Updated 05/28/18: A new report from The Information claims that iOS 12 will allow developers more access to the iPhone’s NFC readers, allowing iPhone to work with NFC-enabled locks, transit systems, and more.
It’s rare that Apple fans cheer a lack of new features in an upcoming product, but that may be the case with the next round of iPhone updates. After a flurry of embarrassing bugs in this year’s release of iOS, Apple is reportedly scaling back its plans for iOS 12 as it shifts its focus to quality and performance. And iPhone users should applaud this decision.
What’s new in iOS 12?
iOS 12 will certainly add new features, just not as many as originally planned. That is, if this story by Axios is true.
Features on the chopping block
The report says that VP of software engineering Craig Federighi told employees that Apple will delay several features originally due to land in iOS 12. According to well-connected reporter Ina Fried, “a number of features” will be pushed into 2019 rather than make their appearance in the fall release of iOS 12.
Among the features Axios is reporting won’t arrive in 2018 are:
- A refresh of the home screen.
- A redesigned CarPlay interface.
- Improvements to Mail and other “core apps.”
- Updates to the photo experience, including the Camera and Photos apps.
While it might not seem like much, there’s at least one big change here: the home screen. Apple hasn’t made significant changes to the home screen in ages. It has added folders, a page full of widgets, and overhauled the lock screen, but a serious revamp of the home screen is long overdue. Users (including this Macworld staff writer) have been clamoring for Apple to ditch the icon grid for years, especially with the new “all-screen” iPhone X design.
A separate report by Bloomberg confirmed the delayed home screen redesign and added that “a revamped photo management application that used new algorithms to better automatically sort pictures” would also be pushed back. Bummer!
Features we expect to see
A report from The Information states that Apple will expand the capabilities of the NFC chip in its iPhones and Apple Watches in iOS 12. Currently only used for Apple Pay and a few partner transit systems (like Suica in Japan), the change would allow developers the access necessary to make Apple’s NFC-enabled products work with smart locks (common in Hotels), many transits systems, and more. This change would be a long time coming, as the NFC hardware in every Apple Pay-capable iPhone has always been capable of much more than just Apple’s own payment system. It remains to be seen exactly how open or flexible iOS 12’s new NFC capabilities will be, but we can guess that Apple will not allow support for alternatives to Apple Pay.
Elsewhere, Axios says iOS 12 will include “improvements in augmented reality, digital health and parental controls,” all features Apple has already announced were on the way. Enhancements to the Health app and ARKit are on tap for iOS 11.3 (presumably iOS 12 will take those further), and Apple recently responded to criticism of its lack of iOS parental controls by saying it will bring “new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust.”
Bloomberg echoes these claims with specific details that parents will be able to “better monitor how long apps are being used for by kids and their overall screen time.” The site also reports that Apple is working on improvements to its FaceTime app as well as “a merger of the third-party applications running on iPhones and Macs.” The publication also reported that Animoji would be coming to FaceTime, letting people make calls using their animated avatars.
There has been little mention of new and expanded Siri functionality in these reports—save a rumor that Apple is working on tighter integration with the spotlight search screen—but after the release of HomePod, it is high on the list of areas most often cited by Apple fans as needing improvement.
The biggest feature of iOS 12 is likely to be one we can feel but not see: performance enhancements and bug fixes. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s been a rough launch for iOS 11. First there was the autocorrect bug. Then the Dec. 2 shutdown bug. Then Apple was exposed for slowing down old iPhones. And that’s not to mention the serious vulnerabilities that cropped up in macOS. In a statement, Apple previously said it would be “auditing our development processes to help prevent this from happening again,” and now multiple outlets are reporting that Apple is taking a huge step toward ensuring the security and stability of iOS going forward.
Mark Gurman at Bloomberg reports that iOS 12 will be code-named Peace and will be something of a return to Apple’s roots after years of operating at a breakneck annual pace. Gurman reports that Apple plans on focusing on a fewer big features at the outset of major iOS releases, spreading out new features over smaller updates throughout the year, rather than miss deadlines or ship subpar products.
A tough sell
But if the big focus on iOS 12 is security and stability, it will be a tough sell. Users are accustomed to seeing major front-facing features in each yearly iOS update, and performance and stability aren’t as sexy as Live Photos or a sleek new home screen. So-called maintenance releases aren’t uncommon with macOS, and it might be time for Apple to take a step back and bring iOS back up to speed.
According to Business Insider, the iOS shift “will also affect this year’s update to Mac computer software, but to a lesser degree,” though watchOS and tvOS “won’t be affected.”
Axios says Apple is “prioritizing work to make iPhones more responsive and less prone to cause customer support issues,” which would be a big win for current, past, and future iPhones. Features are nice and all, but ultimately speed and reliability are what make a phone great, and if Apple needs to take a year off to focus on the things that matter, we’re all for it.
When will iOS 12 be released?
Apple hasn’t yet announced the release date for iOS 12, but we’ve seen nothing to suggest that it will stray from it’s usual release schedule, which looks like this:
- First announce the new version of iOS, and most of its key new features, at WWDC which is usually held in June.
- Begin releasing several waves of beta tests, beginning with developer betas right around WWDC and public betas a few weeks later.
- Final iOS release in the fall, usually in September, just before the release of this year’s new iPhone models.
How can I get iOS 12?
Right now, you can’t get iOS 12.
Apple is expected to make beta versions available just after WWDC this summer. Once that happens, you’ll have two avenues to get it: as a developer, or as a part of the public beta.
If you’re a developer, you can get the developer releases from the Apple Developer site.
If you’re a regular user and want to join the beta test, you’ll need to head to beta.apple.com on the device you want to run the beta on. You can enroll there, and download a special profile that will allow your device to download the beta releases. After that, new beta releases will be delivered just as regular iOS updates are: you’ll get a notification when one is ready, and can check manually by going to Settings > General > Software Update.