iOS 12, the newest version of iOS - the operating system that runs on all iPhones and iPads - hit Apple devices on 17 September 2018, and consequent updates have been released in the months since. In this article, we will run through the new features, performance improvements you can expect, details of the devices that can run it, and news about new features that arrived in iOS 12.3.
If you are wondering what's new in iOS 12, not sure about installing it yet because you are worried about what iOS 12 might do to your iPhone or iPad, or just want to know what features arrived with the latest update to iOS 12 - iOS 12.3, read on...
On 22 January 2019 Apple released a security update for iOS 12 that included various fixes for vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to gain control of your iPhone or iPad. You can read more about that here: How to stop your iPhone, iPad or Mac getting hacked.
Note that the next version of iOS will roll out in autumn 2019. We compare it to the current version in our iOS 13 vs iOS 12 comparison review.
iOS 12 Release date
The final public launch of iOS 12 arrived on 17 September. If you haven't installed it yet, go to Settings > General > Software Update. We have more information about how to install iOS 12 and what to do before you do so here.
Latest iOS 12 version
Apple continues to update its iPhone and iPad operating system throughout the year, the latest version is iOS 12.3, which was released on 13 May 2019.
This update, issued on 13 May 2019, introduced the Apple TV Plus app to iOS and Apple TV users in the US. To those outside the US, the focus of the update was on minor bug fixes - specifically those relating to VoLTE calls and buggy iMessage features.
Interestingly, it also seems that iOS 12.3 introduces Apple Pay Express Transit, allowing people to use a pre-selected card on certain public transport routes without having to authenticate each purchase. It's allegedly specific to NYC at the moment, but we're confident that it'll be pushed out around the world soon enough.
iOS 12.2 is one of the biggest and most exciting updates since the release of iOS 12 in September 2018; as well as providing access to the Apple News+ subscription in supported countries, the update brought four new Animoji masks for FaceID-enabled devices, an update to Control Centre icons and the ability to control your Apple TV via Siri on your iOS devices.
This minor update was pushed to fix the Group FaceTime eavesdropping vulnerability discovered earlier this year.
This update to iOS 12, issued on 22 January 2019, bought bug fixes as well as addressing a number of security vulnerabilities which we discuss here: How to stop your iPhone, iPad or Mac getting hacked.
Some users experienced problems with mobile/cellular networks following this update.
iOS 12.1 brings Group FaceTime, Beautygate fix, 70 new emoji and eSIM support. Smaller changes include improvements to the Measure app, better depth control for the XS, XS Max and XR cameras (you'll be able to see changes in real time) and various bug fixes.
FaceTime, with up to 32 participants, was a new feature promised for iOS 12. Apple's delayed the release of this feature until 30 October.
Features include: Automatic detection of active speakers, Ringless notification when calling more than one person, and integration into Messages
Group FaceTime automatically resizes to make a participant's box larger when they're speaking. Here's how to make a group FaceTime call.
People complained that images taken with the iPhone XS Selfie Portrait Mode made them look like they had applied a beautifying filter. Apple acknowledged a bug in the Smart HDR system on the iPhone XS was causing it to choose a longer-exposure base frame when constructing a Portrait mode image, softening the result. This is fixed in iOS 12.1 - it will choose a sharper, shorter-exposure base frame for a sharper result.
The new emoji include: characters with red hair, grey hair and curly hair, a new emoji for bald people, more emotive smiley faces and additional emoji representing animals, sports and food, according to Apple. There will also be new emoji for moon cake, llama, raccoon, and lobster.
The iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR will have their eSIM support turned on. Your carrier will need to support the feature too.
Apple runs a beta program for its new operating systems and released numerous developer and public versions of the iOS 12 beta throughout the summer before the final version was launched on 17 September. These updates added some new features, and removed others.
The beta program continues to run after the software has been released, as Apple tests out new features that weren't ready for launch and fixes problems and vulnerabilities if they arise. Updates to the public beta tend to happen in tandem with the developer beta, although not all features appear in the public beta at the same time as the developer version.
iOS 12 problems
We'll run through any issues that arise with iOS 12 and any known fixes as they emerge here.
