Common iOS 13 problems and how to fix them (iOS 13.3 update)

Apple has released iOS 13.3, the newest and ninth update of its latest mobile operating system. With this brand new iteration of the troubled iOS 13, Apple has delivered a milestone update, meaning it not only fixes problems, squashes bugs, and boosts performance, but it also debuts brand new features — which can also lead to new problems, issues, and bugs.

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 exciting new features that people can’t wait to try. Some iPhone and iPad users adventurously put betas on their older or even current devices, despite the warnings that newly minted versions are generally bug-infested and need refining.

Despite all the problems reported with iOS 13, it never seems to deter a significant portion of the user base, though owners of brand new iPhones didn’t get the choice, as iOS 13 is baked into the iPhone 11 series. As of October 2019, the latest numbers available, iOS 13 in some form was on 50% of all iPhones in use, while iPadOS 13 was on 33% of all iPads.

On September 19, after months in beta, Apple released iOS 13 with much fanfare though the euphoria was short-lived. From the day of its launch on September 19, there were more problems and stability issues than usual. Numerous bugs plagued iOS 13’s initial release — so many 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. An interim fix with 13.1.1 was followed by a maintenance or bug fix update in 13.1.2 to fix problems that popped up in 13.1, followed by 13.2, and finally this month, the launch of 13.3. Considering all the issues users encountered this year, many undoubtedly will think twice before jumping into the next OS upgrade on the very day it’s launched, as so many Apple users have done for so many years.

If you already installed iOS 13 in any of its incarnations, you have probably encountered one or more of these issues, and perhaps more than once. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are some common iOS 13 problems and what you can do to fix them, starting with the latest version.

New in iOS 13.3

This update gives parents even more control over their kids’ online interactions within the Screen Time feature, with even more limits on who kids can call, FaceTime chat, or send messages to. The update also provides new layouts in Apple News+ stories, creates a new trimmed video clip instead of saving over the original, and facilitates FIDO2-compliant (the Fast Identity Online open standard for passwordless authentication) NFC, Bluetooth, and Lightning security keys with your iOS device. Gmail, Dropbox, Twitter, Outlook, and Facebook all support security keys, so this is quite useful for owners who prefer a physical security key. Oh, and if you’re not wild about memoji stickers, you can now make them vanish from the emoji keyboard.

Alongside new features, iOS 13.3 addresses many nasty bugs found in earlier versions. If you were having issues with the Mail app on your phone, it’s likely this newest iOS version will fix issues that prevented you from downloading new messages or deleting messages in Gmail accounts, and also resolve issues that caused errant characters to show up in messages or duplication of sent messages in Exchange accounts. Both iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3 include a dozen security updates in addition to other features and fixes.

The new iOS version does not fix the Ultra-Wideband and location sharing issue reported for iPhone 11 series, though Apple has stated its intention to provide a dedicated toggle switch for the feature in an upcoming iOS update — just not this one. Overall, there seem to be fewer new general bug complaints reported for iOS 13.3, but hold on to your hats: Word is out that Apple is already beta testing iOS 13.3.1.

New iOS 13.3 issues

The Problem: Communications Limits bug lets kids chat with anyone

A brand new feature has been felled by a brand new bug — this time in the new 13.3 Communication Limits feature that lets parents control who their kids can text, FaceTime, or call. CNBC initially revealed the bug lets the little ones communicate with anyone they want, and even offers a conduit for strangers to communicate with your kid. A child should not be able to add a contact to an iPhone address book without a parent entering their PIN first. But kids can get around restrictions if contacts are not synced with iCloud or by using an Apple Watch and Siri, which will obligingly call or text anyone the child asks, whether or not they are on a contact list. Notably, the new feature does not work with Facebook Messenger, SnapChat, and Skype. Apple says the issue only occurs on devices set up with a “non-standard configuration,” and has promised a total fix in future upgrades. It suggests the following interim solution.

Possible Solution: Force contacts to sync with iCloud by default

  • Open Settings.
  • Open Contacts.
  • Select Default Account.
  • Change it to iCloud from any other setting — say, Gmail or something else.

The Problem: Battery drain

Battery drain in iOS 13.3 is not a new problem — it’s an old problem that never went away. One customer writes on Twitter: “Just updated my iPhone 7 to ios 13.3. Battery life still the same as before. Guess this is how we’re gonna live our life now.” Battery life issues are a perennial problem with iOS upgrades. We encountered it when iOS 13 was first released, and for some, the situation has not changed appreciably. Some iOS 13 users noticed that battery life seems degraded after the upgrade to Apple’s latest mobile operating system. That’s partly because the new OS must 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: Mobile data service disabled

Various users have reported that with the installation of iOS 13.3, they have lost mobile cellular service, and some even report losing Wi-Fi and are unable to make phone calls or send normal text messages. Apple support includes this message: “Since yesterday morning, my iPhone 7 Plus’ internet connection is broken. I can still receive notifications, but when I open the app, it says that I do not have an internet connection. This is happening on all apps on either mobile data or Wi-Fi. Running iOS 13.3.” A similar issue was also reported for iOS 13.2.2 and 13.2.3. Apple suggested various solutions.

