iOS 18 Overview
There are several months to go until Apple will introduce the iOS 18 operating system at the June 2024 Worldwide Developers Conference, but there are some exciting updates coming that we're already hearing about.
With the growing consumer interest in generative artificial intelligence products like ChatGPT, Apple is expected to focus heavily on AI improvements in iOS 18. AI and machine learning updates may be seen for many apps and features, with Apple working on large language models to bolster in-app features.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has suggested that iOS 18 could be a "relatively groundbreaking" software update with "major new features and designs," but there is little in the way of specific detail. Apple executives have supposedly described iOS 18 as "ambitious and compelling," and Gurman says that it has the potential to be the "biggest" software update in the iPhone's history with a "slew of new AI features."
Apple CEO Tim Cook said in February that Apple is investing a "tremendous amount of time and effort" on artificial intelligence, and he confirmed that Apple plans to share the details of its ongoing AI work "later this year."
As with all iOS updates, iOS 18 will be accompanied by iPadOS 18, a version of iOS 18 with some features specific to the larger displays of Apple's tablet lineup.
Generative AI Features
Apple is said to be racing to catch up to companies that have an AI head start, such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and OpenAI. Apple is spending more than $1 billion per year on AI research and the hardware needed to run large language models.
Apple is said to be planning to use AI in multiple ways in iOS 18, boosting many of its built-in apps. In Apple Music, for example, Apple could offer auto-generated Apple Music playlists, and apps like Pages and Keynote can offer AI-assisted writing and slide deck creation.
Some of the most cutting-edge AI features that Apple implements may be limited to the iPhone 16 models with their more powerful chips. If certain generative AI features are limited to on-device processing, they would likely be available only on the iPhone 16 models.
Apple is said to be still debating whether to limit generative AI to on-device or to deploy it via the cloud, as the on-device approach would be more secure and Apple tends to prioritize security. Apple could have a hybrid approach with some functionality in the cloud and some more sensitive data handled only on-device.
Apple is building AI servers in 2023 and 2024, and will be ready to deploy generative AI functionality in late 2024, which would line up with the September debut of iOS 18.
While Apple is focusing heavily on new features, executives at the company are still making sure that new additions work as expected. Apple in November paused all work on new features in iOS 18 in order to spend a week cleaning up bugs.
The next-generation A18 chip that's planned for the iPhone 16 Pro models could feature an upgraded Neural Engine with "significantly" more cores, allowing for improved AI/machine learning performance. The rumor about the Neural Engine further hints at Apple's plans for AI in iOS 18.
Apple is also working on an updated version of Xcode that will include an AI tool for predicting and finishing blocks of code, allowing developers to streamline the app creation process. Apple is also evaluating AI-generated code for testing apps.
Apple's full generative AI vision will take time to fully scale, so the complete suite of AI features that Apple has planned might not arrive in iOS 18.
Siri will take advantage of the artificial intelligence improvements that Apple is bringing in iOS 18. One leaker has suggested that Apple is planning to use large-language models (LLMs) to entirely revamp Siri and turn it into the "ultimate virtual assistant."
LLMs are the driving force behind chatbots like ChatGPT, and they incorporate huge amounts of data and use algorithms to generate content based on that information.
Rumors suggest that Siri will have better natural conversation capabilities and improved user personalization. The new functionality will be available across device, so Siri may retain conversation information from one device to another.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman says that one of the specific features Apple is developing is an improved interaction between Siri and the Messages app, which would let Siri auto-complete sentences more effectively and answer complex questions.
According to The Information, Siri will gain deeper integration with the Shortcuts app, with users able to automate complex tasks. Siri, for example, might be able to take a series of five photos, turn them into a GIF, and send the resulting GIF to someone all with one command.
RCS for Better Texting With Android Users
Apple "later in 2024" will adopt the Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard as an alternative to SMS/MMS. iMessage isn't going anywhere for iPhone to iPhone conversations, but RCS will make iPhone to Android conversations better in myriad ways. Sending photos and videos to Android users from an iPhone will no longer result in errors, and group chats will have better performance. Features like cross-platform emoji reactions, read receipts, and real-time typing indicators will also be added.
- Support for higher resolution photos and videos.
- Support for larger file sizes and file sharing.
- Audio messages.
- Cross-platform emoji reactions.
- Real-time typing indicators.
- Read receipts.
- Ability to send messages over cellular or Wi-Fi (SMS is cellular only). There is no cost to send an RCS message over Wi-Fi.
- Improved group chats.
Apple hasn't provided specifics on when RCS will be adopted, but "later in 2024" suggests that it's going to come following the launch of iOS 18. Everything about RCS and what it means for iPhone users can be found in our RCS guide.
visionOS Design Changes?
One rumor suggests that iOS 18 will feature visionOS-inspired design elements, with new translucent looks for navigation bars and other system menus and built-in apps. The report comes from Israeli site The Verifier, which does has a mixed rumor track record.
iOS 18 Launch Date
iOS 18 will be previewed at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2024. After WWDC, iOS 18 will be made available to developers for testing purposes, with a public beta likely to come out sometime in July.
Following the beta testing period, iOS 18 will see a launch in September 2024 alongside new iPhones.