Apple Releases iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3 with Some Fixes for Blind and Low Vision Users, but also a Regression to Smart Invert

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today released iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3 to the public. In addition to bringing some new features and enhancements, these releases bring fixes for a number of the bugs that iOS 13.0 and iOS 13.1 and iPadOS 13.1 introduced for blind and low vision users.

Unfortunately, there is a regression in the performance of Smart Invert in iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3: users who prefer a combination of Dark Mode and Smart Invert to have a light on dark display will find that this is now back to being as unreliable and inconsistent as it was in the initial iOS 13.0 and iPadOS 13.1 releases.

Our understanding is that Apple is working on allowing Dark Mode and Smart Invert to function independently of each other (in that previously enabling Smart Invert would also enable Dark Mode if it wasn't already enabled). This appears to have resulted in a regression to the overall performance of Smart Invert. As a consequence, users are likely to encounter numerous situations system-wide where enabling Smart Invert will result in undesirable and less than optimum color combinations.

We have no low vision users on our Editorial Team, so are unable to comment on the true extent of the regression or its likely impact upon those who do rely on Smart Invert. Accordingly, we would greatly appreciate the thoughts and experiences of anybody who can accurately comment on the performance of Smart Invert in these releases. If you are somebody who relies on Smart Invert to access your device, you may wish to delay updating until we have a more informed opinion on the performance of this feature in iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3.

For now, we've been advised by one low vision user of the following issues when Dark Mode and Smart Invert are both enabled (note that this was based upon only a short time running iOS 13.3 before reverting back to 13.2.3):

  1. Lock screen widgets inverted.
  2. Safari webpages no longer invert.
  3. Background inverts when the Control Center is loaded.
  4. Contact images are inverted in the Messages app.

Bug Fixes for Blind and Low Vision Users in iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3

Our testing suggests that the following pre-existing accessibility bugs have been resolved in iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3:

There is some improvement to the bug which could cause temporary banner notifications to remain on screen. One of our Team reports no longer experiencing this behavior, whilst another is still encountering it but far less frequently.

Another bug where there appears to be some improvement is the Misspelled Words option not being available on the VoiceOver rotor when composing emails in the native Mail app. Our experience suggest that it may not initially be on the rotor, but typically becomes available if you tap one or more times with one finger on the message body field.

One final bug where some of our Team have reported an improvement is with the audio tone not being played after you have unlocked your device with Face ID. Two of our Team report that this tone is now consistently present for them, but a third sees no improvement.

If you encounter any additional fixes during your own use of iOS 13.3 or iPadOS 13.3, please let us know by posting a comment below.

Other than the Smart Invert regression mentioned above, we are currently unaware of any new bugs for blind and low vision users in iOS 13.3 or iPadOS 13.3.

As we always stress, we can make no claims on the completeness or accuracy of our testing. We are only a small team, and it is simply impossible for us to test all devices, configurations, applications, and use cases. Accordingly, to help us ensure that the information on this page is as complete and accurate as possible, please let us know in the comments of any fixes; enhancements; or regressions that you find in your own use of iOS 13.3 or iPadOS 13.3.

General Changes in iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3

iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3 introduce Communication Limits for Screen Time, a feature which enables parents to control who their children can communicate with — and who can communicate with them — throughout the day and during Downtime.

As Cult of Mac says, These new Screen Time Communication Limits “add an extra level of oversight” for parents:

During regular use, parents can limit a child to communicating only with people in the Contacts app. During what Apple calls “Downtime,” parents can limit their child to talking with people on a preset list. The feature will block everyone else. The Screen Time Communication Limits settings apply to the Phone app, FaceTime and Messages.

Calling an emergency number is always allowed, and turns off these limits for 24 hours.

Previously, Screen Time could block access to these communication applications, but not specific contacts. This meant that if a parent wanted the capability to text their child, they couldn’t prevent friends from doing the same.

Also new is support for NFC, USB, and Lightning FIDO2-compliant security keys in Safari; meaning that physical security keys such as the YubiKey can be used for more secure two-factor authentication in place of software-based two-factor authentication.

Additionally, there's a new keyboard setting that lets you control whether Animoji and Memoji stickers are displayed on the Emoji Keyboard.

Apple's release notes, via MacRumors are as follows:

iOS 13.3 includes improvements, bug fixes and additional parental controls for Screen Time.

