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iOS 18: Potential launch date, fresh features, compatible devices, and additional details

iOS 18: Potential launch date, fresh features, compatible devices, and additional details

 

Here’s what we know so far about the next major update to Apple’s iPhone software

iOS 18: Latest news (Updated February 27)
Release date
Supported devices
Features
RCS support
Redesign
Outlook
iOS 18 won’t be like recent iPhone software updates, according to insiders familiar with Apple’s plans for next year’s big release. Instead, if anonymous comments coming from the company’s Cupertino headquarters are to be believed, this could be the most significant iOS update in a while.

That’s a change from recent years which hve brought, relatively uneventful updates, characterized by last year’s iOS 17 release. Sure, there were some significant changes in that update, but you wouldn’t call iOS 17 a major overhaul — more like a fine-tuning that resulted in some new and enhanced capabilities.

That’s not the approach Apple is apparently taking wth iOS 18. No less an authority than Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman calls the iOS 18 update “even more critical than usual.” That’s because hardware updates to the iPhone 16 may not be as noteworthy as what Apple introduced with this year’s iPhone 15 models, which included an upgraded main camera for the entry-level phone and a new titanium design and more powerful chipset for the iPhone 15 Pro models.

“Apple is banking on [iOS 18] to sell people on the new [iPhone] models,” Gurman wrote last year. And the hype has only increased in the months since then.

“I’m told that the new operating system is seen within the company as one of the biggest iOS updates — if not the biggest — in the company’s history,” Gurman wrote in January.

The reason why has everything to do with AI, which promises to take center stage in some of the features being planned for iOS 18. That puts Apple in the position of hoping to answer Google, which makes AI-driven features a centerpiece of the experience with its Pixel phones, and Samsung, which made Galaxy AI tools a centerpiece of its recent Galaxy S24 launch.

Can Apple make its own unique mark with the planned features in iOS 18? We won’t known until we get the first iOS 18 preview midway through 2024 at the earliest. But here’s what we know about iOS 18 and its planned features so far.

Rumor: These are the devices that will support iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 -  9to5Mac

IOS 18: LATEST NEWS (UPDATED FEBRUARY 27)
A since-deleted post on X listed the iPhone models that will be able to run iOS 18.
A new Bloomberg report suggests an iOS redesign is in the works.
IOS 18: POTENTIAL RELEASE DATE
WWDC 2023

iOS 17’s preview at WWDC 2023 (Image credit: Apple)
Though Apple doesn’t release a schedule for its iOS updates, we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the iOS 18 launch given the company’s predictable track record of scheduling iPhone software updates.

If past performance is anything to go by, the first official word we’ll hear of iOS 18 will be at 2024’s Worldwide Developers Conference, when Apple previews the software update along with similar updates to its iPad, Apple Watch and Mac software. There’s no set date for WWDC 2024, but Apple’s developer event usually takes place in early June.

A developer beta for iOS 18 would be available for iOS 18 at WWDC 2024, with a public beta following a few weeks after that. Past iOS beta programs have run all summer-long in the past with frequent updates for bug fixes and new features. It should all culminate just before the start of fall when a full version of iOS 18 becomes available to download right as the iPhone 16 models arrive in stores. Usually, that occurs around mid-September.

IOS 18: SUPPORTED DEVICES
iPhone XR vs iPhone XS vs iPhone XS Max

iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)
There’s no official word on which current iPhones will be able to run iOS 18 and which will see the end of support. For iOS 17, Apple dropped support for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus — all devices that came out in the fall of 2018. That’s in line with Apple’s habit of providing five years or so of software and security support for its phones.

Should Apple stick to that five year window, that would place phones released in 2019 on the chopping block for iOS 18 support. As of this fall, the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max will be hitting that five year mark, meaning they’re the most likely to be cut off from future iOS updates.

However, a post on X — the website that used to be known as Twitter — listed iPhone models likely to feature iOS 18 support, and it included those 2019 phones. If true, that would mean the same phones that can run iOS 17 will be able to uprgrade to iOS 18. Before you get too excited, note that the post comes from a private account on X and that the post was deleted soon after it appeared (though the poster in question has a history of doing that, even for accurate posts).

With all that to consider, we really won’t know which phones are definitely supported until Apple announces it. That usually happens amid the iOS preview during WWDC.

