The iOS 13 update is here to introduce extra features to your old iPhone, offering new software perks even if you haven't upgraded to Apple's latest and greatest iPhones.
In fact, Apple has released five iOS 13 updates starting with the iOS 13.1 update that was pushed out barely a week later. These have brought a number of crucial bug fixes and even more new features, culminating in the latest iOS 13.2, which introduced the Deep Fusion camera software upgrade for the iPhone 11 line.
Dark Mode is the best iOS 13 feature and the most visual change. It inverts white and light gray colors for less eye-straining black and dark grays – at least in major apps.
What's new in iOS 13? What devices are compatible with iOS 13? We have all of those answers – and a mini iOS 13 review – below, as we await the iOS 13.1 update.
The two-minute iOS 13 review
Dark Mode: We've been getting the most use out of this iOS 13 feature. It changes up the interface (except for some third-party apps), exchanging bright white and light gray colors for black and dark gray hues. That's more pleasant on the eyes, especially at night. iOS 13 pro tip: You can schedule iOS 13 Dark Mode to turn on and off at particular times, and add it as a Control Center menu shortcut.
iOS 13 compatibility: iOS 13 is compatible with a lot of iPhones – as long you have the iPhone 6S or iPhone SE or newer. Yes, that means both iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 don't make the list and are forever stuck with iOS 12.4.1, but Apple didn't make any cuts for iOS 12, so it's just catching up in 2019. Fair.
Photo editing tools get advanced: You can now change up photos in 15 different ways, tweaking highlights, contrast and shadows. It's more robust to the point where we're opening Adobe Lightroom less. iOS 13 pro tip: Edits also work for video, and you can edit photos without destroying the Live Photo properties.
A new QuickPath keyboard: Want to swipe on the keyboard rather than tap? It's now in there. There's no line that follows your finger's movement, and it's a little tricky to get used to at first, but it's closer to what we liked about Gboard. iOS 13 pro tip: We found this most useful on any large Max or Plus phone.
FaceTime correction: You know that thing in a FaceTime call where you look at your screen and therefore aren't looking at the camera? Apple will use AI to move the direction of your gaze. A bit creepy in principle, but hugely useful.
Face ID is much better: We love this feature - the field of view for unlocking your phone with your face is wider, so looking at the phone on the desk will open your iPhone up without needing to lift the handset.
iOS 13 is not coming to the iPad: Tricked you. iOS 13 is strictly for the iPhone (and iPod Touch). iPadOS has debuted for iPad with exclusive productivity features for the bigger tablet screen.
'Find my iPhone' and 'Find my Friends' are fused: The two apps are now in one 'Find My' app, and Apple's added in functionality that can find offline devices from other iPhones or iPads. Best of all, we got fewer timed out tracking errors.
iOS 13 improves battery life: By that we mean 'lifetime of the battery' not 'time between charges' - the new iOS 13 platform is smarter at charging and will curtail the power input at the right times. Dark mode should help too on iPhone OLED displays, though we're testing that.
Reminders gets a huge (and useful) overhaul: A clear new design, Reminders now allows for attachments and better sorting. Might not sound massive, but a big jump for those that use it.
The camera is getting a big upgrade: Portrait mode (if your phone supports it) will offer more customizable lighting and a new 'High Key Mono' mode for when you want to look like you're in a Calvin Klein advert.
Siri sounds better: A refined voice with more natural diction, Siri is much nicer to talk to now. You might not notice it without a side-by-side comparison, but it's here.
All new Memoji to play with: You can add make-up, throw in Memoji stickers from the keyboard - if you're into your own cartoon face there's a lot to try here. iOS 13 pro tip: Stickers works on iPhone 8 and older iPhones, even if you don't have the TrueDepth camera for moving Memoji.
Control Wi-Fi and Bluetooth more simply: We love this: long-press (or 3D Touch for certain iPhone models) on the Wi-Fi / Bluetooth buttons in the Control Center and you can access all your connections in one simple place.
Use your PS4 controller on your phone: Does what it says... now you can pair your console controller to play games in a more immersive way. PS4 support is here today, while Xbox One support is coming. Perfect for Apple Arcade, right?
