Year after year, Apple and Google announce big upgrades for their smartphone operating systems. That means the software that makes your phone tick is about to change — again.
With change comes new things to learn. The annual upgrades, which are free, improve our devices by fixing bugs and strengthening security, but they can be intimidating because every update includes hundreds of new features.
Apple’s iOS 13, the next version of the iPhone operating system, which was unveiled this week, includes new features like a so-called dark mode to make the screen easier on your eyes. And Google’s Android Q, unveiled last month, introduces new gestures for controlling Android phones and some enhancements to safeguard user privacy.
Fortunately we have a few months to prepare: Both upgrades are expected by the fall.
To drill down on the most important changes, I tested an early version of Android Q and got an early look at iOS 13. Here’s what you need to know.
Apple phones, new and old, gain speed
Let’s start with the least flashy yet most important change: speed.
Many of Apple’s iPhones, from the four-year-old iPhone 6S to the latest ones, will become faster with iOS 13. Apple said it made improvements to the operating system that will make apps open up to two times faster. The new software system will also reduce data sizes of apps, which will also increase speeds. App downloads will be 50 percent smaller, and software updates will be 60 percent smaller. For owners of the newer models, the face scanner will unlock the phone about 30 percent faster.
Many apps are designed with white backgrounds, and in some circumstances, this can get tiresome for the eyes. Apple phones and Android devices will both get dark modes, which can be toggled on by tapping on a shortcut. Both versions replace white backgrounds with dark colors, ranging from gray to black, depending on how an app’s interface is layered.
So what’s the point? Dark mode can be beneficial for a number of reasons: It should reduce battery consumption because fewer pixels need to be lit up, and it will make screens easier on the eyes when reading in the dark.
One caveat: While Apple and Google demonstrated their own apps working with dark mode, third-party developers will have to use the companies’ tool kits to enable their apps to work with dark mode. By the time of the operating systems’ release, there will probably be plenty of apps taking advantage of the new mode.
Both systems include privacy enhancements
In tech land, privacy has been the most prominent topic for the last few years, and Apple and Google are promising privacy enhancements in their next mobile operating systems.
Chief among Apple’s new privacy features is Sign In With Apple, a button for using an Apple ID to sign in to iOS apps and websites. It competes with similar tools from Google and Facebook, which let you use your Google or Facebook accounts to log in to different websites and apps.