Amidst all the keen speculation over what Apple might produce with the iPhone XI, it can be easy to forget the annual refresh of iOS – but in its own way the mobile software that Apple makes is just as important as the hardware updates that the company puts out.
Here we'll give you a complete rundown of everything rumoured (and confirmed) to be coming with iOS 12: the new features you'll be able to use, when the update is likely to arrive, and more. Read on to get right up to speed with everything we know so far.
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iOS 12: release date and compatibility
Apple likes to stick to a schedule when it comes to pushing out updates for iOS, and iOS 12 should be no different. If it follows the pattern set by iOS 11, iOS 10, iOS 9 and others, iOS 12 will be announced in June and pushed out to the world at large in September.
All eyes on the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) for 2018 then, which starts on Monday 4 June and runs all of that week – it's almost certain that Apple is going to announce iOS 12 and showcase some of its new features during that time.
If it follows previous form, between June and September Apple will make the software available via a public beta test for those who want to get their hands on it early and don't mind dealing with a few bugs along the way.
When iOS 12 does finally arrive in full, it will work on every device that currently supports iOS 11, bar (perhaps) the iPhone 6S from 2015. The iPad mini 4, which launched at the same time, might also miss out – though we won't know for sure until June.
iOS 12: all the rumoured new features
Apple hasn't said much about iOS 12 to date, but what we have heard so far suggests that we're in for a minor rather than a major update this time around. According to reports, the big focus for Apple with iOS 12 is reliability and performance – all well and good but not exactly the sort of features you get you mashing the software update button in a frenzy.
Apparently the powers-that-be at Apple have decided to shelve some of the bigger features planned for iOS 12 while they work out all of the bugs and issues with iOS 11 (and there are quite a few). That all makes sense from a software engineering perspective but it also means major new features could be thin on the ground come September.
One of the biggest changes we might see will happen on Macs rather than iPhones: sources say this is the year when iOS apps will be able to run on macOS, a move that makes sense considering Windows 10 can work on tablets and Chrome OS now supports Android apps. In the melding of desktop and mobile, Apple is currently behind its rivals.
We're also bound to see more in the way of AR features, thanks to ARKit, including some funky new Animojis to stand in for your face. Apple has made too much of these technologies already to ditch them now, so expect a slew of new features that let you mix the real with the augmented.
iOS 12: what we're hoping for
It's really Apple's iOS apps that are most in need of a refresh – the likes of Mail, Apple Maps, Safari and even the Camera app are way behind what other developers are offering, and Apple must realise that it risks getting left behind. The shine gets taken off all those millions of iPhone sales if everyone is using Google apps.
Unfortunately it sounds as though individual app updates might get sacrificed in favour of the "reliability and performance" fixe we mentioned earlier. One update that could make its way through is group calling for FaceTime, something that's been sorely needed for a while, and was actually supposed to turn up with iOS 11. One possibility is that Apple will finally uncouple iOS updates from the updates to its individual apps.
If Apple's software engineers are listening, then a quick refresh of the notifications system would be very much appreciated. This is an area where iOS still lags behind Android, though both mobile operating systems have made it easier to swipe through big batches of alerts in one go in recent years.
Could the recent furore over Facebook data lead to tighter controls over what apps can do on your iPhone and iPad? Apple has always been keen on championing the privacy and the rights of its users, so don't be surprised to see extra features to help you take more control over your data and how it's used. No doubt we'll get more hints and reveals from Apple between now and September, so check back here for updates.