The next version of iOS - the operating system that runs on all iPhones and iPads - is likely to hit our Apple handhelds in the autumn of 2018. This year's update will be iOS 12. Now that iOS is almost a teenager, what can we expect from it?

Based on what Apple has already said - albeit behind closed doors - we can expect iOS 12 to address issues with performance and quality, and focus on stability and bug fixes. But don't worry, there's sure to be some killer new features too - such as AirPlay 2, which didn't appear in the iOS 11.3 update, despite being in the beta.

So what's in store for iOS 12? In this article we round up all the rumours, clues, hints and leaks pointing to iOS 12's release date, new features and more. Main image is a concept illustration by iOS News And More.

Release date

iOS 12 will launch in September 2018.

Apple is a creature of habit when it comes to OS updates, and past behaviour strongly points to iOS 12 (along with macOS 10.14, tvOS 12 and watchOS 5) being announced and demoed at WWDC in summer (probably June) 2018, before rolling out as a series of beta testing versions, first for developers and then as part of a public beta.

The final public version of iOS 12.0 will be launched in autumn 2018; probably in September, alongside new iPhones.

New features coming in iOS 12

We've got a long list of wished-for features that we hope will make it into iOS 12, and we'll tell you about some of the features that were rumoured to appear in previous iOS updates but haven't shown up yet.

Unfortunately it looks like the major revamp will have to wait for iOS 13 in 2019. Unlucky for some? But there's still plenty of good stuff to look forward to in 2018.

Possible: Merging of macOS and iOS

You might be able to run MacOS apps on the iPad and vice versa when it launches in the autumn. At least that’s Apple’s plan, according to an Axios report.

Back in December 2017 Bloomberg wrote that Apple plans to combine iPhone, iPad and Mac apps as part of a secret project called ‘Marzipan’.

According to Bloomberg: “Apple plans to change that by giving people a way to use a single set of apps that work equally well across its family of devices: iPhones, iPads and Macs.”

Developers will be encouraged to expand iOS apps to Macs, perhaps at WWDC. “People familiar with the matter” told Bloomberg that: “Developers will be able to design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it’s running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac.”

However, Apple CEO Tim Cook has quashed the rumours that Apple is planing to unify macOS with iOS as part of the project "Marzipan, restating his belief that mobile devices and computers should remain separate with their own operating systems.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, following Apple’s Education focused event at which the company launched the new iPad, Cook said: "We don't believe in sort of watering down one for the other. Both [The Mac and iPad] are incredible. One of the reasons that both of them are incredible is because we pushed them to do what they do well. And if you begin to merge the two ... you begin to make trade offs and compromises.

"So maybe the company would be more efficient at the end of the day. But that's not what it's about. You know it's about giving people things that they can then use to help them change the world or express their passion or express their creativity. So this merger thing that some folks are fixated on, I don't think that's what users want.”

Near certainty: Improved Shazam integration

Naturally we're expecting improved Shazam integration in the iPhone and iPad, following Apple's acquisition of the company. An easy one to start.

Possible: AirPlay 2

AirPlay 2 is an important update to Apple's AirPlay tech because it allows for multi-room audio (a potentially key feature for the HomePod). Support for AirPlay 2 was included in the first couple of betas of iOS 11.3, but it had vanished in the third beta, which has led some to speculate that it may have been delayed until iOS 12.

Confirmed: Performance and quality improvements

We also know that Apple is spending time on addressing issues with performance and quality, according to a Axios report by Ina Fried (who was formerly a reporter at Apple favourites Re/code and All Things Digital).

According to the report, Apple's software engineering chief Craig Federighi told employees at a meeting in January 2018 that Apple has decided to delay some of the new features it was working on in favour of spending time on addressing issues with performance and quality.

It seems that Apple will focus on stability and bug fixes, as well as making iPhones "more responsive" and "less prone to cause customer support issues".

