iOS 12: new features and the iOS 12.1 release date

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Apple's iOS 12 update for your existing iPhone and iPad will be announced today at 10am PT at the company's WWDC 2018 keynote. We're here reporting on it live.

You'll be able to test it early, too, as there will likely be three iOS 12 release dates: one for developers, one for beta testers, and one final version for everyone else.

None of this should surprise you by now. Apple launches its software updates at the same time every year. It'll run through all the iOS 12 changes in about 24 minutes, according to past Apple keynote history.

What should surprise you are the features. iOS 12 has become a big mystery, with Apple reportedly pulling back front-facing features in order to fix iOS 11 problems.

Don't worry, you can still anticipate at least some groundbreaking ideas and design adjustments due to the launch of iPhone X last year and theoretical iPhone X2 and iPhone 9 release date later in 2018.

Apple has a chance to make meaningful changes as it adapts to all-screen displays. Here's our list of what we expect from iOS 12, according to rumors and leaks.

Cut to the chase

  • What is iOS 12? Apple's next big iPhone and iPad software update 
  • When is the iOS 12 release date? Announcement next week, June 4 with a subsequent beta,  September launch 
  • How much will iOS 12 cost? Nothing. iOS 12 will remain free.

iOS 12 release date and beta schedule

iOS 12 to fix what was wrong with iOS 11

"iOS 12 just works," may be Apple's big message about its next iPhone update, as it's reportedly focusing on reliability and shelving many exciting features.

It's okay to be torn about this news if you were looking forward to iOS 12 with a fresh face. Then again, it's hard to argue with experiencing fewer bug-filled random resets on your iPhone.

Apple's iOS 12 plans are going to be a godsend if you've been experiencing issues with iOS 11 – even the iOS 11.4 update has new, ongoing problems. It's been bad PR for Apple.

Which features won't be in iOS 12?

Apple was reportedly planned, but delayed:

  • A home screen redesign
  • Refreshed camera app
  • Updated Mail app
  • Refined Photos app

Those may have to wait until iOS 13, if you are to believe the rumors about the Apple teams new mission. It's all in an effort to make iOS 12 stabilization impeccable.

iOS 12 and macOS cross-platform apps

Apple is thought to be bringing first and third-party iOS apps to your Mac, making one of the biggest iOS 12 features for your computer instead of your phone.

It's a long-overdue upgrade. We've always asked: Why can't you control your smart home with the Home app via that all-powerful iMac Pro? You can't do it today. It's a ridiculous notion.

Apple is rumored to be allowing developers to expand their app ecosystem to the forthcoming macOS 10.14 update. Apple's own apps, like Home, are also said to be finally making the jump, according to recent reports.

Don't get too excited. This feature may also be saved for iOS 13 and macOS 11.5 in 2019, says a new report. It's supposedly being worked on, but how quickly it comes to the table may leaving you waiting for a while.

We're giving this one a good shot at being at WWDC on our speculation scale – we're at least expecting Apple to lay the groundwork for such a feature in 2018.

More Animoji (in more places)

Animoji – whether you demanded it or vehemently opposed it, Apple is due to bring more Animoji to iOS 12 for use with the iPhone X Face ID camera. iOS 11.3 just gave us four new Animoji faces to play with, but why stop there?

The navigation of these animated character masks should get easier, too, according to Bloomberg. That's important, because to get better use, they need to break out of their Apple Messages confines, where Animoji are currently buried.

Apple's Animoji character may make two jumps in 2018. First, the natural jump to FaceTime for video chats behind a virtual panda, robot, and poop mask. 

Second to what may be a new iPad Pro 2018 with a TrueDepth camera for Face ID and Animoji. We've seen evidence of an updated iPad recently, beyond the cheap new iPad 2018. But we don't foresee new iPad Pros until later this year.

Way better autocorrect

Maybe we could have lumped this iOS 12 change under fixes, but it deserves its own mention. Everyone wants better autocorrect from the built-in iOS keyboard.

Currently, it can be downright terrible. Why? It may be due to Apple's commendable stance on privacy, with all of the smarts happening on the device itself or masked so that individuals aren't identifiable.

Apple says it's not mining your data like you may find on some Android phones. But we also want a smarter keyboard that doesn't autocap and autocorrect randomly. 

iOS 12 is Apple's perfect opportunity to balance differential privacy with our typings needs. With the focus on reliability this should be near the very top of the list.