Messages threads combining
iOS 12 is causing problems for some Messages users who share Apple ID - perhaps with their parents.
iOS 12 will unify all the messages from a contact into one thread based on their phone number, and their Apple ID email address. This sounds like a great feature, but because some younger Apple iPhone or iPad users share an Apple ID with a parent it appears to mean that their text messages are being lumped together in one thread - and possibly being identified as the wrong poster, as reported by Piunikaweb.
does anyone know how to fix this ios 12 bug that merges two contacts together bc my mum & sister are now under the same text thread thing so i gotta message my sister under snapchat now— elyza (@sanscery) September 27, 2018
Twitter users, like the one above, have highlighted the problem and there is a thread on the support community on Apple’s website.
While it appears to be related to users who share a common Apple ID, there have been cases reported where this isn’t the case.
One of the Apple support community posts describes the problem thus:
“I have this issue also and it started after the iOS 12 update. I'm using an iPhone 6+.
I have one message thread where I receive messages from both my daughter and my husband.
When I reply it goes to the last person that sent me a message in that thread and not the other person (so not to be confused for a 'group message').
To get a message to the intended recipient, I create a new message with the correct contact. Once the message is sent, it joins up with the combined message thread.
I've tried a full shut down and restart, but it didn't fix it. We are all on the same Apple account (if that means anything), but there are additional devices and people on the account that don't seem affected, yet.”
As yet Apple has not offered a fix for the problem, when one emerges we will update this article.
This initially appeared to just be affecting some new iPhone XS and XS Max models, but it may be a software issue affecting older iPhones and iPads too. According to reports some iOS devices are not charging via the Lightning cable.
It appears that some iOS devices might fails to charge if it is in sleep mode when plugged in. Some people have claimed that their device starts charging but then stops after a short amount of time.
Unbox Therapy has run tests and replicated the issue on the iPhone XS, as shown below.
Because reports suggest the issue affects older devices running iOS 12, it looks likely that it is a software bug, rather than a hardware issue.
9to5mac notes that it has been suggested that it could be related to the new USB Restricted Mode, but it’s not clear if that is the case.
Upcoming iOS 12 features
Not all of the new features Apple promised would be in iOS 12 were available at launch. In this section we will discuss new iOS 12 features and when they will launch.
It might soon be time to start using Apple’s Maps app. Apple didn't reveal that it was going to completely overhaul its Maps app during the WWDC keynote, that revelation came later on in an interview (we have all the details here: New version of Apple Maps coming in iOS 12).
Apple has decided that the best way to improve Maps is to stop relying on third-parties and gather all the data itself. To do so it's had its own vans out gathering images, it will also be gathering anonymous data from iPhones, and using a team of human editors, to make sure that its Maps are always completely up-to-date.
Apparently the problem with Apple Maps at the moment is it takes Apple too long to make changes, because of all the third-party involvement. This way the changes can happen immediately - so if a new road opens it can appear on Maps quickly.
When iOS 12 arrived this new Maps information was rolled out in San Francisco, but it will soon be coming to a town near you.
This isn't a visual overhaul, but users will see more detailed images gathered by Apple's vans in conjunction with satellite images.
What's new in iOS 12
Wondering what iOS 12 will bring to your iPhone or iPad when you install it, or even if you can install iOS 12 on your iPhone? Read on to find out about the new features in iOS 12.
It was predicted beforehand that Apple would focus on performance and stability in this update, and that's exactly what happened. Presenting at WWDC in June, Apple's Craig Federighi said Apple is "doubling down on performance", in order to make iPads and iPhones faster and more responsive. This is particularly true of older devices, he said.
The iPhone 6 Plus, for instance, sees substantial speed boosts with the iOS 12 update. Apps load up to 40% faster; the keyboard comes up 50% faster. Sliding to take a photo is up to 70% faster, he said.
Smaller but still significant gains can be seen with newer devices too: Federighi referred to the sharesheet appearing twice as fast and apps loading twice as fast too.
The performance gains are all about optimising the system when under load, Apple said. iOS 12 ramps up performance immediately when it's needed, then ramps it down when not needed to preserve battery life.
When we installed iOS 12 on older devices we saw some nice speed boosts. For example:
So! Early testing (on iPad Pro 2015) suggests iOS 12 provides a speed boost of 8.8% in single-core processing and 3.7% in multicore. And it powered on 12.5% faster #iOS12— David Price (@pricivius) September 18, 2018
Apps in iOS
While no app has received a massive overhaul, there are a number of changes to iPhone and iPad apps that makes the iOS 12 update worthwhile.
iOS 12 makes it simpler to search for photos. For example, you can search for photos which have multiple people in them by tapping on the different People you want to add to the search (assuming you have identified photos that contain those people).
