Apple announced iOS 12 at WWDC 2018, with a major focus on improved device performance. Even though the rumor mill reported that Apple would only focus on performance improvements this year, the Cupertino giant included a number of new features. These include Group FaceTime video calls, new Animojis, Memojis, camera effects, Screen Time, ARKit 2, group notification and many more. Some of the features, like group FaceTime and group notifications can be categorized under finally, as users had waiting for ages.
New features in iOS 12
The rumor mill said that we will not be seeing many new features this year as Apple’s focus will be simply on stability and performance improvements. However, Apple surprised us all and announced a lot more than under-the-hood updates. Here are the features that Apple announced at WWDC 2018:
Users had been reporting of performance issues on iOS devices, new and old alike, since a long time. The issues can be tracked back to iOS 7 when Apple significantly redesigned their mobile operating system. As per rumors, Apple was working on a Snow Leopard like improvements for this year’s updates and they really delivered. With iOS 12, performance improvements on iPhone 6 Plus would be as following:
- 70% faster swipe to camera
- 50% faster keyboard display
- 2x faster app launch under heavy workload
It is common knowledge that iPhone 6 Plus was not the best performing device, specially due to the amount of RAM. So, it is great to see that Apple supporting that device, and even older ones, like iPhone 5s and first generation iPad Air, to improve their longevity with performance improvements.
Siri can now do a lot more than before. It is still not on the level of Google Assistant for general searches, however, you can now use it to search for:
- Race stats from motorsports
- Food and celebrity questions
- Passwords from your iCloud keychain
- Memories from Photos app
Apple had acquired Workflow app in March 2017. Workflow is an award winning app for iOS which automates different tasks between supported apps. Using Workflow, you could setup shortcuts to create notes, get directions, resize images and a lot more. Apple’s acquisition was a clear sign that they would be integrating its functionality within iOS and it happened sooner than expected.
With iOS 12, Workflow is now called Siri Shortcuts. It supports the same features that advanced users love but now it also intelligently suggests Shortcuts based on your usage with third party apps. If a third app uses Siri’s API, Siri will learn how you use it and automatically suggest shortcuts on your lock screen and in Spotlight search. You can also create custom Shortcuts, assign voice commands and invoke them using Siri. It will work great with Apple’s own apps, right out of the box while developers can add Siri Shortcuts support in their own apps for deeper integration.
Group FaceTime Video Calls
This has been a much awaited feature. Group video calling for FaceTime is perhaps the biggest update that Apple has given to its popular calling service in years. Users can now initiate group video calls with up to 32 friends. The calls can be initiated from a group iMessage conversation as well as from the FaceTime app in iOS.
Apple has also added filters and sticks support so you can act and look silly in FaceTime calls.
Apple has added 4 new Animojis for iPhone X users and extended recording time in Messages app to 30 seconds. All animojis now support tongue detection too. It is strange that they took time to announce this update on stage at WWDC.
Memojis are a big deal. They are exactly like Bitmojis – you create them using a built-in wizard in iPhone X to match it to your looks and personality. The Memoji can then be animated using the iPhone X front-facing camera, to work similar to Animojis. Memojis can be used in iMessages and FaceTime video calls. You can use Memojis as a mask on your face and make a cartoonish version of yourself.
Memojis make Samsung’s AR Emoji look like trash and rightly so.
With the updated camera in Messages app, you can now add Animoji, Memoji, filters, text effects, emojis and other stickers that you have downloaded from the App Store, to your photos. The main Camera app doesn’t have access to these effects so you have to open the camera from a conversation in Messages to use them. These effects are also available in FaceTime video calls.
Screen Time is Apple’s take on digital health and parental controls. With this new feature, you can keep track of how much you use certain apps or access different websites on your device and control their usage by settings time limits. Screen Time also allows you to set a downtime on your devices so only phone calls and selected apps will be accessible during that time. Apple has also moved some of the features available in Restrictions, to Content & Privacy in the Screen Time setting. This allows you to limit purchases, content usage, location sharing, privacy permissions and much more. For parents, this is a great feature to restrict and monitor kid’s usage on iOS devices.
