After going hands-on with over 250 new changes and features across both iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, I set out to distill the list down to 13 of my favorite new features. What stands out the most amongst so many changes? Watch our hands-on video walkthrough for the details and be sure to subscribe to 9to5Mac on YouTube for more iOS 13 coverage.
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Enhanced Files app with USB drive and SMB Server support
In iPadOS 13 users now have the ability to connect an external USB-C storage device directly to the iPad Pro, and browse its contents directly from an updated Files app.
The enhanced Files app lets users move content to and from external storage like USB thumb drives, external hard drives, and SD Card readers. External drive connectivity also works via USB-C hubs like this one from HyperDrive.
In beta 2, users can even connect wirelessly via SMB to external storage. SMB connectivity makes it possible to connect wirelessly to a Synology NAS, and access all of that device’s contents directly from the Files app as well.
These enhancements are made even more useful by the updated Column view on iPad Pro, which makes it easier to view high-quality previews and gain quick access expanded metadata.
Video: the best iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 features
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Desktop-class Safari on iPad
Up until iOS 13, websites like Squarespace and Google Docs never worked quite right due to the way that Safari on iOS rendered websites intended for desktop browsers. In iPadOS, Apple fixes this by giving Safari on iPad a desktop user agent by default, among other changes.
The end result is an improved experience that’s optimized for touch input, and scaled for the larger iPad display. The new update also results in smoother scrolling, resulting in a more fluid browsing experience.
One of the biggest complaints about iOS over the years is its inability to download files directly from Safari. Of course, there have been plenty of workarounds for downloading files in the past, but none of those workarounds ever felt satisfactory. In iOS 13 we finally get the ability to download any file directly to the device’s internal storage, iCloud storage, storage providers, or even an external USB device.
Having the ability to download files directly via Safari goes a long way towards removing unnecessary friction previously present in the iOS experience, making it feel more like a desktop computer.
Floating keyboard for iPad
One of the best things about Apple’s smallest tablet, the iPad mini 5 (review), is that it’s much easier to type on given its small form factor and keyboard layout. Larger iPad models have always been more cumbersome to type on due to the large keyboard.
iPadOS looks to solve this issue by presenting users with the option of enabling a floating keyboard that’s similar in size to the keyboard found on an iPhone. The floating keyboard, which can be docked virtually anywhere on the screen, makes typing with one-hand so much easier, and also enables QuickPath swiping for faster typing.
Multitasking on iPadOS 13 got major productivity-focused enhancements that we covered in-depth in our recent iPadOS 50 features video walkthrough. As you’ll come to learn, multitasking gets a lot more powerful and a bit more complex in Apple’s latest iPad software update.
The multitasking improvements include the ability to have multiple Slide Over windows, Split View support that allows you to work with the same app across multiple spaces, along with App Exposé to see all the app windows across spaces that pertain to a single app.
Photos app editing enhancements
Of all of the features in iOS 13, the new Photos app editing enhancements impress me the most. Photo editing gets a huge upgrade in Apple’s latest OS update, thanks to several additional effects and the ability to adjust the intensity of those effects on the fly.
Even more impressive is the fact that virtually all of the photo editing tools and changes apply to videos as well. For the first time in iOS, users now have the ability to crop, rotate, add effects, add filters, change the aspect ratio of videos, and more. Best of all, the changes are non-destructive, allowing the user to revert changes when necessary.
After seemingly endless rumors about its existence, Dark Mode finally makes its highly-anticipated debut in iOS 13. Users can enable Dark Mode via the Settings app, from anywhere using a handy Control Center shortcut, or automatically using time-based triggers.
Dark Mode makes using your device in dark environments much easier on the eyes by making as many on-screen assets as dark as possible. In other words, Dark Mode helps to limit the amount of bright light emitted from the display at any given time, which makes content easier to view in dimly-lit environments.
Most of Apple’s default applications come with Dark Mode support built in, but third-party developers will also be able to take advantage of dark mode when iOS 13 releases to the public later in the fall.
New volume indicator
After years and years of complaints, Apple has finally fixed the volume HUD — one of the biggest small annoyances in iOS.
In previous versions of iOS, the volume HUD would appear in the middle of the display, covering up content in the process. In iOS 13, the volume HUD has been strategically relocated to the side of the display right next to the physical volume buttons on the iPhone. Not only has the indicator moved, but it’s also smaller in size and automatically shrinks down in size to further get out of the way.
Updated Maps app with Look Around
In iOS 13, Apple has begun the process of redesigning the Maps app with more realistic details for roads, beaches, parks, buildings, and more. This is an effort that will continue to roll out throughout the year.
But the Maps app feature that is making the biggest splash is the new Look Around interface, which is Apple’s take on Google’s 360-degree Street View interface. After taking Look Around for a test drive, I can vouch for Apple’s claim that it features smoother and more seamless transitions as you navigate around the 3D space when compared to Street View.
New cut, copy, paste, undo, redo gestures
Shake-to-undo, while still available, has been replaced by a new three-finger-swipe undo gesture. Along with the new method for undoing changes, there are also new cut, copy, paste, and redo gestures that are all performed via simple three-finger gestures.
- Undo: three-finger swipe left
- Redo: three-finger swipe right
- Copy: three-finger pinch in
- Cut: three-finger pinch out in x 2
- Paste: three-finger pinch out
Improved direct cursor control
In iOS 13 you can now grab the cursor and precisely position it anywhere within a text editing field. The cursor in iOS 13 will automatically snap to lines and between words, providing a much-improved experience over iOS 12’s cumbersome magnifying glass direct cursor control paradigm.
Mouse and Controller support
Two new input method options debut on iOS 13 — Xbox One S/PS4 Controller support, and mouse support. Controller support is the more mainline feature, as it allows iOS gamers to control any game with built-in controller support via two of the most popular game controllers currently available.
Mouse support is technically an accessibility enhancement, so Apple isn’t promoting it as a mainstream feature. Nevertheless, it works surprisingly well. Mouse support in iOS 13 features accurate tracking, along with the ability to map a large variety of shortcuts across multiple buttons. With how good it already is, I could see mouse capability gaining mainline support in the future.
New Reminders app
The Reminders app has been completely rebuilt with a modern interface that’s more capable than the previous version of the app. New Smart Lists automatically organize your reminders, while a quick tool bar helps to better categorize individual list items.
Lists themselves feature more customization than before, allowing users to customize the name, choose from over 60 different glyph icons, and select from a dozen colors. The new Reminders app also lets you indent items to create subtasks within lists, while also allowing you to group multiple lists together.
All in all, this is a major update for the Reminders app, and I think it has enough features to where most users will be satisfied by the default app instead of looking for an App Store solution.
From a power-user perspective, these new updates are by far the most impressive updates that we’ve seen over iOS’ storied history. For iPad users especially, iPadOS addresses many of the concerns I expressed in my iPad Pro review from 2018.
Considering that hundreds of new features and changes are included in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, it’s difficult to boil all of the changes down to just a few items, but these are the features that stood out to me the most.
What features do you think are the best in iOS 13 and iPadOS? Sound off down below in the comments with your thoughts and opinions.