iOS 13: release date, features and beta that will change your iPhone

New iOS 13 features are poised to change your iPhone software, according to Apple at its WWDC 2019 keynote today, and the first iOS 13 beta launches today. 

This year is a bit different, as iOS 13 for iPad will actually be called iPadOS and boast exclusive perks not available on the iPhone. We'll list the features for both here.

iOS 13 Dark Mode is the change everyone is hyped about because the long-awaited UI tweak will allow you to turn down the lights on bright white screen backgrounds.

But there are so many iOS 13 features we're pouring over, and we'll update this page over the next 24 hours to tell you all about them.

iOS 13 release date schedule

  • Today, Monday, June 3: iOS 13 beta 1 and first look at WWDC 2019
  • July: iOS 13 public beta will launch for adventurous testers
  • Early September 2019: iOS 13 Golden Master (final dev beta)
  • Mid-September 2019: iOS 13 likely to launch with new 2019 iPhones

We've mapped out an iOS 13 beta timeline, from beta 1 to the final version of the software, and it all begins with a first look at the update today, Monday, June 3. We had this date pinned down months ago, long before we got our WWDC invite.

1. iOS 13 developer beta: The first iOS 13 beta is available right now, but it's going to be restricted to paid Apple developers. You should probably wait for the public beta, which is always more stable, or upgrade to the beta on a non-primary device.

2. iOS 13 public beta: This is Apple's way of testing features on a larger scale, and that will roll out in July – last year the iOS public beta release date was June 25, so it's a bit later in 2019. It'll be worth the wait. It's typically a more refined version of the iOS developer beta, although it can still be rough, and never includes all of the features implemented in the final version of the software.

3. iOS 13 golden master: This will be the final version of the iOS 13 software, released one week before the final release, meant for developers and public beta testers. At this point it's very stable and gives app makers seven days to adapt to the final software.

4. The official iOS 13 release date: We'll get the new iOS 13 software in its final, stable form about one week after the next iPhone launch event, what we're calling iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Max and iPhone 11 XR at the moment. The date? Probably mid-September (last year it was September 17).

iOS 13 compatibility list

  • iOS 13 requires iPhone 6S or later, iPad Air 2 or later, the new iPad mini 4 and iPhone SE
  • It won't be coming to several older devices: iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air, iPad mini 2 and mini 3

iOS 13 compatibility requires an iPhone or iPad from the last four years (depending on the device category). That means phones like the iPhone 6 won't be getting iOS 13 – if you've got one of those devices you'll be stuck with iOS 12.

Which devices will iOS 13 be compatible with? (Image credit: Apple)

You'll need an iPhone 6S or later, the iPad Air 2 or later, and the new iPad mini 4 or iPod touch 7th generation. The iPhone SE fits into an odd category, as it has iPhone 6 era specs, but came out after the iPhone 6S. Don't worry, everyone's favorite little iPhone will still get iOS 13.

Interestingly, the iPad mini 4 (with iPadOS) and iPod Touch 7th generation are the only devices of their class that get iOS 13 support.

iOS 13 Dark Mode

  • Overdue Dark Mode is coming to iOS 13 and iPadOS
  • We saw macOS get a system-wide Dark Mode in 2018
  • Shortcut to black-and-dark-gray UI will live in Control Center

Dark Mode in iOS 13 is going to be system-wide, meaning it'll change the hues from bright white and light grey to black and dark gray.

That's going to be a nice feature when you're using your iPhone at night and want to avoid bright hues. It may also save on battery life on newer OLED-equipped iPhones. Apple didn't talk about this, but OLED displays (essentially) 'turn off' pixels when showing display.

Turning on iOS 13 Dark Mode can be done in Control Center, according to Apple, or you can set it automatically to turn on at night. Night Shift finally gets a companion.

iOS 13 is called iPadOS on the iPad

Some of the biggest changes we expected for iOS 13 on the iPad is actually coming in an update called iPadOS. Apple is signaling that the iPad needs its own platform.

That means big changes for your iPad workflow. As expected, the new iPad update is going to let you stray from the app tile grid with Pinned Widgets. As we predicted in our prior iOS 13 rumors hub, these widgets come from the Today View screen (that left-mode screen on your iPhone and iPad). 

Slide Over lets you have multiple apps open, letting you drag and drop into the slide over bar, giving you a quick look at one app on top of another. You can drag up from bottom to move between apps in a slide over gesture.

Split View has been enhanced to let you open an app on both sides of the screen (it wasn't possible before) and pair the same app, so Safari can be paired with Pages in one space and Safari can be paired with Mail in another, says Apple. 

App Expose is new to the iPad software, letting you see all of the space you have open. There's an App Expose icon on the Dock, requiring only a single press to get into the convenient overview mode.

