iOS 18 breaks cover: A milestone update for the iPhone, powered by AI

iOS 18 is now official
Apple has just unveiled what could be the prime candidate for one of the biggest updates in iOS history. Apple didn't fully join in on the AI fun that most of its rivals have been fully leaning onto for the past year or so, which makes iOS 18 such an important milestone for Cupertino.  

But it's not all AI, as tons of other aspects of iOS have been rethought and revamped; even if there were zero AI announcements, iOS 18 would still have been a perfectly viable software update, as good as they usually come.

iOS 18 is here, fueled by a ton of new features, revamping of core iOS apps, better privacy, security, customizability, and last but definitely not least––powered by artificial intelligence. 

Apple Intelligence and revamped Siri

It's official: Apple's now partaking in the trendy AI race. Enter Apple Intelligence, Cupertino's rather complete take on AI that's generously sprinkled all over iOS 18

The major amount of new features, however, are found in the most logical place: Siri.

The voice assistant has received a serious redesign: gone is the globe icon at the bottom of the screen, Siri will now appear as a flashing outline on your screen for a less-intrusive look. The underlying architecture and essential capabilities of Siri have also been reworked. 

However, the new Siri will only work on iPhone 15 and newer because the majority of features are processed on-device, and apparently that's a pretty tasking scenario for older iPhones that otherwise support iOS 18

The voice assistant is now capable of executing various tasks in your apps, including complex multi-step queries. For example, you can ask Siri to find all pictures of your child wearing a blue jacket and text these to your significant other without any user interaction. Apple says Siri has scored a ton of new app intents, which enable it to control so much more inside stock Apple apps, but an API will allow developers to tap into the AI-powered Siri's potential. 

Siri now also has a more natural voice, which will make conversing with it a tad more innate. You can now also type to Siri by double-tapping the app handle switch at the bottom of your lock screen. 

Apple also has a new generative image generator in iOS 18, available either as a part of the Messages app but also as a standalone app to play around. 

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It's not all Siri, though: Apple has partnered up with OpenAI to bring the ubiquitous ChatGPT to iPhone. The latter will be deeply integrated with Siri, which will be able to tap in ChatGPT's knowledge and advanced understanding for more complex tasks.  

For the full scoop on all things AI, have a look at our dedicated iOS and AI: Everything you need to know article. 

iOS 18 new features

First and foremost, the new feature most users have been waiting for: RCS is officially coming to iPhones thanks to iOS 18 this fall. 

Finally, after years of clamoring from users, Apple finally adds freely movable iOS icons to the home screen. While apps and folders will still adhere to the underlying grid, you will be able to put them anywhere you wish so that you have a deeper customization options. Not only that, but icons will automatically get tinted with a darker background if you enable Dark Mode on your device so that they adhere to the device's overall theme. 

A new Customize Sheet also lets you tint app icons with any color you want, but admittedly, this feature didn't look too great as demoed on stage. 

iOS 18 also features a redesigned Control Center that takes a page out of Vision OS as far as overall appearance goes. The Control Center is now multi-paginated: the primary screen shows your phone's general controls, while a swipe down gets you to your media controls, which feature large album art and controls, as well as AirPlay controls. Another swipe down and you're into your connectivity controls. Each toggle can be customized in terms of size and position, similarly to widgets, but the toggles are a bit hard to move around as the follow the now-old iOS icon placement policy of "no free spaces". Moving one toggle around can severely mess up with your toggle placement.

Not only that, but Control Center is also getting custom toggles from third-party app developers thanks to the new Controls API. For example, you can add specific toggles to warm up or cool down your Tesla without ever opening its dedicated app. 

Also, lock screen shortcuts are finally customizable. No longer are you stuck with the flashlight and camera shortcuts.

Moving on to privacy, iOS 18 will finally allow you to lock any app on your phone with Face ID so that you prevent snooping eyes from opening it, even if you hand someone your phone. Not only that, but you will also be able to hide apps and prevent them from appearing in search results, notifications, Siri suggestions, and Spotlight suggestions altogether. 

Other iOS essentials like Messages and Mail are also getting some love. Messages, in particular, scores revamped tapbacks (the reactions you can apply to incoming messages) with colorful icons. You can also react with any emoji. Messages also gets the ability to schedule texts that will get sent at the predefined time. 

There are cool new effects that will allow you to express your messages in a better way. Apple has also added many more formatting options to Messages, like strikethrough and underlined text. 

Oh, and a major one for any users of iPhone 14 and newer: you will be able to send messages vie satellite!

Mail, on the other hand, scores a visual redesign and a new Categorization feature, which automatically sorts incoming email in different categories depending on the content. Aside from the Primary tab, by default you'll also have access to dedicated tabs for promotions, transactions, and updates. 

With iOS 18, iPhone scores the Mac's dedicated Game mode, which aims to minimize distractions. Once you open a game, you will no longer be bothered by app notifications. Of course, this feature can be disabled. 

The Photos app, one of the core elements of the operating system, has scored a major visual revamp. 

iOS 18 release date

As with all iOS major updates in recent years, the software will be available as a developer beta shortly after the keynote ends, while a generally more stable and bug-free public beta will get released in the coming month. Of course, iOS 18 will arrive on your iPhone this autumn, alongside Apple's iPhone 16 range. 

iOS 18 compatible devices

Apple has recently confirmed that it supports its iPhones for a minimum of five years, though the norm for most recent iPhones is a longer support period. As evident in the table below, Apple could support the iPhone Xs family (iPhone Xs Max, iPhone Xs, and iPhone XR) for at least another year, as the trio is getting iOS 18 support. 

This means no phones will be dropped from the support list in comparison with iOS 17. However, as usual, the availability of the new iOS 18 features could vary in-between devices. The newer phones should get them all, but the back marker ones might get limited feature support.

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