Common iOS 13 problems and how to fix them

Apple iPhone and iPad owners typically install major iOS updates as soon as they can get their hands on them because software updates from Apple almost always include new and exciting features that people can’t wait to try out. iOS 13 is the latest such update from Apple. It is now on some 50% of iPhones in use, while iPadOS is now on 33% of all iPads.

While some adventurously put betas on their older or even current devices, Apple always cautions that newly minted versions are generally bug-infested and in need of refinement before general release. But even after a formal release, issues always crop up. And with Apple iOS 13, there have been more problems and stability issues than usual. On September 19, after months in beta, Apple released iOS 13 with much fanfare. Sadly, the euphoria was short-lived.

Numerous bugs have plagued iOS 13’s initial release, so much so that Apple quickly released a beta upgrade to iOS 13.1 a week ahead of schedule to squash the worst, most commonly reported problems. Then it released the final version of 13.1, adding a feature to boost battery life. Then there was an interim fix with 13.1.1. And 13.1.2, a maintenance or bug fix update that attempts to fix the problems that popped up in 13.1. But good news: A beta of iOS 13.2 is already rolling out, bringing with it a number of new features that users have been waiting for, including the Deep Fusion camera tech on the iPhone 11. Phew!

New in iOS 13.1.3

This week, Apple released a new update, iOS 13.1.3 and iPadOS 13.1.3, with additional bug fixes and performance improvements for all devices to address issues in the Mail app, Bluetooth connectivity, and launch performance for Game Center apps. Most of the dot upgrades, including the new iOS 13.1.3, are maintenance updates designed to squish bugs, not to add any new features.

Specifically, iOS 13.1.3 includes bug fixes and improvements for issues that could prevent a device from ringing or vibrating for an incoming call or may prevent you from opening a meeting invite in Mail. The newest update is also designed to solve Bluetooth problems like disconnecting on some vehicles, as well as improving reliability for hearing aids and headsets. It’s supposed to fix an issue that can prevent pairing with or receiving notifications on the Apple Watch. It also seeks to resolve iCloud backup problems where Voice Memos may not download after restoring from iCloud backup or apps fail to download when restoring from iCloud backup. It resolves an issue where data in the Health app may not display correctly after daylight savings time adjustments. Meanwhile, Apple is currently beta testing iOS 13.2, so get ready for more.

All updates are released for eligible devices over-the-air in the device Settings. Go to Settings > General > Software Update to get the latest update. If you have already installed iOS 13 in any of its incarnations, you have probably encountered one or more of these issues. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are some common iOS 13 problems and what you can do to fix them.

iPhone 11 Pro Max iOS 13
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

New Problems

The Apple Support Twitter feed has been awash in complaints despite the release of three updates to iOS 13. Most of them have to do with battery drain, Apple Mail, dropped calls, and more. While some of these issues do not have a standard fix as yet, Apple suggests a few things you can try.

The Problem: Dropped calls in iOS 13.1.2 and 3.1.3

There are widespread reports that iOS 13.1.2 is causing calls to drop within a minute of being placed. Says one user on Apple’s Twitter support account: “Dropping calls like crazy after iOS 13 update. Really bad after 13.1.2 update. Call will drop after 30 seconds to a minute. I use phone for business…not a good impression. iPhone X. … My network still drops despite the new update 13.1.3.”

Possible solutions:

Apple has suggested the following sequence to get your phone calls back on track.

Check your settings:

  • Turn Airplane Mode on and off. Open Control Center and tap to turn on Airplane Mode, wait five seconds, then tap it off.
  • Check your Do Not Disturb settings by going to Settings > Do Not Disturb and make sure it’s off.
  • Check for blocked phone numbers in Settings > Phone > Blocked Contacts.
  • See if Call Forwarding is turned on in Settings > Phone > Call Forwarding and make sure it’s off.
  • Check to see if Silence Unknown Callers is turned on. If the setting is on, a caller must be listed in your Contacts or Recents. Or they must have shared their number in Mail or sent you a message using that number for their call to go through.
  • Add the number in question to Contacts to ensure the phone rings. Calls from some third-party apps might not go through.