This change of direction (or refocusing) is likely as a result of the bugs and vulnerabilities that have plagued iOS 11 since it launched in September 2017.

Some of these issues were mere annoyances, such as a keyboard auto-correct error that would change I to a box, and later on 'it' to I.T. Others included a bug that could cause the iPhone to crash if it received a particular iMessage, and of course the Spectre and Meltdown incident that affected the whole industry also affected Apple.

Then there was the criticism of how Apple handled issues related to older batteries when it emerged that Apple had been slowing down older iPhones in order to avoid crashes caused by depleted batteries. In the end Apple promised to replace batteries in older handsets, and said it would allow iPhone owners to see more information about the efficiency of their battery in the future. You can read more about that here: Apple's iPhone battery replacement promise. An update that will address some of this should appear in iOS 11 - read about the latest version of iOS 11 here.

However there are still a few changes to apps and features coming. According to the Axios report, the Health app, ARKit, and parental controls are also due some changes. We'll look at these below.

Very likely: Augmented reality

It's expected that Augmented Reality features and ARKit will see a boost in the next version of iOS.

Very likely: Parental Controls

Likely spurred on by calls from some big Apple investors, Apple's going to make some improvements in terms of Parental Controls in iOS 12.

One possible Parental Controls focused feature could be a per-app passcode or Touch ID lock.

It's currently possible to lock individual documents in Notes, but not apps - either the entire phone is locked, or all the apps are unlocked. From a data protection and parental control point of view, it would be very useful to be able to lock individual apps.

(It is possible to hand an iPhone over to a child and keep them in one app using Guided Access, of course, but this is a bit of a faff and highly inflexible. For older kids, it would be nice to be able to let them explore the iOS and just lock off the violent game and the work documents you don't want them to mess with.)

Very likely: Health

We don't know exactly what to expect but we know that Health is very much on the horizon at Apple. So you can expect some new health-related features in iOS 12.

Possible: Multi-user FaceTime calls

The Verifier has predicted that Apple will introduce a feature long requested by iOS users: the ability to make group calls via FaceTime video in a similar way to services like Skype. The site adds that Apple is considering making the FaceTime app more of a social experience by adding filters similar to apps like Snapchat and MSQRD that have had huge success off the back of the filters.

It's worth noting that Apple snapped up Faceshift in late 2015, a company whose technology can capture a user's facial expressions and transform the face into a 3D avatar in real-time. Could this technology be integral in Apple's planned overhaul in iOS 12? We can only wait and see. It's also worth noting that The Verifier, despite the name, has a non-existent track record with Apple rumours and thus, should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Also coming to FaceTime is the ability to screen share, according to reports. Screen sharing will be a useful feature if you are trying to help troubleshoot an iOS device remotely.

iOS 12 release date & new features: FaceTime

Possible: Multiple user accounts

The iPhone might be overwhelmingly a personal device but many iPads are not; some performing a second duty as child pacifier, others being shared with house guests or used by multiple members of staff in retail. And iOS users have been asking for user accounts for years.

Possible: New Messages features

A Bloomberg report refers to improvements to Apple's social features that are designed to "more effectively connect users with their contacts". Apple wants to offer a means to consolidate communications between users into single panels. For example, two friends could be able to see all text messages, e-mails, and social network interactions between each other in a single window, according to Bloomberg's source.

We'd like to see support for read receipts in group iMessages - a feature available in WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Possible: Smart Wi-Fi

The P9 is one of a number of Huawei phones to offer a feature called Wi-Fi+ (or Wi-Fi+ 2.0). This encompasses a number of elements, such as the prioritisation of stronger connections, but the one we like best is its ability to automatically turn Wi-Fi on or off depending on your location. It remembers the location of known networks and activates in order to join them, but when you leave the area it turns Wi-Fi off to save battery.

Given the iPhones' recent difficulty competing on battery life with the top-end Android devices, something along these lines would be a fine addition to iOS 12.

