iOS 13.6 brings expanded Apple News features and other cool stuff

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Apple News layers on new features in iOS 13.6.
Apple News layers on new features in iOS 13.6.
Photo: Apple

Apple released iOS 13.6 Wednesday, boosting its Apple News offering and bringing other new features to iPhone and iPad.

As expected, the company added audio versions of key stories from Apple News+, the paid version of its news aggregation service. Apple also added a new daily audio show called Apple News Today, which is available in the free version of the Apple News app.

In addition, the company beefed up its list of organizations pumping news content into the service. However, the Apple News audio features will only be available to U.S. users, the company said.

New audio features in Apple News

Cupertino highlighted the new Apple News features in a press release Wednesday.

“Apple News showcases so much great journalism, and we’re excited to help bring it to life in new ways with Apple News+ audio stories and a new daily news show, Apple News Today,” said Lauren Kern, editor-in-chief of Apple News. “We also greatly value our many local news partners — our new local news feature highlights their work for readers who live, and are interested, in those communities.”

Apple said it will produce approximately 20 new audio stories a week for U.S. Apple News+ subscribers. Similar to audio books, these long-form audio stories will be read by pro voice actors. The company will choose stories from high-profile magazines like Esquire, Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair, as well as big newspapers like The Wall Street Journal.

The free Apple News Today audio reports, which sound more like the short daily briefings offered up by numerous news organizations, will be read by Apple News editors.

“Apple News editors and co-hosts Shumita Basu and Duarte Geraldino guide listeners through some of the most fascinating stories in the news — and how the world’s best journalists are covering them,” the company said. “Apple News Today is free to all listeners and available mornings Monday through Friday directly in the News app in the US and in Apple Podcasts.”

To find the new Apple News audio features, look for the new Audio tab at the bottom of the Apple News iOS app. Or, if you use CarPlay, you can access the audio reports in your automobile. Apple says your listening will sync across devices, so you can start on your iPhone and pick up where you left off in your car.

The new Apple News audio reports work with CarPlay, too.
The new audio news reports work with CarPlay, too.
Photo: Apple

New Apple News partners

The company also added “curated local news collections beginning in five cities and regions” — San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, Houston, Los Angeles and New York — and promised to expand into other areas.

“Local news collections in Apple News include coverage of topics most important to local communities, such as sports, dining and restaurants, weather, news and politics, and more, with curation by local Apple News editors as well as personalization for each user,” the company said. Those local news collections will rely on a major newspaper in each area.

After recently losing The New York Times — a major black eye for Apple News+ — the company said it continues to expand its subscription service.

“A subscription to Apple News+ in the US now includes access to The Charlotte Observer, the Idaho Statesman, The Kansas City Star, the Miami Herald, The News & Observer, and The State (Columbia, South Carolina),” the company said. “In Canada, leading French-language newspaper Le Devoir is now available to Apple News+ subscribers, and The Globe and Mail, one of the country’s most prestigious national newspapers, will be available to subscribers later this summer.”

The free Apple News service now reaches “125 million monthly active users in the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada,” the company said. An Apple News+ subscription costs $9.99 per month.

Other new features in iOS 13.6

iOS 13.6 also adds a new symptom-tracking feature to the Health app, which could prove handy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The update also brings the ability to use an iPhone as a car key, a feature that should grow in importance as more automakers adopt the technology. Lastly, it adds the usual “bug fixes and improvements” Apple always includes.

Apple lays out all the additions in the iOS 13.6 release notes:

iOS 13.6 adds support for digital car keys, introduces audio stories in Apple News+ (US only), and contains a new symptoms category in the Health app. This release also includes bug fixes and improvements.

Digital car keys

Unlock, lock, and start your compatible car with your iPhone
Securely remove digital keys from a lost device via iCloud
Share digital keys easily with iMessage
Driver-specific profiles so you can configure shared keys for full-access or restricted driving
Power reserve lets you unlock and start your car for up to five hours after iPhone runs out of battery

Apple News (US only)

  • Audio stories are professionally narrated versions of some of the best reads from Apple News+, selected and produced by the Apple News editors as part of your Apple News+ subscription
  • Apple News Today is a new, free audio briefing on the day’s top stories from the Apple News editors, also available in the Podcasts app
  • A new Audio tab makes it easy to find Apple News Today and Apple News+ audio stories
  • CarPlay allows you to listen to Apple News Today and Apple News+ audio stories while on the road
  • Local news in your Today feed provides extensive coverage of San Francisco, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Houston, and New York City
  • More stories available from local news providers with a subscription to Apple News+
  • Your daily newsletter from Apple News can now be personalized with stories that reflect your interests

Health

  • New category for symptoms in the Health app, including symptoms logged from Cycle Tracking and ECG
  • Ability to log new symptoms, like fever, chills, sore throat or coughing, and share them with third-party apps

This update also includes bug fixes and other improvements.

  • Adds a new setting to choose if updates automatically download to your device when on Wi-Fi
  • Addresses an issue that could cause apps to become unresponsive when syncing data from iCloud Drive
  • Fixes an issue that could cause data roaming to appear to be disabled on eSIM even though it remained active
  • Fixes an issue thats causes some phone calls from Saskatchewan to appear as originating from the United States
  • Addresses an issue that could interrupt audio when making phone calls over Wi-Fi Calling
  • Fixes an issues that prevented some iPhone 6S and iPhone SE devices from registering for Wi-Fi Calling
  • Resolves an issue that could cause the software keyboard to appear unexpectedly when connected to certain third-party hardware keyboards
  • Fixes an issue that could cause Japanese hardware keyboards to be incorrectly mapped as a U.S. keyboard
  • Addresses stability issues when accessing Control Center when Assistive Touch was enabled
  • Provides a mechanism for administrators to specify domains to exclude from traffic carried by always-on VPN connections

Some features may not be available for all regions or on all Apple devices. For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website: https://support.apple.com/kb/HT201222

This story will be updated with additional information.