I’ve been using the developer beta of iOS 13 for a few weeks now and I have to say I’m impressed. In fact, this is probably the most impressed I had been with an iOS update since iOS 7 back in 2013.
I think a lot of us in the tech sphere felt like Apple lost its way a bit over the past few years. That’s not to say any of the major software releases were terrible; it’s just that they weren’t as exciting — and were often riddled with questionable design choices. I’m happy to report this release so far feels very Apple-y again. It’s focused, consistent, and adds tons of improvements to both form and function.
Interestingly enough, I’m finding that the improvements that have boosted the overall experience the most are the ones that few people seem to be discussing. There are small, but important new features or changes I’m now using daily and can’t imagine living without; take a look at just a handful.
Apple boasted about how the plethora of new photo-editing features in iOS 13 would also be coming to video, but one tops them all. I’ve been hoping for the ability to crop video to any aspect ratio for years now, and it’s finally here.
For better or for worse, the world has shifted toward vertical video because of how snugly it fits on our smartphones. Up until now, saving a video in anything other than 16:9 aspect ratio required pro software or hard-to-find third-party apps.
With iOS 13, tapping Edit on any video in your Photos app allows you to choose a standard aspect ratio or set your own. This makes for effortlessly posting longer, portrait-style videos on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to gain more visibility in the feed. Social media managers should jump on this, but really so should anyone looking to promote their content more on social media.
It always felt odd to me how editing photos got so powerful on iOS over the years, but video essentially just had a trimming feature. The feature parity in iOS 13 is more than welcome, especially for cropping.
Also read: Apple AirPods 2: Are they worth it?
Automatic Hiding of Duplicate Photos
Long overdue, but grateful it’s finally here — duplicate photos don’t show up by default in Photos! The redesigned app gorgeously displays photos in a timeline view that automatically tucks away photos that look similar, so you’re not scrolling endlessly through the same content. Of course, if you want to see the extra copies, you can select All Photos. It makes for much cleaner browsing.
Now all I ask of Apple is to separate my images downloaded from the web.
Immersive Music Lyrics
Apple made a big deal on stage at WWDC this year about how music lyrics now sync along with where you are in the song. That’s definitely awesome to have baked into the Music app, but can we talk about the visuals for a second? Tapping the Lyrics button in Music transforms the whole app into virtually a lava lamp of album art. It pulls primary colours from the album artwork and creates this gorgeous abstract motion behind the lyrics on screen. I find myself getting lost in these visuals instead of the lyrics.
My only gripe — why is this not on all the time by default, Apple? Switching off lyrics and going back to the bland black-and-white player is so jarring and uninspiring. The stunning animation should always be present, maybe with just options to disable it in Accessibility or for Low Power Mode. Music ultimately comes to life in iOS 13 thanks to this unspoken new feature.
Sharing ETA in Maps
Sharing your ETA is another thoughtful feature I’ve been waiting for years to show up in iOS. I really thought Shortcuts in iOS 12 would solve all my problems by somehow allowing me to create a “Share My ETA” shortcut, but alas, it did not. It only went as far as being able to share how long it’ll take you to get home.
Now, sharing your estimated time of arrival is built right into the Maps app. When you’re using turn-by-turn GPS to get somewhere, you can tap the Share ETA button and choose a contact so they can receive live updates on where you are and approximately when you’ll get where you’re going. Not only is this just convenient to quickly be able to communicate, but it dramatically discourages texting while driving. One tap on Share ETA, another tap on the contact, and you’ve said all you need to tell them.
If you have a CarPlay-enabled vehicle, the CarPlay redesign in iOS 13 is a game changer. The new dashboard can show your turn-by-turn directions, music controls, and upcoming calendar events (plus incoming notifications) all at once. No need to switch between apps while driving.
Plus, design-wise, CarPlay finally feels up to speed. Even in iOS 12, the design language felt very stuck in the iOS 7 days, and I’m happy to see bolder text and more clearly defined buttons and objects.
Design Consistency and Attention to Detail
Hands down my favourite part of iOS 13 isn’t one single feature, but it’s a promising return to form. For as long as Apple has been in the game, the company has been known for its striking design and attention to detail. But a lot of developers, enthusiasts, and regular consumers alike have noticed a decline over the past few years.
For instance, iOS 7 was a dramatic shift to extreme minimalism: thin lines, white space, light text. iOS 13, while still using iOS 7’s design at its core, now embraces bolder fonts, rounded buttons, and more pops of colour. However, in between these two releases has been a ton of inconsistency — some apps embracing this new philosophy, others sticking to the iOS 7 aesthetic, and some feeling awkwardly in between.
Benjamin Mayo wrote an excellent piece on just the Share icons in iOS 11 alone — how ridiculous it was that they looked different in just about every app. Buttons, links, navigation, and menus all started to look different from app to app too. iOS 13 has radically improved this design consistency and the design overall. Photos and Reminders look terrific, and the new share sheet is fantastic.
What’s exciting about this isn’t just the improved look and feel, but what it symbolises as a whole: that Apple is paying close attention again. The details are coming back under the magnifying glass, structure and logic are prominent considerations across the whole OS.
Having used iOS 13 for a few weeks now, it’s the first release in years that feels like a lot of love was poured into it. That’s the type of priceless software improvement that promises a strong future.