As expected, Apple has debuted iOS 13 as one of the main events during today's WWDC Keynote. Describing it as "a huge release packed with lots of capabilities," Craig Federighi, Apple's Senior VP of Software Engineering, quickly went over the improvements being offered by the next major iOS release, trying to hit on the main points while glossing over many of the enhancements for the sake of time. While we'll surely hear more about iOS 13 — and have more to share ourselves — once the first developer beta arrives, read on for all the main features that Apple introduced during today's keynote.
New Dark Mode
Kicking off the announcement with a short video titled iOS now lives in the dark, Federighi offered up a quick preview of the highly anticipated Dark Mode in iOS 13, mostly focusing on how it looks in various apps — News, Calendar, Notes, Messages, Photos, Music, and systemwide areas like the keyboard, share sheet, and notifications.
As predicted, Apple will also be adding some new wallpapers specifically for dark mode, and it even looks like they will dynamically switch between dark and light modes, although it's unclear whether they're single, dynamic wallpapers or whether iOS 13 will simply be pairing up light and dark versions. It's also conceivably possible iOS 13 will allow users to set different wallpapers for each mode.
Big Performance Boost
Over the past few years, Apple has been putting a lot of emphasis on the performance of its iOS updates. In fact, last year's iOS 12 release was almost entirely about performance, with the company's development team skipping most major new features for a year to focus almost exclusively on speeding up iOS and making it more stable on older devices.
Despite a long list of new features, Apple hasn't ignored performance improvements this year either, and promises that iOS 13 will offer 30 percent faster Face ID unlocking and will double-up the speed at which apps launch. The latter will be the result of changing the way apps are packaged on the App Store, which will also result in a reduction in download size of around 50 percent for full apps, and 60 percent for updates. However, because of the need to make changes to the App Store, we're likely not going to see these improvements until iOS 13 launches to the public this fall.
CarPlay looks like it's seriously growing up in iOS 13. Moving away from the monolithic and rather simplistic UI that it's previously offered, the new CarPlay interface will include the ability to display multiple apps and even things like Siri smart suggestions on a single dashboard view. So for example, both maps and music controls can be shown at the same time, and Siri can pop up suggestions for things like prompting you to open your garage door when you get near your home.
The Music app has also gotten a serious redesign that shows off album artwork in a new browsing view and looks much closer to the Apple TV and iPad experience. Spotify and Google Maps fans can also rejoice that Siri is being extended so that you'll be able to use it with other third-party apps while in the car.
Despite breezing through many of the changes coming to iOS 13, Federighi chose to zoom in on some very interesting new privacy improvements that will be coming to iOS 13.
Firstly, Apple is locking down location tracking even tighter than before. A new option will allow users to choose to share their location with an app for only a single request, rather than opening it up more widely. This can be useful when an app just needs to locate a user for a very specific action, such as filling in an address field.
iOS 13 will also be adding alerts to let users now when an app is tracking them in the background, and Apple is also cracking down on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth access to prevent apps from trying to sneak in their own location tracking features that bypass iOS' own security and privacy restrictions.
Apple is also adding a new privacy-focused Sign in with Apple feature as a replacement for the more invasive Facebook and Google sign-ins. Apple's solution, which will also leverage Face ID, will not only allow users to sign in to third-party apps and services without revealing any private information, but also allow for selective sharing of email addresses and creation of random, private email addresses for each app. These will not only protect your real identity, but can easily be discarded at any time.
We've already heard that Apple is redesigning the Reminders app in iOS 13, but hadn't heard much other than there will be new ways of organizing and viewing tasks.
Federighi didn't spend much time on Reminders, but the bullet-list of features he quickly covered sounds like there are some other more interesting and cool changes coming, including natural language input for creating new tasks with a quick-type bar that can automatically add locations and even attachments. It also looks like you'll able to associate to-dos with top-level reminders for building hierarchical lists, and create smart lists to group reminders based on various criteria.
One particularly cool integration is that you'll now be able to tag your contacts in individual tasks, in which case you'll get notified in Messages when you happen to be talking to somebody for whom you have a pending reminder.
New Swipe Keyboard
It's been a long time coming, but iOS 13 will finally include the ability to type via swipe gestures on the built-in system keyboard. Apple opened iOS up to third-party keyboards a couple of years ago, so users can already get this capability by installing a keyboard like Swype, but having it in the built-in system keyboard will be nice for those users who would prefer to just stick with the basics (or are especially privacy conscious).
Photos & Camera
Almost every new version of iOS in the past few years has rolled out new camera and photo management features, and iOS 13 is no exception. Apple will be enhancing portrait lighting, taking it to a new level with the ability to now actually adjust the virtual lighting distance as you could in a lighting studio — even after the photo has been taken. This uses the same kind of advanced machine learning as the rest of Apple's Portrait Lighting features, and is adapted to work uniquely for each style of portrait lighting.
What's perhaps most interesting about this is that it appears that it will be available to all of the current devices that support Portrait Lighting, rather than being something Apple is saving for its 2019 iPhone lineup. That said, it's almost certain that we'll hear about other new photo features in September, especially with a triple-lens iPhone expected to debut.
Brand new photo editing experience
iOS 13 also makes some pretty big changes to the editor in the Photos app, providing a new view of adjustments and allowing them to be easily made with tap-and-drag gestures. There's also a whole slew of new effects, and all of these editing features are coming to video for the first time.
