Apple iPhone screens
Photo: Apple

It’s that time of year again. Temperatures are dropping, NFL season has officially kicked off, and pumpkin-spiced everything is back. And soon there will be a fresh version of Apple's iPhone operating system to download.

This Friday the company is rolling out iOS 13 to coordinate with the release of the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. Along with a fresh look, the new operating system includes a handful of new features designed to protect your digital privacy, a couple of fun camera tricks, and tweaks aimed at boosting productivity. 

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Apple is rolling out updates to the operating systems for both the Apple Watch and for iPads at the same time. Some features of the new Watch OS may not work with all models of the device. The iPad update will work with models dating back to the iPad 2.

Here are tips for updating your iPhone to iOS 13, and a rundown of its most important new features. 

First, Back Up Your Phone

Updates don’t always go perfectly, which is why it's smart to back up your phone’s data before switching to iOS 13. If your data is  deleted accidentally, you'll be able to restore it from the backup.

You can back up your phone to the cloud or to your computer’s hard drive through iTunes. Just make sure you have enough storage. When you sign up for iCloud, Apple gives you just 5GB of storage free. Most people have far more than that stored on their iPhones. If you need more space, you’re going to have to pay a little extra. For example, 50GB of storage costs 99 cents per month.

If you plug your phone into your computer and fire up iTunes, you can see when your phone was last backed up and whether it was to your computer or the cloud. The same screen gives you the option of backing up to either place. Go ahead and do that. 

Photo: Apple

Then Go to Settings

Once the phone is backed up, tap the Settings icon > General> Software Update (the second item from the top).

You’ll probably see a notification that an update is ready. If not, select Software Update anyway and your phone will search for it. Then just download and install it. This could take several minutes.

If your phone battery isn't fully charged, plug it in before you start. Upgrading takes a lot of juice. You’ll also need a little over 2GB of free storage to run the update, so start deleting stuff now if you need to.

According to Apple, iOS 13 is compatible with every iPhone dating back to the 6s. But smartphones have advanced quite a bit in the five years since that phone debuted. If you have an iPhone 6s, Apple says it may not have the horsepower to run every advanced feature.

What's New in iOS 13

Private sign-in. Apple goes big on digital privacy this time around. And a big part of that is its first sign-on service, which will let you sign on to lots of different apps through Apple, instead of creating separate log-on credentials. You can already use Facebook or Google to log on to a vast number of websites and services. But people who value their privacy may want to avoid giving those companies even more insight to what they do online, because the data can be mined for marketing and advertising.

With iOS 13, Apple is providing a universal sign-in that promises to offer the same convenience without the privacy sacrifice. The company has pledged not to use the feature to “profile its users or their activity in apps.”

Unlike Facebook and Google, Apple doesn't operate an advertising network and makes a big deal about not sharing customer data with outside parties. 

The feature will support Apple’s Face ID and Touch ID technology, which should keep log-ins quick and easy. And two-factor authentication will be built in for added security.

Randomly generated email addresses. Instead of providing your personal email address to an app or site, you’ll be able to have iOS give them a dummy one. Any resulting correspondence will be forwarded to your main address. And because each app or site you use will receive a unique dummy address, you can simply delete that address if you get sick of hearing from a particular company.

Location tracking limits. Letting an app track your movements can be handy if, say, it’s a map app. But few apps need to know where you are all the time.

Apple already lets you choose whether to grant an iPhone app access to your location. In many cases, you also have the option of limiting that tracking to just when the app is in use.

What iOS 13 will add is the ability to grant one-time access to your location. If an app needs the data again, it must repeat the request for permission. In theory, this could cut down on unnecessary tracking.

New safeguards for children. Apple is also updating its guidelines for developers to prohibit the use of outside advertising and trackers in apps geared toward children.

App developers often include such trackers to collect data about users, their behavior, and their devices for targeted advertising and other purposes. The new guidelines mandate that apps for kids can’t include third-party advertising or analytics.

Apple’s earlier guidelines were less restrictive, banning “behavioral advertising" (ads based on the user’s activity) while stipulating that all advertising be appropriate for children.

Dark mode. You’ll be able to set this to automatically kick in when the sun goes down. It’s designed to lessen the strain on your eyes when it’s not as bright outside.

New camera tricks. Portrait mode has been tweaked to allow you to control the amount of light in an image and to add a High-Key Mono option, which creates highly detailed black and white portraits. And the camera as a whole contains new photo and video editing tools.

Better maps. They’ve been updated to be more detailed and have more of a 3D look. You’ll also be able to bookmark your frequently used locations, like your home, workplace, or favorite coffee shop, for easy reference. And you can build lists of must-see spots for your next road trip that you’ll be able to share with friends.

New and improved Siri. There’s a new shortcuts app for easy access, and the digital assistant will be able to read your incoming messages over your AirPods. Speaking of AirPods, you’ll be able to pair two sets of them with your phone at the same time, letting you share your favorite music with a friend.

More Memoji fun. There’s also a slew of new hairstyles, headwear, and piercings for greater customization. And your Memojis will automatically get added to the sticker packs in your keyboard, allowing you to use them in a variety of apps.