Update your software:

  • Remove and reinsert your SIM card.
  • Contact your carrier.

Try a network reset:

Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings. This eliminates all current saved settings, Wi-Fi passwords, preferred networks, and VPN settings.

Try to make or receive calls in a different location:

  • Switch to a different network band. Go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Enable LTE and turn off Enable LTE, 4G, or 3G (depending on your carrier and device model).
  • Another user wrote on Apple’s Twitter support account: “FYI – Regarding the call dropping issue. I had the same issue until I backed up my phone and did a full restore with the latest iOS and all is fine now.” So that’s also an option.

The Problem: Contacts Lost in iOS 13.1.3

After updating to iOS 13.1.3, some iPhone users found that their Contacts app malfunctioning. Some have contact names but no content in them, while others just show up as empty. This issue underscores the importance of backing up your devices.

Possible solutions:

  • Merge contacts from iCloud. If all or some of your contacts are missing, use iCloud to restore them without overwriting current data. Go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Contacts. Switch Contacts on if it is off. Your device may give you two options for previously synced contacts. Choose to keep them on iPhone and Merge. Your contacts should be restored.
  • Resync your contacts with iCloud, then use iCloud as the default. Tap Settings > Contacts > Default Account > iCloud.
  • Reset all settings, then sync contacts from iCloud.
  • Factory reset your iPhone, then restore your backup from iTunes or iCloud.
  • Sign out and then back into iCloud and then sync your contacts.
  • Go to Contacts > Group > Check All iCloud or All iPhone to view all your contacts.
  • Hard reset your device or force restart it.

The Problem: Siri makes calls on speakerphone by default

Apple’s forums have revealed some issues with Siri and phone calls. “Since updating to iOS 13, I have noticed that whenever I ask Siri to make a phone call for me, the call is placed using speakerphone every time by default. I am not asking to put the call on speaker and I have tried restarting my phone with no luck. Every time I say something like, “Hey Siri, call Jim.” The call is placed and put on speakerphone. I then have to tap to turn speak off, and then continue the call.” This is especially troublesome if you’re driving.

Possible solutions:

Here is a workaround that may or may not work depending on your iPhone model: Accessibility > Touch > Call Audio Routing > Bluetooth Headset.

If you prompt Siri by holding the power button this may also work, but it involves your hands leaving the steering wheel and handling your phone while driving, which is a no-no.

Older problems

The problem: Third-party keyboard bug

Apple issued a special security warning about third-party keyboard apps in iOS 13. You can run third-party keyboards such as Gboard or SwiftKey, or a slew of others as stand-alone apps, or they can request full access to your OS to communicate with other apps on your device to provide additional features. A bug in iOS 13 might cause these apps to gain full access even without your approval. The bug only affects keyboards that feature full access, which means that Apple’s built-in keyboard or any other keyboard apps that don’t seek full access are not affected by the bug. With full access, keyboard developers can capture keystroke data. With full access, Gboard lets you perform Google searches directly from the keyboard that are sent to Google. You may trust Google or not, but do you trust another lesser-known third-party app with the same information?

Possible solutions:

  • Update to iOS 13.1.1 or iPadOS 13.1.1 to fix an issue that impacts third-party keyboards on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  • Check to see whether full access was granted without your knowledge or consent and withhold permissions by tapping Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards.
  • Uninstall third-party keyboards you don’t absolutely trust until Apple fixes the issue.

The problem: Apple Mail various issues

Numerous issues have been reported with iOS 13 Mail performance. These include the iPhone Mail app not updating, crashing, failing to sync on iPhone or iPad, not opening, failing to send messages, opening draft messages upon launch of the app, failing to load email and third party mail accounts, mail notifications failing, failing to allow new accounts to be created, push not working, and a no sender issue where you cannot see who sent an email to you. One user stated on Apple’s Twitter support account: “Not being able to see who the sender is, is one thing. But if you tick reply, the recipient field is empty. Also, you can’t search on subject. My Mail is now sending duplicate emails to recipients. Really annoying how do I stop this?”

