Some of My Favorite Features of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13

Later today (probably 1 pm Eastern) Apple will release iOS 13 and they will be releasing iPadOS 13 on the 24th. I do urge you to exercise caution when updating to iOS 13. In my opinion, they rushed the update out a bit prematurely because of tomorrow’s new iPhone 11 launch. On the 24th they will be releasing iOS 13.1 which will be quite a bit more polished. If you do decide to go ahead and upgrade to iOS 13 now just make sure that you have backups. I suggest both an iCloud backup and an encrypted iTunes backup. Chances are you will be fine, but that’s not a risk you should take. It would be prudent to wait just five more days for 13.1.

It’s hard to sum up iOS 13’s benefits succinctly because Apple has made so many improvements (I’ll get to what’s cool about iPadOS 13 later in the article). That means there’s something for just about everyone. Here are some of the changes I think you’ll most appreciate.

Better Text Handling

An area in iOS that has long begged for improvement is text handling. Although the familiar approaches still work, you can finally select text by merely tapping and swiping. Double-taps select recognized bits of text like phone numbers and addresses, and triple and quadruple taps select sentences and paragraphs. You can even move the cursor by dragging it into position.

iOS 13 also gains gestures for the familiar Cut, Copy, and Paste commands, along with Undo and Redo. To copy, pinch inward with three fingers; a second three-fingered inward pinch immediately after changes copy to cut. To paste, pinch outward with three fingers. For undo, swipe left with three fingers, whereas redo involves swiping right with three fingers.

Apple enhanced iOS 13’s QuickType keyboard with a feature long offered by independent keyboards: swipe to type. Called QuickPath, the feature lets you swipe your finger from one letter to the next without picking it up. You can switch between swiping and tapping whenever you want. It works only on the iPhone and the iPad’s new floating keyboard.

None of the features are necessary to use, so if you just need basic text editing there is no need to learn all of the fancy gestures.

Close the iPad Bay Doors, Hal

Apple has implemented its new Voice Control system in iOS 13 as well as macOS 10.15 Catalina, and it’s perhaps this year’s most impressive feature. Once you turn it on in Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control, you can use voice commands to switch apps, tap visible controls, and more. Plus, it lets you dictate text without invoking Siri.

The dictation now lets you delete text, replace text, and capitalize words, making it possible to edit what you’ve written without touching the keyboard. Voice Control may sound like it’s aimed at people who have trouble physically using iOS’s Multi-Touch interface, but it could be useful to anyone.

Files from Everywhere

Those who use an iPad for serious work will love the updated Files app, which brings much of the power of the Mac’s Finder to iOS. Most notably, if you have Apple’s Lightning to USB3 Adapter or a new iPad Pro with USB-C, Files offers support for USB flash drives, SD cards, and hard drives. Plus, Files can also now connect to SMB-based file servers on your local network.

You can create folders on the iOS device’s local drive and store files there, viewing them in grid, list, and column views and sorting by name, date, size, kind, and tags. Files also now lets you zip and unzip files. Files also includes a document scanner that can create standalone files of scanned pages.

Dark Mode Migrates from Mojave

If you’re a fan of Dark mode in macOS 10.14 Mojave, you’ll be pleased to know that you can now switch to it in iOS too, or have it kick in automatically at night. Dark mode can even save some battery power on iPhones with OLED-based screens like the iPhone X, XS, XS Max, and 11 Pro. Third-party apps will need to release updates to automatically switch themselves to Dark Mode with your device. Some have already pushed those updates out.

Photos Bulks Up

Apple added numerous features to Photos, refactoring its interface to match the update in Catalina. It now provides an AI-curated selection of photos displayed by Years, Months, and Days—complete with event titles—plus an All Photos grid that shows everything. Live Photos and videos play automatically (without sound) as you scroll.

Editing has improved significantly, with Photos now offering tools to boost muted colors, sharpen edges, reduce noise, adjust color temperature, increase image clarity, and add vignettes. You can control the intensity of any filter, or of the automatic Enhance adjustments. Plus, nearly all the editing you can apply to a photo, you can use to edit a video, and video edits are now non-destructive.

Apple beefed up the Camera app for recent iPhones, so you can adjust the position and intensity of the studio lighting in Portrait Lighting, and it also gains a new High-Key Mono effect.

Health Adds Cycle Tracking and Fertility

On the iPhone, the Health app gains features related to cycle tracking and fertility. Using data entered or imported from a third-party app, Health can now predict the start and end of a woman’s next three cycles and provide a notification when her period is approaching. Similarly, it can predict fertility windows and pop up an alert when one is approaching. Cycle Tracking, a companion Apple Watch app, will make it easier to log.

iOS 13’s Health app also now tracks headphone audio levels and alerts you if they reach dangerous levels. Another new Apple Watch app—Noise—listens to the ambient sound levels around you and warns you if they’re getting too loud.