Flexible Face ID

Face ID isn't better than Touch ID. There. We said it. It's a neat party trick and makes the iPhone X feel like it's from the future, but we're typing our passcode multiple times a day whenever Face ID fails. That's unacceptable. 

iOS 12 will fix Face ID so that it works when your device in landscape orientation, rather than only in portrait, according to Macotakara's supply chain source. This change should go a long way to fixing our biggest Face ID problems.

We'd also like to see a "try again" button when Face ID fails the first time. Having to put the iPhone X to sleep and wake it up again just to re-engage Face ID is annoying and design nonsense. Apps that use Face ID for passwords, like our banking app, have this "try again" feature. Expect to see this in iOS 12.

The better Face ID is with the iOS 12 update, the sooner we'll forget that we miss the Touch ID fingerprint sensor that's likely to have had its last hurrah in the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.

More iOS 12 features we want to see

While nothing is known for sure about iOS 12 yet we have a clear idea of some of the things we want to see, such as the following.

System-wide password manager

We'd also like to see a system-wide password manager built into iOS 12, not just username and password saving in Safari. That's not helpful if you apps on iOS.

With Face Unlock and Touch ID securing our phones, there's little fear in relying on a password manager on mobile devices. And remembering passwords to so many different apps seems like a wasteful second layer of security.

Always-on display hints?

Look out for tiny always-on display hints in iOS 12, as Apple could easily squeeze this useful feature into the iPhone X2 OLED screen in September. The software may have hidden hooks for an always-on screen in the iOS 12 beta code. 

OLED essentially 'turns off' black parts of the screen in an effort not display the bare minimum without eating up battery life. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S9, the Google Pixel 2 and even the rumored LG G7 have shown off this idea to great effect.

Apple does have a raise-to-wake feature that's been a big hit among new iPhones. But a true always-on display would help differentiate the iPhone X2 OLED from the rumored iPhone 9 LCD.

New iOS 12 wallpaper

Every new version of iOS seems to get new wallpaper, and we expect iOS 12 to be no different in 2018. It should allow Apple to further exhibit its iPhone X OLED screen.

Specifically, we could see more dynamic wallpapers from Apple. iOS 12 needs more moving backgrounds besides a bunch of moving bubbles in various colors. 

New iOS 12 concept videos show the iconic Earth wallpaper spinning, for example. Right now, that's a flat image, and that doesn't put OLEDs to full use at all.

Grouped notifications

iOS 12 may finally bring a fix to having so many notifications in chronological order. Every morning, our iPhone is littered with so many ungrouped alerts.

Grouping notifications together would make life easier, as long as it's not differently than what we had in iOS 9 with lots of spacing between important alerts. Android Oreo does this nicely, and iOS 12 could easily lift this feature.

We've seen iOS 12 concepts include grouped notifications and also small notification icons on the lockscreen for things like weather and activity ring progress. That would take up less space and provide data at a glance right under the time and date.

Group FaceTime

Speaking of grouped things, we're keen on opening up the FaceTime party to more than just 1:1 chats. iOS 12 should welcome group FaceTime to iPhones and iPads.

We've had 1:1 video chats long enough 

We've had 1:1 video chats long enough 

Conference call software, from Hangouts to Skype, can already do this, so it's natural to expect Apple to open up FaceTime to groups eventually. iOS 12 may be it. 

Sound familiar? This was supposed to already be a feature in the current version of iOS, but it didn't actually happen last year. Either that rumor was wrong or was shelved until iOS 12. We'll find out more in June.

Camera controls in the camera app

File this under: Why is this still a problem? Apple's camera app is very barebones compared to its competitions, to the point that you can't change video resolutions within the camera app. It has to be done through Settings > Photo & Camera > Record Video. All of this requires exiting the camera app. That's very unhelpful.

We'd also like to see other settings become easier to use. Android phones do a good job at letting you switch between the rear- and front-facing camera with a swipe up or down on the screen, and the white Timer numbers (3s, 10s) can be hard to see in landscape mode when you're focusing on a subject that's white.

While some app redesigned have been shelved for iOS 13, we're hoping these small tweaks make it into the iOS 12 beta this month.