iOS 12 Preview: Release date and new features
With the iOS 12 Public Beta now available for curious iOS users, we thought we’d test out this latest release for ourselves to see whether its newest features make this a worthwhile upgrade.
Naturally, as with any pre-release firmware, backup any precious data beforehand – just in case things go south, post-install.
Apple’s forthcoming release doesn’t make any sweeping changes to the front-facing user experience of its devices but rather focuses on improving performance on older iOS-powered phones and tablets, whilst also placing a greater emphasis on healthier smartphone usage.
Currently, it possible to schedule Do Not Disturb to kick in automatically between a set start and end time, but the new Bedtime feature is designed to reduce the chance of a bright screen getting in the way of a good night’s sleep.
Once you’ve flipped the ‘Scheduled’ toggle to on, an additional option called ‘Bedtime Mode’ appears. This not only guarantees that incoming calls will be silenced, but it also pushes notifications straight to Notifications Centre, bypassing the lock screen, which itself adopts a darker theme with Bedtime Mode active.
The collective effect of removing notifications from the lock screen and having a darker overall lock screen design is that there’s a far smaller chance of your iPhone accidentally illuminating your dark bedroom in the small hours and running the risk of disturbing your slumber.
It works as advertised and the fact that you have to actively bypass the specialised lock screen to peek at your notifications makes for a smart failsafe mechanism that also forces the user to consider whether they really need to see what the Twitterverse is up to at 1am.
A huge part of iOS 12’s efforts in mindfulness come from the new Screen Time experience. Baked into the settings menu, Screen Time offers both a breakdown of your smartphone usage – divided into app categories such as entertainment, social networking and games – as well as the ability to temporarily lock apps that take up more of your time than they should.
What’s nice is that you have the option to whitelist specific apps so that they can intentionally slip through the net, whilst the entire sub-section of Screen Time settings can also be locked behind its own passcode. The latter is particularly useful if you’re a parent managing a single device for a child.
The new ‘devices’ section also lets you drill down usage from other iOS devices tied to your Apple ID – and for multiple devices or users, Apple has also linked Screen Time into its Family Sharing feature.
Should you spend more than your allocated time within an app (or type of app), you’ll be met with a dedicated screen informing you as such, with the option to ignore the limit and proceed into the app anyway.
The barricade isn’t as heavy-handed as we were expecting, but it certainly forces you to pause and consider whether jumping back into Instagram for the 114th time that day is a sensible use of your time.
It doesn’t appear as though Apple has spent any of iOS 12’s development cycle making Siri any smarter. However, the voice assistant has gained one important new ability in the form of shortcuts. You can now teach Siri new quick actions that it can then execute with a voice command.
iOS will suggest potential shortcuts worth creating based on your app usage, but out of the box, pickings are slim. During WWDC 2018, Apple showcased a dedicated shortcuts app, which let you daisy-chain actions from a myriad of first and third-party apps. Within the iOS 12 beta 2, however, the experience is much simpler.
This is a big one. Tackling iOS notifications has never been a pleasurable experience. For one, they pop up everywhere in a myriad of guises, plus each notification gets its own discrete card, even if multiple instances hit your phone from the same app.
With the iOS 12 beta, Apple is finally grouping notifications by app, so notification spam is greatly reduced and it’s easier to see which apps are vying for your attention. To sweeten things even further, you can dismiss these stacked notification groups as if they were a single notification, which is a surprisingly satisfying experience.
Another important new aspect of notifications on iOS 12 is that you now have the ability to silence specific apps directly from the lock screen. No diving into the Settings menu to shut up an app each time.
When a notification hits your lock screen, hard-pressing and tapping the new three-dot menu icon will pull up a new behaviour screen that lets you set notifications from an app to ‘Deliver Quietly’ (skip your lock screen and only appear within Notifications Centre) or ‘Turn Off…’ – which, as mentioned before, prevents any notifications from a choice app appearing, period.
On the odd occasion you need to take a quick measurement, whether to check if that new sofa really is going to squeeze through your doorway, or if you have enough fabric for those new curtains, Apple has introduced its own measuring app, powered by augmented reality.
The aptly named Measure sports a clean interface with an ‘add anchor’ button, an undo button, a clear (all) button and a shutter button. Once you’ve moved the viewfinder around in 3D space for a few seconds, it will try to detect objects within its field of view that you might want to measure. These are signified by an environmentally aware crosshair that moves across physical objects in the scene.
Tap the ‘+’ and you’ll drop an anchor point. Move and tap again to drop another, after which you’ll see a line with a measurement attached to it. You can move around in 3D space and the perspective of the measured line will move with you. What’s more, you can add multiple anchor points in one go.
Measure is a novel demonstration of AR with some light practical applications, but it isn’t yet at a stage where it’s accurate or reliable enough to replace the humble tape measure or ruler.
Alongside Google’s equivalent AR-based measuring app (also called Measure), Apple’s offering is faster at detecting elements to which it can attach anchor points, but it also has a harder time ensuring that said anchor points are correctly sitting at the X,Y and Z coordinates the user intended.
iOS 12 Release Date: When will it be available?
Apple might have just announced iOS 12, but you won’t be downloading it onto your devices tonight. Instead, we’d expect to see a release around the same time as the new iPhones in September.
Related: iOS 11.4 features
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