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iOS 12 to Focus on Performance and Refinement

At WWDC, Apple today announced iOS 12, which, like every-other release of macOS, focuses on refinement over radical new features, with an emphasis on speed, better time management, Siri improvements, and sprucing up long-ignored Apple apps. And augmented reality, although there seems to be more talk than action in this space so far.

The Need for Speed

The first way Apple hopes to improve your experience is by making your iOS devices faster. Apple claims that iOS 12 will be faster than iOS 11—a lot faster. The company is touting 40% faster app launches, 50% faster keyboard display, and 70% faster Camera access, plus up to 100% faster app launches and share sheet display while under heavy CPU load. Apple says this speed boost shouldn’t impact battery life since iOS 12 ramps up CPU performance instantly when needed and drops it as soon as it’s not.

A chart of how iOS 12 will throttle performance to save battery.

These speed boosts will occur on every device iOS 12 supports, which is happily every device which iOS 11 supports—all the way back to the iPhone 5s and the original iPad Air. In fact, Apple suggested that these older devices may benefit the most from the speed improvements. Apple claims that iOS 12 will have the largest supported base ever for an Apple operating system release.

Take Back Your Time

Apple seems painfully aware of how the iPhone has reshaped society and is ever so slightly regretful.

A mom staring at her phone while her kid jumps off a swing.

To that end, Apple is enhancing two existing iOS features and rolling out a new one to help you use your iPhone less.

Do Not Disturb Improvements

First up, Do Not Disturb (DND) is getting some upgrades. You can now set an automatic end to DND by time or location: press the DND button in Control Center and you can set when or where to automatically leave DND mode. Now you don’t have to remember to turn it off.

New duration settings for Do Not Disturb

DND can already keep your phone from buzzing and lighting up when you’re trying to rest, but Apple is taking it to the next level with Do Not Disturb During Bedtime, which also dims the display and hides all notifications until you wake up. When you do check your iPhone in the morning, it will slowly introduce notifications to you instead of bombarding you first thing.

How DND will look when you wake up.

Notification Improvements

iOS 12 will introduce two ways to make notifications less obnoxious:

  • Notification Grouping: Notification grouping collects related notifications from the same app into “stacks” that you can tap to expand or dismiss with a swipe.

Notification groups in iOS 12

  • Instant Tuning: In iOS 12, you can press a notification on the Lock screen to stop receiving notifications from that app, or to quietly send them to Notification Center without bothering you when the phone is locked. Siri may also make suggestions for adjusting them based on your usage.

Instant Tuning for notifications in iOS 12

Screen Time

The new Screen Time feature helps you track and control how often you and your children use your iOS devices, much like the existing Moment app but with more capabilities. You can see exactly how long you’ve been using your devices, which apps you’ve spent time in, set timed daily limits for apps, and set time away from the screen. You can also do this for your children’s devices via Family Sharing.

Screen Time settings in iOS 12

Smarter Siri

The most ambitious new feature of iOS 12 is Siri Shortcuts, accompanied by the new Shortcuts app. Apple did a weak job of explaining Shortcuts, so let me clear it up for you: it’s the official integration of the Workflow automation app that we’ve been anticipating since Apple purchased it last year (see “What Apple’s Purchase of Workflow Means for Automation,” 27 March 2017). It turns out that the title of my Workflow review—“Workflow Is the Next Step for iOS Automation” (21 December 2014)—was on the nose.

Siri Shortcuts will tie into hundreds of apps for you to create automated routines, which you activate on screen or with Siri. Plus, Siri will learn your daily habits and suggest certain shortcuts when they are relevant.

Here are some examples of stuff you can do with Siri Shortcuts:

  • Locate your keys with Tile
  • Order a favorite beverage
  • Text a friend with a premade message

Using Siri Suggestions to find your keys

Augmented Reality

Apple spent quite a bit of the keynote talking about and showing off the capabilities of the new ARKit 2 framework. As before, augmented reality demos well, but hasn’t made a splash among mainstream apps used by most users yet. It’s obvious that Apple is laying the groundwork for something much bigger—perhaps digital glasses or an augmented Apple Car display. In any case, Apple is very excited about AR, despite it not really rocking the App Store yet. Here’s what’s new in AR in iOS 12:

