What can the new iOS 18 software update do on your compatible iPhone?

Here are 20 things you can do with Apple's next-gen operating system when it launches in September. Keep reading to see if your iPhone is compatible.

What can the new iOS 18 software update do on your compatible iPhone?
iOS 18 Software Update

iOS 18, Apple's most anticipated software update of the year, arrives in September 2024 for a wide range of iPhones, from the iPhone XR/XS all the way to the latest iPhone 15 models. While iOS 18 will run smoothly across these devices, the most advanced on-device AI features are exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro and newer models with powerful M-series chips. But even without these features, this isn't your average update. Get ready for smarter Siri, personalised writing tools, and even the ability to create new content with the help of AI. 

Here's a closer look at the features and what you can expect:

20 new things you can do when you update to iOS 18

After you've installed the update, your iPhone or iPad will be able to: 

1. Generate Images and Genmojis

First on the list is the new Image Playground app. You can whip up images using prompts or Apple’s suggested themes. If you feel limited by the built-in emoji options, you can also create any emoji you like. Just enter a short description—like your friend’s catchphrase—and Apple brings it to life for you. 

Plus, it integrates seamlessly with Messages, Notes, and other apps, so you can easily share your creations. 

New Genmoji playground

2. Pin Photo Albums

Photos are getting smarter too and gone are the days of manually creating memories. With iOS 18, you can type in what kind of memory you want to create, and Apple Intelligence picks out the perfect photos and videos to match based on your input. It even includes a storyline with music and chapters, like your own little movie. And if something is photobombingthere’s something photobombing your perfect shot, the new Clean Up tool helps remove unwanted background objects.

Additionally, you can pin your most used collections for quick access and enjoy a new carousel view that highlights your best content. Live Photos and videos will even autoplay as you browse, making it easier to relive your favouritefavorite moments. 

iOS 18 Photo carousels

3. Personalised Siri In-app Actions

Apple Intelligence completely overhauls your virtual assistant, making it more contextually relevant, personal, and natural. In iOS 18, you would be able to activate Siri with your voice or a new double-tap on the display. Apple claims Siri will finally understand your requests better and can take actions within apps for the first time, managing files, creating folders, and more. It also keeps track of your conversations and what's on your screen to seamlessly assist you throughout the day.

Apple even gave Siri a visual upgrade with a glowing ring and deep Apple product knowledge to get you step-by-step instructions on anything in your iPad or iPhone. And if Siri can't answer something, there's the option to use OpenAI's free and privacy-focused ChatGPT for creative content generation. Plus, with Vocal Shortcuts, you can teach Siri your own lingo to launch shortcuts and tackle complex tasks.

Type to Siri in iOS 18 update

4. Choose your battery Charging limits

This update is all about empowering users with more options to manage their devices efficiently and the ability to use optimised battery charging limits full-time has made it into beta 1. iOS 18 allows you to set a custom charging limit, ranging from 80% to 100%. So if you never need the full charge, you can extend the longevity of your battery by limiting the maximum charge all the time, not just when the iPhone figures you won’t need it. Perfect for users who frequently keep their phone plugged in or don't need a full charge daily. Plus, it promotes mindful energy consumption.

Optimised Battery Charging Limits as seen in beta 1 | 9to5mac

5. Personalize your Home Screen

iOS 18 brings a wave of customisation options to the Home Screen, perfect for those who crave a fresh look for the old Home Screen layout. Rearrange apps and widgets however you like, play with different sizes, and even add a splash of colour to your wallpaper and app icons.

While some users have explored third-party themes to alter app appearances and potentially reduce screen time, iOS 18 offers built-in options. Although reports suggested the ability to tint apps individually for colour-coding by category, the current beta version only allows applying a uniform tint to all apps. This might not be ideal for everyone.

However, there's another option: reducing colour saturation to zero creates a black-and-white aesthetic for your entire Home Screen. This could be a good compromise for those seeking a more minimalist look.

Uniform tint for app icons in iOS 18 beta

6. Resize and assign Third-party apps to Control Centre

Apple revamped Control Center in iOS 18. It now allows you to rearrange everything to prioritise what you use most. You can customise the size and group certain controls for a streamlined experience. A new gallery lets you add all sorts of new quick actions, including controls from third-party apps. Control Center can even be split into multiple screens for dedicated sections like HomeKit, media playback, connectivity, and more—just swipe between them for easy access.

