iOS 12 promises faster, more reliable performance, Siri improvements and more. This article takes a look at iOS 12 features.
Table of Contents:
- iOS 12 Overview
- iOS 12 System Requirements
- iOS 12: Faster Performance
- AR Leaps Forward with iOS 12
- Apple Improves Photos with iOS 12
- Automate Your Life with Siri Shortcuts
- Apple News Becomes Even More of an Echo Chamber with iOS 12
- Minor Improvements to the Stocks App in iOS 12
- Voice Memos is Even Easier to Use in iOS 12
- iBooks Becomes Apple Books in iOS 12
- CarPlay Embraces Third Party Navigation Apps
- iOS 12 Fights Tech Addiction
- Animoji Become More Lifelike with iOS 12
- Group FaceTime Comes to iOS 12
- iOS 12: Cutting Edge and Gimmicky
iOS 12 Overview
Apple renewed their exclusive love for iOS at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference. The Cupertino tech company, once again, made it clear that iOS and the iPhone are Apple’s flagship products.
As macOS, tvOS and that other OS are neglected, iOS gains superior performance and a wide array of new features. This is a completely rational decision, as the iPhone still accounts for two-thirds of Apple’s profits.
iOS 11 earned an impressive, industry-leading customer satisfaction score of 95%. Before Apple fans take a victory lap, it is important to realize that iOS 11 is considered one of the worst iOS releases ever. Launched with serious defects, the mobile operating system has gone through 16 patches at the time of this writing. At least they fix defects…
With iOS 12, Apple has promised to improve reliability and performance, especially with older devices. There’s an abundance of conspiracy theories claiming that Apple forces users to upgrade devices by pushing software updates that slow down devices. There was some truth to this a few years ago, but their competitors did a much better job at planned obsolescence.
Apple once again showed that only 6% of Android users installed the latest operating system, compared to 81% of iOS users. This is partly because Apple supports devices longer than any other smartphone manufacturer.
Indeed, Apple’s almost undeserved customer satisfaction rating is enabled by their competitors. Quality is in the eye of the beholder. Customers transitioning from highly defective devices to an iPhone experience better quality. Those of us who have used iOS for years, however, know that Apple can do better.
In addition to enhanced performance and reliability, Apple has crammed iOS 12 with some amazing features. Instead of scaling back iOS to ensure quality, Apple has sacrificed progress with other operating systems to the benefit of iOS.
Apple’s roadmap seems to be heading in the direction of iOS dominance. If they ever decide to make one operating system for all of their devices, iOS will surely make the cut. The biggest development in macOS is that it will soon be able to run iOS apps. The writing is on the wall, in clear, bold letters — Apple only really cares about iOS.
iOS 12 System Requirements
iOS 12 is one of the most inclusive mobile operating systems ever. After the iPhone battery debacle, Apple is trying to convince customers that an iPhone is a safe investment. iOS 12 will run on any device that supports iOS 11. Specifically, iOS 12 will run on the iPhone 5S (or later), iPad Mini 2 (or later), iPad Air (or later), 5th generation iPad (or later) and all iPad Pro models.
Rest assured that older devices will actually perform better with iOS 12 than its predecessor. This isn’t true of all iOS releases. iOS 8 rendered my second generation iPad useless, and I still regret upgrading it.
iOS 12: Faster Performance
One thing that has always amazed me about the Mac is that upgrading OS X and now macOS usually increases performance. This is in stark contrast to virtually every other operating system on the planet. As a former Windows user, I am well aware that you usually need a new computer to run a new, major version of Windows. Bill Gates admitted this, claiming that they design Windows to run on contemporary hardware.
Unlike Windows, Apple is able to add features to the Mac’s operating system, without slowing it down. Unfortunately, they didn’t take this same approach with iOS. Whether it was for profitability (planned obsolescence) or the new, hectic pace of software development, iOS never really offered older devices a performance boost, until now. Apple promised such improvements with a few versions of iOS, but I never experienced better performance.
With iOS 12, Apple is once again promising better performance with older devices. I believe them this time, as they have statistics to prove it. This is not a vague intimation of performance. It seems like they are really delivering and beta users are experiencing it.
At the 2018 WWDC Keynote, Apple SVP Craig Federighi mentioned that apps launch up to 40% faster on an iPhone 6 Plus. Keyboard instantiation time has improved by up to 50%. The camera will load up to 70% faster.