Possible: Ability to change video resolution in-app

All currently available iPhones can record video in full 4K resolution at 30fps, as well as the standard 1080p at 60fps or 30fps. The only issue we have is that there is no easy way to change between the resolutions from within the Camera app, and we have to exit the app, head to Settings > Camera to be able to change it.

Certain situations, such as filming in low light, require a lower frame rate (fewer frames = more light captured) and changing it manually takes around 10-15 seconds, which isn't ideal. We would love a way to quickly change the resolution and frame rate, possibly by tapping an icon in the Camera app. It's a simple change to make and would be largely appreciated by those that like to capture video on their iPhones.

While we're on the subject of photography, it would be nice if Apple allowed us to take and store photos in RAW format.

Possible: View Favourites in Contacts app

Another fairly simple change we'd like to see made in iOS 12 is the ability to view and edit the list of favourites, currently only found in the Phone app. It makes sense to be able to access your favourite contacts from within the Contacts app, and we're not quite sure why Apple hasn't yet added this functionality. Sometimes we want easy access to our contacts for other reasons, not just for calling!

Possible: Contact Availability Status

Apple has filed a patent that could be summarised as a system that detects where your friends are, and whether they're available and the operating status of their iPhone (such as silent or Airplane mode), and presents that information in the Contacts app.

The patent shows that Apple is considering a new feature that would enable iPhone users to view at a glance whether their contacts are available for a conversation, and where they are.

The abstract of the patent reads:

"A command is received at an operating system of a first mobile phone for displaying the contact information of a remote user having a mobile phone number of a second mobile phone. In response to the command, a request is transmitted to a remote server from the first mobile phone over a cellular network requesting an operating status of the second mobile phone.

"The operating status of the second mobile phone is received from the remote server over the cellular network. The operating status of the second mobile phone is displayed on a display of the first mobile phone as a part of contact information of the remote user associated with the second mobile phone, where the operating status includes current locality of the second mobile phone."

Which sounds complicated, but can be further summarised as a system that detects where your friends are, and whether they're available and the operating status of their iPhone (such as silent or Airplane mode), and presents that information in the Contacts app. If you're thinking that has the whiff of surveillance about it - well, it does, but only to the same extent as Find My Friends, and it would presumably be optional for both parties.

iOS 12 release date rumours: Patent

Possible: Finger-detecting dynamic keyboard

Apple has been granted a patent covering dynamic keyboard positioning on touchscreens, whereby the individual keys are placed in response to the detected position of the user's fingertips.

iOS 12 release date & new features: Finger-detecting keyboard patent

United States Patent 9,489,086, entitled Finger hover detection for improved typing, describes a concept whereby typing "is improved by dynamically and automatically positioning the desired home-row keys of an onscreen keyboard below the user's fingers while their fingers are hovering above the surface, thus reducing the need for the user to look at the onscreen keyboard while typing".

We wouldn't be surprised if the concept appears in the system-wide keyboard (albeit presumably as an option) in a future update of iOS, although it appears to be targeted at tablets only. This wouldn't be the first iOS feature to be restricted to iPad use, of course: the most famous example is probably the split-screen viewing modes added to the iPad with the launch of iOS 9.

While the granted patent was published in November 2016, this is in effect a ratification of Apple's acquisition of the patent when it bought Typesoft Technologies back in September 2014; Typesoft's Dryft virtual keyboard uses a similar principle in an effort to enable touchscreen touch-typing, as shown in the following video:

Finally, and quite aptly if we've got this right, there appears to be a typo in the introduction specifically where the patent is talking about making typos.

"While there have been numerous proposals for disambiguating error-prone user input," reads the last sentence of the introduction, "many such proposals rely heavily on linguistic context and are unable to resolve interchangeable alternatives (e.g., where a user strikes ambiguously between keys T and 'o' followed by 'n' leaving uncertainty whether "in" or "on" was intended)." (Surely that's meant to be 'i' and 'o', rather than T and 'o'? Although we are happy to be corrected.)