New copy, paste and undo gestures are coming to iPadOS. Three fingers scrunched down was shown to copy text, three fingers expanding (in the opposite direction) put dropped the text on the page, and sliding three fingers across the screen undid the last action. We'll have to see how this performs when the software lands. 

Apple's keyboard can float around the screen in a smaller form, and it's debuting a swiping gesture keyboard, which is calls QuickPath Typing. There are also more keyboard shortcuts (a complaint we had about previous iOS versions).

There are actually too many iPadOS changes to detail here in the iOS 13 explainer, so we've split that into its own section.

iOS 13 debuts new 'Find My' app

Apple is combining Find My Friends and Find My iPhone in iOS 13, and the union lets you locate your friends and missing gadgets with a faster, easier-to-use interface.

What's really neat is that it'll use a crowd-sourced encrypted Bluetooth signal to help you track down devices that are not connected to Wi-Fi or cellular. That's mostly a big help for Macs, but it could also help with an iPhone in rare cases, too.

iOS 13 will make your old iPhone twice as fast

More people are holding onto their iPhones for longer, and that's something Apple seems to recognize – and the company is speeding up iOS 13 to accommodate.

The most important iOS 13 stats: app launch speed is up to twice as fast, according to Apple and Face ID unlocking will be 30% faster than before. Apple found a way to make app downloads smaller, up to 60% on average.

iOS 12 gave us a faster update, and iOS 13 looks to build upon that.

Camera and Portrait Mode changes

The iOS 13 is going to offer important changes, starting with allowing you to change the intensity of light in Portrait Mode. That's something we've wanted for a while. Portrait mode is also getting a new monochromatic effect called High‑Key Mono.

The Photos is becoming what Apple called “a diary of your life” with a brand new tab designed to document your best photos by day, month and year. You'll also have more pinch controls to zoom in and zoom out of the Photos gallery.

Photo editing is refined with iOS 13, adding adjustment controls and filters, while the video editing portion mirrors this almost entirely: nearly every tool and effect –  including filters, rotating and cropping – will make it over to the video. If you're not good at tinkering with video, there'll even be an 'Auto' adjustment button. 

New Siri voice sounds more natural

There's a new Siri voice debuting with iOS 13 and it sounds more natural than before – we've heard a sample and the tone is the same, but it sounds less robotic now. 

It uses advanced neural text‑to‑speech technology, according to Apple. Particularly, you'll notice this when Siri says longer phrases, like reading the Apple News aloud or answering knowledge questions.

Good timing, because Siri can do a lot more talking to do if you wear AirPods – Siri can read incoming messages and pipe them through the buds, which is convenient. 

One more new Siri perk: your voice assistant on HomePod will understand the voices of the various family members in your home. This should mean saying “What's on my Calendar?” won't bring up someone else's irrelevant information.

Memoji makeup comes to iOS 13

Memoji is being enhanced for iOS 13 with makeup teeth with braces, earrings, eye shadow, and so forth – and, of course, an assortment of new glasses. There are even AirPods.

You'll be able to share your personalized Memoji with contacts through iMessages. Your contacts can see your Memoji, but only when you grant access.

Memoji sticker packs are coming to the system keyboard, so you can send them to friends without acting like a puppet. Best of all, if you don't have a newer iPhone with a 3D TrueDepth camera, you can still customize and send Memoji stickers.

New HomePod features

You might not know this, but the HomePod is part of the iOS family, and it's getting updates too.

First, you'll be able to transfer songs from your iPhone by simply holding your phone closer to the HomePod speaker. Before iOS 13, you had to tell Siri to do this, but now this hand-off feature is a bit easier, and you don't have to talk to do it.

The HomePod will also introduce Live Radio – ask Siri to play 100,000 stations from all around the world. And HomePod will allow you to recognize who in your family is talking, and personalize the response. Great with Apple Music – based on your taste and history. It goes beyond Music, Messages, Notes, Reminders, and more. 

with Apple

Apple is taking on Facebook Connect, Google and other platforms that allow you to conveniently sign in to third-party accounts. Sign-in with Apple is poised to protect your privacy more than Facebook and Google do.

What's neat is that if you don't want to fork over your email to an app developer or website, Apple will actually create a unique random email for you, and the email will be unique to that site or app.

Reminders and Maps get revamped

Apple has redesigned Reminders from the ground up. Just type what you want and Reminders will know when and where to notify you. Smart lists help you keep track of your most important items.

iOS 13 Maps looks better, even if everyone likes to hate on it. Will it ever be better than Google Maps? No, probably not. But for people who want Apple's pre-loaded maps app on iOS 13, it'll be much better.

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