I wouldn’t rush to install iOS 12 the day it’s released. That said, I do think this version of iOS is a safe bet for those with older devices.
AR Leaps Forward with iOS 12
What’s gimmicky, bleeding edge and exciting to investors? I’ll give you a hint. It goes by the initials AR. Without a doubt, augmented reality is one of the most hyped technologies on the planet. It’s also nothing new.
Yelp had their AR monocle for years, and very few people even knew about it. They were not big enough to generate hype over something they accomplished years ago. It was actually a useful application of the technology. Never mind, look over here at the dazzling Apple logo…
Augmented reality often gets muddled with virtual reality, artificial intelligence and other technologies. It promises to change our lives, but for now, it is mostly fodder for investors. Basically, augmented reality superimposes digital reality (graphics, animation) on top of reality. The most famous example is Pokemon Go, which now uses ARKit.
Yelp’s monocle allows users to point their smartphone at a street and view Yelp ratings superimposed on storefronts. It has been in their app for almost an eternity, in tech time. Very few people even know it exists, because AR technology does not sell itself. For now, people have to be conned into mooning over it.
With iOS 12, Apple adds new features to ARKit — the application programming interface (API) for augmented reality.
Craig Federighi pointed out that Apple has a unique advantage when it comes to AR — all of their cameras and sensors are tightly calibrated and uniform across models. Sure, an iPhone X has different and better sensors than an iPhone 6. The point is, Apple knows the capabilities of their cameras and sensors, unlike the Android ecosystem, with so many different models. It’s difficult to implement AR when a platform is hardware agnostic.
The problem with AR technology is that most of the real world applications are parlor tricks. For example, what’s the point of a Lego set that serves as a backdrop for AR? If you only see the augmented reality on your iOS device, what’s the point of the physical Lego structure? They showed a few demos of games where you play with a sling shot on your iPad, but you need a physical table to do this. How about just playing with a physical game? The real game has the most realistic physics!
There are practical applications for AR, but Apple did a poor job of presenting them. For example, a linesman could point an iPhone at a power line and view salient information about the structure. They do show some examples of consumers seeing how a household knick knack fits into their home.
AR is useful, but it is no panacea. That said, Apple will most likely dominate AR, for whatever that’s worth, because they are already so far ahead. Their devices have uniform and well-defined capabilities. Apple doesn’t have to develop ARKit for myriad smartphones with unknown capabilities. Their graphics technology, both hardware and software, are vastly superior to the competition.
Craig Federighi debuted Apple’s new file format for AR technology — USDZ. This has already become a standard. Apple haters, take note — Apple does actually play well with others. This is not the first time they have created a standard.
Abhay Parasnis of Adobe took the stage and publicly embraced Apple’s AR technology. Adobe will add the USDZ file format to their Creative Cloud platform.
Craig Federighi announced Apple’s new AR app, Measure. It is a virtual ruler, similar to AirMeasure, which was created by a third-party developer using the previous version of ARKit. Measure is actually a useful application of AR. Users can measure real world objects using AR technology. If you want to take a measurement for new blinds, you no longer have to use a step-ladder and a helper. Keep in mind, these are approximate measurements.
An embedded USDZ file was also demonstrated. The use case is for enriching media, such as a news story. Craig Federighi demoed an AR Japanese zen garden embedded inside an Apple News story. It appears that Apple has blurred the lines between AR and VR, with this demo.
Finally, developers were presented with ARKit 2 — Apple’s second generation API for augmented reality. New features include persistence, improved face tracking and realistic rendering.
Apple clearly has the lead when it comes to AR. The problem is that, for now, AR isn’t as useful as one may hope. Future computers may likely implement an AR interface and could be similar to Google Glass. It sounds neat, but at its core, AR just superimposes graphics on a camera view of reality. It’s a 21st century Chyron. AR is smarter, but also massively hyped. After all, Apple has to prop up that stock price somehow.
They’re not the only company that thrives on hype. In fact, they are probably the most grounded tech company on the planet.
I believe that ARKit is a stepping stone to Apple’s next generation device — AR glasses. People will scream bloody murder, accusing them of ripping off Google Glass, a product that never really made it off the ground. After all, one cannot cram ads in a small AR view, and that is how Google generates profit. (This is also part of the reason why Android devices had larger screen sizes before the iPhone.)
