Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 13.2

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Apple today released iOS 13.2, the second major update to the iOS and iPadOS 13 operating systems. The new software updates come two weeks after the release of iOS/iPadOS 13.1.3 and over a month after the initial release of iOS 13.

If you’re shocked by the speed of Apple’s software update rollout this autumn, you’re not inventing things. iOS 12 didn’t get to 12.2 until March of this year. Only about half of iOS releases ever saw a x.2 version, and most of those were released in December, with only a couple near the end of November. None have been released in October.

I’ve been running the betas and 13.2 feels like the release that iOS 13 should have been. It’s less buggy than the general release — though there are still plenty to go around — but it’s more feature complete. My favourite new thing is Announce Messages with Siri.

If you have a set of AirPods or PowerBeats headphones with an H1 chip, you can now have Siri read incoming messages as they arrive and reply to them immediately — all without going through a whole “Hey, Siri” process. On its surface, this is magic. When it works and it’s in the right place at the right time — say, while I’m walking or cycling, or when I’m expecting a message from someone — it’s really nice to not have to touch my phone, especially when I’m wearing a traditional watch. Even if you’re using an Apple Watch, this feature is quite nice because it means you can be even more selective about what buzzes your wrist.

It lowers the volume of music you’re listening to or pauses your podcast, plays a unique notification chime, and Siri reads the message you’ve received. I still can’t believe the Siri voice is entirely synthetic; it sounds terrific, like having a narrator reading your friend’s incoming messages. Then, you can reply just by speaking, if you want. You don’t need to say “hey, Siri” — you can just talk and it will send it as a reply. If you don’t say anything for a few seconds, your music will fade back or your podcast will resume playing.

A nice touch is that subsequent messages from the same person will be read in a conversational tone, like “Rebecca also says…”. Something I did not expect is that message announcements are limited by length. Messages of over — I think — 256 characters won’t be read in full by Siri; it will only say “a message”.

If you’re popular, I imagine that it could get quite irritating to have your music or podcast constantly interrupted — I wouldn’t know, firsthand. In this feature’s settings — under Siri and Search, then Announce Messages with Siri — you can limit message announcements to just favourites, recents, contacts, or allow Siri to read messages from everyone. You can also add a tile to Control Centre which, when expanded, allows muting for an hour or the rest of the day, in addition to switching it on or off entirely.

This feature isn’t limited to Apple’s Messages app, etiher: third-party developers can support Announce Messages with Siri by adding INSearchForMessagesIntentIdentifier to their app’s notification category.

Announce Messages with Siri is one of the things I was thinking of when I wrote that AirPods feel like the future. It’s such a smart, simple feature that allows you to keep your phone in your pocket or bag, but still get the messages that matter most.

There are loads of new features in 13.2 aside from this: Deep Fusion support for those with an iPhone 11, privacy options for Siri and dictation, support for the new AirPods Pro headphones announced this morning, and new emoji. Good things all around, with one caveat: on my iPhone X, I’ve noticed apps getting booted from memory much sooner than in previous releases, often as soon as I’ve switched to another app. I’m not sure if this bug is present in the release version or if it’s something specific to my phone, but I hope this doesn’t persist.