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iOS 18 Preview: 18 new features heading to iPhone

Apple Intelligence may have stolen the show at WWDC this year, but let’s not forget we were also treated to a full preview of iOS 18, due for public release this September alongside the next generation of iPhones.

If you missed the keynote, here’s your guide to the 18 most interesting changes coming soon with iOS 18.

1. More freedom to customize your device

With iOS 18, you can finally place apps and widgets anywhere on the Home Screen, leaving gaps wherever you like. App icons and widgets can darken automatically when you activate Dark Mode. You can even tint a whole page of icons to a custom color, although the examples shown looked pretty rough. Additionally, you can resize apps, making the icons huge at the expense of seeing their titles. This means you can create a look that’s uniquely yours, perfectly framing your wallpaper and essential apps.

2. Control center’s big redesign

Control Center has had a major overhaul, with custom layouts and multiple pages. Controls can be resized and rearranged to your heart’s desire, and spread across themed pages that you access by swiping up or down. You can also add controls from third-party apps, such as unlocking your car or launching a social media camera. It’s a lot more flexibility than before.

3. You can finally swap the Lock Screen buttons

Tired of the flashlight and camera shortcuts on the Lock Screen? iOS 18 allows you to swap out those buttons with options from a new controls gallery. For iPhone 15 Pro users, the Action button also provides quick access to these controls, making it super convenient. This customization means you can tailor your Lock Screen to better suit your daily needs.

4. Keeping your private apps truly private

You can now lock and hide apps on your iPhone, ensuring your notifications and content stay secure. This means sensitive apps can be moved to a hidden folder and won’t appear in search results or notifications. Plus, new privacy prompts allow you to control which contacts and Bluetooth accessories your apps can access, boosting your overall privacy.

5. Green bubbled-chats get a huge boost

The Messages app will finally add support for RCS, a universal texting standard. This upgrade allows for richer media and more features when texting non-Apple devices, making it closer in quality to an iMessage conversation. It’s a significant improvement over the old SMS and MMS standards, making messaging smoother and more interactive when chatting to your Android-toting pals.

6. New ways to express yourself in Messages

iMessage in iOS 18 includes dynamic text effects, allowing you to animate specific words or phrases. You can also add text formatting like bold, italics, underline, and strikethrough to better express your tone. The little Tapbacks used to react to messages have been expanded from six basic options to include any emoji or sticker, making your conversations even more fun.

7. You can schedule texts for later

This long-awaited feature in iMessage lets you compose messages and schedule them to be sent later, much like you can with emails. Handy for scheduling a birthday message in advance, or for pinging a text to your boss at 8am sharp.

8. Stay connected when lost in the wilderness

When you’re in a signal dead zone with no bars and no internet, iOS 18 gives you ways to communicate. You can now send text messages via satellite! This feature builds on the same technology that powers the iPhone’s existing Emergency SOS via Satellite feature, which has been similarly expanded with the ability to share live video with emergency responders.

9. A ground-up redesign for the Photos app

Photos has been completely redesigned to help you find and relive your favorite moments more easily. It now features a single unified view with a familiar grid at the top and various photo collections beneath. You can pin favorite collections, watch autoplaying highlight reels, and even customize the layout to prioritize the things you care about most.

10. All your credentials in one place

Say goodbye to Keychain and hello to the new Passwords app. This app unifies all your login credentials, security alerts, verification codes, and autofill data into one convenient place. It syncs automatically across macOS, iOS, and iPadOS, ensuring you always have access to your important information.

11. Explore the great outdoors with Maps

Apple Maps now includes thousands of hiking routes across US national parks, making it easier for outdoor enthusiasts to plan their adventures. Although seemingly targeted at hikers, you can create all kinds of custom walking routes and save them in a new Places Library. This feature also allows you to add personal notes and annotations to each route.

12. Wallet improves the event experience

The Wallet app has rethought has it handles event tickets, with an updated visual design and a new details view. This includes venue info, relevant Apple Music playlists, and the like, providing everything you need for a good night out in one place.

13. Journal provides data-driven personal insights

The Journal app has been updated with an Insights view with plenty of data to help you reflect on your journaling goals. You can now search and sort entries, making it easy to revisit past memories. Additionally, time spent journaling can now be logged as mindful minutes in the Health app, promoting a balanced lifestyle.

14. Gaming goes pro on iPhone

A new Game Mode in iOS 18 lowers background activity, diverting more processing power to keep your games running smoothly. This ensures more consistent frame rates and better responsiveness of wireless accessories like headphones and games controllers. For the first time, AirPods Pro offers Personalized Spatial Audio for games, providing immersive sound.

15. Instant Apple Cash payments with just a tap

With the new Tap to Cash feature, you can send and receive Apple Cash by simply holding two iPhones together. This makes transferring money as easy as a tap. It’s a convenient way to handle small transactions with friends and family instantly.

16. You can invite both guests and robots into your Home

The Home app now includes guest access, allowing you to grant control of select smart home accessories. You can set schedules for when guests can access your tech. There’s also support for robot vacuums, and new capabilities help you understand and optimize your home energy use.

17. Siri is better at being quiet

Siri in iOS 18 allows you to type your requests instead of speaking them, perfect for those moments when you need to be quiet. Previously, this was a fiddly accessibility feature – now it’s activated with a simple double-tap on the Home indicator at the bottom of the screen. Meanwhile, AirPods users can respond to Siri announcements with simple head gestures, such as nodding or shaking their head.

18. Apple Intelligence will change everything

Apple’s take on AI, dubbed Apple Intelligence, is set to power even more new features when it becomes available later this year. Although it will initially be limited only to the very latest devices, all the features we mentioned above will be available to every iPhone that can run iOS 18. This transformative technology will underpin all kinds of improvements, so much so that we’ve had to make another list just to cover all the AI features coming soon!

Preview: a look at 18 amazing features powered by Apple Intelligence

How to try these new features

iOS 18 won’t be released in full until September, but developers can already get their hands on the beta release for testing. If you’re excited to try the new features, Apple’s public beta program will go live in July, allowing anyone to trial iOS 18 early. It’s free to sign up as a beta tester, but be warned that you’re likely to encounter bugs and increased battery drain. Be sure to back up your device.