The best iOS 12 features

Apple's iOS 12.1 brings Group FaceTime, a bunch of emoji, and more

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is officially here and available for download.

To download and install the update, you’ll want to make sure all of your data is backed up and that you’re running the latest version of iOS. Simply go to Settings > General > Software Update, and then Apple’s iOS 12 page and select the option to install iOS 12. If you don’t see an option to update, you may want to check to make sure your device is supported. It’s also important to note that not all Apple devices are compatible with the new OS, but you can check out which ones support it here.

From app updates and new Memoji to ARKit 2.0, here are all the new features iOS 12 has to offer.

iOS 12.1 brings new emoji, group FaceTime, and more

Apple’s iOS 12.1 is finally here, bringing with it a number of great new features — including dual SIM support, group FaceTime, and more.

Perhaps the biggest and most important addition to iOS is the addition to group FaceTime, which is a feature that was promised when Apple first unveiled iOS 12. Now, you’ll be able to add others to a FaceTime call, and within that group call you’ll be able to use the same camera effects available in Messages, add stickers, filters, and more.

Next up is depth control in the iOS camera. Using depth control, you can adjust the depth-of-field in real-time previews of an image, allowing you to set the perfect amount of depth for an image. The feature is also available on the front-facing camera for devices with TrueDepth cameras, like the iPhone X and iPhone XS.

Next up is dual-SIM support, which enables the eSIM built into the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Now, users will be able to activate a second cellular plan without the need for a second physical SIM card.

Last but not least is a range of new emoji, which include characters with gray hair, red hair, and curly hair, and more representation for bald people.

Apple also confirmed earlier that iOS 12.1 would improve the camera smoothing on the front-facing camera for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, so after updating selfie cameras should look a little less fake.

iOS 12.0.1 brings bug fixes

Apple may be working hard on iOS 12.1, but it clearly wants to squash some bugs as soon as possible. To that end, it has launched iOS 12.0.1. The new software brings with it a number of bug fixes, including a fix for an issue where the iPhone XS would fail to charge sometimes when being plugged in. The new operating system also fixes an issue where an iPhone XS would join a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network — instead of the 5GHz option — and it restores the original position of the “.?123” key on the iPad. Last but not least, the update addresses an issue where Bluetooth would become unavailable at times.

To check if the update is available for your phone, head to Settings > General > Software Update. 

70 new emoji are coming to the iPhone

ios 12 features release date 1 emoji

Apple announced that it’s bringing 70 new emoji to the iPhone through the iOS 12.1 update. In particular, there will be new emoji with red hair, gray hair, curly hair, and even no hair. There are also more emotive smiley faces, and more representation for animals, sports, and food. According to Apple, the new emoji are based on approved characters in Unicode 11.0 and the company is working on bringing more disability-themed emoji to the iPhone keyboard through Unicode 12.0, which will be released in 2019.

To get the new emoji for yourself, you have to update to iOS 12.1. iOS 12.1 isn’t available to the public just yet, so you may have to wait a few weeks before you can use the new emoji.

eSIM functionality for the iPhone XS and XS Max

iPhone XS review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

With the release of iOS 12.1 beta comes eSIM functionality for the iPhone XS and XS Max. With an eSIM, you’re able to take advantage of the dual-SIM feature on both iPhones without the requirement of a second physical SIM card. For those with the iOS 12 beta installed, you can activate the eSIM by going into your settings and tapping “Add Cellular Plan.” From there, you have to scan a QR code or manually enter your plan information given to you by your carrier.

The feature will be available to all users once the final version of iOS 12.1 launches (depending on if your carrier supports it). So far, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T have confirmed support for eSIM activation, 9to5Mac notes. According to German website iPhone Ticker, those who use Deutsche Telekom currently have access to the feature with iOS 12.1.

Apple outlines additional details on its site — including information on how to set it up, how both phone numbers work with calls and text messages, managing your two carrier plans, and more.

