iOS 12 was announced today at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California. The keynote started like many before it, with updates given on the growth of Apple products and platforms. When focus moved onto iOS 12, from the very start, Apple made it clear that this update was primarily to be about small improvements and speed increases. This is in no doubt a response to the criticism about the release of iOS 11 and its buggy beginnings. With this release, it’s promised that iOS 12 will bring up to 70% faster swipe to camera, up to 50% faster keyboard display and up to 2x faster app launching under heavy load. While speed increases were at the top of the agenda, it didn’t mean that the keynote went without surprises.
With that said, we’ve broken down some of the key new features of iOS 12 below.
One of the biggest features to emerge was Siri Shortcuts. Shortcuts is a new app where you can create your own Siri commands and actions. By programming a phrase like “home time”, you can tell Siri to perform a set of actions in sequence, like playing an Apple Playlist, setting directions home in Apple Maps, and turning your thermostat up at home. Then, whenever you tell Siri it’s “home time”, those actions will be performed. And now, instead of just suggesting apps that you usually use at certain times, Siri will intelligently suggest more things to do when you pull down on the home screen. For example, it may suggest that you order your morning coffee, or start your afternoon workout.
Siri was giving out clues that it was getting an upgrade several days before WWDC. If you asked Siri about the event, it simply said it would be getting “a whole lot smarter”.
Digital Health features
iOS 12 includes several new features that revolve around “Digital Health”. During the keynote, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, said that Apple recognised there some people who wanted “a little bit of extra help managing their use of apps”. So the introduction of the new Downtime, App Limits, Do Not Disturb during Bedtime and Screen Time tools should help keep tabs on your digital life.
Screen Time is where you’ll find a breakdown of the usage for all your iOS devices throughout the day. It includes the total time you’ve used your phone throughout the day or last 7 days, the time you’ve spent on each app, how many times you picked up your phone and how many notifications you had. The idea is that this data will help you cut down your phone usage on certain apps, if you see a negative trend occurring. If insights into your phone usage aren’t enough and you need to set limits, then the next two features are for you.
Downtime allows users to set a period of time where the device will lock itself down, and only allow calls and certain pre-defined apps to be used. You can override this at any time of course, but Downtime is about limiting apps which might set your mind racing when you should be winding down for bed. Apple also mentioned that this would be useful for parents, who can set limits on their children’s devices.
For those who really want to cut down on app usage, App Limits is a tool that could help. From Screen Time in Settings, you can select how long you want to allow certain apps to be used each day. Once you’ve reached the limit, a message will appear telling you that time’s up, and you’ll need to stop using the app (unless you temporarily override it).
Do Not Disturb
The new “Do Not Disturb during Bedtime” mode dims the display and hides all notifications on the lock screen until you want them to appear again in the morning. You can now also enable the regular Do Not Disturb mode for one hour, until the next morning, until you leave your current location or even when your current calendar event ends.
FaceTime got a needed upgrade, and you can now group FaceTime with up to 32 people. While it looks a bit odd having call participants float around on your screen in different size squares, they did a good job at managing who appears on screen at any one time. Those who are actively talking in the call appear as larger squares, and those who arent participating have their square move down into a scrollable area at the bottom.
Newly coined Memoji is the name of a new feature for iPhone X users, who can now create Animoji based on themselves. Coupled with new effects available via the Camera app, you can even overlay a Memoji on top of your real face.
A few new features that are worthy of a mention include Photos, which now has smarter search. Measure, a new app which allows you to measure objects using only your phone camera. Notifications, which are now grouped together. ARKit 2, which will allow developers to create multiplayer Artificial Reality apps. And finally, better privacy features in Safari to stop social media ‘like’ buttons and comment areas from tracking you while you browse the web.
You can see a full list of the new features on the Apple website. Developers can download iOS 12 now from the Apple developer website, but the general public will need to wait until it officially releases later this year.