  • Shared Experiences: ARKit 2 will allow for “shared experiences”—think multiplayer games where everyone’s device can project shared virtual objects as an overlay on the real world. Apple demonstrated this capability with an upcoming Lego game and a demo app that fired virtual bullets at realistic virtual wooden blocks—on a table that actually exists. It was impressive, but wasn’t a very good example of augmented reality, since nearly everything that was interesting was in the virtual aspect of the game; the original Lego model just sat there.
  • AR File Format: Apple announced the new USDZ file format for augmented-reality content. Adobe is an early partner, and Creative Cloud apps like Photoshop will be able to export USDZ. The USDZ standard will enable publishers to embed augmented reality in apps and Web sites more easily. As an example, Apple’s Craig Federighi demonstrated creating a customized guitar, and projecting it as an AR object so you could see how it would look at full size, and how it might look alongside surrounding objects.

For now, the most useful implementation of ARKit will be Apple’s new Measure app, which will ship with iOS 12. The app is—as you can guess—a virtual measuring tape. Measure will help you measure real-world objects with your iPhone and can even measure select objects, like photos, automatically.

Other Stuff

Many other various and sundry changes are coming to iOS 12:

  • Animoji: iPhone X users can look forward to ghost, koala, tiger, and Tyrannosaurus animojis. iOS 12 will also introduce memojis, which are animojis you can customize to match your appearance. Also, animojis will be able to detect the movement of your tongue and animate that on screen. No, that’s not a joke.
  • Apple Books: iBooks has been redubbed Apple Books and has been given a fresh new design.
  • Apple News: The News app will receive a design refresh, including a new sidebar on the iPad.
  • Battery: The 7-day battery usage information in Settings > Battery will now show battery usage over the past 10 days instead.
  • Camera Effects: The Camera app will gain Snapchat-esque effects you can apply to images, such as turning your face into an animoji, inserting emojis and stickers in the image, and applying various fun filters. You’ll be able to use these in other apps like Messages.
  • CarPlay: With iOS 12, CarPlay will support third-party navigation apps, like Google Maps and Waze. Adam Engst was just complaining about the lack of this capability in iOS 11 while on his trip to the UK, where Apple’s Maps app wasn’t working acceptably, but Google Maps couldn’t be displayed on the rental car’s screen via CarPlay.
  • FaceTime: FaceTime will finally let you have calls with more than two people. In fact, it will support up to 32 of your friends and relatives! You’ll also be able to use the aforementioned Camera effects while chatting with FaceTime.
  • Password Generation: Not only can iOS 12 save and manage your Web and app passwords, but it’ll also be able to suggest new passwords and automatically save them.
  • Photos: The Photos app boasts improved search, though we are curious if it will be as good as the search in Google Photos. A new For You tab reveals photos from your library, and—here’s a great feature—prompts you to collaborate with recognized friends to share photos from an event so you both get a complete set.
  • Safari: The Safari Web browser gets some bold new privacy protections. Share buttons and comment boxes are now prevented from tracking you without permission, and advertisers can no longer track your device’s unique characteristics. Facebook, Google, and Web advertisers may not be happy about that, but nearly all users will appreciate it.
  • Stocks: Remember the Stocks app? Apple has redesigned it, and it will integrate articles from Apple News.
  • Two-Factor Authentication: If you need a one-time SMS code to log into a Web site, iOS 12 can automatically detect that and suggest it to you with AutoFill so you don’t have to switch between two apps.
  • Voice Memos: The Voice Memos app is getting a big overhaul with support for both iPad and iCloud. macOS 10.14 Mojave will have Voice Memos as well, and recordings will sync between the two via iCloud, so it will be far more useful than it ever has been.
  • Wallet: Apple demonstrated iOS 12 supporting contactless student ID cards at schools and universities that are partnering with them.

As welcome as many of these features are, none are game-changing. But that’s fine—we’d rather see the company instead focus on performance and refinement. There’s surely much more to discover over the summer as I work on updating Take Control of iOS 11.

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Comments About iOS 12 to Focus on Performance and Refinement

Notable Replies

  1. I’d actually say that speeding up older devices (if they truly manage it) is a game changer.

  2. Now that I’m reading impressions of the beta, you may be right. I’m understanding that the beta 1 performance boost is significant over iOS 11.4, and that’s probably only going to increase when it ships and no longer has all the beta diagnostics running in the background.