CarPlay supports third-party navigation apps

With CarPlay, Apple has added support for third-party navigation apps rather than having to rely on Apple Maps.

Now available for CarPlay in iOS 12 is Google Maps, but you’ have to make sure you updated to the latest version. By using it with CarPlay, you can search for places, traffic information, alternative routes, and more, right from your car’s built-in display. If you start navigating on your iPhone and then jump in the car, Google Maps will also automatically pick up right where you left off once you’re connected to CarPlay. Other features include the ability to access lists to navigate to some of your favorite spots, and traffic updates between work and home if you set up your commute.

Siri Shortcuts

With Siri Shortcuts, Siri is capable of much more via quick actions that can all be assigned through the new Shortcuts app. For example, if you use the Tile app, you can add a shortcut to Siri such as “I lost my keys.” That way, when you do lose your keys, you can let Siri know and it will automatically start ringing your Tile.

Users will be able to use Siri Shortcuts on not only their iPhones but also on the HomePods and Apple Watches.

One feature Apple didn’t mention at WWDC were critical alerts. You will be able to opt-in for notifications that are important even with Do Not Disturb turned on — this can be especially useful when a healthcare provider is trying to get in touch with you about important information.

Siri Suggestions

iOS 12
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

With iOS 12, Siri can also adapt to your behavioral patterns using artificial intelligence. Whenever you use the Spotlight Search tool, you’ll see suggestions show up underneath. The suggestions vary depending on what you’ve been doing on your device — it can vary from texting a friend back or returning a missed phone call. Tapping on the suggestion will automatically open to the specific task. The more you use iOS 12, the more suggestions Siri will be able to provide you with on a daily basis.

Animoji and Memoji

iOS 12 also brings along more Animojis — specifically the ghost, koala, tiger, and Tyrannosaurus rex. There is also a new feature that allows you to add a tongue or a wink to any Animoji.

But that’s not all — Apple also introduced Memoji (which might be its response to Samsung’s AR Emoji). You will now be able to create an augmented reality character that resembles you — with the option to choose from different hairstyles, eye colors, and more distinct features like freckles.

Apple has also added fun effects to the iMessage camera. Users can add things like shapes, texts, filters, and stickers to their photos that they can then send within conversations. They will even be able to insert Animojis and Memojis into photos. One additional update that wasn’t announced at WWDC is that users can now record for up to 30 seconds with their Animoji rather than the original 10 seconds.

App-level data use information

While you have been able to easily find apps that are battery hogs on iOS for years, Apple added a new feature that allows you to see what apps use a lot of data. If you want to check out your data use, go to Settings > Cellular. 

Redesigned Maps app

Prepare for improved Maps. Apple is making major changes to its Maps app by adding more intricately detailed maps with greenery and other public landmarks. Right now, the feature is only active when looking at the San Francisco Bay Area on the app, but it will roll out in Northern California in the fall before making its way across the United States over the next year and a half.

Location data shared with 911 and first responders

iOS 12 has a new feature that will make it easier to locate iPhone users in an emergency. The feature automatically provides secure location data to first responders when you call 911.

The service combines Apple’s exciting HELO technology that estimates location based on cell towers, GPS and Wi-Fi Access Points with a technology created by RapidSOS to securely deliver the location data information to 911 in an emergency.

Improved screenshots on iPhone X

Nearly a year after Apple first introduced us to the iPhone X, the tech giant is finally fixing one of the phones most annoying problems: Accidental screenshots. Over the past year, users around the world have complained about taking accidental screenshots when pulling their phones out of their pockets.

To take a screenshot in iOS 12, your phone will need to be both unlocked and the display turned on. This minor change is sure to make plenty of iPhone owners happy.

Improved QR code reader

The QR code reader was originally introduced in iOS 11, but iOS 12 has brought improvements to the feature. Instead of pointing your camera at the code, iOS 12 will now highlight it for you to indicate that it has been detected. For easier access to the feature, you can also now add it to your Control Center. So when you want to scan a QR code, all you need to do is swipe into the Control Center and tap the tile to launch the feature.