Apple’s future AR hardware will probably be embraced by consumers, just like the Apple Watch. It was not the first smart watch, but it’s the most successful one.
A shared virtual environment is hard to navigate with an iPad or iPhone. It is not immersive. Pointing an iPad at a Lego structure is nothing to write home about. But if they develop glasses or a headset, providing a hands-free, immersive experience, it will be a game changer. Apple will own AR and VR, because VR is even easier to implement. VR doesn’t need to mesh with reality as much as AR. It only needs to track the user’s motion, appendages and point of view.
Apple Improves Photos with iOS 12
Apple’s built in apps leave a lot to be desired. While the company excels at creating devices and operating systems, their rigid engineering process seems detrimental to app development. Nonetheless, many of us use Apple’s apps because they are good enough and already installed.
Craig Federighi promises amazing search capabilities with Photos for iOS 12. I find this hard to believe, because Apple is very poor when it comes to searching for information. For example, Spotlight for iOS can no longer find most apps. If you have hundreds of apps installed, you will probably need to scan through pages of icons before you find the one you want. It has been broken for almost 2 years now! Fix it!!!
(UPDATE: Apple fixed this by adding the ability to display app titles in Spotlight using a switch for each app. They turned this off, by default, on all apps. To see apps as search results in Spotlight, the user has to turn it on for each app. Yes, the “user experience” experts at Apple implemented it this way. Pathetic! They still need to fix this! It’s been broken for years!)
Apple Music’s search capabilities are appallingly poor. It is like they hired first year CS students to write code. They seem to have no knowledge of data structures.
Photos for iOS 12 offers advanced search capabilities. Take this with a grain of “Apple sucks at search algorithms”.
Search suggestions are now part of the Photos app. Users will be presented with options that iOS 12 predicts to be salient.
iOS 12 brings Apple Music’s “For You” feature to photos. The screen will automatically display photos that you may prefer.
Suggestions and predictions have also made their way into sharing photos. iOS 12’s Photos app will suggest photos you may want to share. They are shared using iCloud to ensure the best resolution. Recipients get suggestions on photos they may want to share of that event. Nothing like cramming in useless, distracting and bug-generating features into an already mediocre-quality app.
This is a major reason why Apple’s quality is declining rapidly. Keep it simple!!! They’re lucky Steve Jobs is dead, because he would be in people’s faces about the gross decline in quality. The only saving grace is that Apple’s competitors have experienced even bigger declines in quality.
Automate Your Life with Siri Shortcuts
If you love Automator for the Mac, iOS 12 will make you very happy. Apple has finally brought automation to iOS 12. Since third-party apps can only run in their sandbox and execute external code through a rigid interface, only Apple can offer system-wide automation. Let’s just hope that this is not another mediocre and defective feature from Apple.
As with all third-party interfaces, Apple has approached Siri Shortcuts with caution. Third party developers can only expose defined interfaces to their app. It is not as flexible as the Automator app on macOS, which can automate just about anything and supports coding in AppleScript for advanced automation. Like all things iOS, it is watered down, but still useful.
The Siri Shortcuts app enables user to create and edit automation tasks, however, it is not as powerful as Automator for the Mac. Users can only drag and drop preconfigured actions to create an automation solution.
Craig Federighi demonstrated an example using the Tile app. The app itself has a screen to configure Siri‘s behavior. The user adds a phrase to trigger Tile, such as “I lost my keys”. Now, when the user launches Siri and says “I lost my keys”, the Tiles service launches and attempts to locate the keys. The user interaction takes place within Siri, without launching the Tiles app. This is actually useful!
Apple leveraged synergies by combining Siri Suggestions with Shortcuts. Siri will automatically create useful shortcuts based on your habits. If you launch a fitness tracking app when you get to the gym, Siri will offer this as a shortcut. This is one of the most useful applications of predictive computing I have seen. This goes far beyond suggesting apps and products based on frequency of use data.
Most of the examples involve getting iPhone users to spend money — reminding them to buy coffee or buy the same groceries as last time (really?). Apple may be negotiating to get a cut of these transactions.
