(Credit: Apple, Inc.)

While desktop and laptop PCs have traded places with mobile phones and tablets when it comes to the sizzle factor, the march of technology continues at roughly the same pace as before. Apple, Google and other big manufacturers produce new flagship phones every year, and Apple and Google also roll out an annual complementary upgrades for iOS and Android, respectively.

So while many iPhone and iPad users are still debating over whether they should update to iOS 12 or a new device altogether, Apple is forging ahead with iOS 13, according to reports from MacRumors and 9to5Mac. These indicators come in the form of web analytics, where the website owners can see user info such as what operating system you are running when you load one of their pages.

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This is made possible by a feature in your browser known as a user agent string, which websites use to figure out how to display a page correctly on your device. Many websites will present you with completely different layouts depending on the data in this string -- and the analytics reports given to MacRumors and 9to5Mac show that iOS 13 has been popping up in these strings for many months already.

Of course, there are browser extensions that let you choose from a list of user agent strings, and you can sometimes create a custom one without needing to be too tech-savvy. So not all of these strings are guaranteed to be legit. Some may report "iOS 13" just for testing purposes, while others may faked for privacy or security reasons.

But based on the chart that 9to5Mac supplied on Twitter, the sheer volume of "iOS 13" showing up in browsers that visit its website strongly indicate that some version of Apple's next mobile operating system is genuinely up and running online, ahead of its expected debut at the company's annual WWDC conference in June.

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What else do we know about iOS 13?

In the case of 9to5Mac, it says that it's been seeing iOS 13 in strings since March 2018. It was not long after that Bloomberg staffer Mark Gurman dropped some nuggets on Twitter: Apple was planning on a new Files app, MacOS-like app tabs and a redesign of the Home screen. It's unusual to get that much information that early on, but companies like Apple plan their operating systems -- and the phones they go on -- for years before they ever see the light of day.

On the other hand, getting news about iOS 13 as early as March of last year can be a double-edged sword, because not every feature is certain to make the cut. That's why Apple will presumably wait until this summer to unveil the next version, because that's when it'll know exactly how it's going to shape up. Since new iPhones typically launch in September every year, June is arguably the latest point at which they can lock everything in.

But even then, as we saw recently with AirPower and group Facetime chats, something big could still get delayed in the eleventh hour. At the least, though, Gurman appears to have given us a glimpse of where Apple would like iOS 13 to be when it gets officially unveiled a few months from now.

Takeaways

  • Two news websites dedicated to Apple news report that they have been detecting visitors running iOS 13 as far back as March 2018. The operating system is slated to be unveiled at Apple's annual WWDC conference in June.
  • According to a Bloomberg staffer, we should expect iOS 13 to have a refreshed Files app, MacOS-like app tabs and a redesign of the Home screen.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.