Apple's iOS 12 public beta 2 update is now available to download and it's the best way to change up your iPhone and iPad in 2018, two months ahead of the final version of the software.
It's filled with new features for your older devices, and even several hints about the upcoming iPad Pro 2018 and Apple Watch 4. Best of all, iOS 12 is free to download, whether you wait or download it today.
Apple unveiled the first set of features at WWDC 2018 on June 4, but there are even more coming to your existing iPhone and iPad than it officially mentioned on stage.
Update: Here are our first impressions of the iOS 12 beta after going hands-on!
No, it's isn't the biggest software update, but it's obvious Apple is making its mobile operating system both reliable and competitive with Google's Android P. You're going to like your iPhone and iPad more, even with the iOS 12 public beta.
Here are all of the iOS 12 features, now that the public beta has launched.
iOS 12 release date
- June 4 – Developer beta launched (to paid Apple Developers)
- June 25 – iOS 12 public beta launched (it's free)
- Likely September – the final iOS 12 software with new iPhones
You'll be able to test it early, as there will be three iOS 12 release dates: one for developers, one for public beta testers, and one final version for everyone else.
The developer beta is available now and gets more frequent refreshes. But it's early software and you must be a registered Apple developer. That costs money: $99 for the annual membership. It's for people who like to tinker with software weekly, and so far Apple is on iOS 12 developer beta 3.
The iOS 12 public beta is the one most people will want to test out, and it's also now available to download. It launched on June 25 and is completely free. It's also likely to be less problematic than the developer beta. Expect more stable updates every two to three weeks. Apple has currently rolled out iOS 12 public beta 2, always one step behind what the developers have access to.
Both versions of the iOS 12 beta will be unfinished software, so we advise you to proceed with caution before deciding to install iOS 12 beta on your primary device. iOS 12 beta 1 was great for us, but we had minor reset problems with iOS 12 beta 2. Waiting for the final iOS 12 version is a safer choice if you rely on your iPhone daily.
The release date for a stable iOS 12 version should be in September, alongside new iPhones for 2018. That's how it seems to work every year.
iOS 12 reliability
- Apple's looking to put the problematic iOS 11 behind it
- Older iPhones will be 40% to 70% faster at certain tasks
iOS 12 will focus on reliability and performance with this update, and support all of the same iPhones and iPads that iOS 11 worked with.
Apple called out the iPhone 6 Plus, specifically, saying iOS 12 makes this phone 40% faster at launching apps, 70% faster at launching the camera app, and 50% faster at displaying the keyboard. Keyboard typing and other routine features on older iPhones can slow down with every new iOS update, and Apple is looking to change these pain points with iOS 12.
This makes your existing iPhone and iPad more reliable, and your older devices can be used by family members or be sold now that they'll be more function with iOS 12. They don't have to sit in a draw because they're too slow.
Here's a concrete example already: for us, the public beta has been reliable enough to download. There's the occasional iPhone reset or hangout, but we actually found it to be more reliable than iOS 11 in some instances. So far, so good.
iOS 12 hints at Apple Watch 4
That indicates two sizes and both LTE and non-LTE versions of the smartwatch. It's just like we saw from the Apple Watch 3, originally referenced as Watch3,1 to 3,4.
Apple Watch 4 rumors indicate a 15% larger screen (by reducing the bezel) and a larger battery, hopefully for sleep tracking and an always-on display.
iOS 12 doesn't confirm these new features for the iPhone compatible smartwatch, but it does appear as if Apple actively tweaking its software for new Watch hardware.
iOS 12 is 200% less annoying on iPhone X
Here are two irksome features we hated about iOS 11 on the iPhone X that iOS 12 is going to fix. The final software is going to feel 200% less annoying when it launches.
Closing app windows in iOS 12 is now easier thanks to the fact that all you have to do is slide up on an open app to dismiss it from the multitasking menu. iOS 11 had us press down on the app until red close icons appeared over top of each app, and then to tap those little red icons to dismiss the app. That was unpleasant.