Screen Time

  • New parental controls provide more communication limits over who their children can call, FaceTime, or Message
  • Contact list for children lets parents manage the contacts that appear on their children’s devices

Apple News

  • New layout for ‌Apple News‌+ stories from The Wall Street Journal and other leading newspapers
  • Easily like or dislike stories with a tap


  • Stories from ‌Apple News‌ are now available in Canada in English and French
  • Continue reading with links to related stories or more stories from the same publication
  • “Breaking” and “Developing” labels for Top Stories

This update also includes bug fixes and other improvements. This update:

  • Enables the creation of a new video clip when trimming a video in Photos
  • Adds support for NFC, USB, and Lightning FIDO2-compliant security keys in Safari
  • Fixes issues in Mail that may prevent downloading new messages
  • Addresses an issue that prevented deleting messages in Gmail accounts
  • Resolves issues that could cause incorrect characters to display in messages and duplication of sent messages in Exchange accounts
  • Fixes an issue where the cursor may not move after long pressing on the space bar
  • Addresses an issue that may cause screenshots to appear blurry when sent via Messages
  • Resolves an issue where cropping or using Markup on screenshots may not save to ‌Photos‌
  • Fixes an issue where Voice Memos recordings may not be able to be shared with other audio apps
  • Addresses an issue where the missed call badge on the Phone app may not clear
  • Resolves an issue where the Cellular Data setting may incorrectly show as off
  • Fixes an issue that prevented turning off Dark Mode when Smart Invert was enabled
  • Addresses an issue where some wireless chargers may charge more slowly than expected

How to update

iOS 13.3 and iPadOS 13.3 are available via Over-the-Air Update (Settings > General > Software Update) via Finder on a Mac with macOS Catalina, or via iTunes on a PC or Mac with macOS Mojave or earlier.

Before updating, we strongly recommend making a full and complete backup of your device (either locally or in iCloud, depending on personal preference). This will ensure that, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong during the update process, you will have a current backup on hand in case a device restore becomes necessary. Also, if using OTA update, we recommend plugging your device into a power source for the duration of the download/installation process, so as to prevent the unlikely event of your battery going dead during the update.

More information on how to update the software on your device is available on this Apple Support page.

As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on these updates. Do you like the new features and changes? Let us know by adding a comment below.

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Submitted by Kelsey Nicolay on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Has Braille input using a Braille display been improved in IOS 13.3?

Submitted by Sara W on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

I’m a Low Vision user. I use Smart Invert + Dark Mode. I hate to say this but unless you are a user who is willing to immediately file feedback so Apple will be encouraged to correct the Smart Invert + Dark Mode problem, do not update! I have some work arounds if anyone is interested, but I don’t like them and they’re simply to get me by. Obviously, your feedback to Apple is strongly encouraged ASAP!!

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Well the issue with vo talking when using siri via power button still not fix. So much for fixing problem for the accessibility. Unlucky 13 saga continues. How can not they fix the siri and vo issue? No comands about waiting apple to fix it. This is not even acceptableanymore.

Submitted by Niki on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Before I update, can anyone confirm that siri and voice over no longer occasionally speak at the same time? Also, does voiceover pronounce things correctly now?

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Regarding Siri and VO the answer is yes. Also but regarding notification repeating on messages. I check and do have to repeat 2 times but it does more than 2. Also the issue with getting any notification and hearing time at end continues. It is not good when you get 3 or more notification close and having to hear VO says the time. It is a major pain. Apple is no longer doing well in accessibility for me. No comands defending apple please.

Submitted by J.P. on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

I’m still having interference with VO and Siri. I’m also still experiencing the hanging notification banner. Incorrect pronunciations is still there as well.

Submitted by Harryubu on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

I’ve been plagued by the inconsistent malfunctioning of Smart Invert Colours throughout the beta cycle of iOS 13. But it is inconsistent and often hard to reproduce. The keyboard so often is NOT white letters on dark background - and Safari web pages or documents in Pages just often require me to keep chopping and changing between Smart and Classic Invert. It is such a frustrating experience!, I have reported the issues, but no joy yet.
Fingers crossed!

