Apple may not be saving some of the best iOS 13 features for last. Its annual WWDC event sets the stage for more of the new software updates that will come to most iPhones the following fall, but Apple often reserves a few tidbits for the its next iPhone, in this case the iPhone 11, or whatever its marquee phone for 2019 winds up being called. This pattern leaves iPhone fans something to get excited about in the months ahead, especially since iOS 13’s updates, which include dark mode, a keyboard you can swipe to type on, new photo features and customizable Memoji avatars left many Apple watchers feeling lukewarm about the update.
For Apple, iOS13 is more than just a routine software update. It’s part of a bid to hang on to its loyal fan base after slipping from the world’s second-largest phone-maker in 2018 to the third, behind China’s Huawei in second and Samsung in first. iPhone sales have slumped along with the rest of the smartphone market, and Android phones far outnumber iPhones around the world, 86% to 14%, according to IDC. The iOS 13 versus Android battle is crucial for Apple to hope to keep its business strong.
Even without poring over the developer code, there’s plenty of potential software in store that could support an overhauled iPhone 11 design. Although the thoughts below are based on rumors and guesswork, Apple has pulled enough features out of its hat last minute to make the speculation worthwhile. With Apple, anything can happen.
New camera features could step into the light
There’s a rising smartphone trend for cameras with impressive zoom photography. Huawei, Oppo and even Apple archrival Samsung are on the forefront, each with at least three rear lenses that help make zoom shots happen.
Apple doesn’t care about showing up late to the party, but it does care about throwing a better party than everyone else. Rumors point to a three-camera array on the back of the next major iPone, one of them a zoom lens. If that happens, Apple would flip the switch on new iOS 13 software to support it.
At the very least I’d expect see on-screen controls pop between the various zoom levels, and there could potentially be new camera filters to enhance the effect.
iOS 13 is packed with new features
A power-sharing toggle in the Control Center
Samsung’s Galaxy S10 phones can top up other phones — even an iPhone — with a new feature called Wireless Power Share. You turn it on, place a device that’s compatible with wireless charging on the back, and watch it slowly top up until you’re ready to go or until you hit 30% remaining battery. It’s a perfect tool to charge up small accessories without bringing a cable, and it’s one that Apple would be smart to add, especially since it killed its AirPower charging dock. Apple could use this win.
We’d see a power-sharing tool come to the iPhone’s Control Center at the very least, likely with its own separate app to manage power and detailed opt-in settings like “charge only when plugged in.”
Apple could push the software update before selling the iPhone, or it’s possible that if this particular rumor pans out, the code is already in there. (Full disclaimer: I don’t have the developer code, and I couldn’t read it if I did.)
Face ID camera features could go beyond speed
Apple announced that Face ID, the iPhone X family’s secure face unlock software, will work 30% faster than it does now. That might not be all Apple has in store for Face Unlock. An update to Face ID could be even more secure and include new AR capabilities. Apple showed off a demo of Minecraft Earth, a 3D AR world-building game, so we know Apple’s commitment here is rock-solid.
Apple also made a kind of neat AR tool that lets you see its $6,000 Mac Pro and $5,000 Pro Display XDR monitor on your desk — for free — through existing iPhones and iPads.
If the software supporting the selfie camera does create new opportunities for AR apps, Apple could open up software tool kits for the front-facing camera to third-party developers. You might not see much new software in the settings or additional toggle controls, but you would see the result in more apps and tools to use AR in interesting ways. Those APIs would still ultimately be part of the iOS 13 package for app-makers.
More info on dark mode and night time routines
Dark mode is a new tool that makes white screens black and black text white to reduce eye strain. Apple walked us through how the systemwide feature will work with all of Apple’s core apps, but there’s a decent chance we haven’t heard the last of it.
Apple’s emphasis on wellness and digital detox could mean that there are more details to come about maintaining boundaries with phone use and protecting your eyes from too much strain. A new app or setting that Apple wants to unveil specifically for the iPhone 11 — or one that that wasn’t ready yet in the June reveal — could always arrive retroactively to every other iPhone as soon as it’s ready in September.
Dark Mode comes to Apple iOS
Are we done with Siri yet? I hope not
Siri, Apple’s digital assistant, has a new voice! It’s a little less robotic and meant to use AI to sound smoother and less clipped. Although Siri does pick up one or two skills to connect to devices in Apple’s ecosystem, like the HomePod, AirPods and Carplay, Apple didn’t mention many changes to Siri on the iPhone.
Meanwhile, Google has been eating Siri’s breakfast, lunch and dinner for years. Google Assistant has many new voices — including singer John Legend’s — and can make reservations on your behalf. Siri is sadly choking on the dust.
I’d love to see more competition here, and a new iPhone is the time to do it, when attention is focused on splashy new hardware. WWDC gave developers a lot to chew on, but there’s still plenty more to go around.
Touchless gesture support — but not until iOS 14
This rumor feels a bit more like a long shot, especially considering how it failed to catch on with the LG G8 and old Galaxy S phones, but the future iPhone has been rumored to have support for gestures that you make without touching the device — that is, hovering in the air. That’s our best guess, anyway. But the most credible rumor pins this touchless gesture support to 2020, so that means it’s out for iOS 13.
Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Originally published June 6.
Update June 7, June 8, June 9, June 10 at 8: 22 a.m. PT: Adds more context.