Possible solutions:

There are numerous possible solutions to a misbehaving Mail app in iOS 13, depending on what you’re experiencing. Here are a range of issues and solutions related to Mail app dysfunction.

  • Check to see if software updates are available for third-party apps such as Yahoo Mail or Gmail that you may have added to Mail by checking the App Store.
  • If Mail notifications are not working, make sure they are enabled for the Mail app. Launch Settings > Mail > Notifications > Allow Notification.
  • If you cannot create more than one Mail account, make sure to disable the Restriction settings that prevent you from adding accounts. Launch Settings > Screen Time> Select Content & Privacy Restrictions> Allowed Apps> Mail and toggle the switch on. This lets you add multiple accounts in the mail app.
  • Enable Mail App for Cellular Data with Settings > Cellular and toggle on the Mail option.
  • Reset Network Settings with Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings. You will be prompted to enter your passcode to continue.
  • If resetting the network doesn’t work, check the Push, Fetch, or Manual options that control account activity using Settings > Passwords & Accounts settings > Fetch New Data settings.
  • Force quit the Mail app and reopen it. It is a popular solution when the Mail is not syncing properly. Double-click on the Home button to view all running apps, swipe up on the apps to close them, and relaunch Mail.
  • If your iPhone mail app is crashing, try restarting your device.
  • If all else fails, remove the Mail account from your device and add it again. Tap Settings > Passwords & Accounts. The mail accounts will be displayed on the screen. Select the errant account and click on it. You will see the Delete Account option at the bottom of the screen. Click to remove the account from your device. Then set it up again.

The problem: Reminders sync fail

With iOS 13, Reminders gets a fresh new interface, new organizational features, smart lists, a new quick toolbar, and the ability to add photos, weblinks, and documents. But some users report problems with syncing notes, missing lists, deleted reminders, list names reverting to defaults, wrong dates and times, and other syncing issues. One entry on Apple’s Twitter support account reads: “Please fix reminders already! It’s a complete mess. I haven’t been able to access my reminders since updating to iOS 13. Updated my iPhone to 13.1.1 and made it [worse]. http://iCloud.com won’t even show my reminders [anymore].”

Possible solutions:

Apple acknowledges that Reminders won’t sync properly unless all your devices are running the latest software, including your Mac. According to Apple, “Upgraded reminders aren’t compatible with earlier versions of iOS and macOS. If you upgrade your reminders on your iPhone with iOS 13, your iPad and Mac using the same iCloud account can’t access your reminders until iPadOS and macOS 10.15 Catalina are available.” Apple says you’ll be able to access your complete Reminders on iCloud.com and also allows users running iOS 13 to delay a full upgrade of Reminders until after macOS Catalina is released. Here’s how to stay out of Reminders trouble if you are a user.

  • Connected your device to the internet before you open the Reminders app for the first time after updating to iOS 13.
  • Upon launching the app, a Welcome to Reminders screen may offer some users an option to upgrade the app now or later. Reminders will also give you information about shared Reminders lists or other devices you need to upgrade.
  • Tap Upgrade Now and if you tap Upgrade Later, the app’s screen has a blue Upgrade button. Tap it at the time you decide to upgrade.
  • The upgrade affects only existing reminders in your primary iCloud account but not those in other iCloud, CalDAV, or Exchange accounts.
  • Apple also warns that sharing a Reminders list using the Add People function does not work in iOS 13, but promises to resolve the issue in a future update.

The problem: Battery drain

Some iOS 13 users have noticed that battery life seems degraded after the upgrade to Apple’s latest mobile operating system. It’s unfortunate, but no surprise, as there are normally such complaints after every major iOS update. That’s partly because the new OS will cycle through a number of major system-level operations to integrate with your device, such as indexing with Spotlight, Photos, and various iCloud activities.

