Another autumn and another new iPhone is almost with us. As usual, that means there’s a new version of iOS (Apple’s iPhone Operating System) with lots of tweaks to how it looks and works. We upgraded an iPhone 8 Plus and an iPhone X from iOS11 to try it out. Here are a few things we spotted.
One of the biggest changes compared to iOS11 (the current version which is on most iPhones) is one you can’t see. Apps launch faster than they did on iOS11, and switching between them is sharp and precise. And fast. The keyboard's snappier too, which is good news all round.
Apple has made the new version work better on older kit too, so models like the iPhone 5s and iPad Air can make the most of the new features without feeling sluggish.
The update makes iPhones ready for Augmented Reality "experiences", which combine computer images with real-life views, like the model building on the iPad.
It helps developers create AR experiences like Animoji and Memoji (more on those later) to use in Messages or Mail. It also helps apps understand their surroundings through the phone. You can see it work for yourself in Measure, a built-in app to measure stuff using your phone camera. And don't forget the new generation of AR games that are surely just around the corner.
Websites are likely to start making the most of this advancement too, it’s a great way to show off personalised products before you commit to ordering them.
The Photos app has had a light refresh, with 'Search' replacing 'Shared' on the menu bar. Shared pics are now in 'Albums'. The new Search puts your pictures into categories for you, based on what's in them. Finding pictures of your car/holiday/lunch couldn't be simpler.
The new upgrade makes pictures and videos easier to share. Photos creates "Memories" based on your photo library (collections of pictures and videos taken in the same place and time), but now it can suggest sharing them with contacts it recognises that were there too. If they use iOS12 as well, they’ll get a prompt to share their photos of that event with you in return.
Animoji are animated characters you customise with your expression and voice and send through the Messages app. You can now record 30-second clips, and there are four new Animoji in the new software - Koala, Tiger, Ghost & T Rex. Face tracking, and blink & tongue detection (yes, that’s a thing) are also better than before.
Memoji is the same thing but with an animated version of your own face. Make as many as you like to suit your moods and they’ll be ready to go when you are. Use them in FaceTime or iMessage like an Animoji, and “cartoon” you will deliver your message just how you’d do it yourself, but better.
Notifications are grouped to minimise clutter now, which is helpful if you've got a busy iPhone. Siri is there to help too, making suggestions about your alerts based on how you interact with them - if you regularly swipe away ones from a particular app, Siri will suggest disabling them. Very handy.
You've got more ways to deal with them from the lock screen as well, sending them to the Notifications Centre instead to quieten your phone or even turning them off completely.
The “selfie” camera also gets a broad range of fun effects added. Add text, shapes and stickers to pictures, or put your Animoji or Memoji in the middle of the action to inject fun and personality into your messages.
Screen Time helps you understand how much time you spend using apps and websites. If your family have their own Apple IDs managed through Family Sharing, Screen Time is the missing piece of the “Parental controls for iOS” jigsaw.
Keep an eye on how much time they spend on apps and websites, add limits if you need to, and set “bedtime”, so they don’t spend too much time glued to their screen.
Siri’s new Shortcuts feature lets you set a voice-trigger to make something happen in an app. When you've set it up, you might say “Siri I’m going shopping”, and Siri will text your housemates to see if there’s anything they need.
Siri learns how you use your phone at different times of the day or in different places to make your alerts work for you. As Siri gets to know your habits and routines, it’ll give you useful suggestions at the right time.
iOS12 helps you keep your data private too. Safari helps prevent your web use being tracked by widgets for sharing and commenting on pages. It also stops advertisers learning your kit's unique characteristics, so you can’t be identified or subjected to targeted adverts.
It's also designed to help you stay secure by making strong passwords for apps as websites, keeping them safe in Keychain, and sharing them with your other Apple kit so you don’t have to remember them. If you'd rather make your own passwords, it’ll tell you if you choose one you’ve had before, to help you keep your stuff safe.
That covers the big stuff, but there’s a long list of minor tweaks too. The Books and News apps make it easier to find your favourite authors and channels, and the Stocks app features real-time updates from Apple News, useful if you've an interest in the markets.
It’s available on the iPad for the first time too, along with Voice Memos, so hopping from one device to another should be seamless.