OK, that's the key stuff out of the way - but if you want to know more about the smaller features, or just a bit more depth on what your iPhone or iPad can do, read on:
Video: How to download iOS 13 right now (without having to wait):
iOS 13 release date and time
- iOS 13 release date: It launched on Thursday, September 19
- iOS 13.1 release date: It launched on Wednesday, September 25
- iOS 13.1.1 release date: t launched on Wednesday, September 27
- iOS 13.1.2 release date: it launched on Wednesday, September 30
- iOS 13.1.3 release date: it launched on Wednesday, October 15
- iOS 13.2 release date: it launched on Wednesday, October 28
The official iOS 13 release date was Thursday, September 19, a little over three months after the first beta in which we got to test out the software early.
The iOS 13 release date was later than usual. Apple previously launched its mobile operating update on the Monday or Tuesday following its new iPhone launch event, but this time round it gave itself a couple of extra days.
But you didn't have to wait that long, as the iOS 13 public beta is still out there and has been through a few iterations after launching on June 24. It's technically up to iOS 13.2... iOS 13 has been through a lot already, and most of those have been bug and issue fixes to solve the plentiful iOS 13 problems.
Here's the iOS 13 timeline as we saw it:
1. iOS 13 developer beta: First launched at WWDC 2019, this version was restricted to paid Apple developers, and initially required Xcode or macOS 10.15 to install. The second developer beta fixed that with an over-the-air (OTA) update. Simply put, it was not meant for average consumers, but for serious app developers.
2. iOS 13 public beta: Apple's larger-scale features test began on June 24, and went through 8 versions, culminating, oddly, with a beta for iOS 13.1 (before iOS 13 was even out).
3. iOS 13 golden master: Pushed out on September 10, this was the final version of the iOS 13 software for beta testers. It was very stable and gave app makers nine days to adapt before the final software launched to the masses.
4. The official iOS 13 release date and time: Apple launched the iOS 13 software in its final, stable form on September 19, just 24 hours ahead of the iPhone 11 delivery date.
5. iOS 13.1 update rolls out: Apple follows up its iOS 13 rollout with the iOS 13.1 update arriving just under a week later, on Wednesday 25 September.
Video: The best iOS 13 features we've tested:
iOS 13.1 update
As we've mentioned, Apple pushed out the iOS 13.1 update within a week of officially launching iOS 13 on iPhones, and it brought a number of bug fixes as well as some new features.
iOS 13.1 bug fixes
The release notes for iOS 13.1 reflects how buggy the initial release of iOS 13 actually was, with the new update bringing fixes for issues with Mail, Siri not working with CarPlay, faulty app icons and sign-in failures.
Another major issue with iOS 13 was with location permissions – Fast Company recently reported that if a user had selected to never share location details for an app, a privacy flaw changed that selection to “Ask next time”.
Those privacy issues are also addressed in the new iOS 13.1 release, along with a fix for a lockscreen bypass bug that could let others access a user’s contact list by simply making a FaceTime call and using Siri’s voiceover feature to gain access.
iOS 13.1 new features
We have highlighted some of the key new features in the iOS 13.1 update below in more detail, but there's more too including updated Fonts settings and Personal Hotspot pages.
If you test beta apps, they will now be indicated with an orange dot in iOS 13.1, and the old dynamic bubble wallpapers that disappeared when Apple added dark mode-friendly wallpapers in iOS 13, are back.
This means that as the battery begins to degrade, the performance management feature will be triggered to throttle the CPU, although an option to disable this will be available at that point.
Share ETA in Maps
Google Maps added this feature a while back, and now Apple Maps users can also share their approximate time of arrival with friends and family right from the app itself. When you set up directions to a location and start the journey, an option to 'Share ETA' shows up at the bottom of the screen.
From there you can choose the contact you want to share your approximate time of arrival with, which gets sent as an iMessage (to another iPhone user) as a regular text. If Maps detects you’ll likely arrive later than expected, a message will automatically be sent to the contact to let them know you’re running late.
Lyrics view in Apple Music
If you’re an Apple Music subscriber, you’ll find a new icon – like a speech bubble – on the bottom left of the Now Playing pane. When selected, it brings up lyrics to the song you’re currently listening to.
The lyrics will also automatically scroll like a karaoke machine. Lyrics are available only if songs have been downloaded from Apple Music, not for tracks added from an external source via iTunes.
If you're using the new handsets, you'll be able to AirDrop files to other compatible iOS devices by simply pointing towards the device, meaning the two devices are aware of their position relative to each other.
Automation tab in Shortcuts
The Shortcuts app has become smarter, with an easier way to set up new routines. For example, you can trigger off your morning routine by setting up a Shortcut that loads your drive to work on Maps, brings up your day's appointments on Calendar and so forth.
