It has been over a decade since Apple’s first version of iOS rolled out along with the original iPhone. The iOS platform has come a long way since then, with Apple adding important new features every year and modernizing the style. Each new version is a mix of tweaks and improvements, but sometimes there are bugs or changes that feel jarring for longtime iPhone users.
If you’re feeling hesitant about upgrading, we’ve got five reasons to shrug off those doubts and download iOS 12public beta right away. These are our favorites, but we also have a more comprehensive list of iOS 12 features if you’re curious.
We can’t help feeling that Apple’s Siri has been lagging behind the virtual assistant crowd. Both Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa are more capable, but Apple is trying to redress the balance with Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12. There are some important improvements here.
Siri will be more proactive now, learning your routine so it can, for example, warn you if you’re going to be late for a meeting and offer to send a text to the meeting organizer for you. It may also suggest you turn on Do Not Disturb when you go to a movie, call your Mom on her birthday, or offer to order your usual morning coffee.
More exciting than that is the ability to set up your own custom shortcuts via a dedicated Shortcuts app. You could have “Good morning” turn on your kitchen lights, fire up the coffee machine, and launch Apple Music. Alternatively, you might have “Home time” launch a podcast in the car, bring up navigation, and send a text to your partner to let them know you’re on the way.
There’s a lot of potential here to create really useful voice commands and we’re pleased to see more Siri integration with third-party apps. You’ll also be able to trigger these shortcuts from your Apple Watch or HomePod, not just your iPhone.
There’s a collective realization that as great as smartphones are we might be overdoing things with them. Too many people are glued to their phones for hours on end, allow alerts to wake them during the night, or answer the buzz in their pockets instead of the person standing in front of them. We agree that too much screen time is bad for kids; maybe it’s time we started questioning whether it’s good for adults.
Apple’s new Screen Time feature gives parents better tools to set limits on how much time kids spend on their iPhones or iPads. It also allows adults to see the cold hard facts about how many minutes they spend in each app every day. You may scoff at the idea that you have a problem, but seeing exactly how many hours you’re wasting on Facebook or Instagram may change your mind.
You can also use Screen Time to set limits, so you can get a warning if you exceed half an hour a day on Twitter. Alternatively, you can set Downtime by specifying specific hours when you’re trying not to use your phone. You can tap to get an extra 15 minutes or ignore these limits altogether when alerts pop up and you can specify which apps that are always allowed. It’s debatable how useful these alerts will be, but they’re a good way of making us more mindful of just how much time we’re spending on our iPhones.
If you like Animoji, then Memoji is going to make you smile. You now have the option to create a customized Animoji that looks just like you. Unfortunately, you will need an iPhone X to take advantage of this because it requires the TrueDepth camera. It’s easy to set up a Memoji and you can use your custom avatar in FaceTime calls.
Apple has also added some new Animoji characters, including a ghost and a dinosaur, and the camera can now pick up on you sticking your tongue out and winking.
For anyone with an older iPhone, you may not be able to enjoy the new Memoji, but you will enjoy significant performance improvements. It’s a common concern that new versions of iOS can slow older iPhones down, but with iOS 12 the opposite is true.
Apple suggests things will generally be faster and more responsive, specifically stating that apps will launch up to 40 percent faster than before, swiping to the camera from the lock screen will be 70 percent faster, and the keyboard appears 50 percent faster and is more responsive. You can also expect smoother animations and the share sheet and app switching will be twice as fast as before.
These stats are based on testing with an iPhone 6 Plus, so your mileage may vary depending on your iPhone model.
Another exciting development for groups of iPhone-toting friends or families is the addition of group FaceTime calls. You can now have an audio or video call with up to 31 other people. Whoever is talking will take center stage, but you can also use Focus View to pick a person to focus on if you prefer. You can launch group FaceTime right from a group Messages conversation.
Group FaceTime calls feature all the same extra options for filters and effects and they’re encrypted just like one-to-one calls. They also work across iPhones, iPads, and can be answered on Apple Watches. This functionality is also coming to MacOS. It may be long overdue, but now that Apple is finally doing it, it seems to be doing it right.
There are lots of other new features in iOS 12 and some important fixes that we’ve been waiting for, so why not give it a try?