I thought it was amusing that Siri reminded Kim Beverett, a leader for the Siri Shortcuts team, to buy coffee at Philz. Then it reminded her to text that she would be late for a meeting. Now, if Siri was really smart, it would teach Kim how to make coffee at home. That way, she would be on time for the meeting and save $6 a day. But, for now, the tech economy is booming and techies spend money like drunken sailors. Actually, that’s not fair to drunken sailors…
Does one really need to be reminded to drink coffee in the morning? Wouldn’t it be great if Apple could demonstrate useful applications of their technologies? Should the end user be the dependent variable, taking orders from Siri?
Kim offers some more useful applications of Siri Shortcuts, including interfacing with Kayak to easily get a hotel address after landing at the airport. I still think it is easier to open a document that has all of this information. Before I go shopping, I open my shopping list and lock the phone. Then I unlock the phone and it’s right there. I’ve never had the same shopping list for every trip, so having Siri order the same groceries for me seems like a delusional use case.
I don’t think a systems analyst or UI/UX expert really spent much time on these workflows. The demos seem more like parlor tricks to woo investors, rather than useful workflows for end users. Most UI/UX experts just negate the previous design and justify it as superior, when it is often inferior.
When Apple requires more interaction to complete a task, it undermines productivity. There are more useful applications of this technology, but they didn’t show many of them. They seem to believe that people need to be reminded to drink coffee in the morning.
Siri Shortcuts’ most obvious and useful application is to execute multiple tasks using one command. This is not a miracle, as it isn’t even as good as Automator for the Mac. It seems like Apple forgot that they even developed Automator!
I think Siri Shortcuts is amazing, but Apple’s vision is clouded. Their leadership, which lacks diversity, seems to have trouble figuring out useful applications for the technology. It should be blatantly obvious. It leads me to believe that Apple management isn’t hired or promoted based on merit. Many of them were hired in the 1990s, when Apple was on life support.
In the SF Bay Area, a lack of diversity is a sign of insufficient merit-based hiring and career development. There are so many minorities here (really, the majority) that their absence at Apple is more about exclusion than hiring the best people. I find it troubling, but not enough to ditch Apple products, at least for now.
Apple’s board and senior leadership seem more like a country club than typical SF Bay Area management. They don’t seem realize that most people don’t buy the same groceries probably because their housekeepers do the shopping. It’s like when a politician is asked the price of milk. They don’t have a clue. They have a better idea of how much a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild costs.
If this seems like a tangent, it is my reaction to such strange demonstrations. Where does this cockamamie stuff come from? Both AR and Siri Shortcuts are extremely useful, but the demonstrated applications are ridiculous. It seems to be a result of out-of-touch, elitist management. Glamping anyone? Maybe they can have a “Find my Arabian Stallion” app. Perhaps Siri can recommend $20,000 bottles of wine that pair well with a Wagyu filet. Whatever happened to democratic design? This is more about pandering to investors.
Apple News Becomes Even More of an Echo Chamber with iOS 12
What’s left of center, duplicitous and manufactures consent? Most of the media. Apple News continues its corporate-friendly mission with hand-picked articles from “trusted sources”. Unlike Google News, which uses an algorithm, you’re unlikely to read any bad news about Apple or Apple products on Apple News. I’m not the only one who has noticed the bias.
If you like Apple News, the app now offers a Top Stories screen with news pulled from “trusted sources”. In other words, it is mostly news from billionaire-owned news outlets, with a dash of public broadcasting truth and reality. The new browse tab makes it easier to browse subjects and select favorite publications.
Those are the two new features in News. Underwhelmed? I recommend Google News or YouTube. The PBS NewsHour has an amazing YouTube channel with live TV events and every broadcast available on demand. Google News is the most unbiased news source I have seen. I see articles that bash Google every day, and they don’t seem to curate this news straight into the recycle bin.
Minor Improvements to the Stocks App in iOS 12
The Stocks app has gained some minor improvements in iOS 12. A few new charting features have been added. This is merely playing catch-up with most established financial apps.
Apple News has been integrated into the Stocks app. Now you can read hand-picked news about your investments, which suffers from the same bias as the standalone Apple News app. It appears that Apple has joined the fray of obscenely wealthy purveyors of news, offering “unbiased” journalism that also happens to help their bottom line. There’s not a lot of profit in news itself, but if you can manipulate people with news, it’s priceless. Why do you think billionaires buy failing newspapers that never really become profitable? It’s all about leveraging synergies.
