Apple’s huge 2024 iOS upgrade will make all iPhones better, not just the iPhone 16

Maybe you should treat yourself to that Black Friday iPhone bargain after all

iPhone 15 Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

If you've been trying to decide whether or not to go for a Black Friday iPhone deal this month, the latest Apple-related report might make up your mind: it looks like the big iPhone news in 2024 won't be hardware. It'll be software. And that means it'll be available for multiple iPhones, not just the iPhone 16.

The report comes from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who says that Apple knows that the iOS 18 update "needs to be extra-impressive because the iPhone 16's hardware won't have any major advances next year." That doesn't mean there won't be improvements. But the sentiment inside Apple HQ appears to be that it'll be the software that drives sales next year, not the hardware.

We've seen something very similar with the Apple Watch this year. The Apple Watch Series 9 isn't a massive improvement over its predecessor – I've upgraded from the Apple Watch Series 7 and bar a bit of extra smoothness I can't say I've been bowled over by the changes – but watchOS 10 was a huge upgrade. And it was a huge upgrade for older Apple Watches too. If iOS 18 is going to be similar then that means any iPhone you buy right now is going to be pretty future-proof. 

What's so special about iOS 18?

According to Gurman, the iOS 18 update will be "relatively groundbreaking" compared to the fairly modest upgrades we've seen in recent years. Apple apparently believes it's going to be "ambitious and compelling", with major changes to the design as well as underneath the hood.

The big push, it seems, is to sort out Siri. Apple is investing heavily in generative AI systems – think ChatGPT, Google Bard and Microsoft Co-Pilot – and intends to improve both Siri and Messages. Details are inevitably scarce right now, but the goal appears to be to make your iPhone and related devices more personal and more human-like in how you interact with them. 

That's good news if, like me, you think Siri is still a long way from beating rival digital assistants let alone delivering on its early promise. And it'll be useful for Apple to sell the iPhone 16 too, because one of the hardware changes we can predict is a more powerful neural engine in the 2024 iPhone's processor. All iPhones will get better, but the iPhone 16 will still be the best.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).