Possible: Slide to unlock

Does that sound familiar? It should, because it was the way we unlocked iPhones and iPads in iOS 9 and every previous version of iOS and iPhone OS. In its most recent incarnation, it looked a bit like the one on the left below:

iOS 12 release date rumours: Slide to unlock

In iOS 10 Apple got rid of slide to unlock, changing the interface so you just press the Home button (simultaneously triggering the Touch ID fingerprint scanner on reasonably up to date iDevices, so it made more sense, on the whole). But some people aren't happy about this development, and a petition has been formed to ask for slide to unlock to be brought back.

Will Apple give in to popular pressure (well, relatively popular pressure - there are just 1,549 signatories at time of writing, although we've heard this sentiment quite widely) and bring back slide to unlock? We don't think so. Apple fans have had issues with interfaces before, most controversially with iOS 7, but most of us got used to the new look in time.

Unlikely: Cosmetic/aesthetic customisation changes

In this infuriatingly intelligent and well-made video, EverythingApplePro proposed a wide range of changes for iOS 11, among them some radical new options for customising the way iOS looks and the way its interface is organised.

They call for dynamic animated app icons, showing for example your current location in the Maps icon and the current weather for Weather; the ability to place icons in any of the free grid slots on the screen rather than having iOS automatically re-sort it to the free slot nearest the top left of the screen; custom system fonts; and a change to the way Reachability works on larger-screen iPhones so that it shrinks the interface down to the size of a smaller phone rather than dragging the whole thing down and hiding many of the icons off the bottom.

We didn't get any of these changes in iOS 11, and it's looking unlikely for iOS 12; maybe iOS 13 will be lucky?

iOS 12 compatibility

Development testing reports for WebKit have been found to include references to iOS 12 - and hinted that the oldest iPhone to be supported in iOS 12 will be the iPhone 5s (as is the case in iOS 11).

MacGeneration spotted that the bug-reporting section of the open source Webkit page specifically mentions iOS 12 as well as the iPhone 5s, including a reference to "iPhone 5s running iOS 12”.

This suggests that iOS 12 is already being used to test Safari.

iOS 11 runs on the following devices:

  • iPad Pro (10.5), iPad Pro (12.9, 2017)
  • 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
  • iPod touch (sixth generation)

Concept illustrations & leaked screenshots

As iOS 12's launch gets closer, we hope to see leaked screenshots of the pre-release testing versions being tested at Apple HQ. But this far ahead we must make do with concept illustrations: images created by interface designers and other enthusiasts to show what could be done.

Naturally, these shouldn't be taken as evidence of anything more than what some people would like to see in iOS 12.

Our favourite illustrations were posted on Behance by iOS News And More. They envision some major upheavals to the iOS interface, including the removal of app names from the icons on the Home page, a new 'app bar' and the arrival of Split View from the iPad.

iOS 12 release date & new features rumours: Split View concept illustration by iOS News And More

iOS 12 release date & new features rumours: App Bar concept illustration by iOS News And More

Which iPhones & iPads will be able to run iOS 12?

Our prediction is that the iPad Air 2 and later, the iPad mini 3 and later, the iPhone 6 and later and the sixth-gen iPod touch will certified as compatible to install and run iOS 12.

Here is a list of every Apple device that supported iOS 11:

  • iPad Air 1, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro (12.9in, 2015), iPad Pro (9.7in, 2016), iPad (9.7in, 2017), iPad Pro (10.5in), iPad Pro (12.9in, 2017)
  • 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
  • iPod touch (sixth generation)

We think Apple will remove the bottom rung of each list, with the Air 1, mini 2 and iPhone 5s missing out. (Apple currently sells only one model of iPod touch, so we don't expect that to lose compatibility, but its days may be numbered.)

You can read more about this subject in our dedicated article about iPhone and iPad iOS compatibility.