Apple's latest iPhone update is out now — here's how to get iOS 13

Key Points
  • Apple just launched iOS 13.
  • It's Apple's big annual software update for the iPhone and works on devices from the iPhone SE and iPhone 6s and newer.
  • Here's some of the new features in iOS 13 and how to download and install it yourself.
iOS 13
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple released its next big iPhone software update on Thursday. It's called iOS 13 and it will bring a lot of new features to your iPhone. It's the same software that ships on Apple's new iPhones, which arrive in stores on Friday.

Don't worry: Apple didn't change so much that it'll make using your iPhone feel too much different.

Dark mode on an iPhone with the iOS 13 beta
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Instead, it added new features that continue to build on what you're already familiar with. There's dark mode, for example, which you can turn on or off (or schedule to turn on automatically at night), that's easier on your eyes at night. It also just looks cooler than the bright theme you might be used to.

My favorite feature is the new Photos app. It really brings a lot of your camera roll of pictures to life. Live photos and videos animate in a new "Days" tab, for example, but you can also now easily sort by month or year to quickly find life highlights. Videos or panoramas, or subjects Apple thinks are important, will pop up as larger thumbnails (as you can see in the picture below.) And speaking of photos, Portrait pictures, the ones that let you blur the background to make it look like it was taken by a professional photographer, now let you adjust the amount of blur in the background, which is perfect if you think Apple's software overdid it.

I love the new photos tab, which brings your pictures and videos to life in your camera roll.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

In tandem with the launch of Apple Arcade, the company's $5/month premium game service that gives you unlimited access to a large library of exclusive games, iOS 13 also supports Bluetooth Xbox One and PS4 controllers. I tested this and loved using it, particularly to stream games from my PlayStation 4. But here I am just playing a game from the App Store on my iPhone with an Xbox One controller:

Play games with a PS4 or Xbox One controller in iOS 13.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Another new feature that's included, but which I haven't tried yet, is called "Sign in with Apple." This will let you automatically sign in to apps using your Apple ID. It's sort of like the option you might already see for signing in with your Facebook or Google account, but Sign in with Apple lets you give the app a random email address so that developers don't have your real one if you don't want them to.

Speaking of security, Apple will also warn you when an app is using your location or Bluetooth, how often it's doing so, and if you want to continue granting that app access. Companies like Facebook are already fighting back.

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple Maps has also been totally redesigned, but that redesign hasn't been completed for the entire U.S. and will roll out over time. You'll see new features like "Collections" that let you store your favorite places, a new feature called "Look Around" that's like Google's Street View (though this isn't everywhere yet, either), real time public transit schedules, flight status information and a new CarPlay interface that looks less cluttered than earlier versions of CarPlay and is easier to navigate.

There's a lot more in iOS 13, like the ability to let Siri read text messages to your AirPods, new Memoji, a built-in swipe keyboard and more. Despite these, you may want to wait until Sept. 24 to update to iOS 13.1, which will fix some early bugs in iOS 13 and add even more features. Still, I've been using iOS 13 for the past several weeks with only a few issues, so you should be safe.

iOS 13 works with all phones newer than the iPhone 6s and iPhone SE as well as 7th generation iPod touch. iPads are also getting an update with lots of these new features, but it's called iPadOS this year.

To update your iPhone to iOS 13, just do this:

  • Plug in your iPhone and connect to Wi-Fi.
  • Open Settings.
  • Tap General.
  • Choose Software Update.

Your iPhone will check for an update and, if it sees it (sometimes it might take a bit if the servers are slammed by other people looking for it), you'll download it.

Apple unveils iOS 13 at WWDC kickoff event
Apple unveils iOS 13 at WWDC kickoff event