Second, whenever we picked up our phone, we'd always pressed the volume up and power button accidentally, which is the new 'take a screenshot' button combination. Apple has disabled this action whenever the phone screen is off. Our iOS 12 Photos app is no longer going to be filled with errant screenshots on the daily.
iOS 12 compatibility
- Compatible with iPhone 5S, iPad mini2 and iPad Air and newer
- 11 iPhones, 10 iPads, 1 iPod touch – the broadest iOS update yet
iOS 12 will run on all devices that have its 64-bit chipset, which was first introduced in 2013. It'll work on the iPhone 5S and newer, while the iPad Air and iPad mini 2 are the oldest iPads that are compatible with iOS 12.
That's means this update is supporting 11 different iPhones, 10 different iPads and the sole iPod touch 6th generation still clinging to life. It’s the broadest support for a software update Apple has ever offered, and this is one of the biggest advantages Apple has over Android phones.
ARKit 2 and multiplayer gaming
- ARKit 2 allows for 'shared experiences' (multiplayer potential)
- LEGO, Fender, Adobe and Pixar are all working on AR with Apple
iOS 12 cements Apple as a leader in augmented reality (AR) with the arrival of groundbreaking multiplayer capabilities it calls Shared Experiences in ARKit 2.
These multi-user virtual environments are coming to ARKit, allowing for multiplayer gaming and experiences through iPhones and iPads. iOS 12 is going to create a more collaborative (and competitive) way of experiencing AR.
LEGO demoed a four-player game, pledging that it was in when it came to Apple's “creative play possibilities.” Players were involved in building up an AR town. It was like The Sims was reimagined for the future.
ARKit 2 opens up AR to hundreds of millions of users, according to Apple, and that makes iOS 12 the broadest AR platform in the world. We got a taste of AR last year, but multi-user virtual environments bring more advanced tools and gameplay.
iOS 12 pinpoints 911 calls in the US
You won't have to worry about reciting your exact location when calling 911 in the US thanks to iOS 12. It'll pinpoint your whereabouts during emergency calls.
Apple says it'll "automatically and securely" share your iPhone location with first responders, but only with them and only during such emergencies. It's an effort to reduce response time, yet maintain your privacy.
New 'Measure' app and USDZ file format
- New USDZ file type dedicated at augmented reality
- Measure app for iOS 12 to replace your measuring tape
'Measure' is getting its own AR app. It uses the iPhone's and iPad's advanced sensors to measure objects in front of you, including suitcases, as shown in the first iOS 12 demo. All it takes it just tap-and-drag along the edges of the object on the screen.
It can also automatically detect the approximate dimensions of a photo – we can imagine that will help when you go to buy a photo frame, but can't find the old-fashioned tape measure. iOS 12 to the rescue.
For AR developers, Apple has created a new file type called 'USDZ.' The company worked on USDZ with Pixar, and Adobe is supporting it, too. The file format can be shared across FIles, Mail, Messages and Safari. This is an important step forward for developers working on AR apps.
Camera app changes
Apple didn't announce big camera changes at its WWDC 2018 keynote, but later said that the default camera app will get tweaked with iOS 12.
The Portrait Lighting mode on newer iPhones with a dual-lens camera will look more natural. The software will be able to define crisper edges by more effectively separating a person from a background scene. Apple is also allowing third-party apps to use the software to separate the foreground and background.
It'll be the end of an era for our how to scan a QR code from your iPhone and iPad guide. The default camera in iOS 12 makes QR code reading automatic.
And while not part of the camera app, RAW photos can be imported and managed on an iPhone and iPad, with the bonus ability of editing RAW photos on an iPad Pro.
Photos app is now smarter with iOS 12
- Betters search and a new 'For you' tab
- Suggestions on who to share photo collections with
- Share back suggestions nudge friends to send their photos
The Photos app is expanding search in an effort to compete with Google Photos. It recognizes photos by event and indexes them accordingly. Apple says it takes into account over four million events, citing the Aspen Ideas Festival as a niche example.
This lets you search by event without any thankless manual tagging. Searching by event joins other smart suggestions, including filtering by people, places, and relative dates (searching via Siri works with all of these and is quiet handy).
The iOS 12 Photos search capabilities have also been broadened to let you use multiple search terms at once. Seeking "dog, animal" should weed out all of your gourmet hotdog results (this is a real problem we just tested on iOS 11).
A new tab 'For you' is coming to the iOS 12 Photos app, filled with personalized suggestions on how to improve and share your pictures. Sharing has gotten smarter, letting you share at full-resolution and suggesting who to share these photos with.
