- iOS 13 will be announced at WWDC on 3 June 2019
- The final release will happen in September, alongside new iPhones
- The design will include a new Dark Mode
- New features will include a swipe keyboard and the ability for an iPad to act as a Mac screen
- iPhone 5s and iPad mini 2 are unlikely to be supported; iPhone 6 could miss out too
iOS 13, the next major update to Apple's mobile operating system, will be unveiled at WWDC 2019 in less than a month, then released in the autumn. Wondering what changes this free software update will bring to your iPhone and iPad? You've come to the right place.
In this article we round up all the latest news and leaks about iOS 13's release date, new features and design changes (including Dark Mode, at long last). We also predict which iPhones and iPad will be able to run the software - one prediction suggests a nasty surprise is coming for owners of the iPhone 6 and iPad Air... although that refers to the old Air, not the one that just came out.
Apple has officially revealed the dates of its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), so we now know when we'll be getting our first look at iOS 13. It's set to begin on 3 June in San Jose; a press conference on that day will show off iOS 13's new features.
Apple's big yearly iOS updates happen on a predictable schedule, so we're reasonably sure about the following timeline.
- 3 Jun 2019: Apple announces and demonstrates iOS 13 at WWDC 2019
- 3 Jun 2019: Straight after the demo, an iOS 13 beta is released - but this is for app developers only
- Jul 2019: A public beta is rolled out, available for everyone who signs up (here's how to install an iOS beta)
- Jul-Aug 2019: A series of updated betas roll out, each coming closer to the final version
- Sep 2019: The final public version of iOS 13.0 is released
Apple will then continue updating iOS 13 and releasing smaller point updates, such as iOS 13.1, through the rest of 2019 and into 2020. Mostly these point updates consist of tweaks and security patches, but occasionally a relatively major feature is added in this way.
Which devices will be compatible with iOS 13?
Our prediction is that the iPhone 5s and iPad mini 2 won't be supported in the iOS 13 update, while the iPhone SE probably will. But which other iPads and iPhones will be able to run iOS 13?
Here's the list of devices that can currently run iOS 12.
- iPad Pro (10.5), iPad Pro (11), iPad Pro (12.9, 2017 and 2018)
- iPad 2017, iPad 2018, iPad Air (2019)
- iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4, iPad mini (2019)
- iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X/XS/XS Max/XR
- iPod touch (sixth generation)
That's basically the same as the iOS 11 list a year before, with some new products added on the end. Apple hasn't dropped support for any old devices for a while now, which makes us nervous for the iPhone 5s and iPad mini 2 owners: those probably won't get support for iOS 13.
And rumours suggest Apple may be even more ruthless than that. The (French-language) site iphonesoft.fr, citing "a developer friend at Apple and who works in particular on the Apps Plans", predicts that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will also be dropped from the list, along with the iPhone SE and old iPad Air (from 2013).
Going even further is a highly contentious report by the (Hebrew-language) site the Verifier. It reckons the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, the iPad mini 2 and 3, and the sixth-gen iPod touch will all miss out, and that even the iPhone SE, 6s and 6s Plus and the iPad mini 4 have "question marks".
At its most extreme, this prediction would leave us with the following paltry list of compatible devices:
- iPad Pro (10.5), iPad Pro (11), iPad Pro (12.9, 2017 and 2018)
- iPad 2017, iPad 2018, iPad Air (2019)
- iPad mini (2019)
- iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X/XS/XS Max/XR
...plus whatever new iPhones and iPads come out between now and the autumn. Bear in mind that the Verifier does not say what its source is, and we frankly do not believe Apple would be this brutal.
What will the next version of iOS be called?
Just plain iOS 13. It's understood that the update is codenamed 'Yukon' but that's just an internal designation - to Apple users it will only ever be branded as iOS 13.
If you're interested, we're told that iOS 14 is codenamed 'Azul'.
New features coming in iOS 13
What can you expect from iOS 13? We're hopeful that, when it comes to new features, 13 will be a lucky number for iPhone and iPad owners.
Reports indicate that a number of planned features were pushed back from the iOS 12 update to iOS 13. This was so that the firm could implement the stability improvements and bug fixes that were the priority for iOS 12.
In fairly general terms, Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman has discussed some expected features of what he calls 'Yukon', the codename for the 2019 update. He says Files will get a revamp, and there will tabs in apps, two screens of the same app side by side, and updates related to the Apple Pencil.
