Apple releases iOS and iPadOS 13.6 with Car Key support, audio news stories in Apple News+, and more

Apple’s been seeding the latest betas for iOS 13.6 and iPadOS 13.6 for weeks now, but now it’s finally time to release these iPhone and iPad software updates to the general public.

iOS and iPadOS 13.6 have arrived

Today, Apple released iOS and iPadOS 13.6.

This isn’t necessarily a minor update, all things considered, but it’s not as big as, say, the upcoming iOS 14 update (which Apple will show off next week at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference). While it doesn’t add a ton of forward facing new features for the end user, it does include a few important new additions to the mix. Most of all, though, both iOS and iPadOS 13.6 are designed to improve the overall experience with behind the scenes fixes.

The updates are free, and they are available to download and install now. To do that, simply go to Settings → General → Software Update and follow the onscreen instructions to get the new software on your device(s). If you have automatic updates switched on, your iOS and iPadOS device(s) will handle the download and installation process automatically the next time you have your device connected to its charger.

What’s new in iOS and iPadOS 13.6?

Here are major new features in both iOS 13.6 and iPadOS 13.6:

Saving your spot in Apple News

Up until this point, reading an article in Apple News meant getting through the whole thing in one go, or, if necessary, trying to find where you left off if you do have to exit the app/story to do something else. Apple is finally changing this, though, with iOS and iPadOS 13.6. Now, as long as you’ve made it at least 30 seconds into an article, the app will save your spot so you can hop back in if need be.

Audio news stories in Apple News+

What started as a rumor is now official, as Apple has earned publisher approval for adding audio versions of some news stories available in Apple News+. With this new feature, made available in iOS and iPadOS 13.6, Apple News+ subscribers (which costs $9.99 per month) will have the ability to listen to some news stories, rather than read the stories. Apple will also offer a general recap of the day’s most noteworthy news stories in an audio format as well.

Symptoms category in Health

The Health app is already plenty of helpful, but with iOS 13.6 Apple is making it even better. There is a new “Symptoms” category within the app now, which will allow users to quickly and easily add symptoms of various illnesses. Those symptoms include body aches, dizziness, nausea, headaches, changes in appetite, muscle aches, fainting, coughing, among others.

The new Symptoms section in iOS 13.6’s Health app

To find the new section, users need to tap the “Add Data” option within the stock Health app. For those who take advantage of the new section, it will be an easy way to keep track of symptoms when needed. What’s more, Apple’s Health app will describe each of the symptoms. And users will be able to add additional information like whether or not the symptom is present or not, severe, moderate, or mild.

More granular automatic updates

This one’s pretty straightforward in its approach, offering up a more granular approach to how iOS and iPadOS handle automatic software updates. Right now, turning on automatic downloads means the device will automatically download and install the new software. The new toggle means users will be able to choose whether or not they want to actually have their device automatically download the software before automatically installing it.

iOS and iPadOS 13.6 include a new toggle to automatically download software updates

With this toggle, users could choose to automatically download new software, but not actually install it — leaving that step to a more hands-on approach. Or the user could turn off automatic downloads, but keep automatic installation switched on. Having options is great.

Digital car keys

There have been numerous reports regarding support for digital car keys being baked into iOS, with a lot of speculation that Apple would welcome the new feature alongside iOS 14. And, indeed, Apple did talk about Car Key, the newest NFC-based feature for the iPhone and Apple Watch, during the unveiling of iOS 14 at this year’s all-online Worldwide Developers Conference. However, the feature is making its debut with iOS 13.6.

Simply put, Car Key makes it possible for an iPhone running iOS 13.6 (or newer versions of the mobile operating system) and equipped with NFC capabilities to lock, unlock, and turn on/off a supported vehicle. Auto manufacturers need to also support NFC capabilities in their vehicles, and, at the time of publication, the first cars to support this feature are a range of BMW models. In fact, BMW recently updated its Connected iOS app to support Car Key, and here are the supported vehicles:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, X5, X6, X7, X5M, X6M and Z4 if manufactured after July 1st 2020.

It stands to reason that additional car manufacturers will jump on board the Car Key feature in the near future. Hyundai, for instance, has a similar feature already.

The official changelog (for iOS 13.6)

And here is the official changelog for all the new features now available in iOS 13.6:

iOS 13.6 adds support for digital car keys, introduces audio stories in Apple News+, and contains a new symptoms category in the Health app. This release also includes bug fixes and improvements.

Digital car keys

  • Unlock, lock, and start your compatible car with your iPhone
  • Securely remove digital keys from a lost device via iCloud
  • Share digital keys easily with iMessage
  • Driver-specific profiles so you can configure shared keys for full-access or restricted driving
  • Power reserve lets you unlock and start your car for up to five hours after iPhone runs out of battery

Apple News

  • Audio stories are professionally narrated versions of some of the best reads from Apple News+, selected and produced by the Apple News editors as part of your Apple News+ subscription
  • Apple News Today is a new, free audio briefing on the day’s top stories from the Apple News editors, also available in the Podcasts app
  • A new Audio tab makes it easy to find Apple News Today and Apple News+ audio stories
  • CarPlay allows you to listen to Apple News Today and Apple News+ audio stories while on the road
  • Local news in your Today feed provides extensive coverage of San Francisco, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Houston, and New York City
  • More stories available from local news providers with a subscription to Apple News+
  • Your daily newsletter from Apple News can now be personalized with stories that reflect your interests


  • New category for symptoms in the Health app, including symptoms logged from Cycle Tracking and ECG
  • Ability to log new symptoms, like fever, chills, sore throat or coughing, and share them with third-party apps

This update also includes bug fixes and other improvements.

  • Adds a new setting to choose if updates automatically download to your device when on Wi-Fi
  • Addresses an issue that could cause apps to become unresponsive when syncing data from iCloud Drive
  • Fixes an issue that could cause data roaming to appear to be disabled on eSIM even though it remained active
  • Fixes an issue thats causes some phone calls from Saskatchewan to appear as originating from the United States
  • Addresses an issue that could interrupt audio when making phone calls over Wi-Fi Calling
  • Fixes an issue that prevented some iPhone 6S and iPhone SE devices from registering for Wi-Fi Calling
  • Resolves an issue that could cause the software keyboard to appear unexpectedly when connected to certain third-party hardware keyboards
  • Fixes an issue that could cause Japanese hardware keyboards to be incorrectly mapped as a U.S. keyboard
  • Addresses stability issues when accessing Control Center when AssistiveTouch was enabled
  • Provides a mechanism for administrators to specify domains to exclude from traffic carried by always-on VPN connections

Some features may not be available for all regions or on all Apple devices. For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website:

Don’t forget the HomePod

And, as usual, the HomePod’s firmware has been updated as well. This time around it’s updated to firmware version 13.4.8. It’s a minor update, and doesn’t bring any major forward facing features. However, it does include “general improvements for stability and quality”.

What’s next?

It’s always possible that the public release of the newest software comes with additional changes, and, if that is indeed the case, we will update this article accordingly.

As far as what’s coming down the pipeline, we had the big debut of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 (along with other major updates) during the all-online Worldwide Developers Conference. Check the links below for some of the best new features coming to those new platforms, and macOS 11.0 Big Sur as well.

Check out the top 50 new fearers features in iOS 14 in our hands-on video right ahead.

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And here’s a video covering Apple Pencil changes in iOS 14.

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Your take on iOS 13.6

How do you like the new outward-facing user features and changes in iOS and iPadOS 13.6 so far? Which new feature is your favorite, and why?

Let us know by leaving a comment down below.