Submitted by Samuel J on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Just noticed something. Ever since updating to iOS 13.3, in the status bar, right next to the name of the cellular carrier, Voiceover is now saying 4G. I have always had Voiceover say LTE for my cellular data, but now it says 4G. I have checked and my data speeds are still what they should be with LTE. So I am not sure why it no longer says LTE and says 4G instead. Wondering if this was a change made by apple?
Is this happening with anyone else too?

Submitted by J.P. on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

My cellular shows LTE on Verizon. Maybe your towers are down or overloaded at the moment. You could try to reboot phone, but sure it will resolve.

Submitted by J.P. on Wednesday, December 11, 2019

There does seem to be some improvements with notifications. All are set on same setting. Some now disappear, while others I still need to clear.

Submitted by Khushi on Wednesday, December 11, 2019

dear editors at applevis
thanks a lot for your amazing guides and reports.
I appreciate you all.

Submitted by Patrick Bouchard on Wednesday, December 11, 2019

I don't know about anyone else, but the Face ID feedback bug is not fixed for me. I've gotten audio feedback maybe once out of at least 20 times unlocking my phone since updating to 13.3.

Submitted by That Blind Canuck on Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Same here, I too get that same bug. Before updating though, it seemed to be happening less, but since updating, it's more frequent again.

I've also noticed that, even though you turn wifi completely off from Settings and restart your phone, wifi turns itself back on.

And another bug, when getting emails or Facebook notifications, even though I've read and cleared them, when visiting the Notification Centre, the notifications are still there.

Not sure if anyone else is getting these.

I'm currently working with Apple Accessibility on these bugs too, so hopefully we'll be able to figure out what is going on and they'll be able to let the developers know so they can fix it.

I know, most are probably saying "Good luck" or have reported bugs to Apple with nothing coming out of it, but I'd rather do my due diligence and report them to Apple. I still try to keep hope and at least give them a chance, even though I know that it won't go anywhere.

Submitted by Magic Retina on Wednesday, December 11, 2019

I was hoping the update would fix the issue with the cursor constantly leaping to the top of pages and bouncing around apps like a grasshopper on speed but no luck. If you're trying to open links in the background be prepared to constantly lose your place and get very frustrated, especially if you're trying to read a long document with embeded links.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Wednesday, December 11, 2019

I was checking news in the apple news and it refresh and lost focus. Where are the people that defended apple on accessibility? Fix bugs for accessibility? It looks like there are more bugs and only fix some.

Submitted by Marcia Yale on Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The number of unread messages used to be announced by VoiceOver on the home screen. Since IOS 13, this very handy piece of information is no longer available.

Submitted by Niki on Thursday, December 12, 2019

Ever since updating to iOS 13.3, my battery drains like hot cakes. It usually lasts for at least 24 hours but I took it off the charger around 4 PM yesterday afternoon and by 5 this morning, it needed to be put back on the charger and was at 10%. What gives?

Submitted by gailisaiah on Thursday, December 12, 2019

In response to Marcia: Found that if I read a notification text, then unlock my phone, the Messages App will say X number of messages unread when in fact I have already read them. My work around is when I ask Siri to read messages, the App won't say there are unread messages.

Submitted by Lawrence on Thursday, December 12, 2019

Apple has had a bug in iOS 13 with the Shortcuts app and accessibility(voiceover) That I have been noticing for a very long time now. It seems like no one has reported it here, so that I will report it here now, LOL. It is unfortunate that you cannot edit certain actions like you used to be able to do. For example, in iOS 12, I could add a random number action, and then add a repeat action. Set the repetition times two the random number action that you just added, and boom, you can make your device repeat something a random number of times between a start and end number. Same is true for the weight action, you can have it wait for a random number of seconds. Iused to love making my shortcuts app act like a robot, with random input frases and other things, if you would like to see one of my experiments with that please let me know. Unfortunately, going into edit the repetitions now only gives you the options to decrement and increment. It doesn't even tell you, unless you dismiss the popover, how many times you've set your device to repeat. Secondly, add a new shortcut, and add the send message action. Usually, in iOS 13, you can use the rotor to edit the different parts of a shortcut, for example, editing the two field and the recipient field in messages, Or editing the repetitions as described earlier. Anyway, you add the message, and I tap on where it says to, message, recipient, or something similar. Swipe up or down, and it uses the rotor actions that you had it previously set to. If I look for actions in the rotor, it's not there. So I can't edit the send message option anymore in shortcuts. Anyone have any idea on how I can work around these bugs for now? Thanks.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Thursday, December 12, 2019

In reply to by gailisaiah

I also having issues. It is going down fast and I am not even using the iPhone and all the apps are close. Within several hours I left it on the table and kept going down. Normaly when I left it alone and did not use it the battery stay the same percentage. Makes you wander whether they did any work on the iOS and just fix some, but nothing for us.

