Updated: November 30, 2019
As you know - or maybe you don't know - I'm not a great fan of the iPhone. The restrictive nature of the ecosystem simply isn't for me. Small things, y'know, like music sync or full MTP access. Anyway, I still do like to test Apple hardware and software if and when I can, just to see and understand what gives, and get ever so closer to a better class of people than myself.
I used to briefly possess an iPhone 6 (own is a wrong word here), and nowadays, one of the phones in my small array of test gadgets happens to be a white-cover iPhone 6s. Overall, the newer model does feel like an improvement over the older one, but it's not one to stir my emotions and such. With the recent release of the iOS 13 operating system upgrade, and the S model being eligible for it, I went about upgrading the device. This article here is a review of my findings. Follow me.
Expectations & upgrade
I don't think I'll ever be happy using anything that gives me less than adequate control of the hardware and software. All smartphones are already quite off-limits as they are, so anything on top of the no-root defaults just makes no sense to me. However, in a strange way, I do somewhat appreciate Apple's approach. It's about determinism, which means, you get a highly consistent experience if you immerse yourself in what its products do, plus the devices get a long, long tail of system upgrades, even the ones with relatively moderate specs. Given the fact iPhone 6s has "only" 2 GB of RAM and is still eligible for the latest operating system upgrades is a nice thing. It's like my Linux tests on old hardware. No reason to buy new, flashy stuff just because you have a device that's a bit old. And then you get the latest distro or whatnot, and everything still works fine.
And so, there was a notification of the upgrade. I let the system download the necessary blob and then run through the actual upgrade process - you need Wireless network and at least 50% battery charge. This was a fussless thing that took about thirty minutes to complete. Once it was done, the iPhone looked pretty much unchanged. Time to explore, then.
In general, the new iOS is like the old iOS. It's pretty consistent, pretty fast, the battery lasts for about two days with moderate use - don't forget it comes with a much lesser capacity than most other phones. The downside is that the charge drops rapidly when it's cold outside, and the phone's thin all-metal case is an excellent heat exchange surface. But let's forcus on the operating system.
There were no weird surprises. Some small changes to the default set of Apple's applications, some tiny extras. As before, I remain entirely uninterested in the vast majority of apps that common people need or consume, and I see no incentive in using the whole video, music and whatnot. It's not that I'm some bitter conservative who's opposed to modern technology wonders, it's just that I require a certain level of comfort. And that means large screens for watching movies and series (even laptops are too small), and I like to be able to import my existing music collections in a simple way, the ways the Deities of USB intended. In other words, having to use dedicated software for such a trivial task is a no-go - plus this effort didn't work for me the last time I tried it.
Speaking of Music, the old iTunes thing is no more. It's been split into three apps - Music, TV and Podcasts. Now, whether this makes any major change in functionality, I don't know. Because reading online, I've not been able to find anything that allows me to try this in a simple, non-iTunes way. So here be venue remains inaccessible to me. Curiously, I wonder why it says Zero KB and not 0 KB. Hm.
On the aesthetics front, you can jump on the trend wagon like everyone else. The dark mode is the new fad, even though it's been around in Windows Phone since roughly 9,000 years ago. But now everyone is pushing this thing, left and right. On the desktop, 'tis an abomination. On the phone, it makes sense, but less so with the more color-happy layout that iOS uses compared to the ultra-minimalistic Windows Phone setup.
I didn't find this as effective or pleasing. For instance, the dark gray and black stripes don't work for me, and the light fonts on dark background are less legible than the same setup against the white background. Not that low-contrast fonts are good anywhere. Furthermore, this largely makes no difference on your Home Screen, and you will only notice it if you use the apps.
This is an important aspect of the modern Web. Now, having used all three major operating systems - Android, iOS, Windows Phone, I have the ability to compare and evaluate how they handle privacy. My top choice has always been Microsoft's beautiful, OCD-friendly tiled setup, but since this is soon no more AKA Lumia 950, one must contend with the less-than-optimal alternatives. Warming myself up to the inevitable demise, I had recently spent quite some time fiddling with Moto G6 - another full in-depth road test coming soon, stay tuned, will ya - and now, with iOS 13 freshly relased, I got a chance to see how Apple does it.
Interestingly, iPhone seems to be fairly easy to configure, on the security and privacy fronts. I didn't really need to invest too much energy turning off things I don't need - all of my settings from before upgrade had been retained, it's just a few new ones that needed extra scrutiny. In contrast, in Android, my privacy setup was a long, convoluted but ultimately successful experiment, which took a lot of time, including going around in circles now and then. Even roughly a year later, the phone still occassionally nudges me about some of the features I don't need or want.
Performance & battery life
Speed and optimization are listed as improvements in iOS 13. Well, I can't say I've noticed any major boost in the overall responsiveness, but there sure isn't any degradation, which is great. Moreover, the battery charge remains as before - but do remember the phone's already tweaked for simple use, so there isn't that much to optimize to begin with. All in all, a major operating system upgrade without problems or any slowness is always a reasonable one.
This is probably the most boring review of a phone operating system. Because I represent less than 0.1% of phone users, with my peculiar needs and taste. Plus, iPhone has never really been the choice gadget for nerds who need control of their hardware and software. However, part of the boredom isn't entirely my doing. Another reason for that is the fact the iOS 13 upgrade went smoothly, without any problems. I didn't have to fight the device, didn't have to go through a million settings, didn't need to contend with issues of any kind. This kind of predictability makes for a rather uneventful reporting.
I guess people who use the iPhone can appreciate what they get here. The fact you can continue using old phones and still get the latest software is quite nice. For me, the only problem is, the device and its closed ecosystem don't offer any real incentive for serious, prolonged use. I like bits and pieces, like the Stocks or Health applications, and Safari ain't too bad as a browser. But the rest is just too restrictive. Well, you heard this before. As far as iOS 13 goes, not bad, you get some extras, you don't lose anything old, so why not. Maybe, one distant future day, there could be even a place for someone like me in the Rotary Club. For now, I'm a tragic hero of the smartphone wars. There you go, a review from a non-user but an Apple shareholder.