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iOS 13 is available now for your iPhone. Here are its 10 best features

From Dark Mode to amazing Maps to life-changing accessibility features, iOS 13 is Apple’s best iPhone upgrade in years.

iOS 13 is available now for your iPhone. Here are its 10 best features
[Photos: courtesy of Apple]

Earlier this month, Apple introduced its 2019 iPhones. There’s the iPhone 11, which is the successor to the iPhone XR; and the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, which are Apple’s new top-of-the-line smartphones.

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But while the new iPhone 11 series phones do have some incredible features older iPhones will never have, such as the fastest smartphone processors ever and the new U1 chipset, which makes locating everything from devices to people easier, Apple hasn’t forgotten about those of us who are sticking with our older gadgets.

Today, Apple is releasing iOS 13. It’s a free download for every iPhone going all the way back to 2015’s iPhone 6s. iOS 13 is packed with dozens of killer features that will make even your four-year-old iPhone feel like new (or at least newer). Here are the top 10 features of iOS 13, which you can download through your iPhone’s Software Update mechanism for free starting today.

1. Dark Mode

The most noticeable and heavily marketed feature of iOS 13 is the new system-wide Dark Mode. Buttons and other elements that would typically be white or bright will now be black or dark.

[Photos: courtesy of Apple]
There are some people who absolutely love dark modes, which are found on other OSes including MacOS and Android. These people say dark mode is easier on their eyes, and many claim it also saves battery life since the display doesn’t need to shoot as much light through its cells to illuminate elements as it does with lighter themes.

After installing iOS 13 on your iPhone, you can toggle dark mode on or off from Settings > Display & Brightness. There, under “Appearance,” tap “Dark.”

2. Sign in with Apple

Universal logins have been around for at least a decade now. Most people are familiar with them thanks to Facebook and Google, which allow you to log into third-party apps and websites without creating a separate user name and password for those sites. Instead, you can log into the site simply by clicking “Sign in with Facebook” or “Sign in with Google.”

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While these universal login buttons make accessing websites and apps easier, since you don’t need to create individual accounts for them, these login features also allow Google and Facebook to scoop up massive amounts of data about your activities on other sites and apps–and much of your Facebook and Google information can be shared with the sites and apps you log into as well.

That’s where Sign in with Apple comes in. Like Facebook’s and Google’s options, Apple’s universal login allows you to quickly create accounts for and log into apps and websites. The difference is Apple only gives those apps and sites minimum information about you including, if you choose, a randomized email address instead of your real one. And Apple itself won’t track any of your activity on websites and apps you choose to use Sign in with Apple with.

3. New location privacy protections

One of the big new privacy features in iOS 13 is a new Bluetooth permissions setting. You can now block apps from accessing your Bluetooth connection. Why would you want to do this? Because apps don’t just use Bluetooth to connect to wireless accessories such as headphones. Any app can use Bluetooth to track your location as you move around in your daily life. And now Apple is giving users the power to shut that down.

iOS 13 will also send you notifications when an app has been tracking your location in the background, including showing you a map of the locations where the app has been tracking your movements. You can then decide if you want to permit the app to continue tracking your movements or not.

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4. Apple Maps is now a true Google Maps competitor

For years, Apple’s Maps had been distinctly subpar to Google’s. But in iOS 13, that no longer holds true, for the most part. Maps gets a massive overhaul thanks to new vegetation and structural data that surpasses even that of Google Maps. iOS 13’s Maps also gains its own Street View-like feature called “Look Around” that makes Google’s offering look archaic.

5. Siri finds a new voice

Like Maps, Siri doesn’t have the greatest track record of being a standout feature on iOS. Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa generally perform better in many tasks. But Apple is making major strides with Siri in iOS 13. The most impressive improvement is Siri’s new voice, which is now 100% computer-generated instead of using prerecorded audio clips. Check out the video below showing off the difference in Siri’s voice from iOS 12 to iOS 13.

6. Reminders are much more powerful

The built-in app that got the most improvements in iOS 13 is Reminders. The beloved app has been a staple on iOS for years but hasn’t seen many improvements since its launch–until now. In iOS 13, it gets a complete revamp with an all-new interface. But the best feature of the new Reminders app is probably the quick toolbar, which makes it easy to add dates, times, locations, flags, and even attachments now to your reminders. In iOS 13, the Reminders app is now a powerful to-do and productivity tool.

[Photo: courtesy of Apple]

7. Face ID gets a speed boost

Face ID is Apple’s biometric security system on modern iPhones. The feature is included on the iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS series, iPhone 11, and iPhone 11 Pro series. It allows you to unlock your phones, verify purchases, and sign into apps and sites just by looking at your device.

Face ID is one of those things that just make the iPhone feel like magic. It’s also 20 times more secure than Apple’s older Touch ID biometric security system. And in iOS 13, Face ID is getting even better. The technology will now unlock the iPhone 30% faster than before. And nope, you don’t need a new iPhone 11 to get this speed boost. Face ID’s speed enhancement is purely software-based, so any iPhone with Face ID will unlock faster once iOS 13 is installed.

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8. AirPods sharing is great for couples

The hottest accessory Apple has ever made is its AirPods wireless earbuds. You can’t walk 10 feet in a city without seeing the shiny white buds in someone’s ears.

In iOS 13, the AirPods’ capabilities expand. Now two users will be able to connect their AirPods to one iPhone, so both can listen to the same tunes at once. It’s a terrific feature that is sure to be popular with couples, not to mention people using one iPhone on a flight to watch the same video. Do note, however, that while AirPods sharing is a feature of iOS 13, it won’t officially become available until iOS 13.1 ships on September 30th.

9. Voice Control is the accessibility feature that will change lives

Most of us are fortunate enough to take interacting with a touchscreen device for granted. But for people who have physical disabilities, using a touchscreen device can be a major challenge–if it’s possible at all.

That’s why Apple deserves high praise for its new Voice Control feature in iOS 13. The feature allows you to speak to an iPhone rather than touching it. You really need to check out the video below to see just how groundbreaking and powerful it is. Apple obviously put a ton of development resources into this feature–which is admirable, considering that most of the company’s user base will be fortunate enough to never have to turn it on in the first place.

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10. Your notes about contacts are now private

As I’ve written before, the contacts and address book apps on all platforms (MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android) have a major privacy vulnerability. When people give an app access to their contacts, that app gets every bit of information about everyone in their address book–including any personal notes we’ve written about those contacts, like a child’s Social Security number or the password to your home security system.

Apple is finally shutting this vulnerability down in both MacOS Catalina and iOS 13. Now when you give an app permission to access your contacts, that app will no longer have the ability to see the notes you’ve written about those contacts. It’s a major privacy win and something Windows and Android should copy.

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