Somewhat. iOS 13 “Yukon” will have a big iPad-focused feature upgrade as well, including an updated Files app. some other things in the works are tabs in apps like in MacOS, same app side by side, Apple Pencil stuff. The home screen redesign is iPad focused.— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) May 4, 2018
Most intriguingly, Gurman points to a redesign of the home screen, focused on the iPad. This ties in with an earlier prediction by Axios that "a refresh of the home screen" had been pushed back to 2019.
Here are some more details of the features we're expecting and hoping for in iOS 13.
Citing "people familiar with the development of the operating system", 9to5Mac says our long nightmare of not having an iPhone Dark Mode is almost over.
"There will be a system-wide Dark Mode that can be enabled in Settings," the site predicts, "including a high contrast version, similar to what's already available on macOS."
This is backed up by a Bloomberg report from May 2019, which predicts "a black and grey-heavy interface optimised for viewing at night that can be enabled in Control Centre".
A standardised undo gesture
Dark Mode is the Holy Grail, but 9to5Mac's sources don't stop there. We should also expect a new standardised undo gesture in iOS 13, they say - one that no longer involves physically shaking the device.
The gesture starts, the site predicts, as a three-finger tap on the keyboard area; once you've instigated this, "sliding left and right allows the user to undo and redo actions interactively".
Bloomberg's May 2019 report points to a new user-friendly option that lets you use your iDevice as a second Mac screen. The site adds that you'll get "the ability to draw with an Apple Pencil, expand the viewing area, and get Mac notifications".
Max Weinbach, a usually Android-focused writer, says Apple is going to remove what he calls the volume HUD (or head-up display, meaning a visualisation which is superimposed over something you were already looking at). He refers to this as Apple "finally fixing their software", which is quite contentious.
So just got some amazing news...— Max Weinbach (@mweinbachXDA) February 19, 2019
In iOS 13 the volume HUD is gone! Apple is finally fixing their software!
It's also supposed to be ground breaking but whatever.
At the moment pressing the volume up or down buttons causes a small superimposed popup to appear in the centre of your iPhone's screen, and this remains there for as long as you adjust the volume and for a few seconds after that - there is no cancel button and you can't swipe it away. Some users find this behaviour quite annoying.
So removing the 'HUD' in iOS 13 would please at least some people, but it raises the question of how Apple would present this information instead. Would the HUD be an optional feature toggled in Settings? Would a small volume bar be shown at the top of the screen, or would it simply be swipable? Or would we not get any visual information about volume at all?
These questions have not so far been answered in the sometimes argumentative replies to the above tweet, so we eagerly await further information. Weinbach cites "multiple sources" for the prediction, but they remain anonymous so it's hard to rate their credibility.
Take a holiday from your alarm
Here's a simple concept from our wishlist. We've seen no evidence that this is coming, but it amazes us that it wasn't added to iOS a long time ago. (It's not in vanilla Android either, although a simplified version is available in some custom UIs, such as Xiaomi's MIUI.)
When an iPhone owner takes time off work, the natural thing is to change the wake and sleep times in Bedtime (or turn it off entirely) so you can have a lie-in. But when you go back to work two weeks later, it's easy to forget that you need to turn the alarm on again.
What we propose is the option to turn off (or 'snooze') Bedtime for a specified period, with a start and stop date. In MIUI you can turn off an alarm for one day and it will come back on again the day after, but for this to apply to holidays you really need to allow longer snoozes of at least a week.
Siri got some important updates in iOS 12, most notably the new appearance of Siri shortcuts. But after apparently expanding its Siri team (according to a Fortune report there were 161 openings relating to Siri in April) and hiring Google's former AI boss, we think still more improvements are on the way.
A patent application, for example, indicates that a future update to Siri could offer users a way of personalising the response to a call that can't be taken.
Currently if the phone rings you can choose to answer or reject it, but in the future it may be possible to automatically send a text message to the caller, explaining the reason for the call being declined. The patent application details an "Intelligent Digital Assistant for Declining an Incoming Call" (via Apple Insider).
If the user had CarPlay integration in their car, they would be able to see multiple message options, including the details of their location if they were driving home, as shown in the image below.
Bloomberg thinks that there will be new features for snoozing notifications in the next version of iOS.
We hope that there will be more options. Currently we are limited to 5 minutes, an hour, or tomorrow, but how about the option to remind us in a week, or on a particular day or time.
Improved Emoji search
Jeremy Burge, the creator of World Emoji Day, has called for Apple to improve emoji search. In his blog he explains how bad it is currently.
If you were trying to search for the emoji shown below left, for example, and you typed plate or knife into the emoji search bar, you wouldn't see it as an option, even though it clearly contains those things. You specifically need to search for fork or dinner.
