Hands-On with iOS 13, iPadOS 13, and macOS Catalina Public Betas

Posted on June 24, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, iOS, iPadOS, Mac and macOS, Mobile with 20 Comments

As you may have seen, Apple today released public betas for all of the platforms it announced at WWDC. I’ve installed a few of them. So, here’s a quick peek at my experience so far.

As a bit of background, I had tried to get started even earlier with the first iOS 13 beta, since I was interested in testing the new Dark Mode. But every site I read explained—incorrectly, as it turned out—that you needed a Mac running macOS Catalina Beta 1 first. So, I tried to install the first Catalina beta on my 2018 MacBook Air with disastrous results.

Apple fixed the MacBook Air, returned it to me, and I reconfigured it when I got home from my latest trip. But I gave it a few days before I tried upgrading to Catalina again.

Then, Apple released iOS 13, iPadOS 13, tvOS 13, watchOS 13, and macOS Catalina Beta 2. And I thought, what the heck. What could go wrong?

Nothing, as it turns out. macOS Catalina Beta 2 installed easily and quietly on my MacBook Air, with none of the fan hissing or internal issues. And as I looked closer at the Apple Developer website, I realized that I could simply load that site with my iPhone XR and download the iOS 13 Beta install profile directly to the device and install it over the air. Since that was true, I figured I’d give iPadOS 13 Beta 2 a shot as well.

At that time, most of the world expected Apple to release the public betas for its next platforms after the Beta 3 round in July. But they were wrong again: Today, Apple released the Beta 2 versions as its public betas instead.

Here’s what I’ve seen that matters.

iOS 13 and iPadOS 13

The big news here is Dark Mode and while one might easily criticize Apple for taking its sweet time with this feature, you won’t be surprised to discover that the company got it right. Just as it did last year in macOS Mojave. Dark Mode can be set to come on automatically on a schedule, but it’s so good I just leave it on all the time. I bet most iPhone users will too.

Why? Because Dark Mode is a welcome and overdue relief from the stark white user interfaces that Apple introduced way back in 2013 with iOS 7. It’s better looking everywhere, from Settings to core Apple apps like Home, Safari, and Maps. Sweet, sweet relief.

That said, I don’t use a lot of Apple apps, and I prefer Microsoft and Google alternatives to things like Mail, Calendar, Photos, and Music. So beyond the system-level stuff, I’ve not noticed much else that is new. There’s swipe-based typing, finally, on Apple’s virtual keyboard. And a new Find My app that replaces Find My iPhone and Find My Friends. That’s about it.

One thing I haven’t noticed is Apple’s performance improvement promises. The firm says that Face ID is up to 30 percent faster and apps can launch up to twice as fast. But these operations were always quite snappy on the iPhone XR. Perhaps the benefits are more noticeable on older devices.

As for iPadOS, Dark Mode is again the key new feature. In fact, it’s really all I care about: I use my (non-Pro) iPad for two things and two things only: Reading, which I do daily, and watching videos, which I only do while traveling. As such, I have stripped the device of most Apple apps, don’t care about the terrible multitasking features, and pretty much just use it for its large display.

That said, I did experiment with displaying the Today screen—which is Apple’s version of the Google feed on Android—to the first home screen. It’s only visual in landscape mode, and I don’t ever use it—it’s not as useful as Google’s version—but it’s a fine use of the on-screen real estate for those who do, I suppose.

I also inadvertently triggered a new iPadOS feature by which the on-screen virtual keyboard, which usually occupies the bottom half of the screen (in landscape) can be shrunk down to a small floating keyboard; you pinch to shrink it and then later use a reverse gesture to return it to full-size.

This is an interesting idea. The floating keyboard looks and works like an iPhone keyboard, and is about the same size. And it frees up all kinds of space if you need to see more of the app you’re using.

And while I can’t really use Safari, I did check out its new “desktop class” capabilities to see whether I could find any differences between it and Microsoft Edge, the browser I currently used (both on desktop and mobile). I could not. Complicated websites like The New York Times already render in their full desktop glory on mobile, and the sites I usually access all looked identical on both browsers.

But Apple notes certain sites—Google Docs, Squarespace, and WordPress—that are dramatically improved. And I suspect that the real aim here is to help the iPad Pro, especially, edge (ahem) ever closer to being a true PC replacement. They’ll get there eventually.

macOS Catalina

As for macOS, with Dark Mode already looking great in Mojave, this year’s release can instead focus on another useful and interesting change: The addition of iPad apps. And it begins, fortuitously enough, with the elimination of iTunes and its replacement by three separate apps, Music, TV, and Podcasts.

I like the new apps quite a bit and wish I could access them on Windows. Music, in particular, reminds of iTunes from the early 2000s, back before it was weighed down by too much additional, non-music functionality. I’m not sure if it’s really lighter and quicker, but it really seems like it.

TV is a little less exciting, and I seemed to keep running into weird navigational dead-ends, but that might be related to its beta nature.

Podcasts seems like a new desktop version of the iOS app.

Finally, I had to check out Sidecar, a new macOS feature that lets you use an iPad as a second display for your Mac. It’s pretty amazing: It’s easy to enable, quick to come up, and seems to work pretty seamlessly. But it would work better with an Apple Pencil, I suspect: I couldn’t touch macOS interfaces on the iPad with my fingers and manipulate them.

But what I could do was mouse over into the second (iPad) display. I could move windows over there and use them normally from the Mac. Even without direct manipulation, it’s … a second display for the Mac. That is really useful. (And yes, I get that third-party apps accomplished the same thing. And that Apple basically ripped them off. But also that this is what platform makers do, all the time. And that users will really appreciate it.)