Easy-to-use App Switcher

With iOS 12, you no longer have to long-press a card in the app switcher and then tap the minus button. Instead, all you need to do is swipe up once and then swipe up again on the app you want to specifically close out of.

iPhone X gestures on the iPad

apple ipad 9 7 inch 2018 front in hand
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

With rumors that Apple will soon remove the home button from all of its devices, iOS 12 might be further proof. If your iPad is running iOS 12, you will notice you’re using the exact same gestures you would on the iPhone X. You’re able to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring you to the home screen, and to access the Control Center all you’ll need to do is swipe down from the top-right corner.

Battery management information

Originally introduced in iOS 11.3, the battery health information feature allows you to check on how much power you’re using on specific apps. By going into Settings > Battery, you will see graphs that display your battery usage within the last 24 hours and the last two days. Underneath, you will be able to see your battery usage by each individual app and the usage time.

To check on your battery and throttling, go to Settings > Battery > Battery Health. From there, you will see your maximum battery capacity in comparison to when the battery was new.

Improvements to Portrait Mode

In addition to updating its camera hardware for this years iPhones, Apple updated its Camera app. The main change is that Portrait mode is improved since the app generates a mask when it detects a person in order to separate the person from the scene when processing the image.

In addition, you can also import RAW-format photos from your computer and camera with iOS 12 onto your iPhone and iPad. Apple says users will also have the ability to edit the RAW image files on their iPad Pro.

Better password management

With iOS 12, there are a variety of new password features. For developers specifically, the new OS will be able to show passwords from third-party password manager apps in the QuickType suggestions on your device — using a new Password Manager API. Users will also be able to easily share passwords between their iOS and Mac devices if they’re nearby one another.

Apple also increased security on creating passwords. If you’re creating a password that you’ve already used on another account, it will be flagged and remind you not to reuse a password. It will also automatically create a strong password for you and then store it in your Keychain.

Siri will be able to help you with passwords as well — but not yet. While there isn’t much information on how this feature will work, Siri will apparently be able to help you search for passwords in the future.

The latest OS also brings autofill support for third-party password managers. Whenever a login requires two-factor authentication, the new OS will automatically fill in the six-digit codes you receive through SMS on your iPhone.

Improved Face ID

One of our favorite updated features in iOS 12 was actually completely glossed over at WWDC. Face ID got a major overhaul for iOS 12

You can now add two different Face ID profiles to unlock your phone and complete secure tasks. Hidden in the Face ID & Passcode settings, you’ll find an option to add an alternate appearance.

It’s also easier to rescan your face in iOS 12 if Face ID did not recognize you on the first try. In iOS 12 you simply need to swipe up from the unlock screen Face ID failed on the first attempt. It’s a relatively minor enhancement, but one that makes using Face ID much more convenient.

Better performance

New iOS 12 Features

In particular, iOS 12 will be focused on doubling down on performance. Apple delivered an OS that’s faster and more responsive across all iOS devices. The focus has mainly been on optimizing the system when it’s under load, with load speeds up to two times faster for sheet display and app launches.

CPU performance will also be ramped up to its highest state for performance and will be ramped down just as quickly in order to preserve battery life.

One other minor update to bears mentioning is the improved animations you’ll find in iOS 12. When transitioning from one app to the other, the transition animations are smoother and faster than they are on iOS 11.

New AR file format

Apple wanted to make it easier to experience augmented reality with a new file format called USDZ. Developed in partnership with Pixar, USDZ is an open file format that allows developers to create and share 3D Augmented Reality assets, all through a single and compact file format.

Measure app

With the Measure app, you can easily get direct measurements of any objects around you. By tapping the object and dragging out a line, it will display a measurement right on your screen. You can also extend the measurements by tapping along the edges and dragging down. You also have the ability to tap on an object like a photo, and have the app automatically detect the measurements, providing you with each dimension.

