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iOS 13 Guide: Here's All of the Top Features

Updated Oct. 28: iOS 13.2 is out, and it adds Deep Fusion support for the cameras on all iPhone 11 models, plus support for the new AirPods Pro earbuds Apple is releasing.

iOS 13 is no longer a public beta and now a reality. The mobile OS came out in September, and after a series of updates that have added features and fixed bugs, it's ready to install on an iPhone near you.

What can you expect from iOS 13? The focus this time around is on much improved performance, a new Dark Mode and overhauled apps including Maps, Photos and Reminders.

iOS 13 brings many new features, including Dark Mode and Sign In with Apple to iPhones today.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide | Future)

But there's a lot more to this new release, including new photo editing tools, under-the-hood performance improvements, and a new way to sign into apps called Sign in With Apple. Here's a quick round-up of everything we know about iOS 13 after testing out the new release; you can also read our iOS 13 review to find out what we think about the changes and enhancements.

iOS 13 Cheat Sheet

  • iOS 13 can load apps up to 2x faster, thanks to improvements to how apps are architected.
  • A new Dark Mode makes your photos and other content pop with a background that's easier on your eyes.
  • You finally get swipe typing with a Quick Path keyboard option.
  • Reminders get smarter, as they can automatically recognize dates and times.
  • A new Sign in With Apple feature lets you sign into apps easily without sacrificing your privacy.
  • The revamped Maps app offers a lot more detail and new features like Collections let you store frequently used locations.
  • The Photos app gets new browsing options that remove clutter, including Day, Month and Year views that highlight your best photos.
  • Siri sounds a little less like a robot thanks to a big text-to-speech improvement.
  • Memoji get more personal and customizable, complete with makeup and accessory options.
  • You finally get the ability to select a Wi-Fi network in Control Center.
  • iOS 13.2 adds the Deep Fusion photography feature for the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

iOS 13 release date

After a summer of iOS 13 betas, Apple introduced the iOS update on Sept. 19, a day before the iPhone 11 family hit retail shelves. (Those new iPhones all ship with iOS 13 pre-installed.)

Even after iOS 13's official release, Apple isn't done with releases. iOS 13.1 followed a few days after the initial iOS 13 debut, bringing many bug fixes as well as some new features. As of Oct. 28, iOS 13.2 came out, adding support for Deep Fusion photography as well as the new AirPods Pro earbuds introduced by Apple.

And the beta program continues, as Apple looks to continue fine-tuning iOS 13. (You can still go to beta.apple.com to get pre-release versions, though if you're not already getting betas, at this point, it's probably best to stick to the standard releases.)

iOS 13 availability: Which iPhones are supported

iOS 13 runs on the iPhone 6s and later. That includes the iPhone SE. iPhones released in 2015 and earlier — the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 5s — didn't make the cut. The new 7th-generation iPod touch supports iOS 13, too.

What about the iPad? There's a separate version of iOS for Apple's tablet now called iPadOS. You'll find many of the same features in iOS 13 in that version, plus a few tablet-specific features such as an improved home screen, better multi-tasking and mouse support. That iPad-specific OS is now out, too, debuting alongside iOS 13.1 for iPhones.

iOS 13 Performance: A big boost

iOS 13 promises much faster app load times.

iOS 13 promises much faster app load times.

Apple says it has focused on faster performance once again. For example, unlocking your iPhone with Face ID is 30 percent faster. Downloading apps are getting sped up, too. That's because Apple worked to make apps 50 percent smaller. Updates are also 60 percent smaller. The result: launch speed for apps is now 2x faster.

Dark Mode

Dark Mode on iOS 13 promises to make content easier on your eyes.

Dark Mode on iOS 13 promises to make content easier on your eyes.

Dark Mode in iOS 13 makes your content look more immersive, with a dark background for the home screen and in all sorts of apps, from messages to photos. The idea is to make your content pop more, though the company didn't say anything about potential battery life savings on iPhones with OLED screens.

Apple says that Dark Mode can be scheduled to be turned on automatically at sunset, which is neat. The company is making the feature available for developers so they can give their apps a Dark Mode makeover. For more on this feature, see our Dark Mode guide.

QuickPath Keyboard

There's not much news here, other than the fact that you can now swipe to type in iOS 13 with the stock keyboard (though get ready for iOS 13 to autocorrect any bad words unless you make some adjustments in Settings). Android phones have had this for years. The trace typing is turned on by default, and you can't turn it off. Still, it's nice to know that you'll be able to type more easily with one hand on bigger phones like the iPhone XR and iPhone XS Max.

Reminders

The Reminders app has been rewritten from the round up. The app can automatically recognize days and times to set reminders. If you tag a person in a reminder, you'll automatically get a notification the next time you send them a message in Messages. Apple also made it easier to add locations and flags as well as attachments.

Maps

The new Apple Maps app in iOS 13 provides a lot more detail.

The new Apple Maps app in iOS 13 provides a lot more detail.

Apple says it has driven over 4 million miles to rebuild its Maps app from the ground up. The overhaul, which includes broader road coverage, better pedestrian data, more precise addresses and more detailed landcover, will be completed by the end of 2019 in the US and roll out to other countries in 2020.

There's a new binoculars button with a look-around window. This gives you a 3D view of your surroundings, making it easier to explore. If you turn your phone to landscape mode, you can zoom down the street, and you can also tap on labels to learn more about nearby landmarks and businesses.