The name given to the emoji is fork and knife with plate, so it's not clear why the words knife and plate weren't associated with it.
Burge also points to the woman with a raised hand - you won't find that emoji if you type raised, although raising will work. This is because Apple calls that emoji "Happy woman raising one hand".
With Burge's findings in mind, it certainly looks like it might be time for Apple to make emoji search smarter.
Multiple user accounts
The iPhone might be overwhelmingly a personal device but many iPads are not; some performing a second duty as child pacifier, others being shared with house guests or used by multiple members of staff in retail. And iOS users have been asking for user accounts for years.
New Messages features
A Bloomberg report refers to improvements to Apple's social features that are designed to "more effectively connect users with their contacts". Apple wants to offer a means to consolidate communications between users into single panels. For example, two friends could be able to see all text messages, e-mails, and social network interactions between each other in a single window, according to Bloomberg's source.
We'd like to see support for read receipts in group iMessages - a feature available in WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
The P9 is one of a number of Huawei phones to offer a feature called Wi-Fi+ (or Wi-Fi+ 2.0). This encompasses a number of elements, such as the prioritisation of stronger connections, but the one we like best is its ability to automatically turn Wi-Fi on or off depending on your location. It remembers the location of known networks and activates in order to join them, but when you leave the area it turns Wi-Fi off to save battery.
Given the iPhones' recent difficulty competing on battery life with the top-end Android devices, something along these lines would be a fine addition to iOS 13.
Ability to change video resolution in-app
All currently available iPhones can record video in full 4K resolution at 30fps, as well as the standard 1080p at 60fps or 30fps. The only issue we have is that there is no easy way to change between the resolutions from within the Camera app, and we have to exit the app, head to Settings > Camera to be able to change it.
Certain situations, such as filming in low light, require a lower frame rate (fewer frames = more light captured) and changing it manually takes around 10-15 seconds, which isn't ideal. We would love a way to quickly change the resolution and frame rate, possibly by tapping an icon in the Camera app. It's a simple change to make and would be largely appreciated by those that like to capture video on their iPhones.
While we're on the subject of photography, it would be nice if Apple allowed us to take and store photos in RAW format.
View Favourites in Contacts app
Another fairly simple change we'd like to see made in iOS 13 is the ability to view and edit the list of favourites, currently only found in the Phone app. It makes sense to be able to access your favourite contacts from within the Contacts app, and we're not quite sure why Apple hasn't yet added this functionality. Sometimes we want easy access to our contacts for other reasons, not just for calling!
Contact Availability Status
Apple has filed a patent that could be summarised as a system that detects where your friends are, and whether they're available and the operating status of their iPhone (such as silent or Airplane mode), and presents that information in the Contacts app.
The patent shows that Apple is considering a new feature that would enable iPhone users to view at a glance whether their contacts are available for a conversation, and where they are.
The abstract of the patent reads:
"A command is received at an operating system of a first mobile phone for displaying the contact information of a remote user having a mobile phone number of a second mobile phone. In response to the command, a request is transmitted to a remote server from the first mobile phone over a cellular network requesting an operating status of the second mobile phone.
"The operating status of the second mobile phone is received from the remote server over the cellular network. The operating status of the second mobile phone is displayed on a display of the first mobile phone as a part of contact information of the remote user associated with the second mobile phone, where the operating status includes current locality of the second mobile phone."
Which sounds complicated, but can be further summarised as a system that detects where your friends are, and whether they're available and the operating status of their iPhone (such as silent or Airplane mode), and presents that information in the Contacts app. If you're thinking that has the whiff of surveillance about it - well, it does, but only to the same extent as Find My Friends, and it would presumably be optional for both parties.
Finger-detecting dynamic keyboard
Apple has been granted a patent covering dynamic keyboard positioning on touchscreens, whereby the individual keys are placed in response to the detected position of the user's fingertips.
United States Patent 9,489,086, entitled Finger hover detection for improved typing, describes a concept whereby typing "is improved by dynamically and automatically positioning the desired home-row keys of an onscreen keyboard below the user's fingers while their fingers are hovering above the surface, thus reducing the need for the user to look at the onscreen keyboard while typing".
We wouldn't be surprised if the concept appears in the system-wide keyboard (albeit presumably as an option) in a future update of iOS, although it appears to be targeted at tablets only. This wouldn't be the first iOS feature to be restricted to iPad use, of course: the most famous example is probably the split-screen viewing modes added to the iPad with the launch of iOS 9.
While the granted patent was published in November 2016, this is in effect a ratification of Apple's acquisition of the patent when it bought Typesoft Technologies back in September 2014; Typesoft's Dryft virtual keyboard uses a similar principle in an effort to enable touchscreen touch-typing.