You can set a time for each trigger, meaning Maps will launch automatically at, say, 8am when you're ready to leave home.
iOS 13 compatibility list
- iOS 13 is compatible with iPhone 6S / iPhone SE or later
- iOS 13 isn't compatible with iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus
iOS 13 compatibility requires an iPhone from the last four years. That means phones like the iPhone 6 won't be getting iOS 13 – if you've got one of those devices you'll be stuck with iOS 12.4.1 forever.
You'll need an iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus or iPhone SE or later to install iOS 13. With iPadOS, while different, you'll need an iPhone Air 2 or iPad mini 4 or later.
The iPhone SE fits into an odd category, as it has iPhone 6 era specs, but came out after the iPhone 6S. Don't worry, everyone's favorite little iPhone will get iOS 13.
iOS 13 is compatible with just one iPod – the newest version. No surprise, the new iPod Touch 7th gen is the only devices of its class that gets iOS 13 support.
- Looking for your iPad? You want to know how to download iPadOS
iOS 13 Dark Mode
- Overdue Dark Mode is coming to iOS 13 and iPadOS
- We saw macOS get a system-wide Dark Mode in 2018
- Shortcut to black-and-dark-gray UI lives in Control Center
Dark Mode in iOS 13 a system-wide, meaning it changes the hues from bright white and light grey to black and dark gray on all supported apps.
It's a nice feature when you're using your iPhone at night and want to avoid bright white hues shining in your face. It may also save battery life on the OLED-equipped iPhones, from the iPhone X onward. Apple didn't talk about this at all, but we know that OLED displays essentially 'turn off' pixels when rendering blacks.
Turning on iOS 13 Dark Mode can be done in Control Center inside the Display slider (right next to the Night Shift and True Tone toggle), according to Apple, or you can set it automatically to turn on at night through a schedule or custom time.
The yellow-tinting Night Shift mode finally gets a bright-light dimming companion, and a lot of people couldn't be happier.
iOS 13 offers 'FaceTime attention correction'
This is an interesting one. There's now an option for FaceTime Attention Correction, and it's as wild as it sounds.
What does it do exactly? It makes it so that it appears as if you're looking straight into the front-facing camera during a FaceTime video call, when you're actually looking at the adjacent screen. That distracted look could be a thing of the past soon.
iOS 13 on iPad is iPadOS, and it's a big change
Some of the biggest changes for iOS 13 on the iPad are actually coming in an update called iPadOS. Apple is signaling that the iPad needs its own platform.
That means big improvements to your iPad workflow, starting with the home screen redesign. Pinned Widgets, as we predicted in our iOS 13 rumors roundup, lets you add widgets from the Today View screen (that left-mode screen on your iPhone and iPad). So far, it's iPad-exclusive, and not coming to iOS13 for the iPhone.
Slide Over lets you have multiple apps open and cycle through them like rolodex. You can also fan to preview them all at once with a swipe gesture, kind of like the recents menu on many phones and tablets. It's multi-tasking made easier.
Split View has been enhanced to let you open one app on both sides of the screen (it wasn't possible before), and Apple demoed this by showing Notes side-by-side with Notes. You can also pair an app with more than one app – so now Safari can be paired with Pages in one space and Safari can be paired with Mail in another.
App Expose is new to the iPad software, letting you see all of the space you have open. There's an App Expose icon on the Dock, requiring only a single press to get into the convenient overview mode.
New copy, paste and undo gestures are coming to iPadOS. Three fingers scrunched down was shown to copy text, three fingers expanding (in the opposite direction) dropped the text on the page, and sliding three fingers across the screen undid the last action. We'll have to see how this performs when the software lands.
Apple's keyboard can float around the screen in a smaller form, and it's debuting a swiping gesture keyboard, which it calls QuickPath Typing. There are also more keyboard shortcuts (a lack of shortcuts was a complaint we had about previous iOS versions).
There are actually too many iPadOS changes to detail here in the iOS 13 explainer, so we've spun the full rundown off into a separate iPadOS release date, news and features article.
iOS 13 features a QuickPath keyboard
With iOS 13, Apple's default QuickType keyboard will be incorporating swipe-to-type, a popular way of sliding across the keyboard to form words. We've used this in prior iOS keyboard extensions like Google's Gboard and SwiftKey.
You can use the QuickType and QuickPath methods of typing interchangeably, and so far supported languages include English, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese is now included.
iOS 13 debuts new 'Find My' app
Apple combined Find My Friends and Find My iPhone in iOS 13, and the union lets you locate your friends and missing gadgets with a faster, easier-to-use interface.
