Apple's iOS 12 public beta has just launched and, believe it or not, there are a bunch of changes behind the familiar, seemingly unaltered iPhone and iPad interface.
It only looks as if things haven't changed at first blush. New iOS 12 features give us better integration, faster performance, and, most important, genuine reliability.
In fact, we've found the iOS 12 public beta more compelling than iOS 11.4, which is still rife with known iOS 11 problems. We hear from you about them – everyday.
But what makes iOS 12 better? Why is it worth the upgrade? We've highlighted 10 ways it'll change your daily life.
Update: We've updated our iOS 12 first impressions, now that the public beta software has officially gone live. Here's what we think of the newly launched features.
1. Your old phone will be faster, and be worth more
You don't have to be afraid to update to iOS 12 public beta on your old iPhone and iPad because Apple's No. 1 goal here has been to improve the performance of dated devices. Whereas prior iOS updates slowed down older hardware, iOS 12 will do the opposite – make them faster – according to Apple.
The company specifically mentioned iPhone 6 Plus speed improvements during its WWDC 2018 keynote, detailing that, thanks to iOS 12, the still-popular hand-me-down will be 40% faster at launching apps, 70% faster at launching the camera app, and 50% faster at displaying the keyboard.
Other phones saw speed improvements, too, according to our findings. We tested the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 5S with iOS 12 and they all feel faster and more fluid than they did running buggy iOS 11. All of a sudden, your older, stuttering used iPhone that's been sitting in a drawer is actually worth a little bit more money.
2. Every morning, you’ll see Grouped Notifications
Waking up every morning with an iPhone lockscreen in the iOS 11 era meant being slammed with a seemingly endless stream of individual notifications. Like hundreds of them. It was a maddening way to start the day.
iOS 12 fixes this problem with Grouped Notifications. Being able to swipe through, unbundle, and instantly clear bunches up notifications (sorted by app and message thread) is one of the first things you'll love about the public beta. It'll change your morning routine.
3. You'll stop losing your keys, and may buy a HomePod
I use a Tile tracker attached to my keys and another stuffed inside my wallet in order to find these lost essentials. But opening the slow Tile app, finding the keys or wallet icon, and listening for the ringing sound (then turning off the fan and other noise makers to continue listening) in the heat of turning over everything in my room is... a little frustrating.
It's another frustration that iOS 12 will solve in the future, this time through Siri Shortcuts. These are programmable commands you can say to Siri in order to execute a task within an app. For example, "Hey, Siri. Find my keys."
Siri Shortcuts isn’t a front-facing app in the iOS 12 beta yet; it's hidden behind the Siri & Search menu in settings. Tile and many other third-party apps also don't take advantage of it yet. But the idea behind it is so promising that when it does launch in full, I might be inspired to buy a HomePod speaker. Why? Asking Siri where my keys are anywhere in my apartment without having to fetch my phone (which may also be lost for all I know) is yet another shortcut I like.
4. Group FaceTime will stop cutting off people’s faces
FaceTime is a great way to connect with family and friends afar because you get to see everyone’s faces on your iPhone and iPad screen. Well, almost everyone’s faces. Right now, birthday FaceTime calls for me consist of half of my dad’s face and half of my mom’s face. It's time to make FaceTime whole again.
Group FaceTime with iOS 12 will fix this, as everyone with an iOS 12-compatible iPhone and iPad can join the video call. My mom has an iPad mini and my dad has an iPhone. My niece and seemingly endless number of nephews won't hit the user cap either – it's up to 32 people at once. That’s going to make a lot of people happy (and whole) in my family.
5. Yes, even Memoji will have an impact
Okay, not everyone is going to use Memoji, but a lot of times, I don't want to appear on camera in a 1:1 FaceTime video chat. That goes double for Group FaceTimes. This is where Memoji may be a big hit, especially with kids and everyone who doesn’t like staring at their own faces on a screen.
This is one of the reasons Snapchat masks and Instagram filters are popular. Apple’s Memoji, complete with winking and tongue wagging, is actually a clever method to make FaceTime even more accessible to the shy among us. It's definitely more useful than trapping Animoji in iMessages.
6. You may use your phone less
We use our phones too much. You’re probably using one right now. Apple is aware of the addicting nature of its smartphone, tablets, and apps, so it has created a way to track your usage and provide self- (or parent-) imposed limits.
New to the settings menu is Screen Time, which cleanly lays out which apps you've binged on the most. It doesn't just report that you have problems, though, there are solutions here, too. 'Downtime' lets to schedule time away from the screen and 'App limits' is a timer to lock you out of apps.
With these tools, my phone usage numbers in the Screen Time menu have the potential to look less scary with adjustments – though it's really easy to ignore the suggested breaks. Screen Time is more about much-needed awareness than anything else.
7. ARKit 2 means someone will play with you
AR games on the iPhone and iPad have been a neat party trick on iOS 11, but iOS 12 is going to bring more people into Apple’s augmented reality ecosystem thanks to multiplayer gaming capabilities. Two (or more) different Apple devices can look into the same AR world, which is something we haven't seen from other, more expensive augmented reality hardware.
The iOS 12 beta is laying the foundation for developers to make such multiplayer AR games. You may not see a lot of AR multiplayer content on day one of the public beta, but developers we talked to at WWDC this year seemed eager to get started on multiplayer gaming more than any other new feature. Expect to see Apple demo all sorts of 'Shared Experiences' at iOS 12's official launch later this year.
8. Photos app event search
Let me know if you've heard this one before:
“Hey, let me show you my photos from this recent event” ...followed by ten minutes of painfully searching through one of your photo apps to find the right pictures to show someone.
Apple’s Photos app is making searching for specific pictures easier by automatically categorizing your snapshots into events. It's an effort to compete with Google Photos, which has similar search powers. Apple app uses over four million events (as niche as the Aspen Ideas Festival) to group photos together in the Photos app. For us, asking Siri to bring up 'Pictures from WWDC 2018' worked like a charm.
9. Translation into 40 languages
Globetrotting with an iPhone just became easier, as Siri can now translate 40 different language pairs on-the-fly with iOS 12. You’ll still need an internet connection to get it done (and thus international may apply), but it makes ordering in a foreign restaurant easier.
Note: Siri still can’t translate Spanish into English yet, at least not in iOS 12 public beta. But we’re hopeful that Siri will learn every major language by iOS 13 at its current pace. It can at least translate English into Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and French.
10. Voice memos
The iOS 12 public beta brings new features to even the most basic apps, including Voice Memos, Stocks, and CarPlay. We’ve found the most use out of the Voice Memos makeover. It automatically names files based on location (you can edit the name at any time) and it just has an overall cleaner interface.
The best is yet to come. Voice Memos will sync to iCloud and that means you can quit using AirDrop to send each and every voice memo to your Mac computer. It’ll already be there when you update to macOS Mojave, which has a companion Voice Memos app.
Even more on the way
These are just our first impressions of the newly launched iOS 12 public beta. There's still more to explore and additional features for Apple to launch in between now and the final version of the software. Siri Shortcuts, for example, is the top feature we want to test out but have to wait for.
You can download iOS 12 public beta right now, or wait until the official launch of the software. That usually happens in early September. Unlike prior betas, the software here is sound. We can't guarantee you won't run into iOS 12 problems, but so far, we haven't had a single bug that hasn't also plagued us with iOS 11.