iOS 13 on an iPhone 11 Pro.

iOS 13: The Ars Technica review

Mobile-Technology
Image credit: source

Enlarge / iOS 13 on an iPhone 11 Pro.

Samuel Axon

Last year, Apple set users’ expectations with iOS 12, saying it would be focused on improving performance and fixing bugs and stability issues instead of adding a bunch of new features. And while there were still plenty of bugs over the course of the iOS 12 cycle, performance was improved—particularly on older devices.

Apple hasn’t tempered expectations for iOS 13 this year, so users might be expecting a big leap forward. iOS 13 does bring a new look to the software that runs on iPhones, overhauls a few oft-criticized first-party applications, and puts additional emphasis on user privacy. Most of all, it adds new, powerful interactions for power users—some of which we thought we’d never see in Apple’s mobile software.

iOS 13 is successful at most of what it sets out to do, even though it leaves some things that users have wanted to see overhauled—like the home screen—relatively untouched.

The big story this year is about the iPad. Apple has spun off iOS 13 into a distinct version for iPads, called iPadOS. But that’s not part of the initial iOS 13 release—instead it’s coming several days later, alongside iOS 13.1. For that reason, we’re focusing entirely on the iPhone experience in this initial review, and we’ll address the iPad after iPadOS goes live.

Today, we’ll take a look at Dark Mode on the iPhone, assess Apple’s latest efforts on privacy and augmented reality, and examine the changes to the most overhauled apps, including Maps, Photos, and more. There’s frankly more in this update than we can get to in one article (even though several thousand words await you, dear reader), but we’ve been spending a lot of recent time with iOS 13 in order to thoroughly consider Apple’s most significant changes, like those to Reminders and Files, for example.

We’ll also consider what all these changes mean for the future direction of iOS, which is gradually evolving away from its original philosophy of user experience. There’s a lot to talk about, but let’s start as we always do: with device compatibility.

Table of Contents

Compatibility

Compatibility with older devices was a cornerstone of iOS 12 last year because Apple was trying to fight against consumer perception that it purposely and aggressively ends support for older phones in order to drive new phone purchases.

Truth be told, as was the case with iOS 11 and iOS 12, if you want a phone that will get several years of software support rather than just one or two, the iPhone is the way to go. That hasn’t changed with iOS 13.

iOS 13 drops support for the following iPhone models that were supported by iOS 12: the iPhone 5S, the iPhone 6, and the iPhone 6 Plus. It also ends support for the first iPad Air, the iPad mini 3, and the iPad mini 2. It now supports the somewhat recently released seventh generation iPod touch, but this release drops the sixth generation.

This is a pretty dramatic culling, though it comes a year after iOS 12 did not drop support for any devices at all that were already supported by iOS 11. You can essentially summarize iOS 13’s cuts as Apple declining to support all iOS devices that had only 1 GB of RAM.

Supported iPhone models

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

Supported iPad models

iPads will soon technically run iPadOS, as distinct from iOS. Here’s which models are supported by this year’s software, though:

  • 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

Support iPod models

iOS 13 supports the 7th generation iPod touch.

Devices used in the course of this review

We based most of this review, including the screenshots, on several weeks of using late iOS 13 beta releases and the iOS 13 GM release on an iPhone X, an iPhone XS, an iPhone 8, and over just the past couple days, an iPhone 11 Pro. All testing was done using the GM release of iOS 13, and we verified several things in the final public release after it went live yesterday. We also used an iPhone 6S and iPhone SE to test performance on the lowest-end supported iPhones. We did not test or use iOS 13 on an iPod touch.

Design: Dark Mode, Share Sheets, and more

There has not been a major change to the visual design of iOS since 2013, and in some places it shows. But iOS 13 brings the biggest overhaul on this front since iOS 7. Not all of that is about the new Dark Mode feature, but that’s what many users will see first.

When you first install iOS 13, you’re asked if you want to use Light Dark or Dark Mode. You’re not stuck with your choice, though, as you can change it in the Settings app at any time (or in the Control Center). You reach it in the Control Center the same way you get to Night Mode: you hold down your finger (either with 3D Touch or Haptic Touch, depending on the device you’re using) on the brightness slider to pop up additional options, then toggle from there. You can also assign this setting to a more prominent place in the Control Center if you’d prefer.

It’s easiest to talk about Dark Mode by actually going through some images, though, so let’s do that.

Almost no part of iOS remains untouched by Dark Mode. The only major app exception I found was Weather, which still displays a colored, full-screen image matching the current conditions and time of day.

Other than a few customization options noted in the gallery above, there are no changes in functionality here. Everything is where it used to be; Dark Mode is an aesthetic change. But if you’re in the habit of using your phone in bed late at night while your significant other sleeps next to you, or if you want accurate color and contrast without blinding yourself when walking outside at night, it’s a pleasant addition.

Apple has provided third-party app developers (and Web developers) with the means to automatically enable or disable their own dark modes based on the system-wide status. We’ll have to wait and see how many support it—if some don’t (we’re looking at you, Slack-on-the-Mac-for-the-past-year), you might find yourself suddenly awash in white light at undesirable moments as you switch between apps.

The new share sheet

The share sheet, that standardized pop-up menu that appears when you try to share something from an app or a web page in iOS, was functional in iOS 12, but Apple sought to improve it in a few ways with this release. As with Dark Mode, the best way to get it is to see it.

Many of the things you can do in the share sheet could be done before, but Apple has put options that used to be buried in the Settings app in the options menu here instead, for example. It arguably makes for a more organized share sheet experience, depending on your own personal workflow and habits, but it’s not a game changer by any means.

(Excerpt) Read more Here | 2019-09-20 20:30:00

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