People whose iPhones or iPads have relatively little free space have long struggled with the fact that iOS likes to download updates so they’ll be ready for installation. “Who wants to wait for a long download?” Apple thought. Unfortunately, lots of people do. The problem is that if you don’t want to update right away, that download consumes precious gigabytes of your free space in the meantime. In iOS 13.6 and iPadOS 13.6, Apple has finally provided a setting you can disable to prevent iOS from downloading updates ahead of time. Find it in Settings > General > Software Update > Customize Automatic Updates, where you can turn off Download iOS Updates to be sure an update won’t chew up your free space. But yes, you do have to update to 13.6 to get it.
Whenever you view a document that’s longer than will fit onscreen, a scroll bar appears (often only if you’re actively scrolling). That’s true whether you’re using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Inside the scroll bar is a control called a scroller that you can drag to scroll more quickly than by swiping or using keyboard keys. But did you know its size and position are useful for orienting yourself within the page? First, the scroller position within the scroll bar reflects how far down the page you are. Second, the size of the scroller indicates what percentage of the page appears onscreen. When you see a large scroller, most of the page is showing. With a small scroller, what you see is only a portion of a longer page. Combine the size and position of the scroller, and you can tell at a glance where in a page you are, and how much is left to read.
(Featured image by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash)
In iOS 13, in what can only have been a prank gone wrong, Apple simplified the message toolbar in Mail, putting the Delete button where the Reply button had been in iOS 12 and leaving a lot of blank space in the toolbar. As millions of users accidentally deleted messages instead of replying, hilarity ensued. (Not really.) In iOS 13.4, Apple has seemingly acknowledged the error of its ways, returning to a four-button toolbar similar to iOS 12’s five-button toolbar and moving the Delete button to the far left of the toolbar where it will be much harder to tap by accident. Upgrade to iOS 13.4 to take advantage of this change.
In your list of conversations in Messages, you probably have lots of people who have generic icons next to their names or numbers. You likely look like that to other people as well, but a new feature in iOS 13 lets you share your preferred name and avatar picture with other iMessage users (blue-bubble friends). In Messages, first tap the ••• button and then Edit Name and Photo. Then, in the activity view that appears, tap Edit under your photo to select a new photo and set your name as you want it. Make sure Name and Photo Sharing is enabled before tapping Done. From now on, for any iMessage conversations, you’ll see a little banner at the top that asks if you want to share your name and photo. Do so and your recipient will get a prompt to replace whatever they’re seeing for you. (And if, as a recipient, you don’t want to accept the new photo, tap the X button at the right of the prompt.)
Historically, picking a new Wi-Fi network has required you to open the Settings app and tap Wi-Fi, forcing you to unlock your iPhone or switch away from what you were doing. In iOS 13, however, Apple added a better way to connect to a new Wi-Fi network. Open Control Center (swipe down from the upper-right corner on an iPhone X or later or an iPad; or up from the bottom on an earlier iPhone), press and hold on the network settings card in the upper-left corner to expand it, and then press and hold on the Wi-Fi icon to reveal a list of Wi-Fi networks. Tap one to switch to it.
In previous versions of iOS, a scroll bar would appear on the right edge of the screen while you were swiping through a long Web page, email message, or document. But the scroller was merely an indicator of where in the page you were and how much content there was (the bigger the scroller, the less content). In iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, however, Apple has made the scroll bar more helpful, and you’ll want to use it to scroll long pages more quickly than you can with swiping. To use the scroll bar, swipe slightly to make it appear, press and hold the scroller, and drag it to scroll. The only hard part is that it can be tricky to grab since it disappears a few seconds after you stop scrolling, and it’s a thin target to hit with a thick finger. But give it a try since it makes scrolling in long pages so much easier.
Does it seem like that red badge on the Settings app indicating that there’s a new iOS 13 or iPadOS 13 update pops up at least once per week? You’re not imagining things—Apple has been frantically squashing bugs in its mobile operating systems since their release in mid-September.
If you haven’t yet upgraded from iOS 12, there’s no harm in waiting until the new year to see if things have settled down. (Well, no harm as long as you don’t receive a pair of Apple’s snazzy new AirPods Pro as a holiday gift, since they work only with devices running at least iOS 13.2, iPadOS 13.2, watchOS 6.1, tvOS 13.2, and macOS Catalina 10.15.1.)
That said, given Apple’s generally reliable record with major iOS updates, many people have upgraded to iOS 13. You shouldn’t feel bad if you have done so, either. Despite Apple’s flurry of bug fix updates, the overall user experience with iOS 13 has been generally acceptable.
