iOS 18: the biggest new Apple iPhone features you need to know

Apple iPhone 15s on display (Jonathan Brady /PA)
Apple iPhone 15s on display (Jonathan Brady /PA)

Jam-packed with new AI-powered tricks, iOS 18 will be Apple’s biggest iPhone update.

Soon, you’ll be able to record and transcribe calls; schedule messages to send later; create custom emojis; scrub out unwanted people and objects from photos; and much more.

As for the apps you rely on to do those things already, they’re about to go the way of the Dodo.

More broadly, iOS 18 will offer unprecedented customisation for an iPhone. You can embrace chaos like an Android user by changing the tint and grid-like layout of apps on your home screen.

Then, there’s Apple Intelligence. Apple’s take on generative AI can help write emails and messages; whip up custom images; create photo and video slideshows based on your descriptions; and dig out old files from your iPhone. Best of all, it could transform Siri into the ultimate AI assistant.

Now that we’ve seen iOS 18 in all its glory, the question is when it will arrive?

Here’s what you need to know about the meaty iPhone software update, including its release date, list of features, supported phones, and more.

What features does iOS 18 have?

Apple's AI can create image and video slideshows from your gallery based on text prompts (Apple)
Apple's AI can create image and video slideshows from your gallery based on text prompts (Apple)

These were the biggest non-AI features Apple announced for iOS 18 at its WWDC event earlier in June.

Icon and home screen customisation

  • Ability to tint app icons with a single colour to match your home screen or preferred shade.

  • Option to automatically switch icons to a dark look in dark mode.

  • Place apps and widgets anywhere on the home screen, not just rigid grids.

Redesigned Control Centre

  • Swipe through different pages of Controls including main, smart home, and media playback.

  • Third-party apps can create custom controls in a new controls gallery.

  • Rearrange the layout and resize icons for controls.

  • Replace the camera, flashlight icons on the lock screen with custom controls.

Lock screen customisation

  • Replace flashlight/camera icons at the bottom with other app icons or controls.

  • Lock apps behind Face ID for privacy when handing the phone to others.

Messages improvements

  • Schedule messages to be sent later.

  • React with any emoji via tapbacks.

  • Text formatting including bold, italics, and underline.

  • Animated text effects.

  • Send encrypted messages over satellite when there is no mobile signal.

Redesigned Photos app

  • Single view grid with recent photos at the top.

  • Automatic organisation into collections such as trips, people and pets.

  • New carousel view with featured/favourite photos.

  • Filter out screenshots and view by month/year.

Other notable features

  • Tap to cash for payments between friends and family in the Wallet app.

  • Game Mode for higher frame rates and improved AirPods audio on iPhone.

What is Apple Intelligence?

Apple's image generator can create cartoonish pics of you and your pals to share in Messages (Apple)
Apple's image generator can create cartoonish pics of you and your pals to share in Messages (Apple)

Apple has built a suite of AI features directly into iOS 18 and its latest software updates for iPad and Mac.

The new tools use the company’s custom-designed chips and internal and external machine learning models trained on massive datasets to generate text, images, and photo and video slideshows. It’s like having ChatGPT and Dall-E at your beck and call — and not entirely dissimilar to Microsoft’s AI offering on Windows PCs.

You can ask the bots to change the tone of an email; create custom emojis (or “Genmoji” in iPhone speak) based on text descriptions or photos in your gallery; generate cartoonish images with just a few words; and turn sketches and notes into pictures.

The tech could also be a boon for Siri. Apple is promising a new and improved version of its digital helper that can better grasp what you’re saying, complete follow-up tasks, and use the data on your phone.

During a demo, Apple showed Siri correctly responding to a weather forecast for a region that the speaker deliberately mispronounced. It correctly identified the location and scheduled a hike at the destination for the following morning — all with just the simplest of nudges.

In another instance, Siri reminded an iPhone owner of their mum’s flight arrival time and their pre-arranged dinner plans by fetching the relevant information from their emails and texts. With iOS 18, you’ll also be able to type to Siri, for those times when you don’t want to speak out loud, by double tapping the bottom of your iPhone screen.

The AI features are created with privacy in mind. Apple emphasises that most processing happens directly on your device, with your data never leaving it unless necessary.

Even when it hands off more demanding requests to the cloud, where they’ll be handled by its partner OpenAI, Apple says the data remains encrypted and inaccessible to anyone but the user.

When is iOS 18 coming out?

Apple will release iOS 18 as a free download this autumn, the company revealed at WWDC. However, you can preview it earlier by signing up for the public beta, which launches in July.

Which iPhones will support iOS 18?

Regarding new features, iOS 18 sounds like a blowout, but there’s one big caveat. Not all of the perks will be available on every single supported device. Specifically, Apple says you’ll need an iPhone 15 Pro or higher for Apple Intelligence because they can handle the hefty AI tasks using the A17 Pro chip. Those features will also come to iPad and Mac devices with M1 or later.

Your apps can match your wallpaper in iOS 18 with new customisation settings (Apple)
Your apps can match your wallpaper in iOS 18 with new customisation settings (Apple)

It's crucial to note that some features won't be accessible in all countries, languages, or on all devices. The Safari "Highlights" feature, which automatically detects relevant information, will be available only in English in the US. Additionally, the new live audio transcription capability in the Notes app will be available on iPhone 12 and later models in English in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, and the US.

Are you curious if your iPhone supports the new update? Apple has confirmed that iOS 18 can be downloaded on the following models:

  • iPhone 15

  • iPhone 15 Plus

  • iPhone 15 Pro

  • iPhone 15 Pro Max

  • iPhone 14

  • iPhone 14 Plus

  • iPhone 14 Pro

  • iPhone 14 Pro Max

  • iPhone 13

  • iPhone 13 mini

  • iPhone 13 Pro

  • iPhone 13 Pro Max

  • iPhone 12

  • iPhone 12 mini

  • iPhone 12 Pro

  • iPhone 12 Pro Max

  • iPhone 11

  • iPhone 11 Pro

  • iPhone 11 Pro Max

  • iPhone XS

  • iPhone XS Max

  • iPhone XR

  • iPhone SE (second generation or later)