Share back suggestions is a neat feature that lets you send photos to a friend, and it uses machine learning to poke them to send photos they took to you. iOS 12’s photos sharing uses iMessage's end-to-end encryption.
iPad switches to iPhone-like gestures
It's confusing owning both an iPad and a new iPhone X right now because returning to the home screen and opening Control Center are executed by different gestures.
The iPad takes cues from the iPhone X with the iOS 12 update: swipe up from the bottom to return home and check Control Center by pulling down from the top right-hand corner.
This may be a prelude to the iPad Pro 2018 that's rumored to include Apple's True Depth camera for Face ID, Animoji and Memoji.
Siri Shortcuts can find your lost keys, more
- Siri Shortcuts allows you to assign phrases to tasks
- 'I lost my keys' can ring your Tile tracker to find keys
- 'Heading home' sends ETA notification to roommate, sets thermostat and fan, and brings up the fastest route through Apple Maps
- Gallery and library full of pre-configured Siri Shortcuts
Siri is getting smarter. It‘ll know that “I lost my keys” means to ring your Tile tracker. Tile is a handy gadget, but getting to the app is a pain, and having Siri integrated is a game-changer for both Tile and our peace of mind.
Siri is going to be filled with shortcuts, so much so that Apple is creating a shortcuts app for iOS 12. It’ll suggest coffee orders from the place you always order from and message contacts to tell them you're running late, and there's also Kayak-based flight information you can call up via voice. By pressing the add to Siri button, you can then say “Travel plans” and Siri will read back information such as your hotel address.
Right now, the IFTTT-like Siri Shortcuts app is in beta testing via Apple's TestFlight app and meant for selected third parties. It's one of the few features that hasn't made it to the iOS 12 beta for developers or for the public yet.
Siri translates new languages, learns motorsport scores
- Siri can now translate over 40 language pairs
- Motorsports scores, schedules and stats knowledge
- Food and celebrity facts knowledge expanded upon
- Password search not part of Siri's duties in iOS 12
Try asking Siri to translate something into Spanish. It works, and with iOS 12 it'll be even more robust with over 40 language pairs to aid your international travels.
We really hope Siri will be able to translate foreign words into English (that's not possible with iOS 11 at this time when asking Siri what 'hola' means in English).
Siri will also learn the language or motorsports, per se. Asking for Formula One and NASCAR information will have Siri recite live standings, schedule, roster and stat info.
Food knowledge and celebrity facts are also part the Siri update. Right now, asking "How healthy is fish" gives a smatter of search results and requires opening up Siri. In the future, a specific answers about food will come from the USDA database, citing calories, vitamins, and how healthy the food is overall.
Password hunting is now within Siri's grasp, letting you search any saved passwords, according to Apple. This applies to both apps and websites.
Apple News, Stocks, Voice Memos and CarPlay
- Apple News: new Browse tab and sidebar navigation
- Stocks: robust chart design and stock news integration
- Voice memos: easier menus, iCloud support, on iPad (finally)
- CarPlay: third-party app support, like Google News and Waze
Apps are indeed getting updates with iOS 12, starting with Apple News. There’s a new Browse tab and a sidebar for better navigation. Stocks is finally being rebuilt with a helpful news design, complete with charts and Apple news headline integrated into into stocks. The top stories will be business news curated by Apple News editors.
Voice Memos is coming to iPad (as well as macOS), and it’ll get iCloud support, long overdue changes. Now you won't have to AirDrop conversations between devices in order to listen back. It'll also be easier to assign names to voice clips thanks to an overhauled Voice Memos redesign.
Apple Books is the new name for iBooks, allowing you to pick up reading where you left off and a new store interface to browse buy ebooks and audio books.
CarPlay is going to support third-party applications, with Waze and Google Maps appearing on-screen. Apple didn’t call out the Google-owned apps by name, but they were there on the screen. This was a major highlight of iOS 12.
Using your iPhone less
- Do Not Disturb during bedtime to hide visual display of notifications
- Instant tuning to send future notifications silently or turn them off
- Reports give a weekly activity summary on how you use iOS 12
- Breakdown: ranks app usage, highest phone pick up times (and what app draws you in first), and apps that send you the most notifications
- Set self-imposed time limits via reminders and temporary app blocking
- Limit kids time in apps by category or individual apps via Family Sharing
Apple is expanding its Do Not Disturb capabilities with a cleaner 'Do Not Disturb During Bedtime' mode. It'll silence not just the notification delivery sounds, but also the visual notifications clutter that can distract you when you're trying to sleep.
