iOS 13 — A PaperKite Review

New toys!

iOS 13 is a massive update to the platform, bringing many new features. Dark Mode provides the option for users to change the entire look and feel of the operating system, bringing a new range of visual choice.

Optimization continues, with a focus on app update times, app launch times, and a reduction in app download sizes. Face ID is approximately 30% faster than iOS 12. New forms of photography options in the default Camera and Photos apps provide options for supporting the newly announced iPhone 11 and 11 Pro.

“Sign in with Apple” provides a new form of authentication which aims to provide users with the ability to sign into services whilst maintaining their privacy.

iPad receives iOS 13 in the form of ‘iPad OS’, a differentiation that should lead to an even more tailored user experience on Apple’s tablet platform.

And behind the scenes huge building blocks have been delivered to app developers to enable a new, more unified, generation of UI development across all of Apple’s devices.

With our mobile developer hat on, let’s take a closer look at the highlights for PaperKite and our customers…

Who turned out the lights?

Dark Mode is one of the biggest visual changes available to users, which changes the entire look and feel of the operating system from light to dark. Users have the option to choose from either mode, or to use dark mode after sunset, or a custom schedule.

All native Apple apps feature Dark Mode in iOS 13, and Dark Mode APIs have been provided to developers to add support to their apps.

The signs point towards this being a feature that Apple and users will expect from any app with a light design. Dark Mode comes with some level of additional design and development overhead, and this should be considered when choosing to support it.

As users, our team loves Dark Mode. Quite a few of us in the PaperKite office have been using it on our Macs since it became available for MacOS last year. We’re looking forward to the choice it brings to our iOS devices.

Optimise don’t compromise

With iOS 13, apps can be packaged in more efficiently. In some cases updated apps may only take up half the space they previously did with iOS 12.

Update downloads are up to 60% smaller, saving bandwidth when users download them.

App opening times have been improved, with apps now opening up to twice as fast as before.

Sign in with Apple

“Sign in with Apple” provides a new form of authentication for users. It aims to provide users with the ability to sign into services in apps, whilst maintaining privacy.

App Store review guidelines mandate use of this feature. Apps that provide services with sign-features should be aware that if they use a third-party or social login service (such as Facebook Login, Google Sign-In, etc), to setup or authenticate a user’s primary account with the app then they shall need to also offer Sign in with Apple as an equivalent option.

Although there are some opt-outs available for certain situations, many apps will have to support Sign in with Apple in order to pass review when submitted to the App Store.

We recommend that all apps using third party sign in services review their sign in procedures, and add support for “Sign in with Apple” as early as possible.

Modal card presentations

iOS uses a new design aesthetic when displaying content modally to users.

Screens that display their content over the top of any other content, now present with a card-like UI. The user can return back to the original screen below with a simple swipe gesture.

This presents a new consideration when designing screens. In iOS 12 and earlier, we may have used a modal presentation to require the user’s input before moving on. Whilst the swipe to return feature can be disabled, this may not feel like a natural experience in some apps.

iOS 12 (left), iOS 13 (right)

Diffable what??

Whether you know them or not, collection views and table views are used almost universally on iOS to present information to users.

When developing these components, it can become non-trivial to animate and keep track of multiple additions and deletions. Beautiful, responsive UIs often come with a price of development overhead.

iOS 13 brings an API (“DiffableDataSource”) which simplifies the approach for managing all this supporting architecture greatly. By removing this complexity, this API makes it easier for developers to build and support complex application designs, and slick interactions. Whilst it’s “under the hood” from end users, this one is definitely a win.


Apple describes SwiftUI as an innovative, simple way to build user interfaces across all Apple platforms, using the power of their Swift programming language.

SwiftUI aims to enable developers to build one user interface that can then be used on any Apple device. This means that an app designed for iPhone needs less development tweaks to support the iPad, and potentially the same for the Mac.

When supporting multiple devices there are always considerations to be made with time, design and the development approach. SwiftUI reduces these, but in practice it does not eliminate them completely.

PaperKite’s developers have experimented with SwiftUI in its beta phase. We believe this represents the future of interface development for the Apple platform, and will be looking to leverage it across our projects as time goes on.

SF Symbols

With iOS 13, Apple made a set of over 1,500 symbols available to be used within apps. These are icons, designed to integrate seamlessly with the San Francisco system font to ensure alignment and blending when used alongside text.

This brings a level of standardisation to symbols and their design language in iOS. With SF Symbols, it should be easier than ever to make a beautiful UI that feels fully ‘at home’ on the platform.

Apple have also provided a mechanism for customisation, so that where a symbol does not exist in the collection provided, more can be added.

PaperKite’s design team will be looking to leverage both the default and create customised SF Symbols in future work, ensuring our apps can look and feel awesome.

Simultaneous camera support

Apple have updated their camera and video APIs to support the recording of multiple cameras at the same time. This is supported on iPhones with the A12 bionic chip or newer; essentially all iPhones since 2018’s Xs, Xs Max and Xr onwards.

Apple demonstrated this feature at their September 2019 keynote event. With the Filmic app, the iPhone 11 Pro’s ability to display video from all of it’s rear cameras at the same time was shown, offering a choice of wide angle and close-up shots.

A new API feature like this opens up the potential to enhance existing apps or create entirely new types of applications that were previously impossible. This feels like something to keep an eye out for in future.

Round up

These are just some of the new features and possibilities with iOS 13. Why don’t you let us know what your favourites are by getting in touch here, or on social media