Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

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Key Takeaways

  • iOS 18 to be unveiled at WWDC 2024 on June 10, with a developer beta arriving on the same day and a public beta around a month later.
  • The final release should arrive in mid to late September, roghly a week after the iPhone 16 announcement event.
  • iOS 18 rumored to focus on AI features like improved Siri capabilities, text summarization, context-sensitive replies, a new Apple Passwords app, RCS support for text messaging, along with already-announced accessibility upgrades.

Apple’s iOS 18 update is coming, with beta versions set to drop in a matter of weeks ahead of a launch in the fall alongside the newest models of iPhone. According to the leaks and rumors, this year’s update could be a huge deal.

iOS 18 Release Date

iOS 18 will be revealed to the world as part of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which takes place on June 10, 2024 at 10 AM PDT (1 PM EDT). You can watch the event live on Apple Events or the Apple YouTube channel, or catch up on all the announcements by reading our coverage.

Colorful outline of the Apple Park headquarters with the Apple WWDC 2024 logo.

Apple normally releases a beta of the new software to developers on the same day. Developer previews are typically not suitable for “daily driving” since they are often unstable, introduce app compatibility problems, and can suffer from poor performance. They’re designed to allow developers to get their apps ready for the final release later in the year.

If you want to test iOS 18 early, you’re better off waiting for the public beta, available via the Apple Beta Software Program. This will typically be released just over a month after the initial announcement (iOS 17 entered public beta on July 13, 2023). Be aware that iOS public betas are not ideal for everyone.

The final release of iOS 18 is likely to happen mid to late September. Previous iOS release dates include:

  • iOS 17: September 18, 2023
  • iOS 16: September 16, 2022
  • iOS 15: September 20, 2021

These dates usually coincide with the release of a new iPhone, typically around one week after Apple’s September iPhone event.

iOS 18 Compatibility

Rumors suggest that iOS 18 will share compatibility with iOS 17. That is to say, all devices that are compatible with iOS 17 will get the iOS 18 upgrade. This was sourced to a “private account with a proven track record” in a since-deleted X post as reported by MacRumors.

Taking a photo of a cat with the iPhone 15 rear-facing camera.
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

That means the full list of devices expected to support the iOS 18 is as follows:

  • iPhone 16 Pro (Max)
  • iPhone 16 (Plus)
  • iPhone 15 Pro (Max)
  • iPhone 15 (Plus)
  • iPhone 14 Pro (Max)
  • iPhone 14 (Plus)
  • iPhone 13 Pro (Max)
  • iPhone 13 (Plus)
  • iPhone 12 Pro (Max)
  • iPhone 12 (Plus)
  • iPhone 11 Pro (Max)
  • iPhone 11 (Plus)
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS (Max)
  • iPhone SE (2nd, 3rd generation)

iOS 18 Features

Apple is heavily rumored to be centering the iOS 18 update on AI features. Siri is expected to see perhaps the biggest changes, with Apple integrating ChatGPT-style large language model (LLM) technology into the assistant. Siri is expected to be smarter, more conversational, and capable of interacting with your device and apps in newer ways than before.

Siri listening icon in iOS 17.

Apple’s model, known as Ajax, was the subject of an AppleInsider report in May that suggested Apple is planning on introducing generative AI to improve iOS apps and features like Spotlight, Safari, Mail, Messages, and Siri (of course).

The Ajax LLM could unlock new features like text summarization for websites, documents, or email and messaging threads. The technology could be used to generate context-sensitive responses that understand who you are talking to and how you normally communicate.

How far down this rabbit hole Apple is prepared to go at this stage is still up for debate. In iOS 18 you might be able to tell Siri to “brighten this photo and put a square crop around my face” or “summarize this article in a new note and place it in my Work folder.” With enough changes, it’s even possible that Siri won’t suck anymore.

Apple is likely to make data privacy a keen component in its AI push. Being able to perform these operations entirely on-device would be ideal, but the truth is that many users will still likely need to rely on the cloud for most operations. Given its track record in defeating email tracking pixels, anonymizing web requests with iCloud Private Relay, and developer App Store privacy check-ups, the company likely has an answer for those who pick Apple’s ecosystem for its approach to privacy and security.

Apple has already confirmed a range of new accessibility features will be coming in iOS 18. As part of its Global Accessibility Awareness Day announcement, Apple announced that the hands-free eye control we’ve seen in the Vision Pro mixed-reality headset will be coming to iOS 18.

Human eye macro with reflections of the Safari, Photos and Messages app icons on the retina.

On top of this, iOS 18 will introduce vehicle motion cues to combat motion sickness, haptic feedback that lets you feel whatever you’re listening to, vocal shortcuts that don’t require saying “Siri” first, voice control for CarPlay, a virtual trackpad, and hover typing to make typing easier across the web.

iOS 18 may also introduce a standalone Apple Passwords app, which would provide a simpler and more convenient way to access passwords stored in iCloud Keychain. In iOS 17 and earlier manually accessing passwords requires diving into the Settings menu, but a dedicated app should make it easy to retrieve not just login credentials and 2FA codes but also Wi-Fi passwords and passkeys.

Apple is also expected to roll out the usual raft of improvements and overhauls to existing apps and features. This year’s update could see increased Home Screen and app icon customization, new text effects and AI-generated emoji in Messages, better custom routes in Apple Maps, and the ability to take voice memos inside the Notes app.

Notifications are expected to see a small overhaul with smart summaries (likely powered by Apple’s new AI brains), plus Control Center could see some much-needed customization that allows you to decide what you see and where you see it.

It’s also possible that iOS 18 will finally introduce support for the Rich Communication Service (RCS) messaging protocol, improving messaging between Android and iOS devices. Apple has previously stated this is coming “later” in 2024.

iOS 18 and Hardware

If iOS 18 is heavily focused on AI features, Apple is also likely to consider this in its hardware refresh. It’s also possible that Apple planned ahead and made preparations with last year’s models.

The biggest question left to answer is how many of these operations will take place entirely on-device. Apple has included the Neural Engine on the iPhone’s System-on-Chip (SoC) since the A11 Bionic, first introduced with the iPhone 8 and iPhone X in 2017. This assists with machine learning tasks but it’s unlikely that older models will have enough grunt to handle Ajax locally.

iPhone 15 Pro showing the titanium back.
Tyler Hayes / How-To Geek

The iOS 18 rumor mill suggests that only the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 16 models will have enough grunt to process the new LLM-based interactions directly on the device itself. These newer devices may only be able to process simple requests, relying on the cloud for more complicated operations.

Owners of older devices may be completely dependent on the cloud for processing. That means the new features won’t work offline at all, and the processing time between making a request and seeing its results will depend heavily on your internet connection.

The rumored A18 chip is expected to make its way into both the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro, though Apple may hold the more performant chips for the flagship model. This is different from what Apple has done with the last few releases, where the newest generation of chips is reserved for the Pro models. A beefed-up machine learning core could help explain this move.

iOS 18 Should Be a Big Upgrade

There are plenty of reasons to look forward to this year’s iOS upgrade, with many speculating that this could be the biggest update in terms of software in the iPhone’s history.

As always, the iOS 18 update will be free. As long as you own a compatible iPhone model, you should see some benefits when you update your iPhone in the fall.

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By John P.

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