Some of Our Favorite Features of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13

Some of Our Favorite Features of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13

It’s hard to sum up iOS 13’s benefits succinctly because Apple has made so many improvements (we’ll get to what’s cool about iPadOS 13 later in the article). That means there’s something for just about everyone. Here are some of the changes we think you’ll most appreciate.

Better Text Handling

An area in iOS that has long begged for improvement is text handling. Although the familiar approaches still work, you can finally select text by merely tapping and swiping. Double-taps select recognized bits of text like phone numbers and addresses, and triple and quadruple taps select sentences and paragraphs. You can even move the cursor by dragging it into position.

iOS 13 also gains gestures for the familiar Cut, Copy, and Paste commands, along with Undo and Redo. To copy, pinch inward with three fingers; a second three-fingered inward pinch immediately after changes copy to cut. To paste, pinch outward with three fingers. For undo, swipe left with three fingers, whereas redo involves swiping right with three fingers.

Apple enhanced iOS 13’s QuickType keyboard with a feature long offered by independent keyboards: swipe to type. Called QuickPath, the feature lets you swipe your finger from one letter to the next without picking it up. You can switch between swiping and tapping whenever you want. It works only on the iPhone and the iPad’s new floating keyboard.

Close the iPad Bay Doors, Hal

Apple has implemented its new Voice Control system in iOS 13 as well as macOS 10.15 Catalina, and it’s impressive in both. Once you turn it on in Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control, you can use voice commands to switch apps, tap visible controls, and more. Plus, it lets you dictate text without invoking Siri.

The dictation now lets you delete text, replace text, and capitalize words, making it possible to edit what you’ve written without touching the keyboard. Voice Control may sound like it’s aimed at people who have trouble physically using iOS’s Multi-Touch interface, but it could be useful to anyone.

Files from Everywhere

Those who use an iPad for serious work will love the updated Files app, which brings much of the power of the Mac’s Finder to iOS. Most notably, if you have Apple’s Lightning to USB3 Adapter, Files offers support for USB flash drives, SD cards, and hard drives. Plus, Files can also now connect to SMB-based file servers on your local network.

You can create folders on the iOS device’s local drive and store files there, viewing them in grid, list, and column views and sorting by name, date, size, kind, and tags. Files also now lets you zip and unzip files. Oddly, Files also includes a document scanner that can create standalone files of scanned pages.

Dark Mode Migrates from Mojave

If you’re a fan of Dark mode in macOS 10.14 Mojave, you’ll be pleased to know that you can now switch to it in iOS too, or have it kick in only at night. Dark mode might even save some battery power on iPhones with OLED-based screens like the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max.

Photos Bulks Up

Apple added numerous features to Photos, refactoring its interface to match the update in Catalina. It now provides an AI-curated selection of photos displayed by Years, Months, and Days—complete with event titles—plus an All Photos grid that shows everything. Live Photos and videos play automatically (without sound) as you scroll.

Editing has improved significantly, with Photos now offering tools to boost muted colors, sharpen edges, reduce noise, adjust color temperature, increase image clarity, and add vignettes. You can control the intensity of any filter, or of the automatic Enhance adjustments. Plus, nearly all the editing you can apply to a photo, you can use to edit a video, and video edits are now non-destructive.

Apple beefed up the Camera app for recent iPhones, so you can adjust the position and intensity of the studio lighting in Portrait Lighting, and it also gains a new High-Key Mono effect.

Health Adds Cycle Tracking and Fertility

On the iPhone, the Health app at long last gains features related to cycle tracking and fertility. Using data entered or imported from a third-party app, Health can now predict the start and end of a woman’s next three cycles and provide a notification when her period is approaching. Similarly, it can predict fertility windows and pop up an alert when one is approaching. Cycle Tracking, a companion Apple Watch app, will make it easier to log menstruation and symptoms.

iOS 13’s Health app also now tracks headphone audio levels and alerts you if they reach dangerous levels. Another new Apple Watch app—Noise—listens to the ambient sound levels around you and warns you if they’re getting too loud.

Other iOS 13 Features

Those may be the big changes, but we can’t resist sharing some more subtle ones too:

  • Siri’s voice is now generated entirely in software, making it sound more natural, especially while speaking longer phrases.
  • The HomePod can finally recognize different voices, giving everyone in your family personalized experiences.
  • You can set the Phone app to accept only calls from numbers in Contacts, Mail, and Messages, sending all others—and robocalls!—to voicemail.
  • A Low Data Mode helps reduce data usage over the cellular network or specific Wi-Fi networks.
  • You can now pair two sets of AirPods to a single iPhone if you and a friend want to listen to the same movie or music.
  • A new machine-learning option can slow the rate of battery aging by reducing the amount of time your iPhone spends fully charged.
  • Do Not Disturb While Driving will no longer turn on when you’re using public transit.

