Like clockwork, Apple showcases its latest software at its yearly Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) in the summer to get ready to launch it in the fall when new iPhones are released.

Apple has the unenviable task of keeping iOS—currently the oldest of smartphone operating systems—fresh and dynamic. I’ll admit, I’ve grown bored with the look as well as the limitations of iOS, which hasn’t had substantial overhaul since iOS 7.

There’s something comforting about having a familiar, reliable operating system. There’s also a time to take risks and try to do something different. Apple has proven that iOS 12 isn’t it for them.

Just like with macOS, Apple seems content in dishing out feature refinements and adding minimal interface tweaks (like dark mode, really Apple?).

iOS 11 was riddled with bugs

iOS 11 has been one of the more contentious updates from Apple with various bugs and issues plaguing devices. The performance throttling issue that led to slow downs and dodgy battery life on older devices caused users a lot of grief and forced Apple to give affected users free batteries. Apple’s once sterling reputation as a solid software provider was starting to crack.

Apple’s focus for iOS 12 is on performance enhancements, improved security, as well as functional updates.

Now that there’s more iPhone and iPad models to support (thanks to the addition of iPhone X), it behooves Apple to make sure there is consistency across devices.

iOS 12 doesn’t have too many major features, but it adds the spit and polish necessary to keep Apple on top.

An older model, say an iPhone 6 Plus, will receive a speed boost with 40 percent quicker app launches. The camera on this older model will launch 70 percent faster and keyboard will appear twice as fast, according to Apple’s estimate.

ARKit and multiplayer gaming

There’s improved support for augmented reality (AR) which Apple sees as an exciting way to use mobile devices and integrate digital elements into the real world using cameras, sensors, and software.

Multiplayer gaming is being touted as an upcoming feature. Time will tell how many games will support this. Apple is very gung-ho on AR and the iOS devices seem to be able to handle the technology well. I do find that it can get tedious to hold up an iPhone and most specially an iPad for prolonged periods of time. A gaming headset is a far better device.

An iOS for millennials

Focusing on the iPhone’s core base of younger users, iOS 12 improves on certain popular features.

FaceTime, which is the iPhone’s class-leading video calling app, has been improved so it can now allow for group chats. Previously a one-on-one calling service, FaceTime now enables up to 32 people to talk simultaneously and broadcast video.

Apple also added some new Animoji, which are animal avatars that people can use to speak through and send video messages with. There’s a new Memoji feature which is a digital Mr. Potato Head of sorts. This lets you mix and match features to create an avatar that looks like you. This is like AR Emoji introduced by Samsung earlier this year on its Galaxy phones.

Tackling smartphone overuse

Tackling the issue of smartphone addiction, Apple has also unveiled various apps and tools on iOS 12 that will help people track, manage, and curb excessive phone use.

The Screen Time feature tracks phone and app use to help quantify device usage as well as to help parents set parameters for their child’s screen time.

Smartphone addiction is real, and Apple sees some responsibility in helping users determine what they are spending so much time on, so they could self-regulate their tendencies to spend too much time on their phones.

Some updates to how notifications are handled on iPhones and iPads help reduce interruptions on an app level as well as give users more granular control of how apps can send alerts and notifications.

More to come 

Apple usually discusses just a handful of features during the beta period of a software release. There’s a good chance that there’s even more coming to iOS 12 which will be revealed closer to launch.

All-in-all, iOS 12 looks like a good upgrade aimed at making Apple’s devices, specially the older ones, remain competitive in the market.

About The Author

Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Gadjo is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. He has covered technology, business and lifestyle for a variety of publications. He currently a technology columnist for international magazines, newspapers and websites.