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Home / Features / Apple iOS 18 preview: everything new in the next free iPhone update

Apple iOS 18 preview: everything new in the next free iPhone update

All you need to know about Apple’s next-gen iPhone software update

iOS 18

Are you gazing wistfully towards the horizon, dreaming of a world where your iPhone runs iOS 18? If so, then we admire your passion for phone operating systems. But good news, there’s not long to wait! Apple unveiled the next major free iPhone update at its WWDC 2024 developers event.

We’ve rounded up everything new in Apple’s upcoming phone update, so that you know what to look forward to come release day. We’ll also tell you when that is, because we’re nice. Enjoy!

iOS 18 release date

Currently, iOS 18 is available to developers in the Developer Beta. It’s an unstable pre-release version of the software, made for developers to test their apps. In July, Apple will open up the Public Beta, which lets enthusiasts test the software early. While more stable than the Developer Beta, it’s still buggy pre-release software. We do not recommend you install this on your iPhone. And then, in the autumn, Apple will roll iOS 18 out to everyone.

There’s no official release date for iOS 18 at the time of writing, beyond the window of autumn. But we can provide a very reasonable estimate, based on past events. The latest iPhone software always arrives alongside the newest iPhone – which is the iPhone 16 this year. Apple always releases these in mid-September, so expect the same treatment this year.

All the new features

Here’s every feature that’s new in iOS 18. There are quite a few goodies that you’ll be able to get your hands on!

Customisation

iOS 18 home screen

iOS 18 offers customisation optionswe’ve not seen before and have been asking for for years. It starts with the ability to rearrange apps and widgets freely across your Home Screen, including above the dock. This newfound flexibility allows you to design your screen exactly how you like it, with dark and tinted effects available to make app icons and widgets stand out against various wallpapers. For those who prefer a minimalist aesthetic, the dark effect is a perfect choice, while the tinted effect allows you to match icons with your wallpaper colours seamlessly.

Privacy gets a boost with the option to lock apps using Face ID, Touch ID, or a passcode, protecting sensitive information from prying eyes. Additionally, you can hide apps from search and notifications by moving them to a hidden apps folder, ensuring that even when you hand your phone to someone else, your private apps remain out of sight.

The Control Center has been completely redesigned to offer easier access to frequently used controls such as media playback, Home controls, and connectivity settings. You can now add controls from third-party apps, resize them, and create custom groups, making the Control Center truly your own. Even the Lock Screen gets a makeover, allowing you to customise the controls at the bottom, choosing from various options available in the controls gallery or removing them entirely for a streamlined look.

Photos

iOS 18 photos app

The Photos app has undergone a major overhaul, now featuring a unified view that displays your entire photo library in a single, simplified grid-based format. This makes it easier to browse and relive special moments without the hassle of sorting through multiple albums. To keep your favourite collections at your fingertips, you can pin them for quick access, ensuring that your most important photos and albums are always readily available.

A new carousel view presents daily highlights, showcasing favourite photos and videos in a dynamic, poster-like display that updates daily. This feature provides a fun and engaging way to revisit past moments. Adding to the immersive experience, photos and videos now autoplay within the app, bringing your library to life as you browse.

Messages

iOS 18 iMessage

iOS 18 brings some exciting new features to the Messages app. You can now apply text effects such as bold, italics, underline, and strikethrough to any letter, word, phrase, or emoji, adding a new layer of expressiveness to your conversations. Animated effects make text elements bounce, jitter, or display other dynamic behaviours, making your messages more lively.

Expressing yourself is easier than ever with expanded Tapbacks, allowing you to react to messages with any emoji or sticker. For those who like to plan ahead, message scheduling lets you compose messages and schedule them to be sent at a later time, ensuring you never forget an important communication. The addition of Rich Communication Services (RCS) support offers richer media sharing, more reliable group messaging, and delivery/read receipts for contacts not using iMessage.