The Flashlight and Camera icons on the Lock Screen are now part of Control Center, allowing you to swap them for other controls or remove them entirely. Additionally, controls can be assigned to the Action button on iPhone 15 Pro models for even more customisation.

Custom Control Centre in iOS 18

7. Exchange files with your Android family on iMessage

In a long-awaited update that has the Android community saying, "It’s about time," iOS 18 introduces improved messaging interoperability with the addition of Rich Communication Services (RCS). This means iPhone users can now exchange higher-quality images, videos, and audio files with Android users. While Apple didn’t discuss the details, the preview image confirmed that messages exchanged with Android users will still appear in green bubbles. 

The Messages app now also supports scheduling texts, formatting in bold or italics, reacting with any emoji, and adding text effects. Additionally, it enables texting via satellite, connecting to nearby satellites for texts, emojis, and Tapbacks.

RCS messaging update for iOS 18

8. Personalized Mail Aggregates

Coming later in 2024, Mail will adopt on-device categorisation. This means your emails will be automatically sorted into sections like promotions, transactions, and personal emails for a more organized inbox. A new digest view will also aggregate all emails from a particular business, giving you a complete look at your correspondence.

Apple Mail finally gets a revamp

9. Summarise articles on Safari

Getting ready for a smarter browsing experience in Safari with iOS 18, a new feature called Highlights surfaces key information right on the webpage you're visiting. Need a quick summary of an article? Highlights deliver. Looking for the location of a restaurant mentioned on a page? Highlights has you covered. It can even show you maps for shops you come across while browsing.

But that's not all. Safari gets a brain boost with Intelligent Search. This powerful feature leverages Apple's on-device AI technology, specifically the language-learning model Ajax, to understand and summarize web pages and articles. Imagine having a built-in research assistant that condenses text into clear headlines and concise paragraphs, similar to what Google's Gemini AI and Microsoft's Copilot do.

Safari browser's article summarisation feature

10. Record Audio and Transcribe in Notes

The Notes app gets a major upgrade too. Now you can record audio live and have it transcribed right there in the app. No more scrambling to take notes during work calls—Notes does the work for you and even provides a summary. Plus, the new Math Notes feature can automatically solve equations and expressions, saving you time and frustration.

The built-in Notes app can now record and transcribe audio in iOS 18

11. Turn off Background activity in Game mode

iOS 18 introduces a brand new Game Mode similar to the one on macOS Sonoma launched last year. This mode minimises background activity on your iPhone, ensuring all that processing power goes straight to your game. It also reduces latency from game controllers and AirPods, making your gameplay smoother and more responsive. Speaking of AirPods, the AirPods Pro 2 gains support for Personalised Spatial Audio for gaming, creating an immersive soundscape that puts you right in the middle of the action.

Game mode interface on iOS 18

12. Pay with a tap

With the new Tap to Cash feature, simply tap your iPhone to another iPhone to send money over Apple Cash. No need to share phone numbers or any other personal information – it's quick, secure, and convenient.

Apple Pay also gets some exciting upgrades. You can now use rewards points and even pay in instalments with some credit cards. Plus, event tickets in Wallet have been redesigned to include maps, venue information, and more, making it easier than ever to plan your next outing.

13. Lock and Hide apps

Privacy is a top priority in iOS 18. You can now lock any app on your iPhone, requiring Face ID or Touch ID to open it even when your phone is unlocked. This is perfect for keeping sensitive apps like banking or social media secure. 

Don't want an app completely gone from your Home Screen? You can also hide it, tucking it away in a hidden folder in the App Library that requires authentication to access. Hidden and locked apps won't send notifications and won't show up in searches, keeping your private information truly private.

Similar to freezing on Android, iOS 18 now lets you hide and lock apps

14. Nod to Airpod actions

With the iOS 18 update, Apple is indeed finding more ways to integrate and enhance the user experience across their device ecosystem, particularly with the AirPods. The introduction of gesture-based interactions with Siri is a prime example of this. Now, a simple nod or shake of your head can answer calls or communicate with Siri, making it a hands-free experience that’s both intuitive and convenient.

The addition of Voice Isolation is another subtle yet impactful improvement. It ensures that your voice comes through clearly on calls, even in noisy environments, which is a testament to Apple’s commitment to improving audio experiences.

