Everything we think we know about iOS 13 for iPhone

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We hope iOS 13 looks a lot like this.
We hope iOS 13 looks a lot like this.
Photo: Alvaro Pabesio

The big iOS 13 news is all about the iPad. Or at least, we expect it to be based on rumors and leaks. But what about the iPhone? How will iOS 13 shape up on the most popular of iOS devices? Will it be a dead year, while the iPad gets all the (somewhat overdue) attention? Or will it be just as exciting for iPhone owners?

The good news is, the iOS update will probably be huge overall. In recent years, Apple has managed to lock down the secrecy around software, but this year the rumors — based on purported leaks — abound. That might mean the iOS 13 is bursting with new stuff.

So, let’s take a look.

Dark Mode

An artist’s concept of how dark mode should look in iOS 13.
An artist’s concept of how dark mode should look in iOS 13.
Photo: phoneArena

If this comes to the iPad, then it’s certain it’ll come to the iPhone too. A system-wide dark mode would be fantastic on the iPhone XS’ OLED screen, and would save battery too. I wonder if it will force dark mode on apps that don’t support it, or if it will require updates from developers. If it’s the latter, then this could actually be quite annoying, as your tranquil dark evening iPhone use is interrupted by a glaring, bright white flash.

Also possible is a new Sleep Mode, which will combine Do Not Disturb and Bedtime with the dark mode, automatically making everything less, well, less awake.

Volume Bezel

First, let’s talk about the smallest expected update, but also one which is likely to draw cheers from the nerdy WWDC keynote crowd: a replacement for that ridiculous volume bezel.

It’s annoying on the iPad, but the huge squircle, ported over from the Mac, takes up almost the entire screen on the iPhone. And it takes far too long to fade out: Like when someone sends you a video clip, and you accidentally play it with the volume all the way up, then panic and turn it down, and by then the video clip is over. Good riddance.

USB support

The big hope for iOS 13 is that it adds USB support for external storage to the Files app, and perhaps mouse support too. The iPhone doesn’t share the iPad Pro’s new USB-C port, but that’s fine. Lightning is USB in all but shape. Still, even if the iPad gets external storage support, the iPhone may not.

It would certainly be neat. Being able to grab files from any device using just your iPhone is super-handy, but maybe Apple consider’s it a power feature. I suspect that the iPhone and iPad will diverge quite sharply with iOS 13, with the iPad moving to more of a desktop-style paradigm. That might mean that the iPhone gets left behind with a few pro OS features.

That unlucky name

13 is clearly no more unlucky that 12 or 14, but that doesn’t stop people believing it. People believe all kinds of nonsense. Perhaps Apple will ditch the iOS x numbering scheme for something less numerical, like it did with the Mac Or kind of like it did with the Mac, after OS X 10.10 anyway, where the version numbers finally slipped into the background for most people.

Or perhaps the numbering scheme will remain, and be reset for the iPad. iOS Pro v1, or something (but not actually that, because it’s ridiculous).

Better Mail app

One iOS 13 feature that should make it to both the iPad and the iPhone is an improved Mail app. The Mail app is already pretty good, but the rumors say that it’ll get intelligent organization tools — automatically detecting marketing messages, travel mails, personal email, and so on, plus a read-later queue.

Reminders app

 

Speaking of Apple app, the Reminders app is expected to get a revamp too. The rumors say that your tasks will be separated into categories — scheduled, flagged, and due today. If Apple only makes it easier to add new reminders — currently it takes like a million taps to set a date and an alert — then this will be welcome.

Swipe keyboard

Whenever I see someone use a keyboard like the discontinued Swype, I get a little jealous. It seems so fast and easy. But I also refuse to add Google’s keyboard to my iPhone, because I’m 99% paranoid that it will log everything I type. A better input method for iOS would be very welcome.

Find stuff

The Find my iPhone and Find my Friends apps will probably merge, but more interesting is the rumor that Apple will come up with a Tile-type tracking device. Imagine how powerful that could be. Your Apple Tile would be detected by every one of a hundreds of millions of iPhones on the planet (running iOS 13 anyway), and yet Apple would keep it private. You would never, ever lose anything ever again.

More

Based on the buzz, iOS 13 is shaping up to be the biggest update since iOS 7. The iPad may finally get desktop-class features, but iPhone users are also in for a treat. I can’t wait.