Right now, you can download the public beta of Apple’s iOS 13 software for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch – Apple released it earlier than expected. Time, then, to recap what’s coming and why this is such a cool upgrade.
For details on exactly to how to download the beta, check out this Forbes post.
Update: Now the beta is live, I’ve linked to fellow Forbes contributor Anthony Karcz, who writes the best “how to upgrade” articles in the business.
Note that it’s early days and Apple advises you only test the new software out on a secondary device – plenty of apps won’t be compatible just yet, be warned and battery life often diminishes sharply with beta software on board.
Here are the 13 best features of the new operating system, which will finally go live in the fall.
1 Dark Mode
This is a crowd-pleaser, offering a chic and understated look to your iPhone. So, Notes, Messages, Mail and more suddenly have a white-out-of-black look that’s highly attractive. And if you have an iPhone X, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max with their classy OLED displays, then Dark Mode will likely save battery life into the bargain. (This energy saving doesn’t apply on the iPhone XR which has an LCD screen and note that Apple isn’t making any claims in this regard).
Dark Mode works so well because it’s system-wide. It means that while the design of the Apple Watch and Calculator apps, for instance, can already give you a preview of what it looks like because they’ve always looked that way, now the same elegant color choices are there in the App Store, News and so on.
2 Sign in with Apple
This is very cool. When you’re signing up to a new app you’re currently presented with options which can include the option to sign in with Facebook, Google or with email. Apple, in its typically privacy-conscious way, is offering an alternative which avoids users running the risk of being tracked, leading to targeted advertising, for instance.
Signing in with your Apple ID will be an option, presented alongside the other ones, and will offer significant benefits. It has two-factor authentication built in as an extra layer of security.
Even better, where a developer asks for a name and email address, you can choose whether or not to give it. If you prefer, Apple can create a randomized email address so when the app sends you a message it comes to your Apple ID email but via Apple, so nobody knows your email.
The Photos app is getting a big upgrade, and it looks glorious. It’s redesigned to show you your photos more easily, making finding that special images much quicker and more enjoyable. Videos play automatically in windows among the still shots, alongside Live Photos, for instance. Photos jump out and have useful captions to identify place and date.
There are more photo and video editing tools available within the app, too.
There are also upgrades to the camera app so that the Portrait Lighting effects can be adjusted in intensity which is highly useful. There’s also a new effect to add to the pile, called High-Key Light Mono.
5 Performance Improvements
Apps will launch twice as fast in iOS 13, Apple says, Face ID unlock will be nippier on existing devices thanks to software improvements and apps themselves will be smaller thanks to a new way of packaging them. This means download sizes reduced by 50%.
A new-look Maps app comes from a new basemap, achieved by Apple’s cars driving 4 million miles. Apple has said it wants its Maps app to be the best around, finally erasing the memories of the problems the app had at launch, perhaps.
New features include more precise addresses, more detailed images and more. It also includes Look Around which promises to be what Google Street View should always have been, bringing the same high-resolution 3D graphics to streets that Apple introduced to aerial photography with FlyOver.
Of course, it will only be revealed city by city – those 4 million miles cover less land than you might think – and will roll out across the States this year, with other countries following in 2020.
Apple has always worked along the lines of “don’t do it first, do it right” and that explains why the new keyboard system called QuickPath is so much later than rivals from companies like Swiftkey.
Now, you’ll be able to stroke the screen in a continuous movement to type letters. It works really, really well.
7 Memoji Stickers
Not content with using Memoji in Messages as videos, sticker packs of that cute little cartoon of yourself will be automatically created to sue in Messages, Mail and elsewhere. Wonderful.
8 Improved Siri
Siri sounds good but sometimes not quite realistic enough. Expect a step change in how realistic the virtual personal assistant will sound.
9 Wifi and Bluetooth in Control Center
I’ve been asking for this for a while so I’m delighted that when you launch Control Center, you’re no longer limited to turning Bluetooth and Wifi on and off. Now, a long press on the right widget shows a menu which leads to the available Wifi networks and Bluetooth items. Tremendous.
10 Uninstall apps from the Update screen
You know how you downloaded that app months ago that you never use now? How annoying is it to see you need to update it, especially if you can’t find it buried among the other apps? Now, when it asks to be updated, swipe left and it’s gone. My, but that’s satisfying.
11 Silence Unknown Callers
Unknown contacts who call you can be sent straight to voicemail if you wish, so you needn’t deal with potential spam calls. This is a smart solution.
12 Better battery conditioning
Sony Mobile has had something similar but this is a useful way to extend the lifetime of a battery. Instead of charging to 100% immediately, it can charge to 80% overnight, for instance, and then go to the full charge only a little before you unplug it. It bases this on your regular charging habits.
13 Voice Memos
Maybe because I’m a journalist, Voice Memos is a favorite of mine. The new app will let you pinch to zoom to make granular editing more approachable, and new features will include trim and replace. Oh, and the app will be on Apple Watch, too.