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iOS 12: The best features of Apple's new software

James Cook
Apple's iOS 12 will include group video calling using FaceTime. 

Apple has revealed its new iPhone models to the world: the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and the iPhone XR. You would be forgiven for not paying too much attention to the handsets - after all, the tech giant launches new devices every year and the tweaks this year were not dramatic. However the new iOS is sure to be.

The iOS 12 software is due to be released later today. The new software will come with time management and digital wellness features that can help users monitor the time they spend on their smartphones, in a bid to tackle tech addiction. 

The new software will be available for Apple’s iPhones and iPads, and will be open to all iPhone users after the launch event. Here are the biggest changes in iOS 12:

iOS 12 release date

Apple announced that the new version of iOS is set to be available for download from September 17, shortly before fans should begin to receive the first versions of the iPhone XS. Millions of iPhone users will be prompted to download the new software.

How to download iOS 12

To download iOS 12 users can go to their iPhone and go to Settings - General - Software Update, which is where they will find the latest version of iOS. The update is normally available from around 6pm UK time.

New digital wellness features

Apple is adding support for customers to see how much they use individual apps. 

Apple is adding a collection of features designed to stop people getting addicted to their devices. It has created a Do Not Disturb setting which is triggered at bedtime, and will make sure that there's "nothing to get you spun up", executive Craig Federighi said. You tap when you want to get your notifications back. 

Apple is also going to start grouping notifications together so that customers aren't overwhelmed with lots of similar notifications when they check their phone.

Siri will now suggest that users turn off notifications for apps they no longer use, which helps to reduce notification overload.

Apple's new mobile operating system will suggest that some notifications are turned off. 

Another key part of Apple's plan to combat smartphone addiction is adding a new reports function to show users how much time they spend on each app, and how many notifications they send.

Users will be able to set limits for how much time is spent on specific apps, and parents will be able to set limits on their children's devices and get reports on their activity.

Users can set allowances for how much time they spend on certain apps. 

Apple cracks down on Facebook

Apple made more moves to limit Facebook's data collection.

The company's default Safari web browser will show a pop-up window asking users for permission before loading share buttons from social networks including Facebook. These buttons make it easy to share web content, but they also let social networks collect user data - something Apple has been cracking down on in recent years.

This would also apply to tools such as like buttons and the comment sections of social networks, Apple executive Craig Federighi demonstrated during a presentation at the company’s annual developer conference.

Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, speaks about content and privacy Credit: AP

Apple also showcased a new system that makes it more difficult to gather information about users as they browse across the web. When people visit sites, the characteristics of their device can be used by advertisers to create a “fingerprint” to track them. Safari will share a "simplified" profile to thwart this, Apple said.

The changes are not Apple’s most expansive in the privacy space, simply an evolution. Last year, the company launched an Intelligent Tracking system that makes it more difficult for advertisers to follow users around the web. Still, Monday’s announcements are another step in a brewing spat with Facebook over privacy and data collection.

More apps can work with Siri - and users can make their own Siri shortcuts

Apple showed off a new feature which lets customers design shortcuts for Siri which perform a series of tasks. 

 Apple is improving Siri to let more apps interact with it. It's releasing a new feature for app developers to add shortcuts to Siri. It will mean that Siri will get more functionality and become a larger part of the operating system.

And Apple is also releasing a new app, Shortcuts, which can be used to create strings of tasks for Siri to do. One example given on stage was an Apple employee who created a "heading home" shortcut. When the user told Siri "heading home," it turned on the fan in the employee's home, sent a text and turned on the radio.

Improved augmented reality experiences

Apple showed off how multiple people can see the same augmented reality Lego environment. 

Apple is doubling down on augmented reality and announced version two of its ARKit developer tool. It's introducing collaborative augmented reality, which lets multiple people see the same digital world.

To show off the augmented reality features, two Lego employees played with an interactive, augmented reality Lego kit.

ARKit 2 also introduces persistent augmented reality worlds which can be saved and returned to. And Apple is also releasing a new file format specially for augmented reality which it has called USDZ.

New customisable Animoji

iOS 12 will let people customer their own Memoji. 

Apple's face-tracking, 3D emoji also got updates in iOS 12. Apple is releasing customisable virtual faces, which it calls Memoji. These faces can be edited to look like the user, or however they want.

Apple is also releasing four new Animoji characters: Ghost, koala, tiger and T-Rex. All Animoji will now feature tongue detection, which means the characters' tongues will move as the user's does.

Automatic software updates

Apple didn't announce this on stage or on its website, but the company has added an option to iOS 12 to automatically install software updates. That will help to keep devices more secure, as iPhones running older versions of iOS can be vulnerable to security flaws.

Password improvements

iOS 11 integrated a built-in password manager and Apple announced that iOS 12 will build on this. New tools will catch bad password practice and also make entering passwords in apps and websites easier. 

iOS 12 will carry out a password audit and flag any passwords for apps and websites which have been reused. Users can access password lists and find the reused password. iOS 12 can also generate a suggested password and store it in iCloud Keychain. Passwords can also now be found using Siri.

Apple has also changed how iPhones handle one-time passcodes. Rather than users receiving an SMS message and remembering the code, the password will be available as an auto fill option. 

 Performance improvements

There will also be under-the-hood improvements designed to make older Apple devices work better. Apple said that running iOS 12 on an iPhone 6 Plus would make apps launch up to 40pc faster, the keyboard load up to 50pc faster, and sliding for the camera up to 70pc faster.

Updates to inbuilt apps

The Stocks app has been rebuilt. 

A series of inbuilt Apple apps will also get updates. The Apple News app has a new browse tab to help people discover more news sources and stories, and the Stocks app has been rebuilt with a new design.

Similarly, the Voice Memos and iBooks apps have also been redesigned. iBooks will now be called Apple Books, and will feature a redesigned book store.

FaceTime group calls and filters

People will be able to make FaceTime calls with up to 31 other people. 

Apple showed off an update to FaceTime which lets people make calls with up to 31 other people. Group chat iMessage threads can be turned into group FaceTime calls, too. And FaceTime calls can have filters applied to them to change how people look, and FaceTime will support Animoji and the new Memoji.

Smart photo sorting and sharing  

iOS 12 will suggest that users share their photos. 

Apple's photo album app will now automatically suggest key moments and people in your photos, and will also encourage you to share your photos with other people.

Searching for photos will also get smarter with new filters that let users narrow down to exactly what they're looking for. And just like Google's Photos app, Apple will now suggest edits and effects to make photos look better.