After being announced back in June, the final version of Apple’s mobile OS is now widely available. You’ll need an iPhone 5c or newer or a 2013 iPad or newer (anything that could run iOS 11, essentially), and when you’ve got the software installed, here’s everything you can do.
1) Create your own Memoji
iOS 12 brings with it some new Animojis and more detailed face mapping (you can now… stick out your tongue), but the big addition as far as animated cartoon avatars go is the introduction of the Memoji: your face, emoji-ised. From the Messages app, tap the monkey face Animoji button, then the Plus button, then start crafting your new digital avatar.
2) Add stickers and text
Hey, iOS 12 is fun! If you’re sending video or taking a snap inside Messages or FaceTime, you can now slap a host of filters, stickers, and text effects on top, as well as Animoji and Memoji. To get to the good stuff, tap the Effects button when you’ve launched the Camera through Messages or FaceTime (you’ll need to tap the display once in FaceTime to see it).
3) Spot repeated passwords
iOS 12 includes a few improvements for managing passwords — it can suggest a strong password for you when you sign up for something new, for example (just tap Use Strong Password when prompted). It can also help you spot passwords you’ve reused too often: Go to Settings then Passwords & Accounts and Website & App Passwords to take a look.
4) Clear notifications quickly
At long last, iOS 12 introduces (optional) grouped notifications, so you can clear them from the lock screen in batches with a swipe to the left and a tap on Clear All. You can also get alerts delivered quietly straight to the Notification Center, skipping the lock screen: Swipe left on a group, tap Manage, then choose Delivery Quietly (or Settings for more options).
5) Share photos more easily
Apple’s improved photo AI will now recognise the people who keep appearing in your photos, and recommend you share snaps of them through the Photos app. All this and much more is available in the new For You tab inside Photos — you’ll see your best photos featured, as well as the existing Memories collections all together on the same screen.
6) Search for photos more easily
Apple has upgraded the search capabilities inside Photos too, with a little sprinkling of AI, though it hasn’t gone into too many details. What we do know is that searches should be more accurate, and start offering suggestions as you type, as well as giving you more specific stuff to search for — like the name of a certain coffee shop you visited, for instance.
7) Tackle your smartphone addiction
New to iOS 12 is Screen Time, which you’ll find as an extra option on the Settings menu: You can see which apps you use most often, how regularly you unlock your phone, set limits on the use of certain apps (or app categories), schedule Do Not Disturb times for your device, and more besides. We’ve written about the new features in more detail here.
8) Browse for ebooks more easily
Apple iBooks gets a revamp with iOS 12 and becomes simply Apple Books. In addition to the name change, the app gets a new lick of paint to make it easier to navigate. There’s also a new Reading Now pane that combines your current reads with some smart recommendations from the Apple store, including ebooks popular with other users.
9) Measure objects with augmented reality
One of the new and unfamiliar icons added to your home screen in iOS 12 will be the augmented reality measuring app called Measure. Launch it and you’ll find it pretty easy to use — tap the Plus button to start and stop measuring and to combine points together (measurements appear automatically). Apple has this tool covered, thanks developers.
10) Enjoy shared AR experiences
Speaking of developers, the new and improved ARKit 2 that comes as part of iOS 12 will make AR apps even more powerful, though it might take some time for such apps to start appearing. AR experiences can now be shared with other iOS 12 users, for example, or kept persistent — tied to an object or location, ready to reappear in the same spot in the future.
11) Be disturbed less
Do Not Disturb isn’t new but it is enhanced in iOS 12: Launch it from Control Center and you can keep it on until you leave your current location or until the current event in your calendar ends (as well as the usual timed options). There’s also a new Bedtime mode (in Do Not Disturb in Settings) that dims the lock screen and hides notifications completely.
12) Get more from Siri
As usual, Siri gets a little smarter in iOS 12: Apple says Siri is now better at answering questions about motorsport, celebrities, and food (try “how much caffeine is there in coffee?”). As an added bonus you can translate phrases between over 50 languages now, and even ask Siri to remember one of your passwords (it’s shown on screen, not read out).
13) Browse the web in peace
iOS 12 comes with a few extra web tracking protections to build on the work done to combat aggressive cookies in iOS 11. Safari now disables device fingerprinting, which can identify your phone or tablet to marketers even if they can’t identify you, and also disables the tracking code built into those share buttons you see everywhere on the internet.
14) Use Google Maps in CarPlay
Once your iPhone is upgraded to iOS 12, you can use third-party mapping apps with your CarPlay unit — including Google Maps, if you’d rather it was Google getting you from A to B. When you select a third-party navigation app in CarPlay, it displays the base layer, with CarPlay controls overlaid on top.
15) Update iOS automatically
Apple quietly added an automatic update option to iOS 12, but it’s not all that clear just how it differs from the old method, which was already pretty well automated. You can find the switch under General and Software Update in Settings: You’ll still see a notification, but updates will be installed automatically overnight if the phone is charging and on Wi-Fi.
16) Get more from Stocks
Many of the Apple apps included in iOS get small tweaks with iOS 12, but we won’t mention them all here. One refreshed app that is worth a look is Stocks: It now boasts more details about your chosen markets, more business stories from Apple News, more options for customising the look of the interface… and it’s now on the iPad, as well.
17) Use gestures on your iPad
Speaking of Apple’s tablets, iPads running iOS 12 can now take advantage of two gestures introduced with the iPhone X: Swiping up from the bottom of the screen to go back to the home screen, and swiping down from the top-right corner to bring up Control Center. Anyone would think Apple was about to ditch the Home button on the iPad Pro models…
18) Build your own Siri Shortcuts
The new Siri Shortcuts app is likely to launch at any moment but isn’t in the first iOS 12 release: It lets you combine multiple app actions into one Siri command, so you can tell Siri you’re heading home and it will load up directions, turn up your smart thermostat in the house, and message family members saying you’re on your way (for example).
19) Make group video calls in FaceTime
And lastly another feature we have to file under “coming soon” is group video calls in FaceTime. When it does hit — “later this [spring]” according to Apple — you’ll be able to enjoy video chats with up to 32 people at once, complete with Animoji, Memoji and everything else. We just hope Group FaceTime doesn’t go the same way as the AirPower charging mat.