iOS 18: Release Date, Features, Leaks & Rumors

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The launch of iOS 18 for iPhone is around the corner, and rumors suggest it will be a more substantial overhaul than we have seen in years.

Apple launched iOS almost 17 years ago. However, over the years, the tech giant has been criticized for revealing light updates, where new wallpapers and emojis are not the most compelling features.

However, the upcoming release of iOS 18 promises to breathe new life into the ecosystem.

Before the official unveiling at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, there is increasing speculation about how Apple plans to integrate AI into everything that moves. But beyond the hype, what does this mean for the average user?

We round up the latest news and iOS 18 rumors dominating conversations online and report on what users can expect in the months ahead.

Key Takeaways

  • AI-enhanced features across the entire Apple ecosystem.
  • RCS  could end the iPhone-Android messaging divide — but increase the spam
  • AI-enhanced Siri, Maps and Applications
  • Rumors of iOS 18 introducing hearing aid mode to Apple AirPods
  • AI-driven functionalities in iWork applications

When Will iOS 18 Be Released?

Expected Announcement: June 10 – 14, 2024

Expected Release: September 2024

The stage is set for the official unveiling at WWDC 2024, which will take place from June 10 to 14. In July, iOS 18 Beta will offer developers and tech fans a sneak peek at the new iOS 18 features and capabilities.

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The official iOS 18 release date is slated for September 2024, in conjunction with the eagerly awaited iPhone 16 series.

Which Devices Will Support iOS 18?

All iOS 17 Compatible iPhones

According to MacRumors, the iOS 18 supported devices will include all iPhones capable of running iOS 17, including the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone SE 2, and anything released since. Users hanging on to their older iPhones must upgrade their devices to access the new features.

Will iOS 18 be Apple’s Biggest-Ever Update?

Mark Gurman of Bloomberg famously tweeted his belief that the release of iOS 18 is poised to be Apple’s most substantial update.

This milestone is marked by Apple’s inaugural incorporation of artificial AI into the iOS platform, setting a new precedent for the operating system’s capabilities.

Apple’s strategic acquisition of DarwinAI will undoubtedly play a key role in Apple’s push towards more AI-enhanced features throughout iOS 18.

Furthermore, rumors of collaborating with Google on the Gemini project to integrate a chatbot within iOS suggest a broadening horizon for AI in Apple’s ecosystem.

As Apple prepares to invest $1 billion annually in AI and play catchup with its competitors, what new features promise to redefine the iOS experience?

iOS 18 Features: 8 New Cool Things to Do On Your iPhone

AI-Enhanced Siri

Siri stands at the forefront of transformation with the advent of iOS 18, thanks to an infusion of advanced AI technologies. By integrating large language models (LLMs), similar to the technology underpinning chatbots like ChatGPT, Siri is about to undergo a comprehensive revamp. This evolution aims to equip Siri to understand and process complex queries and tasks with unprecedented accuracy and efficiency.

The essence of this transformation lies in making Siri not only smarter but also more intuitive, enabling interactions that more closely mimic natural conversation than ever before.

Imagine the convenience of engaging in intricate discussions or commanding multifaceted tasks, with Siri responding with the precision and contextual awareness that mirrors human interaction.

The ramifications of these advancements extend beyond mere conversation enhancements. Siri’s integration across the Apple ecosystem promises a cohesive experience, retaining and syncing conversation data across devices, thereby enriching user personalization and engagement. However, the privacy implications of this are a topic for another day.

Generative AI and iOS 18

There are also increasing rumors that Apple is setting the stage for its AI chatbot feature. This move signals a significant leap toward integrating generative AI into its ecosystem. According to the Verge, Tim Cook hinted at ambitious plans for generative AI during Apple’s quarterly earnings call.

“Let me just say that I think there’s a huge opportunity for Apple with generative AI, without getting into many more details or getting ahead of myself.”—Tim Cook.

This AI addition is expected to feature in a suite of AI enhancements, such as AI-curated playlists in Apple Music and AI-driven functionalities in iWork applications, not to mention the potential acceleration of coding tasks in Xcode for developers.

Before getting too excited, it’s also rumored that many of these advancements could be initially exclusive to the latest hardware, suggesting that iPhone 16 owners will reap the most benefits.

While the full extent of AI integration remains under wraps, everything points toward an AI-enriched future for iOS users, starting with iOS 18.

A New iOS Home Screen?

With every iOS announcement, iPhone owners are encouraged to get excited about new wallpapers and ways to personalize their home screen. But every year, the home screen consists of the same 24 apps you have used for the last ten years.

Predictably, iOS 18 promises to redefine the home screen with a wide range of customization capabilities. Apple’s vision for a more adaptable home screen suggests a leap towards a more personalized iPhone experience, which will undoubtedly amuse Android fans.