Even if you haven’t noticed problems with iOS 13, it is important that you keep installing all these smaller updates, because they fix problems that could be serious. More important yet, if you do have trouble with your iPhone or iPad, and you’re not running the latest version of iOS or iPadOS, updating is the first fix to try.
To hammer home why you should stay up-to-date with iOS releases, here’s a brief timeline of Apple’s fixes so far:
- iOS 13.0 (September 19): This was the initial release of iOS 13 for the iPhone, with oodles of new features… and lots of bugs. Apple promised iOS 13.1 and the first release of iPadOS 13.1 for September 29th, with additional features and bug fixes.
- iOS 13.1 (September 24): After iOS 13.0 received scathing reviews in early iPhone 11 reviews, Apple moved the release date of iOS 13.1 up by five days. It added more features and addressed numerous bugs with Mail, Messages, Reminders, Notes, Apple ID sign-in, the Lock screen, and more.
- iOS 13.1.1 (September 27): This quick Friday release the same week as iOS 13.1 fixed bugs that could prevent an iPhone from restoring from backup, cause batteries to drain too quickly, reduce Siri recognition accuracy, bog down Reminders syncing, and allow third-party keyboard apps to access the Internet without your permission.
- iOS 13.1.2 (September 30): The next Monday brought iOS 13.1.2, which ensured that the progress bar for iCloud backups would disappear after a successful backup, addressed bugs that caused the Camera app and flashlight to fail, and improved the reliability of Bluetooth connections in some vehicles.
- iOS 13.1.3 (October 15): After a two-week breather, this update addressed bugs that could prevent incoming calls from ringing, block meeting invites from opening in Mail, cause incorrect data in Health after daylight saving time changes, prevent apps and voice memos recordings from downloading after restoring from iCloud Backup, stop an Apple Watch from pairing successfully, and cause Bluetooth connection problems with vehicles (again) and hearing aids.
- iOS 13.2 (October 28): With this update, Apple delivered additional promised features, including support for the HomePod, Siri privacy options, HomeKit Secure Video, new emoji, Deep Fusion in the iPhone 11 Camera app, and AirPods Pro support. It also fixed a bug with password autofill in third-party apps, resolved an issue that prevented swipe to go home from working on the iPhone X and later, eliminated a problem that caused saved notes to disappear temporarily, and ensured that manual iCloud backups completed successfully.
- iOS 13.2.1 (October 30): As it turned out, iOS 13.2 could brick HomePods during installation or after a reset. This HomePod-exclusive update fixed that bug.
- iOS 13.2.2 (November 7): This update stomped a big bug that could cause apps to quit unexpectedly in the background, potentially causing data loss and draining the battery more quickly. It also addressed two bugs that could cause an iPhone to lose cellular service.
- iOS 13.2.3 (November 18): This release resolved one bug that could cause searches in Mail, Files, and Notes to fail and another that prevented photos, links, and other attachments from displaying in the Messages detail view. It also addressed problems that could prevent apps from downloading content in the background and prevent Mail from fetching new messages and including and quoting original content when replying.
With luck, you never ran into any of these bugs—they weren’t universal. But the problems were real, and they inconvenienced plenty of people. Just like with vaccinations, staying current with your iOS updates is the best way to keep the bugs at bay.
Social Media: Apple has been squashing bugs in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 left and right, with numerous updates since their September release. If you’ve upgraded already, we recommend that you keep installing maintenance fixes as they come out.
For unknown reasons, Apple redesigned the toolbar in the iOS 13 version of Mail. Such things happen, but this time, Apple made a big mistake and moved Mail’s Trash button to where its Reply button used to be. Lots of people who have become accustomed to tapping Reply are now finding themselves deleting messages inadvertently, since a tap in the same location in iOS 13 deletes the message. It’s hard to retrain muscle memory—the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought—but if you find yourself deleting messages accidentally, you’ll need to slow down and remember to tap the new location of the Reply button.
A small but welcome new feature of iOS 13 is Driving ETA, which helps you share your estimated time of arrival with a contact whenever you’re navigating with the Maps app. To use Driving ETA, start navigating to a destination in Maps, tap Share ETA at the bottom of the screen, and pick the person with whom you want to share your location and arrival time. (You’ll share in Maps with iOS 13 users and via Messages with everyone else.) The other person will receive a notification of your ETA and if you’re delayed, updated times. You do have to start navigation in Maps to use Driving ETA, so it’s a little inconvenient when you already know the route, but it’s a brilliant feature for long-distance trips.