  3. Fully agree.

  4. I’ve installed iOS 12 beta 1 on my iPad Air and iPhone 6, and I can confirm that the performance improvement is significant. My iPhone 6 was basically unusable with iOS 11, but is zippy with the iOS 12 beta. And that’s with a degraded battery.

  5. That’s very good news. Thanks for the report, Josh. As somebody who’s also got an old iPhone 6 I really appreciate it.

  6. Now if only they would go back to Jobs “no DRM” stance and remove all the DRM from  Books.

  7. So, Josh, should I stay with iOS 10.3.3 on my iDevices and just go to iOS 12 in the Fall?

  8. I don’t see any reason to avoid upgrading to iOS 11.4.

  9. So there are no speed or battery life penalties running iOS 11 on iPad Mini 3 & 4? ALL features in iOS 11 will work on them?

  10. Assuming the speed isn’t impacted why would every new feature have to work for you to benefit from the ones that do?

    At the very least you will benefit from the security improvements. Is that enough of a benefit to make the risk worthwhile? Not necessarily. Especially not on a buggy release.

    But don’t set up a false dichotomy. Plenty of iOS 12 features won’t work on an iPhone 5s, but I’d be willing to bet that most everybody will find the speed benefit worth upgrading for, if it’s really as good as they say.

  11. You missed the point of my reply to Josh’s reply to me.

    1. I asked if it would be OK to go directly from iOS 10.3.3 to iOS 12 on my iPad Mini 3 & Mini 4
    2. Josh suggested going to iOS 11.4 in the meantime
    3. I asked about any penalties to battery life or speed with iOS 11.4.

    I’ve already tentatively planned on installing iOS 12 when it is released in the Fall on my Minis & iPhone 10. My concern is solely iOS 11.4 penalties/problems on the Minis

    1. Shouldn’t be a problem.
    2. I mistakenly read 10.3.3 as 11.3.3. Um, you probably should upgrade to iOS 11 for the security updates, but I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t have some problems. I guess if you upgrade and hate it, you could hold out for the iOS 12 public beta, but you’ll want to upgrade sooner or later and the longer you hold off the harder the transition will be.
    3. You’ll probably take a performance hit. I’m less sure about battery life. But I’m running iOS 11 on my wife’s iPad mini 4 and it seems fine. Older devices seem to be affected much worse by iOS 11, but thankfully I think iOS 12 will fix that.

    And normally, I wouldn’t recommend a beta OS, but if your device is practically unusable with iOS 11, then I would seriously consider a beta of iOS 12.

  12. Thanks, Josh

    It was the statement that iOS 12 would have a positive effect on the older hardware that interested me. The iPad Mini is the perfect size for my use so I’m hoping an updated version will be released this year. I may try putting iOS 11.4 on my iPad Mini 4 and see how it goes. I’ll wait for the release of iOS 12 before updating the Mini 3.

  13. That sounds like a sensible plan. I’m not sure how the performance of iOS 12 will compare to iOS 10, but it’s certainly faster than iOS 11.

  14. I have had iOS 11 on my iPad mini 4 since iOS 11 was released and the battery life and performance is just fine. I have an iPhone X, and of course performance is different, but I certainly don’t feel as if I am waiting with the Mini on iOS 11.4; I upgraded to this one last year when I just couldn’t take my old iPad 3 on iOS 9 anymore. (That was a horrible experience.) The Mini 4 is just fine on iOS 11. (I have no idea about the Mini 3, but it uses the same processor as the iPhone 5s, so I assume performance would be about the same as that phone on iOS 11.)

  15. Thanks for the info, Doug. Sounds encouraging.

  16. I have a mini 2 and an iPhone 6 running 11.4. Both feel quite slow, especially switching apps or launching new apps. The mini 2 feels particularly bogged down. I really hope iOS 12 makes a difference.

  17. I have an iPhone 6 running iOS 11.4 and I am quite happy with it. Not as zippy as 10.3.3 but I’m happy enough. I took too actions.

    1. In January I did a complete wipe of the iPhone 6 and installed a fresh iOS. This is not the Erase All Content and Settings operation but something a little more difficult to do. I restored from backup and problems disappeared and ran much faster.

    2. In March the iPhone started slowing down again and it was difficult for the battery to last a day. I replaced the battery for $30. Performance improved a lot and the battery easily last an entire day.

    I am hopeful that iOS 12 will enable me to keep my iPhone 6 another 2 years. And I am glad I upgraded to iOS 11.

