iOS 13: Hands-on with the top new features and changes for iPhone [Video]

After being revealed to developers back in June at WWDC, today Apple has officially released the highly-anticipated iOS 13 to the general public. As a follow-up to iOS 12, this release features a wealth of new changes and features, with most of them being highlighted in our initial look at iOS 13.

Needless to say, if you’ve managed to stay off the developer or public betas for iOS 13 up until now, get ready for a wealth of new changes and updates!

In this video, we’ve hand-selected over 20 of the top new features found in iOS 13. Watch our hands-on video walkthrough for the details, and be sure to subscribe to 9to5Mac on YouTube for more coverage.

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iPadOS 13…

One of the biggest new changes to iOS isn’t really an “iOS” feature at all. Starting with this year’s releases, Apple has separated the software that powers the iPhone and the iPad by creating a new OS for its tablets called iPadOS.

Based on the groundwork laid by iOS, iPadOS 13 is making its debut starting with this year’s software updates. The presence of iPadOS means that Apple is able to adopt more features that are appropriate for a tablet-centric workflow.

Expect to have a full hands-on walkthrough of the best iPadOS 13 features once that update launches for iPads at the end of September. In the meantime, have a look at our hands-on video walkthrough of the iPadOS 13 beta.

Top new iOS 13 features video walkthrough

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Dark Mode

The headlining feature of iOS 13 is without a doubt Dark Mode. A long-rumored feature over the years, Dark Mode makes it easier to use your iPhone in dimly-lit or dark environments.

In iOS 13, users can activate Dark Mode in several ways. You can manually switch between Dark and Light mode via Settings → Display & Brightness, or you can toggle Dark Mode directly via a handy Control Center toggle.

It’s also possible to automate Dark Mode based on time of day or to enable Dark Mode using a simple Siri command.

iOS 13 includes four brand new Home screen wallpapers that are primed for Dark Mode. It’s also possible to dim every other wallpaper whenever Dark Mode is enabled via a handy toggle in Settings → Wallpaper.

But what makes Dark Mode really special is the way that apps automatically switch to a darker profile when enabled. The majority of Apple’s first-party apps are directly influenced by Dark Mode, but it’s the third-party support that makes it shine. Already there are a plethora of apps that have been updated to support Dark Mode in iOS 13. Apps such as 1Password, PCalc, Carrot Weather, Fantastical, ChibiStudio, and Tripsy, just to name a few.

While it’s probably not the best idea to use your iPhone in dimly-lit or even pitch black environments, Dark Mode unquestionably makes doing so easier on your eyes.

Better performance

iOS 12 was known for its performance improvements, especially noticeable on older hardware. With iOS 13, Apple is continuing down the same path, with faster app launches that are up to 2x faster in iOS 13, and faster Face ID unlock.

Other performance improvements include smaller app downloads, thanks to new packaging that can cut app download sizes in half, and smaller app updates that on average will be up to 60 percent smaller.

New Animoji and updated Memoji

iOS 13 includes three new Animoji characters — a Mouse, Octopus, and Cow — to enjoy in the Messages app.

There’s also a plethora of new Memoji customization options, including freckles, new hairstyles, piercings, eyelashes, and even AirPods.

Animoji and Memoji Stickers

Supplementing the new Animoji and Memoji features is a brand new addition: Animoji and Memoji stickers. These stickers can be used just like any other sticker in the Messages app, but can also be directly accessed via the iOS emoji keyboard for use outside of the Messages app.

Update Siri Voice

Siri has been updated in iOS 13 to sound more natural and less robotic thanks to a completely software generated voice. The update is especially noticeable when Siri goes on a long tangent in response to a query.

Privacy enhancements

Apple has long been a staunch proponent of user privacy, but with iOS 13, it’s taking its stance one step further with improved location access controls. Users can now control location data via fine-grained controls that allow the app to access your location any time it’s in use, or if you prefer, on just a one-time basis. There’s also the welcomed new ability to omit location data on the photos you share.

Sign in with Apple

Companies like Facebook and Google, who aren’t exactly championing user privacy, have popularized the ability to sign in quickly to apps and websites using Google or Facebook IDs. Of course, all sorts of privacy red flags stem from such activity.

Sign in with Apple is the Cupertino company’s alternative service that makes it super-easy to quickly sign in to apps and websites with just a tap. Unlike the aforementioned companies, Apple doesn’t track user activity when using its sign-in mechanism.

Sign in with Apple allows you to easily sign in to apps and websites without having to fill out forms, verify email addresses, choose new passwords, etc.

Data collection is limited to the user’s email address and name, and an additional private email relay lets users keep their personal email address private if they opt to do so.

Redesigned Volume HUD

Prior to the iOS 13 update, the volume indicator that appeared on screen when adjusting volume would obnoxiously appear in the middle of the display. In iOS 13, such an annoyance has finally been fixed by redesigning the volume indicator to be smaller and moving it to the side of the display near the volume buttons. It’s a welcome change and fixes one of the longest ongoing software complaints about iOS.