For adventurers and emergency situations, Messages via satellite allows you to send and receive texts, emojis, and Tapbacks when cellular or Wi-Fi connections are unavailable, ensuring you stay connected in remote areas or during emergencies.

Mail

iOS 18 Mail app

The Mail app in iOS 18 gets a significant boost in functionality. On-device intelligence now categorises incoming emails into Primary, Transactions, Updates, and Promotions, helping you manage your inbox more efficiently by prioritising personal and time-sensitive messages. A new digest view groups relevant emails from businesses together, allowing you to quickly scan and find important information without sifting through your entire inbox.

Safari

Browsing the web becomes even more intuitive with Safari’s new features. Highlights automatically detect and highlight relevant information on webpages, such as directions, quick links, and summaries, making it easier to extract key information without reading the entire page. The redesigned Reader mode now includes a summary and table of contents for longer articles, helping you get a quick overview before diving into the full text.

Passwords App and Privacy Features

Security and convenience take centre stage with the new Passwords app. It centralises the storage of passwords, passkeys, Wi-Fi passwords, and verification codes, ensuring you have all your credentials in one place. The app also provides security alerts for weak or compromised passwords, helping you maintain strong security practices. Notifications about common password weaknesses and known data breaches keep you informed and protected.

Privacy enhancements in iOS 18 include the ability to lock and hide apps, ensuring sensitive information stays private. Selective contact sharing lets you share specific contacts with apps instead of your entire list, giving you more control over your personal information. Improved Bluetooth privacy means that pairing accessories is more secure, with apps unable to see all other devices on your network.

Apple Intelligence

Apple Intelligence

Apple Intelligence features have been supercharged in iOS 18. System-wide writing tools allow you to rewrite, proofread, and summarise text across various apps, enhancing productivity and accuracy. The new Image Playground lets you create playful images quickly in Animation, Illustration, or Sketch styles, perfect for spicing up your messages. In Photos, you can now create customised memory movies by describing the story you want to see, with Apple Intelligence selecting the best photos and videos, arranging them into a narrative, and even removing distracting objects in the background.

Siri becomes more natural and contextually aware, offering personalised assistance and integrating with ChatGPT for broader expertise and capabilities. Private Cloud Compute balances on-device processing with server-based models on dedicated Apple silicon servers, ensuring privacy while delivering powerful AI capabilities.

Maps

iOS 18 Maps trails

For outdoor enthusiasts, the Maps app now includes thousands of hiking trails across national parks in the United States, which you can save for offline access and create custom walking routes. An all-new Places Library allows you to save favourite hikes, routes, and locations, along with personal notes about each spot, making it easier to plan and enjoy your outdoor adventures.

Game Mode

iOS 18 Game Mode

Gaming on iOS 18 gets a serious upgrade with Game Mode. This feature minimises background activity to maintain consistent frame rates during long gaming sessions, and enhances the responsiveness of AirPods and game controllers. Personalised Spatial Audio provides an immersive audio experience, placing you right in the middle of the action.

Apple Pay

iOS 18 Apple Pay friends tap

Apple Pay becomes more flexible and rewarding with the introduction of rewards and installment plans from eligible credit or debit cards. Tap to Cash allows users to transfer Apple Cash by simply holding two iPhones together, simplifying peer-to-peer transactions. Redesigned event tickets in Apple Wallet now include key event information and recommended Apple Music playlists, enriching the event experience.

SharePlay Updates

iOS 18 SharePlay screen sharing

Music lovers will appreciate the enhanced SharePlay feature, which allows multiple users to share control of music playing from devices like HomePod, Apple TV, or any Bluetooth-enabled speaker. This makes shared listening experiences more interactive and enjoyable.

SharePlay also has new screen sharing capabilities, allowing users to draw on someone’s screen or control it for better collaboration.

AirPods

Apple AirPods 2 review

AirPods receive several upgrades in iOS 18. You can now respond to Siri announcements with simple head movements, such as nodding to say yes or shaking to say no, making interactions hands-free and intuitive. Advanced computational audio ensures clear call quality even in noisy or windy environments, and improved audio latency for gaming provides a more seamless and immersive experience. Personalised Spatial Audio enhances the audio experience in games, making it more engaging.