  18. What did you do, exactly?

  19. I was given the instructions by an Apple Genius when I went to inquire if I needed a new battery. This was 1 day before the $30 battery announcement. The Genius was making this recommendation before people paid $80 for a battery that they might not need.

    Since I am working from memory I did a search on the web and I believe this article covers the proper steps:

    This iMore article covers what you might lose with a clean install. Too bad I don’t see any link on how to do an clean install.

  20. Any more reports on using iOS 12 with older iPhone such as the 6? So far only Josh has reported. Anybody else?

    What about beta 2? Does anybody have beta 2 yet on an iPhone 6? What’s performance like?

  21. I suspect most beta users are going to respect the terms of the NDA they signed and won’t be posting answers to questions like that publicly.

  22. What’s tremendously frustrating about this whole NDA thing is that essentially no media outlets honor it at all, which just makes those of us who try to color within the lines look like chumps.

  23. @ace The public betas are fair game though right? I was under the impression that only the dev betas were under NDA.

  24. Only the dev Beta is out currently.

    Public beta may have NDA terms attached to it as well, eg not published articles or public posts. Until Apple release a public beta the terms will be unknown. If you want to find out how it runs you can always sign up for the develop program at $99 and download it to try.


  25. Oh, I was under the mistaken impression that these betas were actually PBs. MacRumors et al. are full of reports, along with Josh’s here. Not a biggie, PBs will be out soon enough. I can wait that long. And of course if they do release an updated SE by then (after all Apple did already make hell freeze over once) I won’t have to worry about performance of my old 6. ;)

  26. I haven’t honored that particular NDA in years. Apple doesn’t care. None of this stuff is top secret. Back when we did honor the beta NDA, we were the only media outlet to do so, which didn’t do any favors for ourselves or our readers. Honestly, I don’t think it helps Apple either, because the more feedback they get before launch, the better they look.

    I’m installing beta 2 on my iPhone 6 now and will share any impressions I can offer. From what I’ve heard, it’s even better than beta 1 and maybe better than iOS 11.4 in terms of speed and stability. Of course, I’m still not going to recommend installing a beta on your primary device…unless iOS 11 has rendered it practically unusable and you’re desperate.

    Now, there are times when I interact with Apple (or other companies) and I’m sworn to secrecy or given information strictly on background. I do honor those commitments.

  27. Word is the public beta will be out before the end of June. Betas are a pain in many respects, the endless minor tweaks in frequent updates, the bother far exceeds the new benefits. People are generally better off holding off until the final release.

  28. I’ve compared the terms several times over the past three years or so, and each time I found the wording was identical.

  29. Whether Apple cares or not is really not material. There is still a legal responsibility to abide by the agreement as has been upheld by every court in the land forever. Probably no more serious than jaywalking, but it is against the law.

    Then there is that matter of breaking ones word. I really don’t understand the difference between a beta NDA and any of the other background NDA’s. In my experience, the wording is mostly the same.


  30. And I fully appreciate that and understand why you must bend the rules in order to stay competitive. Apple helped out by allowing anything revealed at WWDC as OK. I’d even go so far as to say that elucidating on new features announced and then observed by the editors aren’t much of a stretch.

    What I don’t feel comfortable with is detailed discussions involving bugs observed or features being tried that were not made public. Apple deserves first crack at these without wide public scrutiny, so that they can be fixed or appropriately adjusted before release. Such discussions will inevitably cause unnecessary concern amongst users at release time about issues which no longer exist.


  31. I think you’ve pretty much identified our opinion, Al. It’s difficult not to write about things when they’re so public, but that’s different than saying “This beta feature is buggy in these specific ways.” Of course it is, it’s a beta! :slight_smile:

  32. This is the one beta I installed. First impressions, my SE is noticeably nippier. The Screentime feedback will have a huge impact I think.

  33. That’s interesting. My wife’s SE is noticeably faster than my 6 even on iOS 11. Sounds like iOS 12 could really be a good update for my 6.

    I’d actually rather buy an updated SE for myself, but since that doesn’t appear to be happening, I guess I’ll take the update instead. :wink:

  34. Yes, I’m holding out for an SE2 myself. I was tempted by the X but the size of the SE works for me.

  35. The SE should be faster than the 6, it’s a newer phone with the same Apple “A9” processor as the 6s (vs. the “A8” in the iPhone 6) and has twice the RAM.