Finally, and quite aptly if we've got this right, there appears to be a typo in the introduction specifically where the patent is talking about making typos.
"While there have been numerous proposals for disambiguating error-prone user input," reads the last sentence of the introduction, "many such proposals rely heavily on linguistic context and are unable to resolve interchangeable alternatives (e.g., where a user strikes ambiguously between keys T and 'o' followed by 'n' leaving uncertainty whether "in" or "on" was intended)." (Surely that's meant to be 'i' and 'o', rather than T and 'o'? Although we are happy to be corrected.)
Bloomberg (citing "people familiar with the plans") reports that Apple is testing a new keyboard configuration for iOS 13. This will, the site claims, allow users "to swipe across letters on the keyboard in one motion to type out words". It sounds a lot like SwiftKey, but would be a great option to have as standard.
Slide to unlock
Does that sound familiar? It should, because it was the way we unlocked iPhones and iPads in iOS 9 and every previous version of iOS and iPhone OS. In its most recent incarnation, it looked a bit like the one on the left below:
In iOS 10 Apple got rid of slide to unlock, changing the interface so you just press the Home button (simultaneously triggering the Touch ID fingerprint scanner on reasonably up to date iDevices, so it made more sense, on the whole). But some people aren't happy about this development, and a petition has been formed to ask for slide to unlock to be brought back.
Will Apple give in to popular pressure (well, relatively popular pressure - there are just 1,549 signatories at time of writing, although we've heard this sentiment quite widely) and bring back slide to unlock? We don't think so. Apple fans have had issues with interfaces before, most controversially with iOS 7, but most of us got used to the new look in time.
Will iOS 13 have mouse support? We sincerely doubt it. But the merger of macOS and iOS is likely to move a little closer with this year's software updates.
You might for example be able to run macOS apps on the iPad and vice versa when it launches in the autumn. At least that's Apple's plan, according to reports from Axios and others.
Back in December 2017 Bloomberg wrote that Apple plans to combine iPhone, iPad and Mac apps as part of a secret project codenamed 'Marzipan'.
Bloomberg's sources said: "Developers will be able to design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it's running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac."
However, a report from Daring Fireball at the end of April 2018 predicted instead that this project will be held back until 2019. John Gruber, basing his comments on "a few things, from first- and second-hand sources. Mostly second-hand, to be honest", said he is "nearly certain this project is not debuting at WWDC 2018 in June, and [doubts] that 2018 was on the table in December. It's a 2019 thing, for macOS 10.15 and iOS 13."
In any case, Apple CEO Tim Cook has quashed the rumours that Apple is planing to unify macOS with iOS, restating his belief that mobile devices and computers should remain separate with their own operating systems.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, following Apple's Education focused event at which the company launched the new iPad, Cook said: "We don't believe in sort of watering down one for the other. Both [The Mac and iPad] are incredible. One of the reasons that both of them are incredible is because we pushed them to do what they do well. And if you begin to merge the two ... you begin to make trade offs and compromises.
"So maybe the company would be more efficient at the end of the day. But that's not what it's about. You know it's about giving people things that they can then use to help them change the world or express their passion or express their creativity. So this merger thing that some folks are fixated on, I don't think that's what users want."
Cosmetic/aesthetic customisation changes
In this infuriatingly intelligent and well-made video, EverythingApplePro proposed a wide range of changes for iOS 11, among them some radical new options for customising the way iOS looks and the way its interface is organised.
They call for dynamic animated app icons, showing for example your current location in the Maps icon and the current weather for Weather; the ability to place icons in any of the free grid slots on the screen rather than having iOS automatically re-sort it to the free slot nearest the top left of the screen; custom system fonts; and a change to the way Reachability works on larger-screen iPhones so that it shrinks the interface down to the size of a smaller phone rather than dragging the whole thing down and hiding many of the icons off the bottom.
We didn't get any of these changes in iOS 11 or 12; maybe iOS 13 will be lucky?
Concept illustrations & leaked screenshots
As iOS 13's launch gets closer, we hope to see leaked screenshots of the pre-release testing versions being tested at Apple HQ. But this far ahead we must make do with concept illustrations: images created by interface designers and other enthusiasts to show what could be done.
Naturally, these shouldn't be taken as evidence of anything more than what some people would like to see.
Our favourite illustrations were posted on Behance by iOS News And More. They envision some major upheavals to the iOS interface, including the removal of app names from the icons on the Home page, a new 'app bar' and the arrival of Split View from the iPad.