In the past, if you wanted to do something even as basic as rotating a video, you had to resort to using an app like iMovie. Now in iOS 13, not only will you be able to rotate videos, but you'll be able to apply effects and filters.
New way of browsing and experiencing photos
Apple is also redesigning the photo browsing experience in iOS 13 to make it easier to see your best photos. At a basic level, machine learning will be used to hide duplicates and other clutter such as screenshots and document snapshots, while new year, month, and day views will provide a dynamic diary of your life.
Using machine learning, browsing in one of these views will organize the most significant events from each period into relevant, context-aware highlights. For example, during someone's birthday, browsing back through time will surface more photos of that person, while by contrast if you're attending an event like WWDC, you'll see more photos of that from your past.
The Health app is gaining new machine learning support that will provide new summary and highlight views to help surface important information in the app, based on what it thinks will be most relevant and interesting to the user at any particular time.
Apple Watch users are also gaining new hearing monitoring features and a cycle tracking app for women, which will of course sync to the Health app in iOS 13. In the case of the Cycles app, however, this will also be available natively on iOS 13 without the need for an Apple Watch.
Look Around With Maps
We've known for over a year now that Apple is working on a massive overhaul to Apple Maps, and Federighi explained how Apple has outfitted hundreds of airplanes and cars with custom sensors and LIDAR and driven over four million miles to collect mapping data. Apple's mapping vehicles have been spotted at various places around the U.S., and most recently rolling around neighbourhoods in Canada.
It looks like Apple will finally be able to start incorporating all of this new data in iOS 13, with the entire U.S. expected to be covered by the end of 2019, and other countries — presumably including Canada — to follow next year.
Most significantly, Apple is also rolling out its own answer to Google's Street View. Federighi and other presenters pointedly avoided the use of that term — Apple's new feature is called "Look Around" — but there's no doubt that it's basically an improved version of Street View. In addition to offering smoother and more realistic scrolling, places will be identified by icons and names, and users can tap on any location to bring up an overlay window with more details.
Apple Maps in iOS 13 will also allow users to create collections of their favourite places in whatever way suits their fancy, whether it's restaurants to visit, or places to go on vacation, or simply a list of errands to run. Collections can also be shared with friends.
iOS 13 will also add new navigation and sharing features, including the ability to share a trip in progress, including a real-time ETA, with other Apple Maps users.
Messages & Memoji
While there doesn't appear to be any huge improvements coming to Messages itself this year, one notable new feature is that users will now be able to send their name and photo along when initiating new conversations, kind of like having an iMessage profile. This will be done with complete privacy — there's no "directory" of iMessage users here, and the info will only be shared when you send somebody an iMessage.
Apple's personalized Emoji service is getting a big boost, however, expanding the options available for decorating yourself. There will be new makeup options and new accessories — you can even have your Memoji sport a set of AirPods.
More significantly, however, each time you create a new Memoji, iOS 13 will automatically generate a sticker pack of that emoji, and not only can these be used as iMessage stickers in conversations, but they'll also be added to the system Emoji keyboard, so they can be included in other apps like Mail, WeChat, and more.
Another area in which Apple is working to double-down on user privacy is HomeKit, and this year's release of iOS 13 will provide more security for HomeKit-enabled video cameras, with on-device video analysis and secure, end-to-end encrypted iCloud storage used to save and sync home camera videos.
Apple will be offering storage of up to 10 days of video clips from a single camera in iCloud for free — without counting it against the user's storage — while those with higher-tiered iCloud accounts will be provided with more storage and support for more cameras.
Apple is also partnering with router manufacturers to release HomeKit Enabled Routers, with the goal of providing a firewall for third-party in-home accessories to protect against the attacks and compromises that are common with many IoT devices that use their own online services in addition to HomeKit.
Apple only added "Hey Siri" support to the AirPods a couple of months ago, but now iOS 13 will take it a step further by allowing users to listen to and respond to incoming messages without requiring any other interaction. Presumably enabled as an option, incoming messages will be read back automatically, and users will be able to reply directly with their voice.
Apple is also adding Audio Sharing in iOS 13, and while Federighi didn't elaborate on the feature, it sounds like it will be as simple as tapping two iPhones together to allow users to listen to the same music or podcast through their own individual AirPods. It's unclear if this is the dual-Bluetooth support that's rumoured to be coming; rumours have suggested that's an iPhone 11 feature, but since it technically only requires Bluetooth 5.0, it's certainly possible for Apple to add it as part of iOS 13.
HomePod is getting some big changes in iOS 13 as well. Handoff support will allow you to seamlessly transition music, podcasts, or even a phone call between from your iPhone to your HomePod when you arrive home, or from your HomePod over to your iPhone when you leave home.
Siri on HomePod will also gain the ability to recognize family members, personalizing responses based on each person's own profile. This will not only allow for things like messages, reminders, and calendar appointments to be personalized, but also ensure that Apple Music listening history and tastes are individualized — HomePod will be able to recognize who is speaking to it and use that person's Apple Music library.
Siri Shortcuts are going to be built into iOS 13, rather than downloaded as a separate app, and the new version of the app is going to be considerably better at getting new users up and running with shortcuts. Suggested automations will be offered to help users get started at building shortcuts for commonly identified actions.
Siri is also getting some significant voice improvements. Using a new feature known as Neural TTS, Siri's new voice is going to be entirely generated by software, rather than by piecing together word fragments, resulting in a much smoother and more natural cadence. This will especially be noticeable with longer sentences.