The lockscreen remains clear until you unlock your iPhone in the morning. You can allow certain apps to break through, just like with DND mode right now. Apple refers to these as critical alerts, and they're opt-in.
Do Not Disturb options aren't one-size-fits all, either. It can now automatically end in an hour, at the end of the day, when you leave a certain location, or at the end of a meeting in your calendar. iOS 12 even makes the DND moon icon in Control Center have 3D Touch support to act as a shortcut to all of these options.
Instant Tuning is an iOS 12 feature you'll love if you've ever gotten a notification from an app you always seem to dismiss (HQ trivia, breaking news alerts, etc), but don't have time to turn off future notifications in the many submenus of Settings. Apple is allowing you to control individual app notification profiles right from the lockscreen, without making you leave what you're doing.
Deliver Quietly is an option within Instant Tuning, and it'll allow you to choose to have notifications delivered silently Notification Center by default so you’re not interrupted by alerts on the lockscreen. It's a nice in between option.
Siri can help clean up your messy lockscreen with notification delivery suggestions based on how you interact with notifications. Siri will understand which notifications it should deliver prominently and which ones to send to Notification Center. It's like IOS 12's version of 'clean up your desktop' system nudges.
Screen time is Apple's take on limiting your iPhone use – how much time you're spending on apps, which apps you use the most, and which apps are sending you the most notifications.
To give you a little extra help, Apple has created app limits. You can set your own limit, with a notification letting you know when time is almost up. A 'Time is up' message will display when you've reached your self-imposed-Siri-assisted limit.
Parents can create limits for kids with Allowances, time-of-day-based downtime controls, and category controls. Education and essential message apps can also be green lit thanks to an always-allowed settings.
The best part? Setting limits for your kids uses Family Sharing, so you can manage it all remotely from your parental device – no need to get hold of your 12-year-old kid's phone to execute on these new iOS 12 controls.
iOS 12 grouped notifications
- Grouped notification on iOS 12 to clean up individual notifications mess
- Smartly grouped by app, topic, thread. Tap in to look at a particular group
- Can clear a whole group of notifications with a single swipe
Grouped notifications are coming to iOS 12. This is a small, but important update (maybe the most important iOS 12 update) announced at the Apple WWDC keynote.
It binds together notifications by message threads and topics, making it easier to see everything at a glance. Right now, individual notifications in the morning are a big pain to check as they pile up.
Animoji changes and new Memoji
- Tongue and wink detection for iOS 12 Animoji
- Four new Animoji masks: Ghost, Koala, Tiger and T-Rex
- Personalized 'Memoji' to look like you or 'the real you'
- Animoji and Memoji clips last 30 seconds (up to 10 seconds)
Animoji is expanded, not just with new masks, but with tongue detection (as seen on stage) and wink detection (not announced, but confirmed for iOS 12 afterward). Ghost Koala, Tiger and T-Rex will be joining the cast of Animoji masks.
Memoji is a thing, too. It's a customizable mask that can look like you – or the real you, according to Apple. It still resides in Messages. You can select hairstyles, eye color and accessories like earrings and sunglasses. Like Animoji, this is an iPhone X only feature due to requiring Apple's True Depth front-facing camera.
- Group FaceTime for up to 32 people with dynamic UI
- Can use Animoji and Memoji in FaceTime
Group FaceTime is coming to iOS 12 with up to 32 participants, and you go directly from a group chat to a group FaceTime in the Messages app.
People can drop in and drop out at any time. The interface is filled with tiles that can expand, and 'the roster' along the bottom for everyone else in the Group FaceTime chat. When people start to speak, their window gets bigger, even if they're in the bottom roster of participants. It works on iPhone, iPad and Mac, and you can even answer on the Apple Watch and HomePod with just audio.
Animoji is coming to FaceTime and Group FaceTime. You'll of course need to update to iOS 12 and an iPhone X to make that magic happen.
That's a wrap for new iOS 12 features at Apple's WWDC. The two biggest highlights were Grouped notifications and Group FaceTime with Memoji. We'll test out the iOS 12 beta and report back when it becomes available to the public.
Thinking of buying the iPhone X? Watch our overview video below.