    I’m not considering replacing my phone this year but even after almost two years with the iPhone 7, I’m interested in a future iPhone with a smaller form factor, like the SE (I had the 5s before the 7).

  36. There are rumors we might see a new one this year. Here’s a potential clue: in the iOS 12 betas you don’t need 3D Touch to use trackpad mode on the iPhone. Instead, you can press and hold the Space bar to move the cursor around.

  37. I’ve had the 6 since it came out and a 4 before that. After all these years with the 6 I still cannot get used to the size of it. I cannot effectively use it one handed since my thumb cannot reach the other side of the screen. And that of course means the X would be even worse.

    OTOH I’m not willing to buy a phone with almost 3-year old internals for almost $500. If they just jacked up the specs (and maybe tweaked the camera) I’d be perfectly happy with an SE2. Until then though, I’m not spending another $ on an iPhone.

  38. Yeah, I was much too terse there. Obviously the SE with its 6s internals should be faster than the 6. What I actually meant to say was that I really noticed that while in iOS 10 the two felt rather similar in terms of fluid UI, now in iOS 11 there is a substantial difference. The 6 lags while the SE is still usable. The 6 also gets a lot hotter at times so iOS 11 is definitely putting more strain on the hardware and the SE with its better specs seems to handle that a lot better. If iOS 12 taxes the hardware less for regular UI activity I could imagine the 6 will benefit a lot.

    Of course none of that would change the fact that the SE still has the better radios, gets better wifi reception, and is much more stable when it comes to tethering. In its day, the SE was really one heck of a deal.

  39. That’s interesting, Josh.

    We’ve heard a lot of rumors about the SE but so far nothing has materialized. What rumors cannot seem to stop emphasizing though is this shift towards a low-end model that’s actually even larger than the X. This 6.1" monster LCD “iPhone for the masses” that they keep talking about.

    Incidentally, that model—in order to come in at a lower price—is rumored to come without 3D touch. That could also be the reason for the observation you made in the iOS 12 PB.

    It sometimes seems like Apple has lost the urge to do really small products with high end specs. There is no more Core i7 mini. The are no upgrades to the SE. iPad mini dev is basically dead. The one product where Apple still tries to do good specs in a svelte package (the iMac Pro is sure thin, but I don’t consider 27" exactly small) is the 13" MBP. I hope that one’s not next. And I definitely hope you’re right, Josh, and we will see an updated SE in the not too distant future. But even according to the most optimistic rumors it doesn’t sound like earlier than March 2019 though.

  40. Agreed! Bought three of them on sale one Thanksgiving for family members. Best purchase in a long time.

  41. I envy you. :+1: I should have done the same thing. At the time the SE came out I already felt that the 6 was too big for me. I should have switched back then. Instead I held onto my 6 and watched my wife trade in her 4 for an SE. She’s loved it ever since.

    [Oops, seems we’ve inadvertently sidetracked the thread. Sorry about that, Adam. iOS 12 definitely deserves a thread of its own. Feel free to split off the iPhone hardware stuff into a new thread, Adam.]

  42. Screentime (on my SE…) is interesting for sure.

    I am off Twitter and Instagram for the Summer, something I do each year, drop social media (I left FB after one of these, two summers ago) so it’s a little skewed from my normal.

    I pick up (and presumably unlock the screen) every 17 minutes on average. And I spend the vast majority of my time on it reading. New York Times, Irish Times, Safari.

    Photos and Camera were the next down the list.

    I’m curious to set limits on social media or prompts using Downtime and I’m wondering how far we will get with our daughter and our new ability to monitor her usage… hmmm.

    Notifications reporting is welcome too but I have that mostly under control already.

  43. On the topic of device size, I’ll offer a little counterintuitive device: if you prefer the SE size, you may like a Plus-sized phone. The iPhone 6 was something of a sour spot for me, just big enough to be hard to hold. I loved how the 7 Plus fit in my hand, which required a different grip. I don’t like the feel of the X as much as my wife’s 8 Plus, but it’s still much more comfortable than the 6, especially with the leather case.

  44. Does iOS 12 really display Waze or Google maps on a car display with Carplay?

  45. That’s what they say, but I’m guessing we’ll have to wait until after the official release before those apps support it.

  46. 2nd PB out. I really like the reports about the revamped Maps. And over on the MR threads people are reporting really great GUI performance. :+1:

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