Other iOS 13 Features

Those may be the big changes, but I can’t resist sharing some more subtle ones too:

  • Siri’s voice is now generated entirely in software, making it sound more natural, especially while speaking longer phrases.
  • HomePod can finally recognize different voices, giving everyone in your family personalized experiences.
  • You can set the Phone app to accept only calls from numbers in Contacts, Mail, and Messages, sending all others—and robocalls!—to voicemail. But be careful if you might be expecting a job offer or an important call from a doctor who isn’t in your contact book!
  • A Low Data Mode helps reduce data usage over the cellular network or specific Wi-Fi networks.
  • You can now pair two sets of AirPods or recent Beats to a single iPhone if you and a friend want to listen to the same movie or music.
  • A new machine-learning option can slow the rate of battery aging by pausing your charge in the middle of the night, finishing just before you wake up.
  • Do Not Disturb While Driving will no longer turn on when you’re using public transit.
  • Mail now has more robust formatting options and a built-in document scanner.
  • You can delete apps from your device directly from the App Store update screen simply by swiping left.
  • Find My iPhone and Find Frinds have been merged into a single “Find My” app.
  • Find My works even when the lost device is offline, such as a WiFi iPad or a Mac, utilizing Bluetooth of all devices running iOS 13, kind of like Tile. Keep your Bluetooth on, people!
  • You can now connect to a WiFi network or Bluetooth device in Control Center by long-pressing the WiFi button or Bluetooth button.
  • The volume indicator no longer takes over your whole screen!
  • “Sign in with Apple” is a secure and private way to sign into an app or website without having to create a new password.
  • You can now grant location access to an app just a single time rather than continually.
  • Revamped Maps app allows you to create and shre collections, share your ETA, and has far more robust street data in most states, including the Northeast.
  • CarPlay has been overhauled, now allowing you to have one app on your dashboard and another app on your iPhone. Perfect for when a passenger wants to pick a new playlist without interrupting your navigation.
  • Reminders got an overhaul, allowing nested reminders, attached photos, and more.
  • Dual-SIM now supports iMessage and FaceTime on both lines.
  • Mail allows you to mute a conversation, preventing notifications for a specific thread. And block will send all messages from the sender to your trash.
  • Safari has per-site settings.
  • Safari can download files.
  • Health can analyze activity trends to keep you on track for your fitness goals.
  • Siri can get music and navigation from third party apps so you can say “Hey Siri get me directions home with Waze” or “Play The Beatles on Spotify”.
  • You can now grab the scrollbar and drag it up and down for fast scrolling.
  • Fonts will be available in the App Store so you can get third party fonts in supported apps.
  • Tabs in Safari can be set to automatically close after a set amount of time.
  • Calendars now supports file attachments.
  • If you delete an app with a subscription you are offered to cancel your subscription first.
  • Screenshots on Safari can now be the entire page saved as a PDF, not just the part you are looking at.
  • Music now has synchronized lyrics.
  • Automatic Personal hotspot allows your non-cellular devices to automatically get online via your iPhone (or a family member’s iPhone!)
  • Dictation should be way more accurate.

iPadOS 13

Most features of iOS 13 apply to the iPad as well, apart from those that are iPhone-specific, like the Health app. But iPadOS 13 is a superset of iOS 13, so it adds features to the iPad.

It starts with a tighter icon grid on the Home screen to fit more icons, and in landscape orientation, the Home screen can show Today View widgets on the side.

Apple improved the iPad’s multitasking capabilities in iPadOS 13 too. You can have multiple apps in Slide Over—just swipe up to see all of them or swipe along the bottom to switch between them. The big win in Split View in iPadOS 13 is the capability to have multiple windows from the same app open simultaneously, and it’s also now possible to have a window from the same app open in multiple spaces. The updated App Switcher now shows all spaces (Split View combinations) too.

Safari has grown up in iPadOS 13, becoming a desktop-class browser. That means it works better with complex Web apps like Google Docs, Squarespace, and WordPress. It also offers per-site settings, the option to save a set of tabs as bookmarks, a download manager, weak password warnings, and 30 new keyboard shortcuts.

iPadOS 13 works with the new Sidecar feature in Catalina to let you use an iPad as a Mac’s second screen or graphics tablet (with an Apple Pencil). You can use it either to extend your Desktop or to mirror a Mac’s screen, and it works either wired or wireless.

Speaking of the Apple Pencil, Apple has made it more responsive, redesigned the tool palette, and provided a pixel eraser tool. You can also now use an Apple Pencil to take screenshots, and even capture and mark up an entire document, email, or Web page.

Phew! There’s a lot to like in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, but there’s also a lot to learn, so make sure you find some time to incorporate the new features into your usage.

(Featured image by Apple)