Possible solutions

  • Go for the Airplane mode in Settings > Airplane Mode and switch it on and off in sequence.
  • Reset the network settings with Settings > General > Reset. Enter your passcode when asked. Confirm that you want to reset network settings. Your device will restart once you confirm, and will reset all settings to delete saved Wi-Fi networks, paired Bluetooth devices, cellular networks, and VPNs to restore the default factory setting.
  • Restart or force restart your iPhone if mobile data is not working on your iPhone, using the steps below.

For iPhone X or 11: Press and hold a volume button and the side button simultaneously until the power off slider appears. Drag the slider to turn off your phone. Turn your phone back on by pressing and holding the side button (on the right side), until the Apple logo appears.

For iPhone 8, 7, or 6: Press and hold the side button until the power off slider appears, and drag the slider to switch off your device. Then, turn it back on by pressing and holding the side button until the Apple logo appears.

For iPhone SE, 5, or earlier: Press and hold the top button until the power off slider appears, and drag the slider to turn off your device. To turn your it back on, press and hold the top button until you see the Apple logo.

Previous updates and issues

iOS 13.2

The release of iOS 13.2 brought with it several new features that users were waiting for, including the Deep Fusion camera tech on the iPhone 11, which added additional layers to iOS computational photography capabilities. The Announce Messages with Siri option let Siri read incoming messages aloud while you had AirPods plugged into your ears. Other improvements included listening history for the Music app, improved Siri & Dictation that let you opt out of sharing recordings with Apple, and a wide selection of diverse new emojis that included the ability to choose various skin tones.

With iOS 13.2, Apple appeared to introduce a serious memory management bug into the multi-tasking environment, where many users reported apps like Safari, YouTube, Mail, and others closing and being reopened when switching back and forth from different apps, and sometimes causing data loss. With the release of iOS 13.2.2, Apple addressed the issue, “that could cause apps to quit unexpectedly when running in the background.”

iOS 13.1.3

Apple released 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 are maintenance updates designed to squish bugs, not to add any new features.

The iOS 13.1.3 update featured bug fixes and improvements for issues that could prevent a device from ringing or vibrating for an incoming call or prevent you from opening a meeting invite in Mail. The update was designed to solve Bluetooth problems such as disconnecting on some vehicles, as well as improving reliability for hearing aids and headsets. It fixed an issue that could prevent pairing with or receiving notifications on an Apple Watch. It also addressed issues with iCloud backup problems for Voice Memos. It also resolved a daylight savings time Health app data issue.

The Problem: Game Center unavailable in iOS 13.2.3

In the iOS 13.1.2, 13.1.3, and 13.2.3 updates, users encounter a “Game Center unavailable, Player is not signed in” alert.

Possible solutions

You have several choices on how to proceed. First, try changing your Wi-Fi to see if it’s a network issue. If your network is OK, then here are some other possibilities.

Completely restore your device to factory settings — a factory reset will help to correct the incomplete update.
Go to Settings > iTunes > App Store to sign out of your Apple ID and then sign in again.
Reset network settings, and try accessing Game Center again.
Force restart can also solve many stability issues.

The Problem: Bluetooth not working in iOS 13.1.3, 13.2.2

Your iPhone’s Bluetooth does not connect your other Bluetooth devices.

Possible solutions

  • Try switching Airplane mode on and off and then reset the network settings. Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings to clear out current saved settings, Wi-Fi passwords, preferred networks, and VPN settings.
  • Reboot to repair iOS system to restore Bluetooth connectivity (see steps above).

The Problem: Can’t set up Apple Pay in iOS 13.2.2

Although iOS 13.2.2 has optimized many bugs, some users continued to uncover new issues. For instance, an iPhone 7 user reported that he could not set up Apple Pay even after resetting all settings in iOS 13.2.2.

Possible solutions:

  • The quickest way to solve the issue is to perform a force reboot.
  • If a force restart doesn’t work, sign out of your Apple ID and back.
  • Reset the region: Go to Setting > Your Name > iTunes & App Store, click your Apple ID, and then View Apple ID. Select Country/Region to reset it.

The Problem: Dropped calls in iOS 13.1.2 and 3.1.3

There were widespread reports that iOS 13.1.2 caused calls to drop within a minute of being placed. Said 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 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 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.
  • Re-sync 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.

Original iOS 13 issues

The problem: Third-party keyboard bug

Apple had issued a special security warning about third-party keyboard apps in iOS 13. You could 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 could cause these apps to gain full access even without your approval. The bug only affected 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. 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?

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.

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?”

Solutions

There are numerous 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].”

Solutions

Apple acknowledged that Reminders wouldn’t sync properly unless all your devices were 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 users can stay out of Reminders trouble.

  • Connect 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: 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.

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?

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 still consider holding off the upgrade until the new OS is more stable and Apple continues to maintain iOS 12 with updates and security fixes. However, as time passes, the number of iOS 13 problems have diminished while the advantages of upgrading to leverage new and improved features and interfaces grows stronger.

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