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Hands-On with iOS 13 Beta

Posted June 4, 2019 | Apple | iOS | iOS 13 | Windows | WWDC

Apple’s latest and greatest version of iOS landed last night. The first ever developer beta of iOS 13 went live last night, and unlike like the previous releases, Apple is making it a little harder for anyone to install the new beta. So unless you are an actual developer with an Apple account, you will find it a little difficult to get your hands on the beta as it comes as an actual iOS build (.ipsw) instead of simply an update profile that you can install to get the new update via an OTA.

Thankfully, I had an Apple developer account and was able to easily install iOS 13 on my iPhone X. It was still a longer process than simply being able to get the update over-the-air, but nonetheless, it’s kind of worth it.

Either way,hHere’s a closer look at some of the new features.

First up, let’s talk about the dark theme. iOS 13’s dark mode is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s been a long time coming. And yes, dark modes aren’t anything new or innovative so don’t bother writing a comment about that before even finishing to read the article. The dark mode on iOS is actually very nicely done, too. All of the Apple apps I checked worked with the dark mode and had a really nice feel to them, with apps like iMessage, Settings, Apple Music, etc. looking absolutely gorgeous with the dark mode on.

Apple lets you schedule the dark mode according to the sunset and sunrise, but you can also set your own schedule which is pretty cool. But if you are a dark mode fan like most of us, you can simply have it on all the time.

There are some areas where the dark mode needs work, or simply doesn’t exist. Some areas of the OS — for example, the AirPods connecting UI still has the light theme — but maybe that’s intentional. The keyboard also doesn’t have a dark mode all the time, and it differs between apps — if you are on an app like WhatsApp, it displays the light theme of the keyboard, and apps like Twitter (with the dark mode) shows the dark mode keyboard. It’s a pretty intuitive experience, but I feel like some users might prefer to have the dark mode keyboard all the time.

Moving on from the dark mode, let’s talk about the new Memoji and Animoji. There are three new Animoji (mouse, octopus, and cow), and loads of new customizations for Memoji. Memoji are the Animoji that you can create yourself, and this year they are getting a bunch of new customizations like new hairstyles, eyeshadows, earrings, etc. And Apple even lets your Memoji now have AirPods which is kind of cool.

Apple is also making these new things called Memoji Stickers that you can use on iMessage and other apps. They work kind of like regular stickers and are simply integrated into the iOS keyboard so you can easily use them on other apps. They don’t have native integration with apps like WhatsApp and Telegram where stickers are supported natively — so instead of being sent as actual stickers on those platforms, the Memoji Stickers get sent as pictures, which is not ideal because most WhatsApp users have their chat pictures set to automatically download, and these stickers could clutter their camera rolls, for example.

Talking about galleries, let’s talk about the new Photos app. Apple always does something new with the Photos app every year, and it’s introducing a new gallery view for the app, along with some new editing features this year. The new Photos view makes it so it’s much easier to look at your photos. And if you are like me and have thousands of photos, that’s going to be particularly useful. The new Photos view organizes photos by year, month, and days — so you can easily view pictures from the different time periods. The views are also contextual, so when you are on the Years view, for example, it will show you pictures you took on a year ago on the same day. That’s a really nice touch.

There’s also a bunch of new photo editing effects as well as new Portrait lighting effects. But more importantly, you can now use the Videos app to rotate videos, crop videos, and more. You can even apply effects to videos now:

And that’s really handy, especially since we had to rely on third-party apps for things like cropping and rotating videos in the past. What’s even handier are the new Control Center enhancements. Apple finally (yes, finally) lets you switch between different Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth devices from the Control Center without having to open the Settings app. And for the first time ever, there’s a new volume control bar that slides in from the left and doesn’t disrupt your viewing at all.

And if that wasn’t handy enough for you, Apple finally includes the ability to swipe and type on the keyboard. It’s calling the experience QuickPath, and it works just like you would expect. This is more of a 2013 feature that’s finally made it to the iPhone, so I guess we are allowed to complain.

Oh, there’s also another 2016/2017 feature on the iPhone: an intelligent sharing sheet. The new share sheet automatically suggests different people you can share things with, but it only seems limited to iMessage. That means when you want to share something, it only shows the conversations from iMessage that you can share to, and not other apps like WhatsApp or Twitter DMs. Classic Apple.

Talking about iMessage, you can now have profile pictures and a default name for yourself for your profile. Much like WhatsApp, you can choose any picture as your profile picture, and you can also use your Memoji or Animoji as your profile picture. iMessage also lets you control who sees your details, so any stranger with your phone number won’t be able to see your profile picture.

Apple’s even introducing an improved search feature for iMessage that lets you quickly find photos, contacts, and links shared within conversations. iMessage’s search feature has been really weak in the past, so it’s nice to see Apple finally make some improvements here.

And lastly: privacy. Along with the new Sign In with Apple feature, Apple is making it much harder for apps to track your location. iOS now gives you the option to give an app the access to your location only once, so it will have to ask you for location access once you reopen the app. That’s really useful for apps like Google Maps or Uber, especially if you are worried that they are tracking your location unnecessarily.

Apple is also taking actions against apps that use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to try and track your location. Now, Apple will ask you for permission to give apps access to data sharing via Bluetooth, which is really useful since some apps do exploit the functionality to track you. And even if you do disable Bluetooth data sharing access for an app, you will continue to be able to use Bluetooth for listening to audio output. So for example, if you decide to disable Spotify’s access to Bluetooth data sharing, you will still be able to listen to music via your Bluetooth earphones.

And that’s really about it. There are a whole lot of new features in iOS 13, and I simply can’t go over all of them. But so far, the first developer beta of iOS 13 has been pretty good. I love the new dark mode and all the tiny new changes across the OS. There’s also been some noticeable improvement in performance, especially for Face ID unlock as my iPhone seems to unlock a lot faster on the iOS 13 beta.

Of course, being a developer beta release, there are a lot of rough edges and it’s not a completely smooth experience at the moment. So if you want a smooth, bug-free experience, you are probably better off waiting for the public beta or the public release later this year.

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