Just like many other features in this update, improvements to Notifications have also been a long time coming. You can finally group notifications by app. Based on your usage, Siri also suggests follow ups to your important notifications. iOS also allows you to disable notifications from certain apps, or to send them directly to notification center, without an alert. Notifications still retain 3D touch capability to preview them or reply to them.
With iOS 12, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that notifications are as good, or even better in some ways, than Android’s notifications now.
Do Not Disturb
You can now set timeouts for Do Not Disturb. Instead of manually disabling Do Not Disturb, you can schedule to disable once you leave your current location, or when an event ends or after some time.
Photos app is finally as good as Google Photos now. Search is smarter and you can use different keywords to filter it by multiple people, locations, and events. Moments and Memories in search results also highlight important photos. The app also suggests smarter sharing of different photos and albums, based on your contacts tagged in them.
Basically, Photos now works as well as Google Photos.
With every iOS update, Apple seems to tweak the News app. The News app now has only 3 items in the bottom navigation bar: Today, Spotlight and Browse. ‘Today’ shows the usual news feed, that was part of ‘For You’ section before. Spotlight shows featured news stories, as curated by Apple’s editorial team. ‘Browse‘ contains everything else: channels/websites that you follow, saved items, history, notifications and other settings.
After this update, Apple News is still better than Google News, specially in terms of design. Google News had obviously been inspired by Apple News and many sections were even named the same, such as ‘For You‘. It’ll be interesting to see if Google News will change again, based on Apple’s News updates.
The News app is still limited to only a few countries and Apple did not announce any plans for expansion.
The app has been redesigned and looks sleek and very modern now. It uses an Apple Maps like interface where you swipe up to view details. The app also lists more news content for each company that you follow.
The app has been renamed to Apple Books and sports a new design which makes it easy view your library, explore bestsellers and browse the Book Store. Unfortunately, the Book Store is still not available in many countries and regions.
The voice memo app is now available on iPad and supports iCloud sync.
CarPlay has been opened up to third-party navigation apps so you can expect Waze and Google Maps support for CarPlay very soon.
ARKit 2.0 was announced with support for multi-player and multi-user support for games and apps. A demo was shown where two developers were playing in the same Lego game sandbox. Really cool implementation however, holding up iPads like that for a long time does not seem ergonomic. For developers, ARKit 2.0 also supports improved face tracking, 3D object detection and rendering. Apps and games can also persistent experiences so objects do not have to be re-placed every time. The apps will remember where they are.
Apple also announced a new open AR file format called USDZ, that they’ve created with Pixar. Adobe is also expected to add support for this format in their Creative Cloud apps. This will expand the possibilities of sharing AR objects between apps and devices and easily viewing them in the real world.
Apple also created a useful new app called Measure which works as a real-world measuring scale. It’s very accurate too.
Apple is the biggest proponent of privacy amongst all the largest tech companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon. They also do more than just pay lip service to this basic human right. With iOS 12, Safari anonymizes your device so that tracking services will not be able to retarget you based on device specifications. Safari will also block sharing widgets and comment boxes by default, until you manually allow access to your data.
iOS 12 Compatible Devices
iOS 12 supports all the devices that support iOS 11:
- iPhone 5s and above
- iPad Air and above
- All iPad Pro models
- iPad mini 2 and above
- iPod touch 6th generation
iOS 12 release date
Apple has released iOS 12 as developer beta, while a public beta is expected by the end of June. Final availability for all supported devices is expected by fall, which should be around September.
Features still missing in iOS 12
Despite all the new features, Apple still does not allow changing default apps and sharing is still not smart. Apple’s Clips app has the implementation of sharing that should be available system wide. Unlike macOS Mojave, iOS 12 does not have a system-wide dark mode yet. There is always more work to be done so hopefully, iOS 13 will have all these features, along with the expected home screen redesign.