QuickPath Typing

‘Swype’-like functionality has been available via third-party iOS keyboards since iOS 8, but in iOS 13 the iPhone gains native swipe capabilities. Thanks to the new QuickPath keyboard feature, users can swipe between individual keys to quickly spell out words. For a touch-based operating system like iOS, such interactions feel right at home.

Cursor Navigation

Manipulating the cursor position in a text field in previous versions of iOS made users rely on an antiquated magnifying glass interface to move the cursor to a specific spot. In iOS 13, users can now directly manipulate the cursor simply by dragging it to the desired location. It’s so incredibly easy, it makes you wonder why it took this long to implement such a feature.

Safari Downloads

One of the biggest ‘finally’ features to appear in iOS 13 is the ability to download any file via Safari. When you tap on a downloadable file, Safari will prompt you to see if you wish to proceed with the download, and upon confirmation, Safari’s built-in download manager takes over.

The Safari download manager allows you to see the status of the download, including the size of the download and time remaining, and go directly to the download location found in the Files app.

New Reminders app

For those of you familiar with the Reminders app in previous versions of iOS, you’ll want to prepare yourself for a brand new experience in iOS 13. The Reminders app in Apple’s latest software update has been completely redesigned and rebuilt from the ground up, and it’s a welcome change.

Whereas the previous iteration of the Reminders app felt like a mere afterthought, the new Reminders app is a polished redesign that makes it easy to create new lists and reminders, but also has the flexibility to adapt to varying workflows.

New Smart lists will automatically track upcoming reminders and allow you to view flagged reminders, while a new quick toolbar lets you quickly add flags, locations, dates and times to your Reminders.

Users will even find the ability to add attachments like photos, document scans and links to reminders, while subtasks and group lists add new layers to the experience.

New Find My app

It’s a weird name, but the Find My app makes sense when you consider that it combines two apps — Find My iPhone and Find My Friends — into a single experience. Users will thus be able to track all of their Apple devices and track their friends within the same handy interface.

There’s even a new provision for offline device tracking in iOS 13, thanks to a new Bluetooth-enabled crowd-sourced location feature. When a device is marked as missing and another user’s device is nearby, it can detect your device’s Bluetooth signal anonymously with end-to-end encryption in an effort to help you find your lost device.

Redesigned Music app

The Now Playing interface in the iOS 13 Music app receives a fresh coat of paint that makes the interface look more contemporary. However, the biggest new feature is the presence of interactive lyrics that can be tapped to jump to a specific portion of a song and will scroll along in step with the music you’re listening to.

Rebuilt Maps app

Rebuilt from top to bottom to feature more realistic details for buildings, beaches, parks, roads, etc., the new Maps app comes with all sorts of additional new features like sharable collections, improvised Siri guidance, and Share ETA.

The biggest new Maps feature, however, is the presence of a Google Street View-like interface called Look Around. In some respects, it’s better looking, more responsive, and faster than Google’s offering.

Like the rebuilt maps themselves, support for Look Around is limited in this initial phase, but Apple is working hard to roll out the changes to the entire US before 2019, and more countries in 2020.

Redesigned Photos app

Dark Mode may be the headlining feature of iOS 13, but it’s the redesigned Photos app along with new built-in editing tools that most impressed me in this update.

Starting with the new Photos app interface, a new Photos tab allows you to quickly view all photos or photos based on days, months, and years. The default Days view lends a quick overview of the current and previous days, with things like screenshots and duplicate photos hidden from view.

The new Days view also makes it possible for automatic video and Live Photos playback as you’re scrolling through your list of snapshots. This makes the Photos app feel much more alive than it has in versions of iOS past.

Impressive, but it’s the new built-in editing functionality — for both photos and videos — that really makes the difference.

In hindsight, it’s now clear that Apple was hinting at both major photo and video upgrades to its new iPhone 11 models based on what we’ve seen from photo editing capability in iOS 13 alone. Users will find a wide variety of new features, such as the ability to pinch to zoom while editing, adjusting the intensity of filters and effects, and quickly toggling effects on and off.

New effects include vibrance, white balance, sharpen, definition, noise reduction, and vignette.

But it’s the video editing features, which mirror the photo editing ability and then some, that impressed me the most about the new Photos app. Not only can users trim videos, which has long been possible, but users can now add the same filters and effects to videos as they can photos.

You’ll be able to crop, flip, and change the aspect ratio of videos on the fly with no hiccups. Even better is the fact that all of these changes, whether towards photos or videos, are performed non-destructively. That means that you can always revert the photo or video back to how it looked originally.

New Camera app features

The new Camera app also gains some brand new additions for existing iPhone XR and higher hardware in iOS 13. A new Portrait Lighting effect called High-Key Light Mono creates a classic monochromatic look that places the subject on a white background.