Possible solutions

  • Plug in your device and wait for a while. That’s right, just leave your device plugged in overnight, and connected to Wi-Fi. It should take from a few hours to a day or two for everything to get back to normal, especially if your device is restoring a heavy volume from iCloud or syncing data from various sources.
  • Check for additional iOS updates by going to Settings > General > Software Update. Software updates often have bug fixes and improvements, like the current series with iOS 13, and if a bug or other known issue is degrading battery life, it’s likely to be resolved.
  • Update individual apps too, since some may have bugs that were patched. With iOS 13 and later, you can update apps by going to App Store > Your Account > Updated Recently.
  • Check which apps or activity is using your battery by going to Settings > Battery. Often apps that use video or location services drain the battery. If you see an app you don’t use draining the battery, delete it.
  • Check iPhone battery health through Settings > Battery > Battery Health. If the battery is not operating at an optimal level, it may need to be replaced.
  • Background App Refresh allows apps in the background to stay updated without manual input, but that can negatively affect battery life. Tap Settings > General > Background App Refresh and toggle the switch off.
  • Having display brightness on high can reduce battery life. Open Settings > Display & Brightness and adjust the slider to a lower level.
  • Disable the Raise to Wake feature, which uses your device’s accelerometer and can cause the screen to be on more than needed, especially if you are active. Open Settings > Display & Brightness > Raise to Wake and switch it off.
  • Low Power Mode reduces activity and power on the iPhone to prolong the battery life, and it can offer a huge boost to battery life in iOS 13 and other versions. Open Settings > Battery and toggle on Low Power Mode. The battery icon in your iPhone menu bar will turn yellow.
  • Turn off location services for any app that does not need it via Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Scroll down to the app list and disable location access for apps that do not require location data to function by tapping on them and choosing Never or While Using the App.
  • A forced reboot can sometimes resolve battery issues.

The problem: Connection issues with the App Store

There have been various network issues, both Wi-Fi and cellular reported with iOS 13. The Apple support Twitter site got this message: “I’m having issue access the App Store via cellular. Hasn’t worked for me on IOS 13, 13.1, and 13.1.1. Have to keep constantly refresh it just to get it to work. I’ve factory reset my phone and that didn’t work either.” Connection problems can include an alert that you cannot connect to the iTunes Store when you try to launch the iTunes Store, App Store, or the Apple Books. Sometimes the store won’t load anything or hangs in the middle of a download.

Possible solutions:

Apple provided some hints on how to fix a cellular connection issue for the App Store, iTunes Store, and Apple Books.

  • Check the settings and network connections on your device to make sure it is online and connected to the internet. Use your browser to connect to any website to make sure it loads. If it doesn’t, try to connect a different device on the same network. If none of your devices can access the internet, switch your Wi-Fi router on and off to reset it. If you still can’t connect to your Wi-Fi network, seek help from your internet provider. If only your first device can’t connect to the internet, get help with Wi-Fi on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  • If you use cellular service to connect to the internet on your device, make sure that you have cellular data turned on for the iTunes Store, App Store, and Apple Books via Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data. Check the Apple System Status page to see if there are regional service interruptions.
  • If you can’t log in with your Apple ID, reset your Apple ID password. If you recently changed your Apple ID or password, you might have to sign out and sign back in.
  • If you’re asked to verify your payment information, make sure the payment method, name, and billing address are correct.
  • Update your software to the latest versions of iOS.
  • Make sure that the date and time on your device are set correctly for your time zone. Go to Settings > General > Date & Time and toggle on Set Automatically.

What’s next?

iOS 13 Hands-on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Sit tight. Despite the problems, iOS 13 users should upgrade to all new versions and be sure to install any future fix updates Apple releases. These promise to go a long way in rectifying many issues that marred this otherwise exciting update for so many. Of course, new iPhone owners have no choice in the matter because the three iPhone 11 models shipped with iOS 13 already installed.

Power users who have all systems securely set in the latest version of iOS 12, should consider holding off the upgrade until the new OS is more stable.

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