Notes & Journal

The Notes app in iOS 18 is a powerful tool for both productivity and creativity. You can now enter and solve mathematical expressions instantly within your notes, making it perfect for calculations and academic work. Collapsible sections allow you to manage text-heavy notes efficiently, hiding and revealing sections as needed. Important text can be highlighted with colour to stand out, making it easier to reference key points.

The new Insights View in the Journal app helps users track their journaling goals with writing streaks, entry stats, and a calendar view of past entries. Sorting and searching past entries is now quicker, and Home Screen or Lock Screen widgets provide quick access to journaling prompts and streaks.

Calendar

The Calendar app now integrates reminders directly, allowing users to view and manage reminders seamlessly alongside their events. A redesigned month view offers a comprehensive overview of the month ahead, helping users plan more effectively.

Health

iOS 18 Health features

Health tracking gets a boost with a redesigned Medical ID that ensures first responders can quickly access the most important health information in an emergency. Pregnancy tracking features help users understand their health data during pregnancy, with tailored recommendations and adjustments.

Emergency SOS

Apple emergency SOS screenshots

Emergency SOS now includes the ability to share live video or recorded media with emergency dispatchers during calls, providing additional context to help responders understand the situation better and respond more effectively.

Home App

iOS 18 Home App

The Home app introduces guest access, allowing users to grant specific controls of smart home accessories to guests and set schedules for when guests can access the home. Hands-free unlock uses Ultra Wideband technology to unlock doors automatically when you approach, enhancing convenience. An energy category lets eligible users access and understand their home electricity usage directly from the Home app, making it easier to make informed decisions about energy consumption.

Accessibility

iOS 18 eye tracking

Accessibility features in iOS 18 include eye tracking, which enables users to control their iPhone with eye movements, providing greater accessibility for individuals with physical disabilities. Music Haptics synchronises the iPhone’s Taptic Engine with music, allowing users who are deaf or hard of hearing to experience the rhythm of songs. Vocal Shortcuts let users with severe atypical speech record custom sounds that trigger specific actions on the iPhone.

Additional Features

iOS 18 Math Notes

The Calculator app now supports solving mathematical expressions directly, unit conversion, and history tracking. The Freeform app sees enhancements with diagramming mode, scenes organisation, and grid snapping, improving its functionality. Apple Fitness+ features a redesigned interface offering personalised workout selections and an improved search function.

The Phone app now includes the ability to record and transcribe live calls, search call history more easily, dial smarter, and switch SIM cards seamlessly.

Which devices can get iOS 18?

Of course, we don’t currently know which devices will get iOS 18. But based on recent evidence we can predict a list. Of these, we wonder whether Apple will drop support for the iPhone SE (2nd gen) as well as the iPhone XS/XR generation. However, we’ve kept them here for now as current leaks suggest that the iOS 17 supported devices will also receive the update to iOS 18. Obviously, the upcoming iPhone 16 series will also be running iOS 18. Here are the expected compatible devices for iOS 18:

  • iPhone 16 series (upcoming)
  • iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • iPhone 15 Pro
  • iPhone 15 Plus
  • iPhone 15
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max
  • iPhone 14 Pro
  • iPhone 14 Plus
  • iPhone 14
  • iPhone 13 mini
  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone SE (2020, 2nd generation)
  • iPhone SE (2022, 3rd generation)
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About

Connor is a writer for Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website. He has been writing for around seven years now, with writing across the web and in print too. Connor has experience on most major platforms, though does hold a place in his heart for macOS, iOS/iPadOS, electric vehicles, and smartphone tech. Just like everyone else around here, he’s a fan of gadgets of all sorts! Aside from writing, Connor is involved in the startup scene. This exciting involvement puts him at the front of new and exciting tech, always on the lookout for innovating products.

Areas of expertise

Mobile, macOS, EVs, smart home

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