Submitted by Eczad99 on Thursday, December 12, 2019

I am curious if anyone has found a way to delete old message threads considered recents? Basically, the message thread is not in my list of messages when I open the app but when I am composing a new text and type in someone's name, all of the old threads pop up with various people in groups. In older versions, I could hit the plus button on the far right of the thread and delete from recents but now, I am not sure how to go about this.

Submitted by Feargus on Thursday, December 12, 2019

So, I was really hoping this would have been fixed by now, but it seems that despite all the resources that Apple has at it's disposal, it is still unable to invest in proper testing for accessibility before releasing an update.

What are the issues:

Currently, it seems random as to whether or not an app will open with smart invert or not. A good example is the web browser, where pages will not come up black with white font, however when you tap in a edit box you get a black keyboard (note, the font on the keys is not very well defined)

When you start the phone up the keyboard is almost impossible when smart invert is on.

Disappointing...… overall

Shortcuts have at least 2 more errors.
1. After opening the gallery > shortcuts from your applications, application names should be to be with headers. (hx / hx). So that by swype your finger up and down you can move quickly through the next.
2. I completely don't understand the sort of shortcuts I've created.

Submitted by J.P. on Thursday, December 12, 2019

I experienced this before, but has become more frequent.
VO seems to freeze more often. A VO toggle off/on used to correct. I now have to lock/unlock the phone.
I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve reported this. I’m really getting over Apple at this point. Bugs persist constantly.

Submitted by alex wallis on Thursday, December 12, 2019

Hi all, I just got the pro max and restored my backup today. Now I have no options to download alex, or daniel enhanced, and in fact other voices don't seem to work with VoiceOver like siri etc. only US voices I seem to have showing as available are fred, Samantha, siri female and male voices. that doesn't sound right to me, didn't they also have voices such as thom? not sure if this is corruptions on my end or apple have taken out lots of voices.

Submitted by alex wallis on Thursday, December 12, 2019

thanks, looks like I will have to try restoring my iPhone, this is why I don't like iCloud backups. it was also an unwelcome surprise when I found they don't give lightning cables with 11 phones anymore.

Submitted by Kerby on Thursday, December 12, 2019

The lightning cables that Apple provides are junk anyway. That's why I use my 10 ft cable I got from Walmart and it's very sturty so it will last a long time.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Thursday, December 12, 2019

Apple always wants to get money from us. Got a pack of cables that last a long time. about 10 feet long.

Submitted by J.P. on Thursday, December 12, 2019

Hi Alex,
Your backup could be corrupt. However; plugging in phone and leaving it alone will often resolve that issue. All will show as they should.

I have stopped using Smart Invert and am not happy about this at all!! I miss it. I’m currently using dark mode with classic invert. It is very annoying and I to am quite disappointed in Apple for this release.

Submitted by That Blind Canuck on Friday, December 13, 2019

Hey Alex, you didn't get any cables with your 11 Pro Max? I was under the impression that all of the Pro models came with a USB-C to USB cable. I know that when I got my iPhone 11, it came with a Lightning to USB cable, with a pair of their Lightning EarPods.

I do agree that their cables and wired headphones aren't the greatest, but in a pinch, they work fine.

I much more prefer using Anker cables myself as I find them more solidly built then Apple's own cables, and the price tag that Apple charges for them, I find is a little too much for a simple cable.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Friday, December 13, 2019

I just heard the beta for iOS unlucky 13.3.1 is out. Anyone wants to take a vote that bugs will be fix? No.

