Mike Becky

iOS 12

I just finished watching the keynote and it was a good one. The entire event was filled with announcements of great new features and enhancements that will undoubtedly improve the experience on all four of Apple’s platforms. It was a bit unexpected for the company to discuss iOS at the beginning of the show, but since it’s my preferred platform, you won’t hear any complaints out of me.

Craig Federighi started out the discussion of iOS 12 by announcing that the company was “doubling down” on performance. They’ve put a lot of effort into speeding up various aspects of the system — faster app launching, keyboard loading, and opening the camera app were mentioned specifically. And Craig claims that they’ve made extra effort to optimize the system on older devices. This alone has me pretty excited about iOS 12.

In previous years, I was always hesitant to encourage friends and family to upgrade their devices to the latest operating system because it often came with the drawback of decreased performance. Most of these people are still using iPhones that were released two or three years ago and they’ve mostly grown to dread iOS upgrades. But if Apple’s claims are true, that sentiment might change.

Craig then shifted gears toward augmented reality — a technology that I’ve had nothing but mediocre opinions of. The demos look impressive, but I haven’t seen any applications that I could see myself using regularly. Apple did announce a new app utilizing AR that they’re calling Measure, which will let you measure objects with your smartphone or tablet. And while I already have plans to use it for measuring different areas of my lawn, I don’t think I’ll have much use for it beyond that.

Augmented reality feels like a fad to me — like 3D movies, but for gaming. It will probably find a lot of success initially. But that success will be short-lived and it will eventually meet the same fate as games with motion controls.

Apple made some minor improvements to the Photos app with iOS 12. They’ve enhanced search functionality by offering suggestions and giving you the ability to search for places and events. They’ve also added a For You tab that showcases memories, featured photos, effects suggestions, and shared album activity. The Photos app will also offer photo sharing suggestions. And when someone shares a set of photos with you, the app will suggest additional photos from your library that you might want to share back.

This looks like a solid, incremental update from the previous version of Photos. But I can’t help but feel disappointed that Apple still hasn’t introduced the ability to share your entire library with a family member. I would absolutely love to move my wife and I away from Google Photos, but without this functionality, its never going to happen.

And then we have Siri. The digital assistant that everyone loves to hate. With iOS 12, Apple is introducing Shortcuts. Applications can surface quick interactions through Siri by offering to enable them within their app. You tell Siri what phrase you would like associated with the interaction and then whenever you use the phrase, it will trigger. Siri will even be able to make suggestions on the lock screen or within search for certain actions that you’re likely to want based on how you use your device.

This all sounds great, but it gets better. Apple is introducing the Shortcuts app, which is a spiritual successor to Workflow. This is exactly what I was hoping for when Apple acquired Workflow last year. I still have plenty of questions about Shortcuts — will it offer the same functionality as Workflow, including all of the same actions? What will happen to Workflow, is it essentially dead? Will there be any way to migrate my existing workflows to the Shortcuts app? But the fact that it exists at all has me more than a little excited about the future of the platform. Automation is alive and well on iOS and Shortcuts is the future.

At this point in the keynote, Craig handed it off to Susan to discuss News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Apple Books — all of which featured some great new designs and features. I don’t use any of these apps personally and none of what was introduced today is going to change that, but I’m glad that the company is taking the time to focus on these apps. I may not use them, but I’m sure they have their fans.

After brief mention of CarPlay — third-party navigation apps will be available in CarPlay with iOS 12 — Craig was brought back on stage to discuss a few features that will help users get a better understanding of how they’re using their devices and give us the tools to take back our time.

iOS 12 will introduce Do Not Disturb During Bedtime that will silence and hide notifications on your lock screen when your asleep and let you choose when you’d like to tackle them in the morning. And when you activate Do Not Disturb manually, you’ll be given the option to have it automatically end after a certain period of time, when you leave your current location, or at the end of a calendar event. I’m not much of a Do Not Disturb user, but I might actually make use of it under iOS 12 — the ability to set a time for it to automatically end sounds fantastic.

The team has made some major improvements to Notifications. Right from your lock screen, you can tune your settings for receiving notifications from any app and Siri can suggest that you disable notifications from apps that you’re no longer using. But the most important update is Notification Grouping. iOS 12 will automatically group your notifications by application, conversation thread, and topic.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t receive an outrageous number of notifications. Of course, I’ve disabled the ability for most apps to even send me notifications, but I understand that the majority of users aren’t going to take the time to do that. Giving those users the ability to make settings changes right from the lock screen and grouping notifications to help prevent them from feeling overwhelming is going to make a big difference for a lot of people.

I am super excited about Screen Time, though. Being able to view a detailed report of how exactly I’m spending my time on iOS will be a great way to help me maintain focus. When I receive that report each week, I want to see Ulysses, Coda, Bear, and Day One at the top of the list. And if the report indicates that I’m not spending enough time in those apps, I can make changes in the following week to correct it. This is feature is going to have a warm welcome in my life.

The last two iOS 12 apps showcased on stage were Messages and FaceTime. They’re adding tongue detection to Animoji, effects in the Messages Camera, and introducing Memoji — a customizable avatar that can be animated with face tracking just like Animoji. I don’t own an iPhone X and don’t have access to Animoji, but I think this feature is going to be wildly popular.

As for FaceTime, Apple is finally adding group calls with support for up to thirty-two simultaneous participants. The size of each participant’s tile will automatically adjust based on their prominence in the conversation and Apple has also brought all of the Messages Camera effects to FaceTime as well, giving you the ability to add stickers, use Animoji, and utilize filters during a call.

iOS 12 was a massive portion of the keynote — taking up nearly half of the entire event. But I think it absolutely deserved it. Not just because of the importance of the platform, but because of the sheer number of impressive, game-changing features in the update. Of the lot, the Shortcuts app and Screen Time are what I’m most excited to try myself. These are the features that have the biggest potential for boosting my productivity and improving my experience on iOS.