Rumors indicate that users will gain the flexibility to manipulate the arrangement of app icons, introduce spaces, and explore new aesthetic themes while maintaining an organized layout thanks to an invisible grid system. This level of customization, reminiscent of the Lock Screen enhancements introduced in iOS 16, heralds what could be the most significant overhaul we have seen in recent years.

However, there are speculative whispers online of a theme store that could open a tantalizing possibility for users to curate their device’s look and feel, extending personalization beyond mere app arrangement to encompass icons, fonts, and overall aesthetics.

iPhone Multitasking with Split-Screen Support

Rumors suggest that iOS 18 could transform multitasking on larger iPhones by introducing split-screen capabilities that allow users to run multiple apps side-by-side for the first time, harnessing the full potential of devices like the iPhone Plus and Pro Max models.

The long-awaited feature brings a new level of productivity and convenience to the iPhone, enabling users to effortlessly toggle between tasks such as composing emails and watching videos, mirroring multitasking functionalities previously seen on tablets and Android smartphones.

New, Personalized Style of Route Planning in Apple Maps

Apple Maps also looks set for a revamp in iOS 18. Rumors suggest greater personalization with the introduction of custom routes, allowing travelers to chart their course based on preferences for scenic beauty or familiarity with the path.

These enhancements promise to redefine how journeys are planned, shifting from rigid, pre-defined routes to flexible, user-defined explorations.

We also expect the extension of topographic maps from the Apple Watch to iPhones, Macs, and even the Vision Pro. First seen in watchOS 10, these maps are celebrated for their detailed depiction of trails, elevation, and contours, aiding hikers and outdoor enthusiasts in navigating the natural world.

With the underlying code for topographic maps reportedly prepped and poised for activation across Apple’s ecosystem, iOS 18 might bring the great outdoors to users’ fingertips, making it an indispensable tool for explorers and travelers.

iOS 18’s RCS Feature — Ending the iPhone-Android Messaging Divide

Apple looks set to finally embrace the Rich Communication Services standard in 2024, marking a significant evolution in iPhone to Android messaging dynamics within iOS 18. This integration enriches cross-platform communication, ensuring that sharing photos and videos and engaging in group chats between iPhones and Android devices is smoother and error-free.

RCS will introduce features long enjoyed by iMessage users, such as emoji reactions, read receipts, and real-time typing indicators, to iPhone-to-Android interactions and vice versa, thereby leveling the messaging field.

Despite iMessage retaining its crown for iPhone-to-iPhone exchanges, the inclusion of RCS aims to offer a more seamless and interoperable messaging experience across devices.

However, as Apple gears up to roll out this update, Google warned how a lack of end-to-end encryption between Google Messages and iMessage could lead to an avalanche of spam.

AirPods Pro as Hearing Aids?

There are increasing rumors that iOS 18 is set to add a “hearing aid mode” to the AirPods Pro, marking a significant enhancement in the device’s accessibility features.

This software update seeks to expand on the capabilities provided by the existing Conversation Boost function, aiming to further support users with hearing challenges by potentially turning the earbuds into an alternative to traditional hearing aids.

AI Enhancing All the Apps (and the Ecosystem)

Introducing AI-enhanced applications in iOS 18 could revolutionize how users interact with their favorite Apple apps. Imagine Apple Music with more intelligent playlists that understand your mood swings or Pages and Keynotes with intuitive editing tools that anticipate your design needs before you even realize them.

AI integration within iOS 18 is not just about enhancing applications. It’s about creating a seamless, more intelligent ecosystem. These advancements pave the way to a future in which technology seamlessly adapts to behavior and needs. Interactions with our devices are becoming experiences that feel more natural, efficient, and distinctly personalized.

The Bottom Line

Your perspective on the anticipated surge of AI-enhanced features in iOS 18’s launch might range from anticipation to skepticism. Your preferred operating system and degree of brand loyalty will largely influence your view.

However, despite the grand vision for an AI-driven future, it’s likely that the core of your digital routine, shaped by the apps you’ve relied on since 2009, will persist with familiar patterns. Even with novel functionalities to tweak photos and streamline messaging, the essence of how we interact with our devices is much more evolution than the revolution being sold to consumers.

But we always enjoy it when Apple says… “Oh, one more thing…”

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Neil C. Hughes
Senior Technology Writer
Neil C. Hughes
Senior Technology Writer

Neil is a freelance tech journalist with 20 years of experience in IT. He’s the host of the popular Tech Talks Daily Podcast, picking up a LinkedIn Top Voice for his influential insights in tech. Apart from Techopedia, his work can be found on INC, TNW, TechHQ, and Cybernews. Neil's favorite things in life range from wandering the tech conference show floors from Arizona to Armenia to enjoying a 5-day digital detox at Glastonbury Festival and supporting Derby County.  He believes technology works best when it brings people together.