Submitted by Samuel J on Saturday, December 14, 2019

I can confirm that the first fix listed in the list, "VoiceOver focus no longer jumps to an unexpected location in the list of emails in the Mail app after taking an action such as delete, mark as unread" is actually not reliable at all. Meaning, that this bug very much still exists and has not gone away entirely. Sure, there has definitely been some improvement, but it is still very much there. I for one, have encountered it multiple times ever since updating to iOS 13.3 earlier this week. There is no consistent way to reproduce the bug, apart from simply going through the process of deleting an email or performing another action on it via the roter, multiple times. But every once in a while, the bug reappears and continues to happen for a few times that you keep deleting your emails and then randomly disappears.
This bug has become so hard to reproduce that I don't even know how to report it to Apple. You know they're gonna ask you to give them a method to reproduce it consistently, which, there's none. And then it'll just fall by the wayside, something else for us to just get used to. It'll just be another one added to the list of bugs that have been reported and reported in the past, but have never been fixed.

Wow, Apple...I'm sorry, but some of these fixes are seriously a half-ass attempt. I was expecting a much better effort in at least resolving the bugs that they did attempt to resolve. This was a 13.X release, so one can and should expect proper fixes. But no, they simply made "improvements" to various reported bugs, rather than release proper fixes.

Submitted by J.P. on Saturday, December 14, 2019

Another mail bug seems to have possibly been fixed. I can delete trash in bulk. Reliably and with select all and delete consistently showing.
This is nice, I had another app installed. Just for bulk delete.

Submitted by Lawrence on Saturday, December 14, 2019

Firstly, I use voice control more than I do dictation. I am using voice control right now to write this. Yes, there are some negative things to it. For example, voice control listens to everything that VoiceOver speaks as you're dictating. There are a few ways around that, using bluetooth headphones, or turning your speech off as you're dictating, or even going into the typing feedback voiceOver settings and setting the key echo under software keyboards to none. But I like it because it works without Internet access. I could be typing a note without Internet on my phone. I also like it because unlike dictation, you can keep talking and talking without getting interrupted and have to activate dictation again. In fact, there's no need to activate dictation because it's already running. You can stop the dictation by saying go to sleep, and resume by saying wake up, and you'll hear a sound to confirm. Although I think voice control is good for non-interrupted dictation, it seems to slow down voiceover. Have any of you notice this?

Submitted by Ines on Thursday, December 19, 2019

I use the smart invert and the problems from ios13 are not all fixed. Pages im the safari browser are still not loading with the smart invert, so for that I have to use the old classic invert. Also some emails aren’t loading correctly and the background stays white. I strongly hope apple will fix this problem.

Ines & other Smart Invert users. Please file bugs and email Accessibility at apple dot com with your complaints & concerns. I was really hoping the response about iOS 13.3 would be much louder about these issues. I really miss using Smart Invert on my iPhone. But in order to generate a fix, Apple needs to hear that there is a serious problem. Pages is an ongoing issue of documents loading with a white background. Anything with HTML is loading with bright white backgrounds. I am currently using dark mode with classic invert & have tried using color filter to tone down some bright spots. My iPhone is disappointing to use. And I’m not going to update my iPad until I see a better version.
Thank you.

People are doing so, the issue is that apple is not paying attention or they are busy doing something else like making money and not addressing bugs that blind people reported. For example, VO talking when you use siri via power button. People made report about this yet still goes on. How many times can you report an issue?

Submitted by Ann on Saturday, December 21, 2019


I just got used to using the Show Context Menu option in my voiceover rotor. It's gone after updating to 13.3. Did they remove the option? Now when I flick up and down on the home screens, all I get are Activate and Edit Mode.

Submitted by Lielle ben simon on Saturday, December 21, 2019

Hi, it'sn't gone, they remove from the rottor but if you press dabble tapp and hold it will be there.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Saturday, December 21, 2019

Now when I put the phone on mute, it affected my ringtone, it stop VO from working when getting a call. When moving phone to my ear to talking, does not go from speeker to phone. Waiting for iOS 14, it can not be worse than this unlucky 13.

Submitted by mcox on Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Has anyone noticed a Bug whereby voiceover sounds are extremely loud, regardless of voiceover's actual volume?
I have volume set to 5% so that it's not blasting in my ear, but the sounds blow my head off, it's annoying.
I can turn off the sound, but I'd rather not.
Anyone noticed this?
I tried restarting voiceover, and tried restartin the phone.
I only just updated to iOS 13 because of the multitude of bugs present.
Not a major issue in the grand skeme of things, but thought I'd let people know anyway.

Submitted by mcox on Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Hello, When using a bluetooth device all music goes through the device as it should, but voiceover comes through the iPhone speaker. Anyone have an idea why this might be? Just upgraded to iOS 13.3 from iOS 12.