 

iPadOS 13

Most features of iOS 13 apply to the iPad as well, apart from those that are iPhone-specific, like the Health app. But iPadOS 13 is a superset of iOS 13, so it adds features to the iPad.

It starts with a tighter icon grid on the Home screen to fit more icons, and in landscape orientation, the Home screen can show Today View widgets on the side.

Apple improved the iPad’s multitasking capabilities in iPadOS 13 too. You can have multiple apps in Slide Over—just swipe up to see all of them or swipe along the bottom to switch between them. The big win in Split View in iPadOS 13 is the capability to have multiple windows from the same app open simultaneously, and it’s also now possible to have a window from the same app open in multiple spaces. The updated App Switcher now shows all spaces (Split View combinations) too.

Safari has grown up in iPadOS 13, becoming a desktop-class browser. That means it works better with complex Web apps like Google Docs, Squarespace, and WordPress. It also offers per-site settings, the option to save a set of tabs as bookmarks, a download manager, weak password warnings, and 30 new keyboard shortcuts.

iPadOS 13 works with the new Sidecar feature in Catalina to let you use an iPad as a Mac’s second screen or graphics tablet (with an Apple Pencil). You can use it either to extend your Desktop or to mirror a Mac’s screen, and it works either wired or wireless.

Speaking of the Apple Pencil, Apple has made it more responsive, redesigned the tool palette, and provided a pixel eraser tool. You can also now use an Apple Pencil to take screenshots, and even capture and mark up an entire document, email, or Web page.

Phew! There’s a lot to like in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, but there’s also a lot to learn, so make sure you find some time to incorporate the new features into your usage.

(Featured image by Apple)

Being an Apple User Means You’re Not the Product

There’s an Internet saying: “If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.” The point is that, if you’re getting a service for free, the company providing it sees you not as a customer, but as a product to sell, generally to advertisers.

This is how Google, Facebook, and Twitter operate. They provide services for free, collect data about you, and make money by showing you ads. In theory, the more that advertisers know about you, the better they can target ads to you, and the more likely you’ll be to buy. Personalized advertising can seem creepy (or clueless, when it fails), but it isn’t inherently evil, and we’re not suggesting that you stop using ad-supported services.

This ad-driven approach stands in stark contrast to how Apple does business. Apple makes most of its money by selling hardware—iPhones, Macs, and iPads, primarily. Another big chunk of Apple’s revenue comes from App Store and iTunes Store sales, iCloud subscriptions, and Apple Pay fees. Knowing more about you, what Web pages you visit, what you buy, and who you’re friends with doesn’t help Apple’s business, and on its Privacy page, Apple says bluntly, “We believe privacy is a fundamental human right.”

Of course, once your data is out there, it can be lost or stolen—in June 2018, a security researcher discovered that the online data broker Exactis was exposing a database containing 340 million records of data on hundreds of millions of American adults. Ouch!

Let’s look at a few of the ways that Apple protects your privacy.

Siri and Dictation

The longer you use Siri and Dictation, the better they work, thanks to your devices transmitting data back to Apple for analysis. However, Apple creates a random identifier for your data rather than associating the information with your Apple ID, and if you reset Siri by turning it off and back on, you’ll get a new random identifier. Whenever possible, Apple keeps Siri functionality on your device, so if you search for a photo by location or get suggestions after a search, those results come from local data only.

Touch ID and Face ID

When you register your fingerprints with Touch ID or train Face ID to recognize your face, it’s reasonable to worry about that information being stored where attackers—or some government agency—could access it and use it for nefarious purposes. Apple was concerned about that too, so these systems don’t store images of your fingerprints or face, but instead mathematical signatures based on them. Those signatures are kept only locally, in the Secure Enclave security coprocessor that’s part of the CPU of the iPhone and iPad—and on Touch ID-equipped laptops—in such a way that the images can’t be reverse engineered from the signatures.

And, of course, a major goal of Touch ID and Face ID is to prevent someone from violating your privacy by accessing your device directly.

Health and Fitness

People with medical conditions can be concerned about health information impacting health insurance bills or a potential employer’s hiring decision. To assuage that worry, Apple lets you choose what information ends up in Health app, and once it’s there, encrypts it whenever your iPhone is locked. Plus, any Health data that’s backed up to iCloud is encrypted both in transit and when it’s stored on Apple’s servers.

