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 Holger Fiallo on Thursday, January 2, 2020

I think is a new feature. I like it. This way I can check mail and anything else and have VO coming from iPhone and the music from my bluetooth speeker.

Submitted by Donna on Sunday, January 5, 2020

I am also a smart invert user and was specifically waiting to update after reading this blog post. Unfortunately I must’ve accidentally hit install overnight because I unlocked my phone last week and was greeted by 13.3 and the loss of smart invert. My daughter ended up going through Settings and determined that dark mode and classic invert would give me the best of light text and dark background but it is not consistent. There Are many webpages that still load with light backgrounds and I get keyboards with light backgrounds. My home button is probably going to break because of all of the switching back and forth. This is extremely frustrating and yes, I am going to be writing an email now to apple. Also, I have stopped using Safari because of the way the tabs work. I don’t know if there is something I am doing wrong but if I want to go to a tab that is not the one in front, when I tap to activate the tab will close instead. This is happened to many times so I primarily use Firefox. i like the tab layout.

that is the main reason I decided to change from an iPhone 8 back to an iPhone 6. It’s very annoying when you’re trying to listen to an audiobook and you get the time interrupting you and then the screen locking again. FYI this bug also happened to me on an iPhone SE when I was using the headphone jack and iOS 13.3.

sorry if this sounds like a rant but it kind of is. :-)

Submitted by Mike Bullis on Wednesday, March 11, 2020

I have a logitech k810 and when I type messages it won't echo characters even though that function is turned on. Any suggestions are appreciated.