Let’s be honest—text editing in iOS has never been anywhere near as good as it is on the Mac. We may be more accustomed to our mice and keyboards, but the Multi-Touch interface has always been clumsy when it comes to text. Apple keeps trying to improve iOS’s text editing features, and iOS 13 (and iPadOS 13) brings some welcome changes in how we go about positioning the text insertion point, selecting text, and performing the familiar options in the Mac’s Edit menu: Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo/Redo. Has it caught up with the Mac yet? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, once you’ve learned the new techniques.
Note that these changes apply only to spots in iOS where you’re entering and editing text, not selecting and copying static, read-only text such as a Web page in Safari. And even when you are working on a Web page where you can enter and edit text, the site may override iOS’s text handling.
Insertion Point Positioning
Positioning the insertion point on the Mac is easy—you move the cursor to the right spot and click. In previous versions of iOS, you could tap to put the insertion point at the start or end of a word, or press and hold briefly to bring up a magnifying glass that let you put the insertion point anywhere, including within a word. It was slow and awkward, and made better mostly by trackpad mode, which you could invoke by long-pressing the Space bar.
iOS 13 improves positioning by letting you press and hold the insertion point to pick it up and then drag it to where you want it. This approach is much easier and more sensible than the previous method.
On the Mac, you can select text with multiple clicks, by clicking and dragging, or by using the keyboard. In iOS, however, text selection has always been tough—you could double-tap to select a word, but anything else required subsequent moving of start and end markers. (On an iPad with a keyboard, you could hold Shift and use the arrow keys too.)
Happily, iOS 13 improves text selection. To start, you can still double-tap to select a word, but you can also triple-tap to select a sentence (shown below) and even tap four times in quick succession to select an entire paragraph. Unfortunately, these selection shortcuts may not work in all apps, but you can always fall back on the previous approach.
For selections of an arbitrary length, just press, pause ever so briefly to start selecting, and then drag to extend the selection. In other words, it’s as close to the Mac approach as is possible with the Multi-Touch interface. If the selection isn’t quite right, you can adjust the start and end markers.
Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo Gestures
Everyone knows Command-X for Cut, Command-C for Copy, Command-V for Paste, and Command-Z for Undo on the Mac. In previous versions of iOS, those commands were available only from a popover that appeared when text was selected, or (for Paste) when you pressed and held in a text area. The only command with a gesture, so to speak, was Undo. At the risk of dropping it, you could shake your iOS device to undo your last action. Not good.
iOS 13 introduces a variety of three-finger gestures to make these commands quick and easy to invoke. Note that you can use the entire screen for these gestures—it’s OK to make them with one finger over the keyboard.
- Copy: To copy selected text, pinch in with three fingers, or, more likely, your thumb, index finger, and middle finger.
- Cut: To cut (copy and then delete) selected text, perform the copy gesture twice in quick succession.
- Paste: To paste the text you’ve copied at the insertion point, reverse the action—pinching out (spreading) with three fingers.
- Undo: To undo a mistake, immediately swipe left or tap twice with three fingers. You can keep swiping or double-tapping to undo more actions.
- Redo: To redo the action that you just undid, swipe right with three fingers.
Whenever you use one of these gestures, a little feedback badge appears at the top of the screen to reinforce what you just did.
If you can’t remember which direction to pinch or swipe, press and hold with three fingers anywhere for a second to see a shortcut bar at the top of the screen with icons for Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Redo.
Finally, instead of using Cut and Paste to move a swath of selected text, try dragging it to the new position.
Slide to Type
Various third-party keyboards have provided “slide-to-type” over the years, letting you type a word by sliding your finger from letter to letter on the keyboard without lifting it up in between. But switching to a third-party keyboard meant that you often gave up useful other features, like Siri dictation, so most people stuck with Apple’s default keyboard.
On the iPhone, iOS 13 now lets you slide to type on its default keyboard, and it works surprisingly well. In iPadOS 13, slide-to-type works only on the new floating keyboard you can get by pinching with two fingers on the default keyboard (pinch out with two fingers to restore the default keyboard). When you get to the end of a word, lift your finger to insert it, and then start sliding again for the next word. If you make a mistake, the suggestions above the keyboard often provide the word you want. You can switch between tapping (best for unusual words) and sliding on a word-by-word basis.
Make a mistake with sliding? By default, tap Delete after inserting a slide-to-type word to delete the whole word, not just the final letter. If you don’t like that behavior, turn off Delete Slide-to-Type by Word in Settings > General > Keyboard.
Social Media: Today’s article will make text editing in iOS 13 faster and more fun. Read about important new and improved techniques for selecting, copying, and moving text, plus a new slide-to-type option.