Other options to narrow down you search include Places, Categories, and more. Your recent searches will also remain so you can quickly tap on them again and jump to those photos.
You could already search for cards, dog, flowers, etc in iOS 11 but there are far more categories in iOS 12.
More ambitiously, iOS 12 thinks about photo searches before you do, offering search suggestions: places you've taken photos, events, categories such as hiking. Photos indexes millions of events, and you can use this to find photos you took at that event.
In iOS 12 Photos also predicts what photos you'd like to share. A new tab in Photos called For You (which combines the old Memories and Shared tabs) takes you to Sharing Suggestions (based on the people in your photos).
Tap on the group of photos Photos is suggesting you share, and choose Next. You will see the option to Choose People To Share With.
You can associate contact information from your address book with that person, and then choose Share in Messages. This will generate an iCloud link to the photos that will remain live for a month. When your friend receives the photos they will see a suggestion that they share photos from the same event with you.
Finally, there's a slight reorganisation in the tabs. As we said above, Memories and Shared have been combined into For You, which opens up a slot on the bottom bar for a search tab. The iOS 12 Photos app also tidies up your Photo library a bit too.
As well as curated Memories and activity in your shared folders (and the sharing suggestions mentioned above), For You also shows featured photos, and suggests effects that iOS thinks would like good on specific photos.
Other photo and camera related updates include the following:
Improved RAW image support
iOS 12 streamlines the process for importing RAW photos, allowing users to import and manage RAW photos on their iPhone and iPad and edit them on the iPad Pro (no need to use a third-party app).
Improved Portrait Lighting effects
Portrait Lighting should do a better job at cutting out the person from the scene in iOS 12 - in our experience it still doesn’t do a particularly good job with curly hair though.
The biggest changes to Messages revolve around Animoji on the iPhone X, XS and XS Max. There are four new Animoji: a ghost, a koala, a tiger and a T-Rex. And for all the Animoji, you'll now be able to stick your tongue out and have the animation reflect that (iOS 11 couldn't recognise tongues).
Animoji recordings used to be limited to 10 seconds but in iOS 12 you can record up to 30 seconds. Still not enough for the whole of Bohemian Rhapsody, but definitely better.
At the end of the Animoji drawer you'll now see a plus sign, and this for creating your own images. These are called Memoji, personalised Animoji of yourself (or whoever you like, really). Apple showed off a huge range of personalisation options.
There are also some new fun camera effects in Messages - as before you can take a photo from within the app but now you can add your Memoji, stickers etc. Here's how to use camera filters in Messages.
News has had a redesign to make it more suitable for iPad use. It gets a new Browse tab, which Apple says makes it easier to jump to favourites. And there's a new sidebar.
The list of topics and sites you follow now flow together in Channels - rather than having to skip past a list of sites to get the the Topic you are interested in.
Apple has increased privacy on its web browser with Intelligent Tracking Prevention to block Like and Share buttons from tracking users, and warning you if you are using the same password for multiple accounts.
The Stocks app has also been updated. Now you can see news about the different companies who’s stock you track within the app.
Apple's using Apple News to provide the Business news headlines that appear within the app, and you can click and see the full article without leaving Stocks.
This will make the most sense on the larger screen of an iPad, which is the second update: Stocks is coming to iPad at last (and the Mac)! In this format you'll be able to view your stocks on the left, and financial news on the right.
This too has been redesigned to be easier to use. And it's also coming to iPad!
Now supports third-party navigation apps including Waze and Google Maps. Quite a big deal!
iBooks, now Books
iBooks gets a new design, and a new name: Apple Books.
There's a new feature called Reading Now, which lets you pick up where you left off, tailored book recommendations, and the Book Store has been redesigned.
Siri gets a few tweeks in iOS 12, but the most significant change has to be Siri Shortcuts app.
Siri gets a new app called Shortcuts, although rather than arriving with iOS 12, you need to download it from the App Store here in order to get it. We have a tutorial on how to use Siri Shortcuts here.
Once installed, open the Siri Shortcuts app and tap on Gallery to see a gallery of ready-made shortcuts, such as Calculate Tip, Log Water, Make PDF, or Remind Me At Home.
You can also create shortcuts that work with Apple and third-party apps. These can be (potentially multi-step) voice-triggered actions tailored to individual apps.