This is a good example of Apple’s integrated approach across the devices in its ecosystem. And I’m wondering whether this will evolve into Apple’s answer to requests for touch support on Mac: Just get an iPad.

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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Hands-On with iOS 13, iPadOS 13, and macOS Catalina Public Betas”

  1. Avatar

    martinusv2

    Did you try some apps made for IOS on your MacOS?

      • Avatar

        martinusv2

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Wanted to see why Apple get it right and why Microsoft failed.

        • Avatar

          SvenJ

          In reply to MartinusV2: How do you think MS failed? They never tried to make Windows Phone apps work on the PC, they built a system, (UWP) that allowed the same app to run in a small form factor and a large one. It worked fine. Grab a Windows Phone with Continuum and throw it up on a 24" monitor or TV screen. Looks like it belongs there. What failed was developer adoption of the option in any meaningful way. BTW, Apple hasn't 'got it right' at this point. They have ported some in-house apps to the MacOS to guage feasibility and acceptance. Google has it more right at this point, as pretty much any app in the Android app store will run on Chrome. Most of those apps however were never designed to run on anything bigger than a phone, so aren't all that great. Regardless of what anyone says, there are differences between phone and tablet UIs and expectations, and you can't just blow up a phone app onto a 12/15/24" screen and be done with it. MS had that part figured out. Unfortunate noone wanted to put in the work to take advantage of it.


        • Avatar

          Paul Thurrott

          In reply to MartinusV2:

          Given the quality of iPad apps in general, I suspect this is going to work well.


          Curious about keyboard shortcuts, etc.

  2. Avatar

    darrellprichard

    Sidecar essentially puts Duet out of business. (Even though Duet also allows you to use an iPad as a 2nd display to a Windows machine, it installs a kernel level driver which has been known to cause BSODs with some Windows updates.)

    • Avatar

      digiguy

      In reply to DarrellPrichard:

      it has always worked fine with windows for me, and most people owning an ipad own a windows pc not a mac.... what's more, many cannot install Catalina on older macs (or simply don't want to, like me, I am fine with High Sierra on my macbook air). This only affects a minority of potential Duet clients... so definitely not out of business

      • Avatar

        SvenJ

        In reply to digiguy: Oddly DUET conflicts with Facebook and Messenger apps on my Windows machine (Surface Go specifically). The apps just don't get past the launch screen. Talked to support and they had no solutions. If I uninstall DUET they work fine, re-install, they fail. Made it kind of a none starter for the Go which really could have benefitted from the iPad Pro second screen, at a desk. Would have made a nice compact travel setup.


  3. Avatar

    pwrof3

    Shouldn't it be iPadOS 1?

    • Avatar

      Jeffsters

      In reply to pwrof3:

      Since these are all based upon a common core base at version 13, and for years released for all devices simultaneously, they decided to keep the version at 13 for all. I see your point bu I guess it's better than skipping a version number. :-)

  4. Avatar

    BrianEricFord

    Not seeing it mentioned much on any of the first looks, but the scrolling lyrics in music is a great add-on.

  5. Avatar

    TEAMSWITCHER

    Ever since Apple perfected their Virtual Desktop/ Window Manager with Mission Control, I have found no reason to use multiple displays on a Mac. The cabling and management of multiple displays simply isn't worth the effort. The Track-Pad and Magic Mouse gestures for switching desktops and apps are intuitive and fast. Microsoft, to this day, hasn't been able to replicate this experience in Windows, and I suspect they never will.

  6. Avatar

    Atoqir

    'And while I can’t really use Safari'


    You should give it a try. It is one of the best mobile browsers on any platform when you like at it's feature set objectively


    It now has a download manager which can download files directly to my drive in the background

    It has built in support for ad blockers, the reason why Chrome is unusable for me

    It has reading mode

    It has syncing for bookmarks to my iPad, iPhone and PC Chredge

    It has a built in password manager, password generator and Face ID to login to websites

    It can now take a screen from a full website and you can annotate it with Apple Pencil and export it to various formats just like the old Edge

    It has a reading list

    You can open 2 safari tabs next to each other in split screen

  7. Avatar

    IanYates82

    I like the little floating keyboard. I noticed it on my Surface a few weeks ago in Windows 10 (it's still on 1809). Handy since it supports swiping for entry. It'd be nice if it could toggle with a gesture like you described for the iOS keyboard. I'll need to try that, and if it doesn't work, petition Microsoft to make it so!


    Does the gesture work for 3rd party keyboards?

  8. Avatar

    dcdevito

    My wife and I recently switched to the iPhone a couple months ago. Overall I like iOS a lot. It’s fast, fluid and reliable. I like the XR but I’m not in love with the camera (I had a Pixel 2 XL prior), although video recording is excellent. Siri is a waste of my time but the rest of it is very polished and stable.

    iOS 13 seems like a small update to the iPhone, I am mostly looking forward to the CarPlay update. Dark Mode looks nice but why it took Apple and Google so long to implement it is hard to understand.

    Paul, how is Quick Path typing?

  9. Avatar

    SeattleMike

    Paul, did you have any issues at all getting the Beta on iPad or iPhone? I’m thinking of doing the same but don’t want to foul up anything.

  10. Avatar

    Jeffsters

    "And while I can’t really use Safari, I did check out its new “desktop class” capabilities to see whether I could find any differences between it and Microsoft Edge, the browser I currently used (both on desktop and mobile). I could not. "


    Given when you use Edge you are essentially using the Safari engine you shouldn't notice much difference browsing. The engine powering Edge on iOS is, like Safari, WebKit, as provided by iOS in the WKWebView.

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