When Apple’s huge WWDC developer conference kicked off in June, as expected, the company took the wraps off iOS 13. It’s the next major revision for one of the most important and influential operating systems of all time, with iOS used daily on over a billion iPhones and iPads. It brings a lot of major new features to that magic rectangle in your pocket, and provides developers with a host of tools to make even better apps.
Here are all the major new features that iOS 13 will bring to your iPhone, along with details about supported devices and how install the update.
Want more detail on all these new features? We have assembled all of our guides, FAQs, how-tos, and tips into an iOS 13 resource hub.
Update 09/19/19: iOS 13 has been released for iPhones. iPadOS 13 (or possibly 13.1) will be released on September 24, along with iOS 13.1 for iPhones.
How to install iOS 13
Apple has released iOS 13 for iPhones. The update went live around 10 a.m. Pacific Time, but can take a little while to roll out across the globe; don’t be surprised if it takes 30 minutes or so to show up on your device.
You will eventually get a notification prompting you to update, but if you want to force it as soon as possible, head to Settings > General > Software Update.
Note that only iOS 13 is releasing on September 19 (together watchOS 6 for recent Apple Watches). The release of iPadOS 13 is scheduled for September 24, along with iOS 13.1. We have a guide to the unusual and staggered release of Apple’s fall operating systems.
With iOS 13, Apple is cutting off support for devices with 1GB of RAM or less. That means that, compared to iOS 11 and iOS 12, it’s dropping support for the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus. iPadOS 13 drops support for the iPad mini, mini 2, and mini 3, and the original iPad Air.
Here is the full list of supported devices for iOS 13:
iPhone XS Max
iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone 7 Plus
iPhone 6s Plus
iPod touch (7th generation)
And here is the list of supported devices for iPadOS 13:
12.9-inch iPad Pro
11-inch iPad Pro
10.5-inch iPad Pro
9.7-inch iPad Pro
iPad (6th generation)
iPad (5th generation)
iPad mini (5th generation)
iPad mini 4
iPad Air (3rd generation)
iPad Air 2
Yes, the rumors are true. iOS 13 is finally bringing Dark Mode to Apple’s mobile OS. Apple showed new dark backgrounds, notifications, and widgets. All the Apple apps you rely on, from Messages to Mail to News and more, have new colors and dark backgrounds. Third-party developers will undoubtedly be quick to support this.
Better performance, again
Apple focused on performance with iOS 12, making it much faster than the last few releases, especially on older devices. Apple has continued that work on iOS 13, taking a top-to-bottom approach to speeding up everything you do on your iPhone and iPad.
As an example, Apple says Face ID unlocks 30 percent faster. Apps are going to be packaged differently, making app downloads 50 percent smaller and updates 60 percent smaller. This also helps apps launch up to twice as fast.
The iPad gets all the changes you find in iOS 13 for the iPhone, but Apple has been adding so many features specific to the iPad, it has decided to give it its own name: iPadOS.
If you’ve been hoping that iOS 13 would make your iPad into a better laptop replacement, you’ll be thrilled with iPadOS 13. You can pin widgets to your home screen, and easily browse and swipe through multiple slideover apps.
Split view gets huge improvements, including multiple split-view “desktops” that you can see in a new App Expose view. You can even run multiple windows of the same app—Apple demonstrated multiple Mail windows and two Word windows side-by-side.
The Files app gets SMB support, shared iCloud folders, support for USB thumb drives, and native zip and unzip support. And if you want to import files directly to an app (like images from your camera into Lightroom), you can now do that, too.
There’s lots more. Safari now shows desktop browser views, the Apple Pencil latency has been cut in half, you can download fonts directly from the App Store, and there are new gestures for navigating and manipulating text.
iPadOS 13 is not set to be released on September 19 together with iOS 13. It will be released on September 24, together with iOS 13.1.
Smarter, smoother Siri
Siri gets a lot of improvements in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13. It starts with a new voice system called “Neural Text to Speech.” Instead of stitching together pieces of sounds to form words, the new system uses a neural network to entirely generate the voice in software. It smooths out complex words and sounds a lot more natural.
Siri Shortcuts is now built into the OS, instead of needing to download it from the App Store. It will use machine learning to create suggested automations for your common series of tasks.
Apple promised that CarPlay is getting its biggest update ever in iOS 13. A new dashboard shows your map on one side and useful buttons on the other, so you can control music, see messages, and get other useful information without hopping around between apps.
Many apps have their in-car experience redesigned, like Apple Music. And Siri now works by popping up a small indicator at the bottom of the screen instead of taking over the entire display.
New features for AirPods
If you’re one of the millions of people with Apple’s little white stems sticking out of your ears, you’re going to love the new features in iOS 13 for you.
Siri can read messages to you as soon as they come in, and you can reply instantly without having to trigger Siri again. This will work with any messaging app that supports SiriKit.
You’ll be able to share audio with a second person who is using AirPods. You can listen to music or watch video together, sending audio to both your AirPods and your friend’s. Sharing is initiated by tapping phones together. Audio sharing may be delayed for the release of iOS 13.1.
HomePod can now recognize multiple voices and tailor responses to multiple users, including Music, Messages, Reminders, Notes, and more. HomePod also gets the ability to play live radio stations streaming over the internet—100,000 of them from around the world.