AirPods Pro will let you answer calls by nodding your head

15. Manage your Passwords in one App

The new Passwords app in iOS 18 brings all your passwords, passkeys, Wi-Fi passwords, and verification codes together in one central location. No more hunting through different apps or notes to find that one login you need. 

The Passwords app also keeps you secure by alerting you to weak passwords and those that may have been compromised in data leaks.

List view of the Passwords app in iOS 18 update

16. Improve your writing on the go

iOS 18 is rolling out Writing Tools that could make third-party grammar apps a second option. With the power to rewrite, proofread, and summarise your text almost anywhere on your iPhone. Whether you're composing an email in Mail, jotting down notes, or working on a document in Pages, you’ve got a personal editor wherever you go to help you polish your writing and express yourself clearly.

New Writing tools on iPad

17. Collaborate with SharePlay

iOS 18 introduces exciting new ways to enjoy and share content. SharePlay now extends its reach, enabling users to share and control music across HomePod, Apple TV, or any Bluetooth speaker. It’s a symphony of interaction where anyone can be the DJ, right from their own device. SharePlay has also evolved into a screen-sharing feature, transforming FaceTime into a collaborative workspace. 

For those moments when words aren’t enough, you can now remotely control grandpa's screen through a tricky app setup or show a friend how to edit a photo, all while on a FaceTime call, making it easier to help out or work together.

iOS 18 SharePlay features

18. Track your growth with Journals

The Journal app in iOS 18 is getting a new insights view that helps you stay on track with your journaling goals. Plus, searching and sorting entries makes revisiting past memories a breeze. 

There's even a Journal widget now, so you can quickly start a new entry from your Home Screen or Lock Screen. Audio recordings are automatically transcribed, and you can export or print your journal entries for safekeeping.

Apple iOS 18 Journal update

19. Control your Smart Home

For smart homeowners, the Home app gets an upgrade. You can easily grant a guest access by controlling which accessories guests can use at specific access times. Imagine walking up to your door and it unlocking automatically. 

Hands-free mode unlock with home keys uses Ultra-Wideband technology to open supported locks as soon as they're nearby. The Home app also makes managing your home energy use simpler, with convenient updates to the Energy category.

You can choose how and when guests are allowed to access your home, and control accessories like door locks, garage doors, or the smart alarm system.

20. Eye track, Sound tasks, Haptic Hearing, ALS

iOS 18 brings a wave of new accessibility features. Eye Tracking lets you navigate your iPhone entirely with your eyes. Music Haptics is a new way for users who are deaf or hard of hearing to experience music through the iPhone's Taptic Engine. 

Vocal Shortcuts allow you to perform tasks by making a custom sound. For users with conditions like cerebral palsy, ALS, or stroke, atypical speech recognition helps your iPhone better understand your voice and lets you control your device more easily.

iOS 18 Accessibility updates

iOS 18 release date

Apple first introduced iOS 18 at the opening keynote of the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 10, 2024. 

A developer beta of iOS 18 is already out. An iOS 18 public beta, generally slightly more stable and bug-free, should arrive in the coming weeks. 

iOS 18 will come to your iPhone in September 2024, likely coinciding with the launch of the iPhone 16 lineup.

iOS 18: Supported Devices

iOS 18 will run on all iPhones that can run iOS 17, which includes the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone SE (2nd generation), and all newer models. 

Here is a rundown:

  • All iPhone 15 models
  • All iPhone 14 models
  • All iPhone 13 models
  • All iPhone 12 models
  • All iPhone 11 models
  • iPhone XS and XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone SE (2nd and 3rd generation)

How to upgrade to iOS 18

For public release in September, here’s how you can update your software:

  • Plug your iPhone into power for a smooth update.
  • Head to Settings > General > Software Update.
  • Look for "iOS 18" and tap "Install Now."
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to enjoy your upgraded iPhone

iOS 18: Availability

iOS 18 is currently limited to developers for testing, but Apple plans to expand it to a public beta in July. This allows Apple to gather feedback and iron out any kinks before the official launch in September 2024, typically alongside new iPhone models.

Final Thoughts

iOS 18 feels like a turning point for iPhones. Apple Intelligence has the potential to be a game-changer, but for now, it's a tease of future possibilities. While some of the most advanced features require the processing power of the latest iPhone 15 Pro models, future updates will surely build on this foundation.

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