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Back in black: Three iOS 13 features that make it more than a regular upgrade

A well-executed dark mode, better privacy features and a killer photo app make Apple’s new iOS 13 upgrade worth having.

The iOS operating system that runs the iPhone was released yesterday and its flagship feature may leave you feeling a little dark. That’s because the new operating system leaves behind the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 5s, which support iOS12 but not the new version.

That’s understandable given that those phones are five years or older, which is a pretty good lifespan for a smartphone. But there’s another reason for dark sentiments – Dark Mode.

Dark mode

 As a fan of the MacOS feature that allows you to give the menus and core apps of Apple’s desktop software a black theme, the application of Dark Mode to the iPhone is welcome indeed. This is one of the better implementations of Dark Mode as it is truly a black theme, rather than the washed-out black-grey some third-party apps have touted as Dark Mode in the past.

Its greatest virtue is that it cuts down on the glare produced by the phone’s screen, which makes it particularly good for navigating your phone at night. It looks great on the iPhone XS OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen, which does a great job of displaying blacks that are truly black.

I have Dark Mode on as default and you can easily toggle between the two settings. You can also set it to switch to Dark Mode from sunset to sunrise – or set your own schedule. You can still enable Night Shift, the iOS mode that adjusts your display colours to show warmer tones after dark, cutting down on the blue light that may disrupt your sleep.

Dark Mode looks great throughout Apple’s own apps, such as Maps, Safari and iTunes. Third-party apps incorporating Dark Mode are starting to appear – Twitter’s native app is one of the first to go dark and it looks pretty good too. I’ve found that moving from the dark theme to a blazing white webpage or document can be quite jarring, so the sooner there are more dark-themed apps and pages, the better. Dark Mode has also recently come to the Android platform with Android 10.

Related articles: Best smartphones 2019 | All the ways to watch the Rugby World Cup 2019

Photos app

 iOS13’s biggest feature upgrade involves the app that generally gets a lot of use on the iPhone - Photos. I myself moved away from Photos years ago in favour of Google Photos which aggregates all my photos together in the Google photo app on the iPhone and offers basic editing functionality. But the new editing features and intuitive way of displaying and sorting your pics in the new Photos app may see me return.

We take so many photos these days, including multiple versions of the same landscape or group of people, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by photos, many of which you don’t want but can’t be bothered deleting. The new Photos takes care of that with a new default mode, which weeds out duplicates and boring shots of receipts or documents. You can still see those photos in All Photos view, but the app does a great job of presenting the best ones, based on an algorithm that analyses the photo’s quality.

You can also view by Month and Year, which nicely groups photos together and within those months and years, into discrete photo events, so it is easier, for instance, to jump to your holiday pics from last September. Video clips, or photos taken with the Live Photo feature, display as little moving videos as you browse your photos, which is pretty cool.

It may seem subtle, but navigating photo apps is ripe for an overhaul and Apple has signalled the way forward. The revamped editing tools give a lot more granularity of detail and control when it comes to things like white balance and intensity.

Sign-in with Apple: I covered the debut of Sign-in with Apple when it was unveiled at Apple’s developer conference a few months back and now the service is available. You’re likely to see the badge appear on apps and websites, which will begin featuring it alongside quick log-in badges from the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Those badges securely authenticate your email and password to log into online services. But they also have the ability to track your movements online. Sign-in with Apple will assure your anonymity by using a randomly generated forwarded email to log into the service on your behalf. This is a great privacy protection measure. Sign In with Apple uses your Apple ID account, taking advantage of the Face ID feature in newer iPhones and Touch ID for fingerprint scanning too. It means Apple now has the quickest and most secure way to sign us into websites now. None of the apps I use the Sign-in with Apple badge today, but expect to see them appear as websites and app makers begin to offer the service.

Other noteworthy improvements

Better maps: The Maps app gets an impressive looking upgrade in iOS13 that includes more 3D features and accurate details, the result of Apple totally rebuilding its mapping app and driving roads in the US to update location information.

Another new feature, similar to Google Streetview, is called Look Around, and gives you an on-the-street view of the area you are looking at in Maps. It seems very well executed. But here’s the catch with the new Maps – those features are rolling out in a staggered release starting with parts of California, then other parts of the US later in the year. It could be a long time before Apple makes the necessary mapping improvements and captures the imagery for Look Around functionality in New Zealand.

Locked-down location: Another great privacy feature built into iOS13 is designed to limit third-party developers’ access to an information source that reveals a lot about you – your location data. There are tighter permissions for allowing apps to use location data and iOS will detect it and alert you, if apps try to access your location while running in the background.

Bottom line: If your iPhone is compatible (see below), an upgrade to iOS13 is well worth it. There have been a few minor bugs reported so far and the Reminders app, a task manager I’ve so far not taken to, has divided people.

But there is plenty to like here just in those three features I mentioned above and much more to boot. The iOS update is now free to download.

I haven’t got my hands on the new iPhone 11 devices yet, but keep an eye on NOTED for a full review in the next week or so.

Which iPhones run iOS13?

iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6S ,iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone SE, iPod touch (seventh generation)

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