What's really neat is that it use a crowd-sourced encrypted Bluetooth signal to help you track down devices that aren't connected to Wi-Fi or cellular. That's mostly a big help for Macs, but it could also help with an iPhone in rare cases, too.
Best of all, while Find My Friends didn't always work for us, Apple seems to be making a bigger push to get location tracking right with this new iOS 13 app now in the limelight.
iOS 13 makes your old iPhone faster, last longer
More people are holding onto their iPhones for longer, and that's something Apple seems to recognize – and the company is speeding up iOS 13 to accommodate them.
The most important iOS 13 stats: app launch speed is up to twice as fast according to Apple, and Face ID unlocking will be 30% faster than before. Apple also found a way to make app downloads smaller, up to 60% on average; iOS 12 gave us a faster update, and iOS 13 looks to build upon that.
Battery life is also something Apple is tackling this year. Its aim is to slow the rate of battery aging by reducing the time your iPhone spends fully charged. iOS 13 is supposed to learn from your daily charging routine so it can wait to finish charging past 80% until you need to use it.
Reminders gets a big overhaul
Of all the built-in apps, Reminders has gotten the biggest iOS revamp. It's better organized, and includes shortcuts that make it easier to add reminders.
Big, color-coded buttons for Today, Scheduled, All and Flagged categories offer you a better oversight of your pressing tasks, while the keyboard when you're in this app has a top-line Quick Toolbar that acts as a shortcut to easily add times, dates, locations, flags, photos and scanned documents.
Making plans in Messages? Siri will step in to suggest reminders that can be created, like a personal assistant who chimes in at all the right times.
Camera and Portrait Mode changes
The iOS 13 offers important changes to camera features, starting with enabling you to change the intensity of light in Portrait Mode, which is something we've wanted for a while. Portrait mode is also getting a new monochromatic effect called High‑Key Mono.
The Photos gallery is becoming what Apple called "a diary of your life", with a new tab designed to document your best photos by day, month and year. You'll also have more pinch controls to zoom in and out of the Photos gallery.
You can now do something that most people have been crying out for on an iPhone - change the aspect ratio of the picture you take in the camera app. That means square options, or 16:9 even, are there in the settings - although when you export the pictures off the phone the files are still in the original 4:3 format.
Photo editing is refined with iOS 13, adding adjustment controls and filters, while the video editing portion mirrors this almost entirely: nearly every photo tool and effect – including filters, rotating and cropping – makes it over to video. If you're not good at tinkering with video, there'll even be an 'Auto' adjustment button.
New Siri voice sounds more natural
A new Siri voice debuts with iOS 13, and it sounds more natural than before – we've heard a sample and the tone is the same, but it sounds less robotic.
It uses advanced neural text‑to‑speech technology, according to Apple, and you'll particularly notice this when Siri says longer phrases, like reading the Apple News aloud or answering knowledge questions.
The timing is good, because Siri can also do a lot more talking if you wear AirPods – Siri can read incoming messages and pipe them through the buds, which is convenient.
One more new Siri perk: your voice assistant on HomePod will understand the voices of the various family members in your home. This should mean, for example, that asking "What's on my Calendar?" won't bring up someone else's irrelevant information.
Memoji gets makeup, Messages gets info sharing
Apple has put more of 'Me' in Memoji, allowing one trillion configurations: new hairstyles, headwear, makeup, and piercings to name a few categories. Examples on the WWDC stage showed that these personalized Animoji masks allow for such granular accessory detail as eyeshadow, braces and even AirPods.
Memoji Stickers are something entirely new – iOS 13 brings more iPhone and iPad users into the Memoji fold, TrueDepth camera or not. You can customize a Memoji and iOS 13 will automatically create a fun-looking sticker pack that lives in a sub-menu on the keyboard, which you can use in Messages, Mail, and third‑party apps.
You can share your personalized Memoji with contacts through iMessages, but only when you grant them access. The same applies to sharing your name and photo with contacts, so you can chose how people see your name, for example. According to Apple, you can decide whether you want your profile shared with everyone, with only your contacts, or just once.
New HomePod features
You might not know this, but the HomePod is part of the iOS family, and it has gotten iOS 13 updates too.
First, you can transfer songs from your iPhone by simply holding your phone closer to the HomePod speaker. Previously, you had to tell Siri to do this, but now this hand-off feature is a bit easier, and you don't have to talk to do it.