Other features in Maps include collections so you can group things you like in the cities you visit most or live in. A Favorites feature lets you store the places you frequently visit, so you can call up directions with a tap. As of iOS 13.1, you can share your ETA with people, so that they'll know when you're going to arrive or if you've been delayed.

Privacy: Sign in with Apple

Apple is building in protections for privacy, such as having apps ask you just once for your location. You can also get background tracking alerts. Plus, Apple is trying lock down side doors that use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.

Sign in with Apple is designed to offer simple logins that protect your privacy.

Sign in with Apple is designed to offer simple logins that protect your privacy.

But the most noteworthy privacy change in iOS 13 involves anew sign-in option to bypass Google and Facebook. It's called Sign in with Apple. This simple API allows you to log in without revealing any personal info. If an app requests your name and email address, Apple will let you create an anonymous random email address that forwards to your real email. And each app can have their own random email address, making it easier to weed out the apps you don't want troubling your inbox.

With Sign in with Apple, it will work on devices with Touch ID and Face ID, so you don't have to have a newer iPhone or iPad. 

HomeKit

HomeKit in iOS 13 rolls out HomeKit Secure Video analyzes the video in your home instead of sending your footage up to the cloud. Storage for 10 days will be included in your existing iCloud subscription. Netatmo and Logitech will be among the first vendors to support this standard.

Apple is also bringing HomeKit to routers, so it will "firewall" off all of your connected devices. Linsksys and Eero will be bringing these routers to market, including ISPs like Spectrum.

Messages and Memoji Stickers


Messages get more personal in iOS 13. You can choose to share your name and picture. There's a lot new options in Animoji, too, including makeup options like eye shadow, eyeglasses and sunglasses and (yes) even AirPods.

iOS 13 offers new mays to customize your Memoji.

iOS 13 offers new mays to customize your Memoji.

Memoji Stickers arrive with iOS 13. They give you a lot more options to personalize your messages. And those stickers will be integrated directly into the emoji keyboard, so you can use them in apps beyond just iOS's built-in Messages.

Photos App

Apple is making it easier to tweak lighting effects with the Photos app in iOS 13. You can now change the intensity and direction of portrait lighting. iOS 13 is also adding a ton of editing effects to both photos and videos. For example, you can rotate a video and apply all sorts of effects.

With Days, Months and Years tabs, the Photos app in iOS 13 makes browsing through pictures more engaging.

With Days, Months and Years tabs, the Photos app in iOS 13 makes browsing through pictures more engaging.

Apple is also introducing a new way to browse through your photos. There are now Days, Months and Years tabs for browsing through your pics. That latteer option is smart enough to know what day it is and flash back to the same day on previous years. This can come in really handy when looking through previous birthdays for a loved one.

The really helpful view is Days, though, as Apple now removes duplicate shots, screenshots and other cruft to basically highlight your best shots from a given day. Live Photos and videos play as you scroll past them.

Deep Fusion photos

Speaking of photography, if you've got an iPhone 11 and have downloaded iOS 13.2, you should be able to take photos that capture more detailed photos. Apple calls the feature Deep Fusion.

(Image credit: Apple)

Here's how Deep Fusion works: before you press the shutter button on your iPhone, the camera has already captured three short-exposure images to figure out optimal sharpness. Press the shutter, and you capture three more regular exposures, plus a longer exposure for light and color. Your phone then combines all those exposures and uses computation photography to sharpen details. All this happens in the background.

Does all that pay off? When we tested Deep Fusion, we noticed more detail in the threads of a sweater we photographed. But you really have to zoom in on the shot to spy the improved detail. Still, anything that leads to better photos is a welcome addition, particularly since Deep Fusion requires no user intervention.

AirPods

In iOS 13, you can now quickly respond to incoming messages with your voice without lifting a finger. This is handy when you're working out. You can also share music with other nearby AirPod wearers.

CarPlay

CarPlay is getting an improved interface with iOS 13.

CarPlay is getting an improved interface with iOS 13.

Apple is revamping the interface for CarPlay with iOS 13, so you can see your Music and Maps at once. Siri will also do a better job of staying out of your way visually while also offering support for third-party navigation and audio apps (maybe Spotify? Please!).

A Better Activity App

You'll get the most out of Apple's revamped Health app if you own an Apple Watch. There's a new Trends tab in the Activity app on the iPhone that shows you whether your trends are up or down for things like excercise minutes, active caolories, walking pace and more. The app offers coaching if you're on a downward trend for the last 90 days.

Silence Unknown Callers

If you hate being interrupted by your iPhone ringing when you don't even know who the person (or robot) is, this is going to be a great feature. All you have to do is open the Settings app and scroll down to Phone and select that. Scroll down some more and select Silence Unknown Callers. The next time someone calls who is not in your contacts, they'll be sent straight to voicemail.

Siri

Siri shortcuts has gotten smarter with suggested routines, which went live with iOS 13.1. The initial iOS 13 release introduced a more natural-sounding Siri, improved by neural TTS (text to speech). In our testing, Siri certainly sounds more conversational, even if the assistant still stumbles over some words.

More precise location tracking

This feature's only for anyone with a new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max. Those phones all feature a U1 chip that delivers Ultra Wideband connectivity. As of iOS 13.1, U1-equipped devices will be able to pinpoint each other's locations with greater accuracy. This allows them to prioritize AirDrop file transfers, though some people speculate that more extensive features — like being able to find U1-equipped gadget trackers  — may be in the works, too.