The Stocks app is coming to the iPad with iOS 12. This is too little, too late. Most investors have already installed far superior investment apps. It’s just another annoying app that takes up space. Hopefully, we will be able to delete it.
Voice Memos is Even Easier to Use in iOS 12
Although the presenter failed to mention just how Voice Memos is easier to use, this is Apple’s claim. It still does not transcribe voice to text.
As with Stocks, Apple is bringing Voice Memos to the iPad. Again, most iPad users have already installed far superior apps. This is another app that most people will not use.
Apple adds iCloud support to voice memos, which is useful if you have multiple iOS devices. Technically, this is nothing impressive at all — file transfers. It should have been done years ago. It speaks volumes of the ineptitude of Apple’s own in-house app developers.
Their built-in apps just aren’t indicative of Apple ingenuity or quality. I suspect a rigid engineering process is to blame. It may work well for a physical device, but it seems to hinder development of innovative and high-quality apps.
iBooks Becomes Apple Books in iOS 12
Apple continues dropping the “i” in favor of reinforcing their brand name. iBooks will, from now on, be called Apple Books. The name change comes with a redesign, which seems to offer features that should have been there from the beginning.
The new Reading Now screen makes it easier to pick up from where you left off. It took Apple years to add this rather obvious and derivative feature. There is so much more, but the presenter failed to elaborate, as these are obvious features that should have been in the product years ago. Most noteworthy, Apple Books now has its own embedded book store. Again, why did it take them years to add a book store to an e-book app?
CarPlay Embraces Third Party Navigation Apps
Amongst the hyped yet minor improvements, Apple dropped a bit of a bombshell. They will allow third-party navigation apps in CarPlay. This means that Apple users can continue using Google Maps.
Apple Maps has improved, but so has Google Maps. Both will get you where you want to go. With Apple Maps’ deeper integration with the Apple ecosystem, it is often easier to use and good enough.
iOS 12 Fights Tech Addiction
Let’s face it, people are addicted to technology. I regularly see people staring at their phones as they walk on the beach. Seriously, they think their phone is more interesting than the Pacific Ocean. They think their phone is more important than avoiding pungent land mines left by dogs and their careless owners. In fact, there are people who stare at their device as their dog does its business. They know what their dog is doing. The distraction is feigned so they can walk away without picking up after their dog. If caught, they claim they are unaware!
Technology has become obnoxious for most and self-destructive for some. People waste thousands of hours every year watching that endless social media feed. Some are addicted to gaming and others are obsessed with photos of cats and food. The platforms are designed to keep you scrolling. They are designed to pull you into divisive arguments, where you waste hours and accomplish nothing. People waste their lives away, and corporations are full of time thieves.
Apple finally did something about this, by providing a small suite of apps that help control and measure device addiction.
Do Not Disturb During Bedtime offers a new layer of protection to the DND feature. If a user checks the lock screen during bedtime, they will only see the date and time on a black screen. This prevents users from getting wound up during sleepy time. I have learned, long ago, to never check emails and messages before bed. Now Apple has codified this beneficial habit.
Notifications are easier to configure with iOS 12. Most of us have been conned into accepting notifications from apps that we don’t care about. The dialog box pops up, we reflexively tap the screen, and days later comes the barrage of unwanted Notifications. It is so easy just to dismiss them and put off fixing the problem in Settings. Now, iOS allows users to tune Notifications directly from the lock screen. With a long press, users can easily change Notifications for a specific app. Users can also organize notifications into a group with iOS 12.
Screen Time is a new app introduced in iOS 12. The app provide reports on iPhone or iPad usage, to help users visualize technology dependence. Users can quickly see how much time they spend using their device. The reports also show time spent on each individual app and which apps send the most notifications.
For the impulsive, Apple has added a new App Limits feature. This is like Weight Watchers for the tech addict. Users can set time limits for individual apps. As they use up more time on an app, App Limits will send a Notification when they are 5 minutes away from their limit. When the limit is reached, a screen covers the app, informing you that the limit has been reached. Users can ignore the limit, but the feature will continue to remind them. Of course, they can just turn the whole feature off. It’s like putting crack in a cookie jar, but it may help some people. At least it tells them they have had too much social media crack for today.