IOS 18: RUMORED FEATURES

iPhone 16 rumored to get exclusive on-device AI features with iOS 18
It’s far too early to talk about specific features coming to the iPhone with the iOS update. But a general theme is emerging in the initial reports about Apple’s iOS 18 plans, and it all centers around artificial intelligence playing a central role in the update. It’s why a number of Apple sources have told reporters that iOS 18 figures to be one of the more important releases in Apple’s history.

In the past year, we’ve seen a lot of tech companies introduce a lot of AI-powered products from OpenAI’s ChatGPT to Google’s Bard chatbot and its Tensor G3-powered Pixel 8 flagships. The latest company making AI news is Samsung, which made AI features the centerpiece of this year’s Galaxy S24 launch. Samsung’s latest phones now support photo editing tools that use generative AI, and they include features like live translations during phone calls, auto-summary features for Notes, and the ability to search for things just by circling an image on your phone screen.

For the most part, Apple has stayed on the sidelines, but that’s apparently changing with in the next 12 months, particularly when it comes to the software found on its phones. Specifically, Apple is said to be investing heavily to develop conversational AI, according to a report in The Information. The idea is that iPhone users would be able to automate tasks that involve multiple steps using simple voice commands. Think of it as a smarter version of Siri, the built-in digital assistant on your phone.

Adding to that speculation, analyst Jeff Pu of Haitong International Securities, expects Apple to launch its own AI chatbot in late 2024, citing the company’s plans to build AI servers to handle the expected workload. The late 2024 timing lines up with the likely release dates for the iPhone 16 and iOS 18.

The iPhone 16, in particular, could benefit from Apple’s AI efforts. Leaker Revegnus took to the social network formerly known as Twitter to proclaim that Apple is going to use large language modules (LLM) for its Siri revamp. For current iPhones, that means a lot of AI features could be cloud-based; the iPhone 16, however, should have the processing power to carry out those AI features on the device itself. Subsequent reports have suggested that on-device AI is key to Apple’s plans.

A lot of this will likely be powered by the A18 family of chips slated for the 2024 iPhone lineup. All iPhone 16 models are expected to run on an A18 system-on-chip of some sort, with the more powerful silicon fueling the iPhone 16 Pro models. Whatever the model, there should be enough processing power under the hood to handle any AI features Apple develops, which not only helps with speed, but also with privacy, as none of your data or queries has to leave your iPhone.

You’ll notice a lack of specifics in the talk about these AI-driven features coming to iOS 18. We expect more details to emerge between now and WWDC 2024, as we also get word of more conventional updates to existing apps.

IOS 18: RCS SUPPORTs

Apple's Bringing RCS Support to iPhone Next Year - CNET

Apple has already confirmed one other feature coming to the iPhone this year, and most people seem to think it will be part of iOS 18. Last November, Apple confirmed that RCS support was coming to the iPhone via a future software update sometime in 2024.

RCS, or Rich Communication Services, is a texting protocol used by Android messaging apps, Apple has made it clear that its own iMessage platform isn’t going anywhere — it remain the way that iPhone users communicate with one another. What is changing is support for texting from your iPhone to Android users. While the green bubble/blue bubble divide that currently exists will remain, it should mean improved inter-platform communication. It’s assumed that features like typing indicators and read receipts will now be supported when texting with Android devices.

Apple’s pledge to support RCS is an about-face for the company, with Apple previously telling Android users who wanted less clumsy texting experiences with iOS devices to “buy an iPhone.” Apple’s change of heart may be inspired by the possibility of regulation in Europe, much like how EU rules drove Apple to adopt USB-C connectivity for the iPhone 15.

IOS 18: REDESIGN

iOS 17 makes iPhone more personal and intuitive - Apple

Another possible iOS 18 change has emerged, and it stems from a Mark Gurman column at Bloomberg. The Apple watcher has claimed a redesign could be in the works for Apple’s iPhone software, though additional details aren’t really provided. All Gurman has said is that the new look for iOS 18 won’t draw on the Apple Vision Pro’s visionOS software for inspiration.

In lieu of details, we can only speculate on what Apple plans to do with the look of iOS 18. Here are some possible iOS redesign changes we wouldn’t mind.

IOS 18 OUTLOOK
Even without a lot of the finer details at this point, iOS 18 sounds like a very significant update that will deliver plenty of new capabilities to your iPhone — even current models. We’re eager for more details to emerge about the update and the next several months leading up to WWDC 2024, particularly how Apple intends to expand the AI-driven capabilities of its phones.

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