3 New Features to Keep in Mind When Building Apps for iOS 13

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Every year since the iPhone’s debut, Apple has progressively updated the software that their phones run on with significant new features and improvements. This year is no different and starting today, people will be able to upgrade their phones to the latest and greatest iPhone operating system, iOS 13.

While the release of a new operating system for iPhones is great for users, it also means that there are a lot of new things that we as app builders need to be thinking about as we build new mobile products and update our already released ones. We’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the changes and upgrades that have been made in iOS 13 already so that we can utilize all the great new features as best we can.

We wanted to share our thoughts on three significant changes that we believe every iOS developer and their teams should be thinking about with today’s release of iOS 13.

Dark Mode

Dark mode is probably one of the most anticipated changes for users everywhere. Some apps previously implemented this feature on their own, but now iOS 13 will allow users to turn on a Dark Mode across their entire system. We’re big fans of this function, but it also means a bit more planning and design efforts need to go into the apps we build so that they will still look and feel great in dark or regular mode.

iOS 13 Dark Mode
Image via Apple.ca

If you haven’t built a dark mode design into your app, the iPhone will now automatically generate a dark version of your app’s interface. If your app is only using iOS 13 UI components, then you should have nothing to worry about as Apple has made sure all of those components will seamlessly transition between light and dark and still look good. However, if you’ve app is completely or even partially custom-built, it’s going to require some work on your end to make sure that everything looks as good in dark mode as it does for the regular mode you already built. Thankfully, app makers can disable dark mode for their apps until you’ve had time to make the necessary changes.

What you should be thinking about:

  • Designers now need to think about how the app will look in both light and dark modes. This may mean needing to create two versions of every screen so that your app will always look amazing, no matter which mode a user chooses. 
  • Developers need to be aware that using system colours can result in behaviours which dark mode changes.
  • Also, don’t forget to disable dark mode for your app if you haven’t made proper dark designs or used iOS 13 components until you’ve made those changes. Otherwise, the phone will try to make your app dark on its own, and you’ll have no control over how that turns out.

Location Services

If you’ve seen an Apple commercial, keynote event, or Tim Cook in the media recently, you know that Apple is making a big push to help its customers take more control of their online privacy. One way they have done this in iOS 13 is by changing the way that users can control their location information on an app-by-app basis.

Moving forward, users can decide if they want to grant an app the ability to use their location only once, only while the app is open, or always (but this option is now more complicated to offer). With iOS 13, when an app that requires location services first opens users will see a prompt where they can “allow once”, “allow when using app”, or “don’t allow”. Notice that there is no “allow always” option anymore.

The “always allow” option can still be activated inside the phone’s settings on an app-by-app basis, but that could be a pain for average users to figure out. Thankfully, we also learned and confirmed through Gimbal that, “If the user continues to use the app, iOS 13 will now automatically and periodically prompt [them] to upgrade location permissions from “While Using” to “Always Allow.” So the feature is not gone, it just makes the user really consider if they want to grant an app that kind of access before they do.

Image via Gimbal.com

What you should be thinking about:

  • Understand what these new permission changes mean for your app and how users might choose to grant you access. As well, if you build apps for clients, make sure that they understand these changes too.
  • Developers need to ensure that an app will work appropriately if a user selects “Allow once”, “allow while open”, or “always allow”.
  • If you are updating your already existing apps, take extra care of ensuring the app will function if it is expecting to have “always on” permission and no longer has it.
  • Ensure that paths for all permission permutations make sense in the app.

Apple Login

Another significant feature that Apple has created to help its customers take control of their privacy and security has to do with how users sign into apps on iOS. This one is especially important for app builders to think about as Apple will eventually make this a mandatory function for most apps that require users to login using any other third-party logins (such as the often seen “log in using your Facebook account” and similar prompts), so it’s best to start thinking about it now.

Image via TechCrunch

From a user’s privacy point-of-view, this is a pretty cool new function as people may not always want to share what they do in other apps with companies like Facebook and who have been known to have security breaches in the past, while still allowing them to sign in quickly and easily with the click of a button. Users can also use this new functionality to decide if they want to share their email address with the app maker, and if they choose no, Apple will create a disposable email address that will route emails to their real address while still keeping it private from the developer.

So what information will an app maker get if the user chooses to log in using the new Apple Login function? According to TechCrunch, “The developer only receives the user’s name associated with their Apple ID, the user’s verified email address — or the random email address that routes email to their inbox, while protecting their privacy — and a unique stable identifier that allows them to set up the user’s account in their system.”

What you should be thinking about:

  • Understand what this means if collecting user data, from email addresses to the detailed information you had been able to get from third-party logins like Facebook, will mean for your app’s functionality and/or your overall business.
  • Developers need to be sure that signing in with Apple will work with any backend authentication you have already built or will be building. This includes both visually and in your data layer.
  • Designers need to account for a new “Sign in with Apple” button to be added into the mix of login screens.

As with every operating system update, there are tonnes of changes that need to be understood and thought about to ensure that your app is the best it possibly can be, but I hope these three big ones for iOS 13 will help you start to move in the right direction.