Kids may benefit the most from this new feature, as parents can view their reports and enforce much stricter control. Parents can create Allowances which allot downtime and specific app usage. These controls cannot be overridden by children who are subjected to parental control.
Strategists don’t need to concoct a cockamamie conspiracy theory to realize that this is a swipe at Facebook. Apple even shows Facebook and Instagram in the demos. After all, if people get too immersed in the Facebook world, they are more likely to buy Facebook hardware.
Facebook just poached one of Google’s top chip designers. It’s abundantly clear that Facebook isn’t satisfied with social media. They want it all, just like most public corporations. They will find out, the hard way, that devices are much more difficult to develop than superfluous social media platforms, which are just medium hanging fruit.
Animoji Become More Lifelike with iOS 12
iOS 12 adds Tongue Detection to the iPhone X. When the end user sticks out their tongue, the Animoji will follow suit. While this is gimmicky, the underlying technology is amazing. It goes to show that Apple is still ahead in some aspects of computing, however, they seem unable to develop truly useful applications of this technology. That said, Messages is an extremely popular app and is used far more than Facebook Messenger or any other messaging app. It makes sense for Apple to court millennials with superfluous technology. It’s what they seem to appreciate the most.
New Animoji have been added to the collection, including Ghost, Koala, Tiger and T-Rex. Apple then unveiled Memoji, which borrows a lot from Samsung’s AR Emoji, but offers a more polished and versatile implementation, thanks to superior hardware and software. Both features allow users to construct a lifelike animated avatar, customized with various adornments. The technology is superfluous, but it is more about showing technological prowess. It would be better if they could find more useful applications of this technology.
That said, I am impressed that Apple is able to superimpose the Memoji head on a live person’s body, using AR technology. Unfortunately, the most useful application of this technology is deception — maybe not with Apple’s technology, but similar tools could be used the impersonate world leaders, with devastating consequences. For now, just enjoy the cute and innocuous implications of this technology.
Group FaceTime Comes to iOS 12
Although this feature has been panned by Apple critics, this cynic actually finds it useful. I’m sure we have all been on conference calls before. Group FaceTime vastly improves collaboration over long distances, while minimizing user interaction.
Group FaceTime allows up to 32 simultaneous participants. I have been in bigger conference calls, although they almost always have very little group collaboration.
At first blush, 32 simultaneous participants seems absurd. If most tech companies did this, it would be absurd. Apple has managed to host very large group video chats without requiring users to fiddle with clumsy interfaces. Instead, Group FaceTime automatically detects who is talking and brings that user into focus. Other users are minimized to the roster, but are still visible, animated and active. The only thing is that when Craig spoke, his video window did not expand. Is it a bug or a feature? Craig seems to indicate that users can override this automated selection. For now, I will cut Apple some slack and say it is probably a feature.
Group FaceTime is not just for corporate users. The technology uses all of the Animoji, Memoji and stickers available to the Apple ecosystem. I’m sure many millennials will prefer this to face-to-face conversations.
iOS 12: Cutting Edge and Gimmicky
iOS 12 is a paradox. One one hand, it offers technology far beyond what any competitor can achieve. Unfortunately, Apple has done a poor job of providing useful applications of this technology.
AR is remarkably useful, however, Apple’s demos were, once again, merely parlor tricks. The technology has amazing implications for enterprise and medical use, however, Apple only demoed games and toys. Even the Measure app is too inaccurate to be used professionally. It is up to third-party developers to create the real solutions.
Once again, Apple caters to “take my money” millennials with enhancements to Anjmoji and a new Memoji feature that leapfrog’s Samsung’s AR Emoji. Although I am not interested in these features, they will have younger consumers camping out for the next iPhone. At best, for me, they show what Apple is capable of.
Group FaceTime seems like the most useful “out of the box” technology for enterprise. I would have loved to have had this back in my misspent corporate days. It is always so hard to tell who is talking on a conference call. Sometimes the audio is horrible. I can see corporations buying their employees iPhones just for this feature.
Overall, I am impressed with iOS 12 and what it will bring. I don’t fear that it will turn my iPhone 6 into what iOS 8 did to my iPad. The performance improvements alone assure users that an iPhone is a safe investment. I’d just like to see better demos at the WWDC and fewer parlor tricks.