Portrait Lighting Control — which is likewise supported on iPhone XR devices and later — allows users to alter the intensity and position of studio lighting in a Portrait mode photo. By moving light closer to a subject, you can smooth skin, sharpen eyes, and brighten the features on the face. On the other hand, moving the light further from the subject creates a smoother and more refined appearance.

Cut, Copy, Paste, Undo, and Redo gestures

New three-finger pinch and swipe gestures allow you to invoke cut, copy, paste, undo and redo functions in iOS 13. Although such gesture controls are more ideal for a device with a larger surface area like the iPad, it’s possible to use the new three-finger gestures on the iPhone as well.

Redesigned Share Sheet

iOS 13 sees the adoption of a smarter Share Sheet interface geared towards letting users share content faster. A new one-tap suggestions feature makes it quicker to share files and photos via handy suggestions, while a new sharing row lets you see people around you available for AirDrop and even the suggested apps themselves are intelligently sorted.

Home app redesign

The Home app in iOS 13 gains refreshed accessory controls and new animations. There’s also an updated security camera interface that allows users to quickly switch between multiple cameras.

In a future update, the Home app will gain support for HomeKit Secure Video and routers. Stay tuned, as we’ll have more in-depth coverage of Home app and HomeKit improvements in the future.

Apple Arcade

One of the big new features to come to iOS 13 is support for Apple’s new gaming subscription service, Apple Arcade, which launches today alongside iOS 13. Of course, Apple Arcade isn’t merely limited to the iPhone, it’ll be available on the iPad, Mac, and Apple TV as well, and you’ll be able to seamlessly jump between all supported platforms.

For just $4.99 a month for a family subscription, gamers will gain access to over 100 full games that are devoid of in-app purchases or ads, along with the pay-to-win business model that’s so popular these days.

Apple Arcade games are also available with offline play, so even if you’re gaming throughout an international flight, you won’t miss a beat.

We’ll have much more coverage about Apple Arcade, including hands-on reviews of the most popular games on the service in the days and week ahead.

Xbox and Playstation controller support

iOS has long supported third-party MFi controllers like the SteelSeries Nimbus, but if we’re being honest, these options have always been inferior to mainline controllers from Sony and Microsoft.

Beginning with iOS 13, users will be able to wirelessly connect an Xbox One or Dual Shock 4 PS4 controller to an iOS 13 device for superior control. With the launch of Apple Arcade, the timing for such a decision couldn’t have been better and shows that Apple truly gets that the controller is an instrumental part of what makes for a good gaming experience.

Mail app updates

The Mail app gets lots of new updates, but the new Format bar and new desktop-class text formatting are the standout features. The new format bar, which conveniently appears above the iOS keyboard, provides all sorts of formatting and attachment tools, including the ability to scan, insert media, attachments, or drawings.

Desktop-class text formatting adds tools that allow users to compose professional-looking email using a variety of font, size, styles, and color options. Users can also insert bulleted or numbered lists, change indenting and outdenting, and adjust alignment.

Files app enhancements

One of the biggest new features to come to the Files app — iCloud Drive folder sharing — has been removed from iOS 13, and instead will appear in the future iOS 13.1 update launching at the end of the month. However, there’s still quite a bit to appreciate about the updated Files app.

iPadOS 13, in particular, with its new column view, benefits from the new Files app enhancements. But the added metadata options can be enjoyed on the smaller screen as well. There’s also the ability to wirelessly access SMB shared storage and access media directly from a portable drive or SD card.

The files app can also, for the first time, allow users to zip and unzip files, and create folders on your iPhone’s local storage. On top of all that, in accordance with the new Safari download feature, there’s a new downloads folder that gives you a place to access your downloads from Safari and attachments from Mail.

9to5Mac’s Take

iOS 13 might be headlined by Dark Mode, but in reality, that feature is just the very start of a massive new update for the iPhone. Not only will iOS 13 offer many new compelling features like advanced photo and video editing, huge privacy improvements, a much-needed Reminders refresh, and rebuilt maps, but it also addresses the low hanging fruit that have proved to create annoyances over the years, such as a revised volume HUD, cursor navigation, and Safari downloads.

But it’s important to keep in mind that iOS 13 does all of this, without slowing down your iPhone. In fact, following in the footsteps of its direct predecessor, iOS 12, this latest update actually makes unlocking your phone faster, and launching apps faster.

Of course, iOS 13 isn’t perfect. For one, key features like iCloud Drive folder sharing, and a new Image Capture API for third-party apps (among other things), have been omitted from the initial release. Then there is the fact that iOS 13, at least in my experience, while good, doesn’t seem as rock-solid as iOS 12 was when it first debuted. The good news is that iOS 13.1 is right around the corner, and it will bring additional features to the table, while hopefully improving on overall stability.

Will you be updating to iOS 13? What are your favorite new features and changes? Sound off down below in the comments section with your thoughts, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for additional videos in the coming days and weeks.

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Avatar for Jeff Benjamin Jeff Benjamin

Jeff produces videos, walkthroughs, how-tos, written tutorials and reviews. He takes pride in being able to explain things in a simple, clear and concise manner.