This fall, a major new update for iPhone and iPad is scheduled to arrive: iOS 12, the latest version of Apple's smartphone and tablet operating system software.
Its standout feature? A new way to turn your face into a living cartoon, called Memoji:
It's true! That grinning cartoon above is none other than Apple CEO Tim Cook.
But let's not kid ourselves — the stuff that will really impact your daily iPhone use is far more mundane. To that end, Apple is making some major strides in iOS 12 towards ease of use and convenience that are worth highlighting.
Here are the five most important changes and additions coming in iOS 12:
1. iOS 12 makes old iPhones faster.
There are plenty of new features coming in iOS 12 that are intended for the latest models of iPhone, such as the aforementioned Memoji.
But one huge feature that's aimed squarely at older iPhones is a major performance improvement. In testing thus far, according to Apple VP of software engineer Craig Federighi, iOS 12 makes older phones like the iPhone 6+ run far more quickly: 40% faster app launches, 50% faster keyboard opening, and a 70% improvement in opening the camera.
It's not sexy, but it's stuff like this that makes the user experience for most iPhone owners so, so much better. Apple is directly addressing the common complaint that each year, with each new iOS update, older iPhones get slower.
That iOS 12 will support iPhones going all the way back to the iPhone 5S is another subtle nod of acknowledgement to the tens of millions of people using older iPhone models.
2. The Notifications tray is getting a major update, smartly copying Android's best feature.
Ever slide down your notifications tray and find a mess of nonsense? That's most interactions with the notifications tray on iOS, unfortunately. One of the major arguments for using Android over iOS is how useful the notifications tray is in the former (and how poor it is in the latter).
Apple's seemingly addressing that disparity with iOS 12, finally adding support for grouped notifications in the notifications tray. All your text message notifications will be automatically bundled together, for instance, rather than showing each one individually. You can still tap in and see each one, or you could swipe left on the whole stack to clear them all at once.
It's a small but crucial change to daily iPhone use.
3. Customize your life with Siri Shortcuts.
Siri is kind of a mess in general use, but a new tool for Siri has a lot of promise. It's called "Shortcuts," and it essentially allows you to program a series of actions tied to a specific command phrase.
In the example Apple gives, an iPhone owner has set a shortcut to the phrase, "Heading home."
When Siri hears that phrase, it automatically enacts a series of actions:
— Retrieves directions home with the least traffic.
— Text messages the user's roommate to let her know she's on the way.
— Sets the home thermostat to 70 degrees and turns on a fan.
If you've ever used Automator on a Mac, Shortcuts will sound familiar — it's a way of setting up a sequence of actions that you perform frequently, tied to a single trigger. In the case of Siri Shortcuts, those triggers are whatever phrase you set. Pretty neat!
4. More control over how you use your phone, and more ways to monitor that use.
With Apple's introduction of the iPhone over 10 years ago, smartphones have taken over. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the blurring of our digital lives with our real ones, and Apple's introducing some voluntary boundaries for those looking for space.
In iOS 12, you'll be able to set your own app limitations. It probably wouldn't hurt to limit yourself to less than an hour of social media use per day, right? That's the idea.
To that end, Apple is also adding activity usage reports. Even if you don't want to voluntary limit your app usage, perhaps seeing how much time you've spent scrolling through Facebook will convince you.
Additionally, iOS 12 is expanding out the concept of Do Not Disturb mode to a new Do Not Disturb During Bedtime mode. Instead of simply silencing your phone's ringer and vibrations, it will also withhold on-screen notifications.
5. FaceTime is getting support for up to 32 people at once!
You already know it and probably love it — the video calling service FaceTime is expanding out massively with support for up to 32 participants in iOS 12.
Moreover, you can bring your Memoji right into FaceTime. Become the stylized koala you've always wanted to be!
FaceTime with that many users means organization is key. To that end, whoever is speaking will show up as the largest square, and you can tap individual people to focus on them even if they're not speaking.
BONUS: A few important details about iOS 12 for iPhone/iPad users.
iOS 12 is the next major version of Apple's mobile operating system, which runs on iPhones and iPads. It costs nothing, and is expected to arrive this fall.
Apple hasn't given it an official release date, but the new version of iOS usually launches alongside the new iPhone in September. A developer preview of iOS 12 is available now for members of Apple's developer program, and a public beta is planned for later this month.
iOS 12 runs on the iPhone 5s and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, iPad 5th generation, iPad 6th generation, iPad mini 2 and later and iPod touch 6th generation.
BONUS 2: Apple CarPlay is finally getting support for Google Maps and Waze in iOS 12 Finally:
Apple's CarPlay system will allow iPhone users to navigate using Google Maps and Waze. Finally!
Previously, CarPlay would only allow for Apple Maps. It's a small change, but a momentous one if you're anything like the millions of other people who prefer Google Maps to Apple Maps.
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