iOS 13: new features, release date and should you upgrade

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Unveiled this week, Apple’s new software brings a slew of features to iPhones, including improved Maps, more customisable memoji and swipe typing. And it promises to make your phone faster and last longer too.

This week, we got our first look at the forthcoming iOS 13 software for iPhones.

The good news is that iPhone owners can look forward to a range of welcome new features.

Not least a handy Dark Mode, and clever tweaks to maximise battery life. And a more natural, more useful version of Siri and a much improved take on Apple Maps are coming our way too. 

The bad news? Although it was revealed in full this week, the complete, market-ready, glitch-free version won’t be here for a good few months yet.

Here we’ll be taking a look at what you can expect when it’s finally available, as well as which iPhones are compatible with the new software and when you’ll finally be able to get it.

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Which iPhones will be upgradable to iOS 13?

iPhone XR colours

If you want iOS 13 on your phone, you’ll need an iPhone 6S or later. The full list of compatible iPhones looks like this:

  • iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus
  • iPhone SE

With a focus on stability, last year’s iOS 12 wasn’t the most exciting software update ever. That’s for sure.

But we’re happy to report that iOS 13 is a very different prospect. Here’s a precis of what’s coming our way...

What are iOS 13's key features?

In no particular order, here's what Apple has told us about its forthcoming software so far. We'll know more around the time the iPhone 11 is unveiled in September

Dark Mode

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Too much exposure to bright glare from smartphone screens late at night is proven to keep you awake. Not a great state of affairs when you’re planning to kick the lark out of bed and put in a long shift at work.

To tackle that, Dark Mode turns the background black and grey on compatible apps and does the same for the homescreen and wallpapers.

The result is that it minimises the white and blue light emanating from your screen, which is the cause of smartphone-related insomnia. 

Better still, Dark Mode will minimise eyestrain too. 

Although unconfirmed by Apple, it seems that Dark Mode could also help you eke out your battery a bit longer. That’s because the OLED screens on recent iPhones display black without using any power.

Swipe to type

iOS 13 swipe to type

Even the keyboard has been revamped in iOS 13. With the advent of the QuickPath mode, you’ll be able to swipe between letters without having to remove your finger from the keyboard. 

The QuickPath mode then cleverly recognises the path to form words. The upshot? It’s now much easier to type one-handed.

Of course, so-called swipe-to-type keyboards aren’t new. They’ve been available for iPhones in the form of Swiftkey et al ever since iOS 8 landed back in 2014.

But this is the first time the text input method has been offered on Apple’s official keyboard app.

It makes your phone faster and slows battery deterioration

iOS 13 faster

Perhaps the best thing about iOS 13 is the battery optimisation tool. Assuming it works as billed, that is.

Without getting too technical, IOS 13 will learn your charging routine and then limit the time your phone spends fully charged. It'll only charge to capacity when you really require full power.

In theory, that should actually slow down the rate at which your battery deteriorates.

And we’re in for a speed boost too. According to Apple, iOS 13 will make Face ID on the iPhone XS 30% faster. Apps will launch up to twice as quickly as well.

Memoji are more customisable

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With the advent of iOS 13, you’ll be able to customise your Apple’s animated avatars with make-up, teeth-braces, piercings and even add AirPods. You can change their hair so it more closely resembles your look, to boot.

So-called Memoji Stickers are on the way as well. The big change here is that you can make and share Memoji if you don’t have an iPhone with a TrueDepth camera and you’ll be able to use them in a range of apps.

Siri is more lifelike

The fresh take on Apple’s Siri voice-activated personal assistant now sounds a lot less forced a lot more natural.

Got AirPods? With iOS 13, Siri will be able to read text messages sent to you. And you’ll be able to reply straightaway with your voice.

Apple Maps is getting Street View

ios 13 apple maps streetview

Incredible as it may seem, until now Apple Maps hasn’t had a Google Maps-style Street View feature. Soon enough, though, you’ll finally be able to dive headlong into Apple Maps and take a look around in your location with 360-degree images.

The catch is that we don’t know when it’ll land in the UK. Apple has only confirmed that it’ll be on offer in the US in 2019 and “more countries” in 2020.

More camera features

iOS 13 camera 2

For the first time, iOS 13 will allow you to adjust the lighting in Portrait Mode.

Combine that with the adjustable depth-of-field functionality on newer iPhones and you’ve got a recipe for some very striking selfies.

You’ll also be able to rotate videos, as well as crop them and apply filters directly within the Photos app.

And finally, iOS 13 will intelligently organise and file your snaps so that the best ones are front and centre, while “automatically hiding clutter and similar photos to showcase significant events from the past day, month or year”.

When will iOS 13 be available to download?

If you’re an app developer with a paid developer account with Apple, you can actually get a work-in-progress version right now.

Another trial version of iOS 13 will be available to grab in July, but will be available to anyone, not just developers.

However, the completed edition won’t actually land until a week after the iPhone 11 debuts.

Should you download iOS 13?


Even once the final, market-ready version of iOS 13 lands, we’d actually advise you wait a few weeks before downloading it.

Not least because that way you’ve got a much better chance of avoiding any bugs or glitches that may still be present in new software. Perhaps even more importantly, you'll also know from early-adopters' testimonies whether the software is slowing down older iPhones.

However, if you really can’t wait and want to download the public beta version, go right ahead. But be mindful that apps are likely to crash and it may temporarily make your battery run out much, much faster. 

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