The iOS 13 review: Summary

Marc Settle, BBC Academy smartphone journalism specialist

As ever with this review there’s the tricky question of where the line should be drawn between something of particular interest and relevance to mojos, and something that will interest any journalist who uses a phone in their job – or anyone at all. There are so many ways a journalist could be using their device that to a degree this review reflects how I personally use mine. For example, I’m not big on Reminders or Notes so even though they’ve both had an extensive new coat of paint, I can’t really do justice to what these changes are as I can’t realistically compare how they worked before with how they’ll work now in iOS 13.

It is fair to say though that all users - mojos and others – should benefit from some of the more general, system-wide improvements. For example, devices should feel nippier on iOS 13 after Apple adjusted the code so apps, for example, open more quickly. Once developers have updated their apps for iOS 13, users with low capacity devices might be in for a nice surprise as app downloads and app updates should both be a lot smaller, freeing up storage space for other more useful things like recording video.  There’s a system-wide 'Dark mode', where the screen and buttons are – as the name suggests – darker, to ease the strain on both your eyes and the battery.

All of Apple’s apps such as Calendar, Email, App Store and Reminders, can already go into 'Dark mode', but you'll have to wait for developers to update their own apps for you to be able to use it on non-Apple apps.

The difference between dark mode being off and being on in the Email app

Apple is promising new privacy for users with its 'Sign in With Apple' feature, which will mean you’ll have an alternative to signing in to various sites via Google or Facebook. While that can be convenient, the other side of the coin is that you’re giving Google and Facebook a lot of detailed information about your online activity, which they can then use to sell ads to you. The idea of "Sign in With Apple" is that Apple won’t track you but will instead create a unique email address for the sites or apps you want to use; the service will get that email address, and any interactions will be forwarded to your actual email address – which the service or app will never have access to.

And at long last, the obtrusively large volume display, showing whether you’re making audio louder or quieter but obscuring a stupidly large proportion of the video you’re watching, has been replaced with a much more discrete narrow bar.


iOS 12 volume display

iOS 13 volume display


Apple has also made the decision about what to include in this review of iOS 13 slightly more complicated by making the next version of it already available as well. Confused? Let me try to explain. Once the general release of the new version of iOS has happened, there’s usually a gap of a week or two before the first .1 beta appears, correcting any bugs that have since come to light. For example, iOS 12 came out on September 12 2018 and the beta for 12.1 was released on September 18. This time around, the beta of iOS 13.1 is already available to download and test – containing a number of interesting features which aren’t available in iOS 13.0 itself but which were showcased by Apple’s top executives in June 2019 when it was first unveiled. It seems that these features aren’t quite ready and so rather than include them with the general release, they’re being held back until .1, giving Apple coders and other developers more time to beta test them fully.  

Where necessary, then, this review will also flag up some new elements even if they won’t be available in 13.0 but should be in 13.1 which may already be out by the time you read this.

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