Apple’s introducing an all-new privacy-focused feature called “Sign in with Apple.” It’s just like the “Sign in with Google” or “Sign in with Facebook” buttons you see in so many apps, that make it easy for you to sign up without making new accounts.
Sign in with Apple differs from those in that it doesn’t share gobs of personal information and tracking data back to Google or Facebook. Apple doesn’t take or track any data at all. And it minimizes your exposure to the app, service, or website you’re signing in to. Apple won’t provide your name unless you first give it permission (as some services require a name). And if a service requires an email address, you have the option of providing the one associated with your Apple ID, or you can provide a unique, randomized email address that Apple will generate for you on the spot, which will forward mail to your real email. So the app, site, or service never actually gets your real email address, and you can delete the random temporary addresses whenever you want to cut off access.
Apple’s also cracking down on abuses of location services. A new option will let you give an app location access just once—the app will prompt you again next time you run it, as if it was the first time. Apple will notify you when an app uses background tracking, and it will prevent apps from using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth data to approximate your location without actually asking for it.
HomeKit Secure Video
Most home security cameras upload your video (unencrypted!) to the cloud, where it is then processed to determine what objects are in the video. Apple has developed a system called HomeKit Secure Video that processes the video locally at home through your HomeKit Hub (an Apple TV, HomePod, or a plugged-in iPad), encrypts it, and then stores it online in your iCloud account.
With a 200GB iCloud account, you get storage for one camera, and with a 2TB plan you get storage for up to five. The good news that the storage for the video won’t count against your iCloud storage limits.
Apple’s not making a camera to use this technology. Rather, other companies will make cameras that give you the option to use HomeKit Secure Video. The first partners are Netatmo, Eufy, and Logitech.
Photos and Camera improvements
The actual Camera app doesn’t get a whole lot of improvements in iOS 13 (it does, however, get some nice upgrades in the iPhone 11). The biggest new feature is the ability to control the lighting in Portrait Lighting modes, making them more or less intense.
There’s lots of new stuff in the Photos app, though. First, image editing is getting a lot more powerful. There are new adjustment dials for effects like brightness, contrast, exposure, warmth, tint, etc. And you’ll find a lot more effects than before, too.
These editing controls are coming to videos, too. And yes, that means you can finally rotate a video!
Browsing through your images should be simpler and more enjoyable with the new Photos tab. It organizes your photos into groups: Years, Months, Days, and All Photos. The Years, Months, and Days views use intelligence to surface your most relevant photos, and formats them in a pretty collage that showcases live photos and videos, too.
Apple began a major revamp of its Maps data last year, and has so far only brought the new maps to northern California. With iOS 13, it aims to bring the new map data (created by driving over 4 million miles in cars equipped with cameras and LIDAR, as well as with small planes) to the rest of the U.S. by the end of 2019. The new maps will come to the rest of the world next year.
But the new Maps app isn’t just about more detailed map data. It’s got new features, too. You can mark your favorite places for quick access right when you open the Maps app, and organize lists of places into Collections that can be easily shared with friends. That’s useful for organizing by category (favorite restaurants, for example) or for organizing a trip.
In areas where there is new Map high-res map data, you may see a pair of binoculars in some locations. Tap that to get a super high-resolution on-the-ground preview of the area, with smooth scrolling and labeled locations.
Memoji and stickers
Memoji are getting a big expansion in iOS 13. Apple’s adding a whole ton of new hairstyles, makeup, accessories, and customizations. From new earwear (including AirPods, naturally) to tongue piercings and even customizable teeth, the expressiveness of Memoji is going to explode.
Your Memoji will also be used to automatically create sicker packs that mimic the expressions of popular emoji. Instead of sending the thumbs-down or mind-blown emoji to someone, you can send a sticker that uses your Memoji.
Animating your Memoji with your face requires a device with the TrueDepth sensor, but the Memoji editor and stickers are coming to every device with an A9 processor or better. That’s practically every device than can run iOS and iPadOS 13.
All-new Reminders app
Many apps are getting tweaked in iOS 13, but the Reminders app is completely revamped. A quick toolbar lets you add reminders using natural language, and Siri will parse the times, dates, and locations within what you type to create the right reminder for you.
When you discuss something in Messages, Siri might suggest a reminder with a notification pop-up.
Smart lists will group your reminders based on your schedule, so you can see the reminders you need when you need them.
Apple has updated its keyboard to allow swiping between letters to create words. Apple calls this a QuickPath keyboard, and it has been a feature of other mobile OSes and third-party keyboards for years now. The keyboard’s emoji picker has also been updated to show your new Memoji stickers.
Your name and image in Messages
Currently, if someone sends you a message and their name and photo is not in your Contacts, it will just show their phone number or email and a blank spot instead of a photo.
The new Messages allows you to set an image and name for yourself, and then share that automatically with anyone you message. You can set it to share with anyone, with only those people in your contacts, or to ask each time.
And so much more…
Apple briefly showed a slide during its WWDC keynote that was just littered with iOS 13 features. The list is too long to include in this article, but if you’re curious, we went over it with a magnifying glass and listed them all here.
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I have written professionally about technology for my entire adult professional life - over 20 years. I like to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.