audio version of this article, and others, on the Unpacking iOS podcast
The Dawn of a New Age
iOS 12 was a relatively quiet year for Apple's mobile platform. It put the focus squarely on performance upgrades and bug fixes. New features were added, but it was nothing that truly captured the imagination. iOS 13 was designed to change that. It is packed full of worthwhile features that are going to make a lot of people happy. Here are a few of my favorites.
Dark Mode for iPhone and iPad
Dark mode came to the Mac in 2018 and a year later, Apple have brought it to iOS. It's a feature that many people have been asking about for some time now, so it's inclusion in iOS 13 is sure to please the fans. You can enable Dark Mode from the Control Center when you press and hold the brightness control, or you can schedule it to turn on automatically at night. Apple has even created new wallpapers to compliment a darker appearance on your iPhone or iPad.
The New CarPlay Dashboard in iOS 13
I'm a big fan of CarPlay. In fact, I am not sure I would buy a new car today that didn't have CarPlay. It has become a big part of my driving experience, and I depend on it a lot more than I ever thought I would. In iOS 13, CarPlay gets its biggest update yet. It includes new split screen layout options that allow you to have Maps open on the left and a variety of useful widgets on the right.
There is a new Calendar app for CarPlay that lets you see all your upcoming appointments, as well as the ability to tap on an event to get directions or to join a meeting with a phone call. The Music app has album art to let you find your tunes quicker, and Siri Suggestions will appear on-screen to support "just-in-time" actions like the ability to navigate home, or the option open the garage door.
More Memoji Options & Memoji Stickers
If you are a fan of Memoji, you will be happy to know that there are more customization options available to you in iOS 13. New hairstyles, headwear, makeup, and piercings mean that you can personalize your animated avatar like never before.
You can also take advantage of Memoji Stickers. Apple creates a custom sticker pack for each of your Memoji in a move that looks set to rival the popularity of other services like Bitmoji. Memoji stickers appear in the emoji keyboard so you can use them in Messages, What's App, Mail, or any other app that supports emoji. Best of all, you don't need the latest iPhone to use them, because you can use Memoji stickers on an iPhone 6s or later, and on a 2017 iPad or later.
Finally, if you are a fan of Animoji, iOS 13 introduces three new characters - a mouse, an octopus and a cow. Animoji characters can also be used as Memoji stickers in iOS 13.
Sign In With Apple for Security & Privacy
You've probably seen social sign-in buttons like "Sign in With Google" or "Sign in With Facebook". They are quick, convenient, and mean that you don't have to create or remember another password. However, this is not a public service. Google and Facebook use the data that they get when you sign in to these websites to collect more information about you and your habits so that they can build a better advertising profile of you. In iOS 13, Apple is looking to change that.
Sign in With Apple is a privacy focused alternative that anonymizes your sign-in credentials and lets you authenticate with your existing Apple ID. It doesn't track you, log your location, or record your browsing habits. If an app or service requires your name and email address, Apple will sign you up with a unique email address and forward emails to your real address so that companies can't collect more private information about you.
Swipe to Type With the Quick Path Keyboard
The Quick Path keyboard in iOS 13 is another long requested feature. It allows you to swipe from one letter to the next without lifting your finger to enter a word. Apple says that on‑device machine learning recognizes the path you draw and converts it to the words that you are trying to type. Previously, this feature was only possible with a third-party keyboard like Google's Gboard, but it is now a native feature of the iOS keyboard and it should make one-handed typing easier for just about everyone. It should also help with users who are switching from Android to iOS.
A New Redesigned Map App on iOS 13
Apple has been working on a new mapping experience for a number of years now. With the release of iOS 13, they were finally able to show the product of that work. Apple says the new Maps app delivers broader road coverage, better pedestrian data, more precise addresses, and more detailed landscapes.
It includes a new option called Look Around, an alternative to Google's Street View that has 3D street-level imagery that was captures with high resolution cameras. Collections are also new to the Maps app. They allow you the ability to curate and share favorite locations like restaurants, shopping malls or must-see landmarks. The new map data will be available across the US by the end of 2019, and to other countries in 2020.
New Photo Browser & Editing Tools
iOS 13 brings new organizational features to the Photos app. It groups your photos into years, months or days to give you curated memories that are quick and easy to browse through. The Photos app even uses machine learning so that it only shows you the best photos you took, relegating screenshots, and other more mundane photos to the All Photos tab.
In addition to the existing photo editing tools, Apple has included new adjustments for Vibrance, White Balance, Sharpen, Vignette, and Noise Reduction. Surprisingly, videos can be edited with the same editing tools. You can now crop video, adjust colors, change the exposure, and even rotate those sideways movies!
Voice Control in iOS 13 for Accessibility
One of the most impressive new features in iOS 13 is not one that most people will use every day, but for those that need it, Voice Control is a game changer. It is designed for people with mobility problems. It allows these people to control their iOS or Mac devices with their voice. Once enabled, they don't have to touch the screen at all. Voice Control will certainly have a learning curve, but it's intuitive, well thought-out, and underlines Apple's continuing commitment to improving accessibility on all of their devices.
The New iPadOS
iOS 13 also saw the introduction of iPadOS. A brand new version of iOS that is dedicated to serving the needs of iPad users. With iPadOS, there are a number of iPad only features that are designed to take advantage of the extra screen real estate that you get on Apple's tablets.
It includes a redesigned home screen that allows you to have up to 30 apps on the screen, (ten more than before), and the ability to pin widgets to the left-hand side of the screen. iPadOS also has a new, desktop class Safari web browser that banishes mobile sites and allows you to access the full version of services like Google Docs or Wordpress without dedicated apps.
There are also improvements to multitasking, an updated Files app that allows you to plug in external hard drives to the iPad, and even the ability to use your iPad as a second screen for your Mac.
New features like these suggest that Apple is finally taking the iPad seriously and is hopefully committed to updating iPadOS with features that enhance the functionality of their popular tablet.
Have Your Say on iOS 13
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Jonathan Wylie