App Store Guidelines

A linchpin in Apple’s approach to privacy is its control over the App Store. Since developers must submit apps to Apple for approval, Apple can enforce stringent guidelines that specify how apps can ask for access to your data (location, photos, contacts, etc.). This isn’t a blanket protection—for instance, if you allow a social media app Facebook to access your contacts and location, the company behind that app will get lots of data on your whereabouts and can even cross-reference that with the locations of everyone in your contact list who also uses the service.

In the end, only you can decide how much information you want to share with the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and only you can determine if or when their use of your details feels like an invasion of privacy. But by using Apple products and services, you can be certain that the company that could know more about you than any other is actively trying to protect your privacy.

iOS 11.3 Introduces New Battery Health Feature, Business Chat, & More

At the end of March, Apple released updates to all four of its operating systems, but iOS 11.3 was the most notable. It boasts a variety of new features and other changes—you can think of it as the midpoint update between iOS 11’s first release and iOS 12, probably coming next September. All remaining updates to iOS 11 are likely to be minor maintenance updates. Here’s what’s new.

iPhone Battery Health

The most anticipated change is the Battery Health feature that Apple promised to add in the wake of revelations that the company was quietly reducing the performance of older iPhone models (starting with the iPhone 6) to lessen the chance of unexpected shutdowns with weak batteries. You find the new Battery Health screen in Settings > Battery > Battery Health, and Apple explains it in detail here.

If your iPhone battery is aging, you may see a lower maximum capacity, and if your iPhone has shut down because of a weak battery, the screen will tell you that performance management has been applied. You can disable performance management, if you prefer the iPhone shutting down to degraded performance, but it will turn on again the next time your iPhone shuts down. Finally, if your battery is bad enough, the screen will recommend replacement.

Also note that iPads running iOS 11.3 can better maintain battery health when they’re plugged into power for long periods of time. Be sure to upgrade if you have an iPad that stays plugged in all the time.

Business Chat

New in both iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 High Sierra is Business Chat, an Apple service that lets you chat with participating companies directly within Messages. If you look up one of these companies in Maps, Safari, or Search/Spotlight and see a Messages button, just use it to start a conversation. Only you can start conversations, and Business Chat can be a fast way to ask questions, get support, schedule appointments, and even make purchases using Apple Pay.

Apple’s launch partners are 1-800-Flowers, Ameritrade, Discover, Hilton, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Marriott, Newegg, and Wells Fargo, although not all of them seemed to be active out of the gate. And, of course, you can use Business Chat with Apple itself.

Health Records

Most people won’t be able to take advantage of iOS 11.3’s next new feature—medical records in the Health app—right away, but we have high hopes for it. Apple has partnered with over 40 healthcare systems to bring your medical records into the Health app, centralizing them and making them easier for both you and healthcare professionals to access. The records include lab results, medications, conditions, and more. Health Records data is encrypted and protected with a passcode so it remains private.

Data & Privacy

We haven’t yet seen this, but Apple says that iOS 11.3 (and macOS 10.13.4) will display a new privacy icon whenever Apple asks for access to personal information, as it might do to “enable features, secure Apple services or personalize an iOS experience.” The icon should be accompanied by detailed privacy information explaining the situation. In an era when every company seems hell-bent on collecting and exploiting our personal data, it’s nice to see Apple increasing the transparency of its data collection practices.

Safari

iOS 11.3 tweaks Safari in several small ways that make it easier to use and more secure:

  • Autofill now inserts usernames and passwords only after you select them on Web pages.
  • Autofill now works in Web views within other iOS apps.
  • Safari warns you when you interact with password or credit card forms on non-encrypted pages.
  • Safari now formats shared articles sent via Mail as though they were in Reader mode.
  • Favorites folders now show icons for the contained bookmarks.

Other Improvements

Apple made lots of other minor improvements in iOS 11.3. You can see a full list in the release notes, but those that we find most noteworthy include:

  • iPhone X users get access to four new animoji: a lion, dragon, skull, and bear.
  • iOS 11.3 adds support for the Advanced Mobile Location (AML) standard, which provides more accurate location data to emergency responders when Emergency SOS is triggered.
  • Podcasts now plays episodes with a single tap, and you can tap Details to learn more about episodes.
  • Apple Music now streams music videos uninterrupted by ads.
  • Apple News has improved its Top Stories feature and includes a new Video group in the For You collection.

iOS 11.3’s improvements may not change the way you use your iPhone or iPad, but they’re welcome nonetheless, and Business Chat and Health Records should become more interesting as additional institutions sign on. And, of course, anyone with an older iPhone should check the Battery Health screen right away.

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