Apple unveils iOS 18 with tons of AI-powered features

Gadgets

Apple shared the first details for the upcoming major release of iOS, its operating system specifically designed for the iPhone, at WWDC 2024.

As expected, this is a pivotal moment for the mobile platform as iOS 18 is going to focus on artificial intelligence.

“I’m excited that we’ll introduce profound new intelligence capabilities that we hope will inspire developers, delight users, and make our platforms even smarter and more useful than ever,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said during its introduction of the event. Later in the presentation, Apple announced that it is integrating ChatGPT into Siri and other system-wide interactions.

But before talking about AI, Apple mentioned new customization features. Icons can now be laid out however you want on your home screen so that they don’t hide your background photos.

“iOS 18 is a big release that delivers more ways to customize your iPhone, stay connected and relive special moments,” said Apple SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi.

Icons can be customized with a tint color. For instance, if you want all your icons to look yellow, you can tint all app icons to this color.

Control Center is also getting an update. It isn’t limited to just the buttons you see on the main control center page. You can swipe down to view media playback and home controls. You can also edit Control Center from Control Center directly by tapping on an edit button in a corner.

There is a new set of APIs for Control Center, meaning that third-party developers will be able to create Control Center and lock screen shortcuts. For instance, Apple showed that you can replace the camera button on the lock screen with a Snapchat button.

Apps can now be individually locked. This way, you need to identify with Face ID, Touch ID or your passcode to unlock this app. This app also doesn’t appear in search results. Being able to hide apps will be important for AI features, too.

Messages are getting a much welcome update to tapbacks. You can now react to messages with any emoji or sticker and they’ll appear in color (pretty much like in every other messaging apps). You’ll be able to send messages later and format text (underline, strikethrough, etc.). Apple is also adding RCS support to iOS 18. It was previously announced but the timeline was unclear. As a reminder, RCS is an update to the SMS protocol with more features, such as native group support.

Mail will also get new categories, a bit like Gmail categories so that promotions, newsletters and other transactional emails are hidden from your inbox. There’s also a new digest view that pulls all the relevant emails you’ve received, such as your flight information before heading to the airport.

Calendar is receiving a small update with an optional integration with Reminders. You can decide to view reminders directly in your calendar.

Wallet is getting new capabilities. You can Tap to Cash to pay someone back by holding your phone together. It uses Apple Cash behind the scenes to charge your card and send the money to your friend or family member. Event cards are receiving an update with more information about your event, such as a stadium map.

Journal, the recently introduced journaling app is receiving an update with insights and a new way to quickly find past entries. Game mode, a special mode that boosts device performances, is coming to the iPhone. It’s no longer limited to macOS.

The Photos app is receiving its annual update but this one is bigger than usual. It’s a complete redesign with a unified, single view. You get the good old photo grid at the top with years and months filters. There are buttons to filter out screenshots, zoom in and zoom out. It should be a bit easier to understand than the old design.

Below the grid, when you scroll down, you access collections that you can browse by topic: people, trips, favorite memories, etc. These memories were already available but hidden in a separate tab. But you can now reorganize collections, create pinned collections and customize the app to your favorite photos.

If you swipe left, you get an autoplaying video of favorite photos and videos. Apple is calling it the carousel and there will be new favorite moments to watch every day.

While this isn’t exactly an iOS 18 feature, the next release of macOS is going to feature iPhone mirroring. If you’re a Mac owner, you’ll be able to mirror your iPhone screen to your Mac. You can interact with your iPhone using your trackpad and keyboard. iOS notifications will also show up on your Mac.

iOS gets a new AI brain

All those new features are nice quality-of-life updates, but they only tell part of the story around iOS 18. Apple also unveiled Apple Intelligence at WWDC, its new “personal intelligence system” that will be used across all of Apple’s platforms.

“We’re tremendously excited about the power of generative models, and there are already some really impressive chat tools out there that perform a vast array of tasks using world knowledge, but these tools know very little about you or your needs,” Federighi said.

Apple Intelligence will enable your iPhone to understand languages and images on your device. It will be able to take actions based on your personal context.

And it starts with a new notification system. Your iPhone prioritizes your notifications that are more important. There’s a new smart focus mode that also lets you device decide to hide notifications automatically. But it expands to many areas of the operating system. If you’re writing something in Notes, Mail, Pages or third-party apps, Apple Intelligence can also help you write more clearly and make less mistakes. It’s a system-wide writing tool that helps you communicate more effectively by rewriting your text. Apple showed a cover letter as an example but users can also select a large block of text and ask Apple Intelligence to summarize the text.

In the Mail app, you can generate smart replies without having to type anything. Apple Intelligence will ask you basic questions, such as if you want to go this event or not. In the email list, Apple is rewriting the email previews to summarize the content of the email in just a couple of lines. There is a new feature to summarize the content of your inbox too.

Image Credits: Apple

Apple intelligence also adds new capabilities for images, from photos to emojis and GIFs. You can create AI-generated images with your friends and family members (just like Easel, a third-party app created by former Snap engineers and that we covered). It is based on the photos on your device and you can select between different styles, such as animation movie or illustration.

The company also unveiled Genmoji. These are emojis that you generate with a prompt and you can use in the Messages app. You can also generate emojis that look like your friends based on your photo library.

These AI-generated images will live in a new Image Playground. It will be available as an overlay on top of your app, such as Messages. But Apple is also going to ship a dedicated Image Playground app. Third-party developers will also be able to access and play with this Image Playground.

Photo editing in the Photos app has also been updated with a new AI-powered cleanup tool. These new AI capabilities also let you search through your library to find something very specific — it could be something that happens in the middle of a video.

Of course, Apple Intelligence will also boost Siri’s capabilities. You can say things like “find this file that Arthur shared with me last week” or “show me photos of Tim and me”.

While Siri has been around for many years, it’s not great. Apple is also updating Siri’s design. When you talk to Siri, it adds a line around your screen to show that you’re talking to Siri without hiding anything on your screen. You can get a weather pop-up, create an event or get instructions to send emails at a later date.

Image Credits: Apple

Siri will have the ability to take hundreds of new actions in and across apps. For instance, you can find an old photo from a family trip, tell Siri to make it pop more and add it to a note without touching your device. It’s a new interaction method based on App Intents, a framework that is already used for Siri, Shortcuts and other automation features. Third-party developers can build their own App Intents.

It will be interesting to test this new version of Siri when it’s available; the demos worked well in Apple’s prerecorded video. If you want to type with Siri, you can double tap the multitasking line at the bottom of the phone to pull up a conversation with Siri. This could be useful for multi-step requests like in ChatGPT.

Apple said that the company has built a ChatGPT integration powered by the GPT-4 model. It is built into Siri and the new system-wide writing tools. You’ll need to accept to share information with OpenAI when you want to talk to ChatGPT. All of Apple Intelligence’s feature will be available for free for now if you have an iPhone 15 Pro or later. You don’t need to create an OpenAI account to use the feature, but you can log in to unlock ChatGPT Plus features. The company says that it plans to integrate with other models in the future.

Image Credits: Apple

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