5 of the best iOS 18 features that'll work with your older iPhone – and 5 that won’t

An iPhone 12 mini from the front, on a table
The iPhone 13 may look like the iPhone 12 mini (above) (Image credit: TechRadar)

iOS 18 will become available to download on any iPhone newer than the iPhone XS later this year (likely September), which is great news for anyone who hasn’t yet upgraded to one of the best iPhones.

In other words, if you’re still valiantly sporting an iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iPhone SE (2020) or iPhone 11, you can rest assured that you won’t miss out on any of the best iOS 18 features. That said, due to the aging chipsets inside these older iPhone models, there are a handful of lower-key iOS 18 features that won’t be made available across the board.

Below, then, we’ve rounded up five of the best iOS 18 features that will work with your older iPhone, and five that won’t. To be clear, we’re not referring to Apple Intelligence features here (think Clean Up, the new Siri and Genmojis), which will all be exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max and M1-equipped iPad and Mac models. Those features are technically set to arrive with iOS 18, but it’s best to think of them as separate tools.

Best iOS 18 features

Advanced Home Screen customization

WWDC

(Image credit: Apple)

Keen for a Home Screen refresh? In iOS 18, you’ll be able to reposition apps at the bottom or side of the screen for the first time ever, freeing up precious real estate for your all-important wallpaper. You'll also be able to trigger a new dark mode for app icons, add color tints and even hide app names for a truly minimalist look.

Upgrades to Messages

An iPhone on a green and blue background showing RCS messages

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple is bringing several key upgrades to the Messages app in iOS 18. You’ll be able to react (or ‘tap-back’) to messages using any emoji, schedule messages to send at a convenient time in the future, and even format text with underlines, strikethroughs and neat new animation effects.

On top of that, the Messages app will support the RCS standard in iOS 18, which should facilitate a richer messaging experience when you're communicating with someone who doesn't own an Apple device.

Redesigned Control Center

WWDC

(Image credit: Apple)

The Control Center isn’t a glamorous part of your iPhone, but it’s an undeniably important one. In iOS 18, you'll be able to separate the Control Center into distinct function groups, like Media and Home, as well as resize Control Center widgets. Oh, and you’ll finally be able to edit which Control Center widgets appear on your Lock Screen. Huzzah!

ID-authenticated app locks

An iPhone on a green blue background showing an app being locked

(Image credit: Apple)

For the suspicious (okay, safety-conscious) iPhone user, iOS 18 will let you add Face ID (or password) authentication to apps you’d rather keep away from prying eyes. You’ll also be able to hide these apps away in a new Hidden Apps folder.

Apple Passwords app

An iPhone on a blue and green background showing Password app settings

(Image credit: Apple / MacRumors)

Sticking with the privacy theme, iOS 18 will see Apple introduce its own passwords app, which will make it easier to manage your account passwords, verification codes, passkeys and other important credentials from the convenience of your iPhone.

Restricted iOS 18 features

Messages via Satellite

An iPhone on a blue green background showing satellite messaging in iOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

iOS 18 will expand Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite feature by allowing you to text via satellite, too. Alas, like the current version of the service, Messages via Satellite service will be limited to the iPhone 14 series and upwards.

Audio transcription in Notes

Notes transcription in iOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

iOS 18 will let you record and transcribe phone calls on any compatible iPhone, as well as start an audio recording directly from the Notes app (rather than via Voice Memos). However, the ability to automatically transcribe those calls and recordings in the Notes app will be reserved for the iPhone 12 and upwards.

Eye tracking

Eye Tracking demoed on an iPad.

Eye-tracking will work on iPad, too (Image credit: Apple)

Apple will make iPhones more accessible in iOS 18 through the introduction of eye-tracking. You’ll soon be able to open apps and control certain iOS elements using nothing but your eyes, though you’ll need an iPhone 12 or later for this feature to work.

Music Haptics

A phone on a grey background showing the Apple Music app

(Image credit: Apple)

Sticking with the accessibility theme, iOS 18 will introduce a new feature – Music Haptics – that uses your iPhone's Taptic Engine to pulse in time with the rhythm of a song played through Apple Music. As with many other features on this list, though, you’ll need an iPhone 12 or later to benefit.

Wireless smart lock opening

Nest X Yale

The Home app is getting an update in iOS 18. Soon, you’ll be able to wirelessly unlock doors equipped with Ultra Wideband (UWB) smart lock. The caveat? You’ll need to own an iPhone with a UWB transmitter, which excludes the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and the original iPhone SE.

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Axel Metz
Phones Editor

Axel is TechRadar's UK-based Phones Editor, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest AI breakthroughs as part of the site's Mobile Computing vertical. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion.  Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.