How To: New iPhone Features & Changes in iOS 13.6 That You Need to Know About

New iPhone Features & Changes in iOS 13.6 That You Need to Know About

While the iPhone world's attention might be fixated on Apple's upcoming iOS 14 and all of its new features, it's still in beta. What's not in beta anymore? Apple's latest iOS 13 update — iOS 13.6 — which dropped on July 15.

The new firmware may just be Apple's final iOS 13 point update, and it's a little bit more modest in terms of features than some of its predecessors. Still, while other iOS 13 point releases sported dozens of new features, this one's offerings should be welcomed by any iPhone user. Plus, iOS 14 is just around the corner, so 13.6 is really just an appetizer.

Interestingly, iOS 13.6 started in beta form as 13.5.5. It wasn't until Apple released its second beta that it was changed to iOS 13.6. That wasn't the first time Apple had pulled a trick like that; the iPhone OEM did the same thing with iOS 13.5, which started as 13.4.5 in beta development.

Apple never gave an official reason why it jumped numbers like that, though, it could be that it was saving some of those point-point releases for quick security and bug patches that never came. Either that, or it was the significance of the features. When it switched from 13.4.5 to 13.5, Apple introduced its COVID-19 exposure notification API. This time around, there isn't a new feature quite as significant, but perhaps Apple felt they were substantial enough to warrant a 13.6 designation.

1. Track Your Symptoms in Health

Arguably the most prominent new feature in iOS 13.6 is the Health app's "Symptoms" section. Found under the "Browse" tab, the new option allows you to track your symptoms when you're feeling unwell, just as you can with other health categories in the app.

You'll find symptoms like coughing, fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, and sore throat, among 28 others to choose from. Each one features a brief description, ensuring you're selecting the right trait to track.

As you track your symptoms, Health adds your data points to Symptoms' front page. That way, you have easy access to the history of your symptoms, which you can revisit with just a tap of the data point.

2. CarKey Support Is Here

Apple has finally added CarKey support for iPhones with iOS 13.6. This feature, also introduced with upcoming iOS 14, will allow you to lock, unlock, and start your car remotely, with just your iPhone. You can share these keys with friends via iMessage, with driver-specific profiles to control which drivers have access to which features. You can even remove keys from lost iPhones via iCloud, and you can unlock and start a car five hours after your iPhone loses all battery power.

Unfortunately, the only car to support this feature at this time is the 2021 BMW 5 Series Facelift, but support for more cars is on the way.

3. Customize Your Automatic Software Updates

Another big change comes to Automatic Updates. In the past, you could choose whether to allow your iPhone to install new iOS updates automatically overnight. Now, the option is split in two, under "Customize Automatic Updates."

  • Download iOS Updates: This will download a new update automatically over Wi-Fi. You will get zero notifications or alerts when it happens. With it toggled off, you need to check and download updates manually.
  • Install iOS Updates: This will install a downloaded update automatically when connected to Wi-Fi and a power source. You will receive a notification before it starts installing, giving you a chance to push it back in case you need your iPhone then. With it toggled off, you may still receive notifications to remind you that there's an update to install at your leisure, but it won't install automatically.

4. Listen to Articles in Apple News+

If you're an Apple News+ subscriber, iOS 13.6 should be an exciting update. Apple added audio support in articles for paying customers, which is an excellent way to digest your news on the go or when you can't take the time to read stories for yourself.

As you can see in the GIFs below, the audio articles are sorted under a new "Audio" tab and function quite similarly to Apple's Podcasts app. You can play, pause, resume, scrub, rewind, skip to the next article in line, adjust the playback speed, and choose your audio output.

Image by 9to5Mac/YouTube

Under the extended menu, you can pull up the original article the audio is sourced from. Apple minimizes the audio player neatly along the bottom of the display so that you can return to the full player with just a tap. You can read along while listening and pause and rewind without needing to return to the expanded player.

Image by 9to5Mac/YouTube

5. Apple News Today

You can check out Apple News Audio right away, thanks to Apple News Today. This new free service comes right from Apple News' editors, and offers an audio briefing on the day's top stories. You'll find this feature in the Podcasts app as well.

6. Local News (In Available Regions)

Apple News is bringing local news to the mix. If you live in San Francisco, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Houston, and New York City, you can check out news from your area right in the Today feed. If you subscribe to Apple News+, you'll see even more local coverage, although Apple doesn't specify from where.

7. Customize the Apple News Newsletter

The Apple News daily newsletter might be a bit of a secret, but now you can customize it with the stories and topics that matter to you.

8. Your Apple News Swipe Icons Look Different

Apple has streamlined swipe options in the News app. Now, when you swipe left or right on a story's preview, you'll see only icons, with no text labels. While the text did make it overtly clear what each option was, it isn't vital. Apple's images are already obvious enough, so the company made the smart decision to rely on them alone.

You'll also see that Apple changed the "Suggest More" icon's color from red to green, to better differentiate from its red "Suggest Less" counterpart.

9. And Your Apple News Toolbar Icons Are Black

News also saw an update to its in-article icon colors. Before, these colors were red, matching the red theme of the app. But now, Apple switched the icons to black.

iOS 13.6 (left) vs. iOS 13.5.1 (right).

10. New Bug Fixes & Stability Patches

This new update doesn't just add new features to your iPhone, it also fixes existing issues. According to the iOS 13.6 release notes, here's how this update makes your iPhone more stable:

  • Addresses an issue that could cause apps to become unresponsive when syncing data from iCloud Drive.
  • Fixes an issue that could cause data roaming to appear to be disabled on eSIM even though it remained active.
  • Fixes an issue that causes some phone calls from Saskatchewan to appear as originating from the United States.
  • Addresses an issue that could interrupt audio when making phone calls over Wi-Fi Calling.
  • Fixes an issue that prevented some iPhone 6S and iPhone SE devices from registering for Wi-Fi Calling.
  • Resolves an issue that could cause the software keyboard to appear unexpectedly when connected to certain third-party hardware keyboards.
  • Fixes an issue that could cause Japanese hardware keyboards to be incorrectly mapped as a U.S. keyboard.
  • Addresses stability issues when accessing Control Center when Assistive Touch was enabled.
  • Provides a mechanism for administrators to specify domains to exclude from traffic carried by always-on VPN connections.

Just updated your iPhone? You'll find new features for Podcasts, News, Books, and TV, as well as important security improvements and fresh wallpapers. Find out what's new and changed on your iPhone with the iOS 17.5 update.

Cover image, screenshots, and GIFs by Jake Peterson/Gadget Hacks, unless otherwise noted

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