Any app can add Shortcuts. It just displays an 'Add to Siri' icon, and this allows you to create a voice shortcut for a specific feature of that app. Examples include "Help me relax" triggering a meditation app, and "Order my usual groceries".
Siri in iOS 12 will contextually suggest shortcuts in the lock screen: if you order a coffee every morning, it will suggest triggering an action in the Starbucks app, say. Or it will suggest "Turn on Do Not Disturb" when you're at a cinema, or remind you to call your grandmother on her birthday.
You can create your own shortcuts with Shortcuts app - a shortcut for "surf time", for instance, might get the weather and an ETA to the beach, set up a reminder to put on sunscreen and so on. Here's how to make a Siri shortcut.
Speaking of (or to) Siri, you have a few more Siri accent options in iOS 12. English speakers have been able to change Siri’s voice from male to female with the choice of three accents since iOS 11, now in iOS 12 you also get the choice of Irish or South African.
Siri can now translate words and sentences into more languages - there are up to 50 different combinations.
iOS 12 isn't without its interface tweaks, but we think they are all for the better.
Closing apps on X phones
Another features for those with no Home Button is the return of being able to close apps in a more natural way.
In iOS 11 you swiped up from the bottom to close an app card in the multitasking menu, however, if you had an iPhone X you had to go through the extra step of pressing on the app card you wanted to close for a second before swiping up to close it. Now the behaviour is back to the way that it works on all iPhones.
New in iOS 12, if you hard press on the Notes app icon, you get a Scan documents option.
Do the same on the Camera icon for the option to Scan QR Code, as well as Take Selfie, Record Video, and Take Portrait.
Stop Phone addiction
There are a few ways in iOS 12 in which Apple is attemtping to help us be less addicted to our iPhones and iPads.
iOS 12 provides Screen Time reports: an activity summary that tells you how much you used your iPhone or iPad during day and night, and how much time in each app. It also tells you which apps send the most notifications. All this information could be handy in letting you decide how to adjust your usage.
With iOS 12 installed, to find out just how much of your time you are waiting on your iPhone, go to Settings > Screen Time. Here you will find details on how long you use each app, how often you looked at your phone, and what apps you spent the most time with. You can even share Screen Time across all your devices that are signed in to you iCloud account.
Tap on your device in the top section to see the Screen Time breakdown. You can look at the breakdown for today, or for the last seven days.
You can also set Downtime, with only certain apps being available between certain hours, say night time. You’ll get a reminder just before your Downtime starts. You can decide which apps are allowed during Downtime in the Always Allowed section.
It’s also possible to set App Limits (although these limits reset each day at midnight). For example, you could limit your Social Networking apps so you can only use them for 1 hour.
You can set a Screen Time password to use when you need a few minutes more.
You will presumably not allow extensions when creating app usage allowances for your kids, and stipulating downtime. Parental controls are generally improved in iOS 12, enabling you to set app limits by categories, or set apps that they can always get at - the Phone app, most obviously, or education apps.
If you have Family Sharing set up on the devices your kids use you can use these limits, managing them remotely and see reports of your kids accounts.
Notifications in iOS 12 will allow more control over how many Notifications you receive: Apple refers to this as 'instant tuning' from the lock screen. Press into a notification and you'll be able to decide whether to turn off notifications from that source entirely, or simply tune the circumstances under which it notifies you.
Siri will also suggest turning off notifications you're no longer using, and we now (as long requested!) get grouped notifications. They will be grouped by app, or ungrouped (if you want them to stand out), by topic, or by thread. You can tap into a grouped notification to look at the group in more detail, or 'triage' the whole group with a single swipe to dismiss the whole group at once.
Tweak the settings in Settings > Notifications and then go to the settings for each app and adjust the Notification Grouping, or swipe on a notification in your Lock screen, tap on Manage, and you’ll see options to change how notifications work for that app.
Do Not Disturb
There's a wide range of new features in iOS 12 designed to limit distractions, focus on the things that are important to you, and generally improve the balance between your iOS devices and the rest of your life.
There's a new feature called Do Not Disturb During Bedtime. With this activated, you won't see all notifications during the preset Bedtime hours, even if you can turn on your device's screen. In the morning you can tap when you want to see them.
And there are more updates for Do Not Disturb. You can set an ending for a DND on a one-off occasion: when you leave somewhere, or at a specified time. This could be handy for playtime with the kids, or when attending a wedding or important meeting.