The HomePod also introduce Live Radio – you can ask Siri to play 100,000 stations from all around the world. And HomePod will allow you to recognize who in your family is talking, and personalize the response – great with Apple Music, where selections will be based on your taste and history. It goes beyond Music, Messages, Notes, Reminders, and more.
Sign-in with Apple
Apple is taking on Facebook Connect, Google and other platforms that allow you to conveniently sign in to third-party accounts. Sign-in with Apple is poised to protect your privacy more than Facebook and Google do.
What's neat is that if you don't want to fork over your email to an app developer or website, Apple will create a unique random email for you, and the email will be unique to that site or app.
We're still waiting for this to roll out through developers, but over time you'll start seeing it more regularly.
Maps get revamped
iOS 13 Maps looks a lot better, even if everyone likes to hate on it. Will it ever be better than Google Maps? No, probably not. But for people who want Apple's pre-loaded maps app on iOS 13, it's much better.
There's way more detail here by way of Apple rebuilding maps from the ground up. There's more realistic detail for roads, beaches, parks, and buildings, and you can now explore cities with a 3D 360-degree experience.
Favorites were a part of Maps before, but iOS 13 makes these saved locations easier to navigate to with one tap – they appear at the very top of a search menu. Sometimes Google Maps on iOS doesn't get this right (but does better on Android). That's one reason to keep Apple Maps installed, even if you're a Google Maps person.
Text formatting in Mail
Mail is getting some changes when it comes to writing out properly formatted email. You'll have more control over font style, size, color, alignment, indenting and outdenting text, and numbered and bulleted lists.
What we're really hoping to see one day in iOS 13.1 or iOS 14 is the ability to insert a hyperlink into some text in an email. On both iOS and Android devices, that's just not possible in their default mail clients (that we've seen) – you have to paste long URLs, and that's not a computer, no matter what you call your operating system.
Connect to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from Control Center
This is huge – and we've been asking for it for several years. You can now select Wi‑Fi networks and Bluetooth accessories right from Control Center.
Android has had this for years, and it was always convenient to connect to new Wi-Fi networks or Bluetooth earbuds without having to navigate away from your current app and dive into five Settings submenus. Apple is finally coming around in iOS 13.
Xbox One and PS4 game controller support
If you're going to play games on your phone, you might as well do it with one of the two best controllers available (and maybe something you already own).
Enter PS4 and Xbox One game controller support for iOS 13. Apple didn't say if all games will support this or if it'll be limited to Apple Arcade, but whatever the case may be, we're happy to be able to put our PS4 controller to use everywhere we roam.
Silence Unknown Calls
Nuisance spam calls drive us crazy every day, and iOS 13 wants to fix the issue with the help of Siri, which scans your Contacts, Mail and Messages to see if you've previously been in contact with the caller.
Silence Unknown Calls sounds fairly smart, if you're not expecting business numbers cold-calling you for work. Those that do call you and aren't on your personal 'VIP list' will go straight to voicemail.
iOS 13 features exclusive to iPhone 11 phones
- Camera UI buttons / wheel toggle between ultra-wide and telephoto
- Holding photo shutter button captures video (no longer for burst photos)
- Front camera takes wide-angle selfies in landscape, 4K60fps video and 'Slofies'
We thought we knew all about iOS 13 in June, but it turns out there were a few new features geared toward the newly announced iPhone 11 phones.
Since the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are almost all about the new cameras, the iOS 13 software lends itself to the new ultra-wide lens and special night mode.
Switching between the cameras lenses (two lenses on the iPhone 11 and three on the iPhone 11 Pro series) is supposed to be seamless, with quick taps or a wheel to transition between zoomed-in and zoomed-out perspectives.
Holding down on the familiar shutter button in iOS 13 start recording video, akin to the Snapchat and Instagram UI. Apple claims it's new handsets offer the highest-quality video ever in a smartphone, so it's putting a big emphasis on how easy it is to shoot video. On any other iPhone running iOS 13, holding down the same shutter button captures burst photos.
The front TrueDepth camera on a iPhone 11 phones can capture wide-angle selfies when held in the landscape orientation, and record up to 4K60fps video. Before, we were all deprived with 1080p60fps selfie videos.
Sure to be the ire of everyone older than millennial age, you're going to starting to see 'Slofies'. Love it or hate it (because of the name), this iPhone 11-exclusive iOS 13 feature captures epic-looking slo-mo video from the front camera. It works best when you have long hair to capture in motion.