ARKit 2.0

Following the release of ARKit with iOS 11 last year, iOS 12 brings along a new version. ARKit 2.0 delivers improved face tracking, realistic rendering, and support for 3D object detection. There’s also support for shared experiences with multi-user augmented reality — you’ll be able to play AR games against other users in the same virtual environment.

Photos

In the Photo app, iOS 12 brings Search Suggestions, which highlights your photos based on key events or categories such as swimming and hiking. You’ll also be able to search for places by business name or a broader category such as a museum. Photos also indexes more than 4 million events by time and place, allowing you to search for specific photos based on terms like vacation and surfing. You will also receive suggestions on specific things to search.

The all-new “For You” tab will provide you with featured photos. Whether it’s a photo you took on the same day a few years back or effect suggestions for looping a live photo, the tab provides individual suggestions for different actions you can take with the pictures in your album.

There’s also Sharing Suggestions, which will come in handy when you see all your friends and take tons of photos together. For example, if you go out to dinner and take pictures, you will see suggested photos you might want to share with your friends, along with who you specifically want to share them with. Each photo is shared at full resolution in your iCloud photo library.

Do Not Disturb at bedtime

With a new Do Not Disturb feature, you will no longer wake up to a ton of different notifications on your lock screen. By turning this feature on, all of your notifications will be hidden until you toggle Do Not Disturb off.

For those who find themselves using Do Not Disturb often, you’ll also be able to set an end time to automatically turn the feature off whether it’s when you leave a particular location or an event ends.

Grouped notifications

Rather than seeing a long list of notifications, iOS 12 now groups them for you — not just by the app but also by topic and thread. You can tap in and look at a particular notification and then delete an entire thread with a single swipe.

You can also tune your notifications and decide whether you want a particular app to send you ones in the future or if you want it to bypass the lock screen. Siri even suggests which notifications you should turn off depending on the apps you don’t use often.

Managing screen time

To allow users more insight and control over how much time they spend on a device, iOS 12 provides users with a detailed weekly activity summary. You can easily see how much time you spent on your iPhone or iPad — whether it’s within a specific app, how often you’re picking up your phone, or what apps are sending you the most notifications. You can also add it as a widget on your home screen to easily access it.

Thanks to an App Limits feature, you can also set your own limits for how much time you want to spend on a specific app. You’ll then receive notifications letting you know that time is almost up and once you’ve reached your limit.

Parents will also receive a report of their kids’ phone usage and will have the ability to give them allowances. With a Downtime feature, parents can choose whether they want to limit their kid’s usage by category, individual app, or unplug altogether. There is also an Always Allowed section that gives them the ability to still make phone calls, use educational apps, and more. Parents can also limit access to movies and websites. All of this can be managed remotely across iPhone and iPad using the Family Sharing app.

Apple TV in the Control Center

For those who use Apple TV, you can now add an Apple TV tile to the Control Center in iOS. That way, you’re able to easily access it by swiping up to the Control Center menu and tapping on the icon.

A variety of app updates

The News app didn’t receive a huge overhaul — those who use it on the iPad will now have a sidebar to scroll through in order to make it easier to find stories. As for the Stocks app, there’s a new sparkline that shows stock performance throughout the day. Apple News has also been integrated into the Stocks app, allowing you to see top stories right in Stocks without having to leave the app. You’ll see relevant headlines from Apple News and be able to tap on them to view the full article. Stocks will also be coming to iPad with iOS 12.

Apple also updated the Voice Memos app with availability on the iPad. The app also has added iCloud support, allowing you to sync your recordings across all Apple devices.

Previously known as iBooks, the redesigned app also has a new name — Apple Books. New features include a “Reading Now” section that previews where you left off, allowing you to easily pick right back up again. There’s also a new “Book Store” that makes browsing for new books easier than it was before.

Updated on October 29, 2018: iOS 12.1 is now available for download.

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