To do so, hard press on the crescent moon icon in Control Centre and choose from the options: For 1 hour, Until this evening, Until I leave this location.
You can make sure that you see critical notifications from important apps - such as health apps. They will appear at the top of the lock screen and will even show up if Do Not Disturb is on.
Better battery information
In Settings > Battery you will be able to see a breakdown of the last 24 hours and the past 2 days, revealing your battery usage by app during that time
Another area where Apple has spent some time making changes is security.
Another iPhone X specific update. If Face ID fails because you weren’t ready for it to identify you it is now possible to swipe up from the passcode screen to try Face ID again.
There is also a new option to save an Alternate Appearance for Face ID. So you can now give access to your phone to someone else via Face ID (or if you are a parent make sure you can access your child’s device). Or, if you regularly change your look, it might make Face ID more skilled at recognising you.
If you have trouble getting Face ID to recognise you, you could take a second Face ID scan but from a slightly different angle.
Lock out USB accessories
You'll be able to lock out USB accessories from accessing your iPhone when it's locked if you install iOS 12.
This is a new security change that means nobody will be able to plug a device into your iPhone in an attempt to hack into it. It kicks an hour after your iPhone was locked (unless you deselect the setting).
You’ll find the setting in Settings > Touch ID & Passcode. Scroll down to Allow Access When Locked section and you’ll see USB Accessories. Make sure that it’s deselected if you don’t want devices to have access.
Third-party Password Autofill
If you use a third-party password manager, rather than relying on password management in Safari, you’ll be pleased that third-party password managers, including 1Password, are now able to auto-fill login and passwords on websites, apps and accounts. Go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts > AutoFill Passwords to set up permissions for your password manager.
Autofill SMS security codes
Now when a security code arrives in a text message it will automatically be available as a AutoFill suggestion - so you won’t even have to open the Messages app to see the code.
Games and Augmented Reality
Finally, there will likley be lots of games and apps using the new ARKit 2 features that arrived in iOS 12. Here's what you can expect:
ARKit 2 & USDZ
As part of the iOS 12 update, Apple launched ARKit 2. Augmented reality is a major component of the new OS.
First of all, Apple announced a new file format for augmented reality, called USDZ.
This means developers and designers can create an AR 'experience' in this format, then send it via Mail, load it to websites, share it across a system and so on. You can view it immediately - "like AR quick look", Federighi said.
There will be native USDZ support in Adobe Creative Cloud, covering apps such as Photoshop.
AR content will also appear in the News app - you'll be able to tap to zoom in, manipulate the object in 3D and so on. And lots of websites will start to display AR content too: such as the Fender website offering configuration options than letting you see your guitar in the real world, at real size.
Apple has created a clever measurement tools made possible by ARKit 2. With the new app called Measure (which is installed with iOS 12) you can view a real-world object using your iPhone's camera, tap two points on a table, for example, and see a measurement for its length and width. More impressively, you can view a rectangular object such as a photo and the system will automatically recognise the shape and give you measurements.
Finally, ARKit will allow shared experiences. In AR games, for example, two players on separate iPads will be able to separately observe the gameplay from their viewpoint (and a third, neutral observer will be able to views things separately too).
Which iPads & iPhones can run iOS 12?
All the devices that could run iOS 11 can also run iOS 12, plus any released since. That means:
- All iPad Pro models
- iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad 2017, iPad 2018
- iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4
- iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR (preinstalled on last three)
- iPod touch (sixth generation)
You can read more about this subject in our dedicated article about iPhone and iPad iOS compatibility.
That's all the news about iOS 12, but believe it or not there are already rumours circulating about the iOS 13 update for summer and autumn 2019.
Reports indicate that a number of planned features have been pushed back from the iOS 12 update to iOS 13 so that (as outlined above) the firm can implement the widespread stability improvements and bug fixes that it believes are the priority this time round.
On Twitter, Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman has discussed some of the expected features of what he calls 'Yukon', the codename for the 2019 update. He says Files will get a revamp, and there will tabs in apps, two screens of the same app side by side, and updates related to the Apple Pencil.
Most intriguingly, Gurman points to a redesign of the home screen, focused on the iPad. This ties in with an earlier prediction by Axios that "a refresh of the home screen" had been pushed back to 2019.
Apple will, of course, have long-term plans in place - the iOS team won't sit down with a blank sheet of paper the day after iOS 12 ships - but it's unusual for us to have this much information so far ahead of a launch.