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iOS 18 – Apple’s BIGGEST update EVER?

The full release is still 6 months away – but the rumours are that is going to be something special

image of iOS 18 from Apple with iPhone 15

Apple’s WWDC and iOS 18 are still 6 months away. Sure, we get a few devices sprinkled in from time to time as well, but at its heart, it’s a software event.

Some years iOS and iPadOS can end up being damp squibs, but this year, at least if the early rumours are to be believed then it could prove to be a bit of a show stopper.

As we are still 6 months away many details will doubtless change between now and then – but it’s never too early to take a speculative look at it, is it?

Apple are often at their best when they are just slightly out of their comfort zone and pushing the boundaries – just look at the Vision Pro. It’s not perfect, they’d never pretend it was, but just look at what they’ve done.

The same potentially could be true for iOS 18.

Groundbreaking

Bloomberg’s nose-to-the-ground man Mark Bloomberg recently said in one of his weekly Power On newsletters that this year iOS 18 could be relatively groundbreaking and will feature “major new features and designs”. Even Apple execs have reportedly described iOS 18 as being ‘ambitious’.

With all that we are hearing it could be the biggest single overhaul to iOS ever – and as you’d expect it all centres around one thing…AI.

Tim Cook confirmed earlier this year that a huge amount of manpower, time and effort is being poured into Apple’s take on AI – but of course, would not be drawn into any specifics.

Where to start?

How or why Apple got caught with their trousers down in the AI race I’ve no idea.

I can’t for a moment think they didn’t know Open AI and Chat GPT were coming – I guess that they took the stance to wait and see how it played out – and then open their playbook…with all the clout and cash they have at their disposal.

To that point, Apple is spending more than $1 billion per year developing its AI capabilities. And as if that wasn’t showing serious enough intent last year they started to build enormous server centres which we can only assume means they are gearing up for something huge with iOS 18.

One of the most interesting aspects of Apple entering the AI race is how they will handle the amount of AI that is deployed on-device as opposed to via iCloud. Apple sets so much store on privacy that I’d expect most of it to be securely carried out on-device – certainly the more sensitive areas anyway.

Apple will integrate AI into most of its core apps – Music, Keynote, Pages, Numbers & iMessage for starters. It’s easy to visualise how AI could be brought into play with Pages & Keynote but imagine if you could ask Siri to create playlists based on artists and genre…

iPhone 16 Pro & Pro Max will be running the latest A18 Pro chip and its main feature will be a heavily beefed-up neural engine that will match the demands that the AI-rich iOS 18 will place on it.

We’ve also heard rumours that the microphone on iPhone 16 will be vastly improved – another clue as to what is coming downstream.

All the signs are there in plain view – even Xcode is being updated to help developers speed up app development to get more AI-based apps in the store.

Whilst I’m sure that iOS 18 won’t be the finished article in regards to what Apple ultimately has in mind, it will most definitely give us a damned good insight as to what course Apple has decided to follow.

The elephant in the room

At the heart of all these improvements to iOS 18 has to be Siri – and Apple knows it.

Apparently and not a moment too soon either – Apple is hell-bent on making Siri a serious player among voice assistants. Large-language models are at the heart of Open AI’s ChatGPT and Apple is thought to be planning to use LLM’s to bring Siri up to speed.

Apple plans to make Siri able to auto-complete messages and learn across devices. Even Shortcuts – which I’ve never fully understood are thought to be getting a look in with Siri able to understand voice commands to create shortcuts for you.

Blue bubbles

Later this year Apple confirmed that Rich Communication Services (RCS) will be coming to iPhone making sending messages from iPhone to Android users safer and easier with end-to-end encryption.

You’ll be able to send hi-res images, audio and videos via RCS all with real-time typing indicators and read receipts. You’ll even be able to send messages over Wi-Fi and there should also be an improved group chat experience as well – but the bubbles will still be green.

The message is clear – you want blue bubbles – buy an iPhone!

Design

Mixed stories are floating about as to what the design language will be for iOS 18.

Some argue that to have such a radical new feel to iOS 18 is enough and that a re-design would be a step too far. Others however say this is the perfect time – a ground-up rebuild.

If it does get a re-design then I guess it could take some of the influences seen in visionOS and tvOS. Was the design of the Action Button app a clue as to what to expect? Hopefully not, but the new layout to tvOS works and some refinements to the Control Centre might be a welcome tweak too.

Final thoughts

While iPhone 16 may not be massively different this year, it seems the same can’t be said for its OS.

iOS 18 looks like it’s going to be the turning point that sees Apple and the iPhone finally getting on board the AI train.

Apple is famed for sitting back and letting others take the early glory – as with foldables – but all that goes to mean that when they do pile in it will be the best we’ve seen yet.

Who’d argue that won’t be the case with iOS 18 and its spin on AI?

At WWDC in the first week of June, I guess we’ll have some answers.

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