What to expect in iOS 18: AI, new look, redesigned stock apps, and more

Posted:
in iOS edited May 13

The releases of iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 is shaping up to be Apple's biggest OS refresh in a decade. On top of expected machine learning and AI advancements, the stock apps and overall look will be getting a makeover.

iOS 18 logo on dark background
iOS 18 ... coming this fall



A confluence of industry trends and Apple's own engineering efforts are coming together in a set of major updates later this year. Apple has been watching the rise of AI technology carefully, and working on it for years.

In 2018, Apple hired away Google's John Giannandrea, who was in charge of the search giant's Machine Learning division. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to advance Apple's efforts in that same area.

Apple has had lots of smaller-scale improvements in various areas of what the industry calls AI ever since. That said, 2024 looks to be the year that its AI efforts rise to the surface, just in time for powerful new hardware coming this fall.

At the same time, iOS and iPadOS 18 in particular will receive a major redesign and big updates to its core applications. The other OSes and the devices that run them will of course get these updates too.

All of these years-long efforts are coming to fruition across the second half of 2024. It promised to be a major year for Apple.

2024 is the year of Apple AI



One of the biggest user-facing changes is expected to be an improved Siri voice assistant.

Siri is expected to greatly improve its ability to answer random questions and requests, starting this fall. Apple has been working on an on-device Large Language Model (LLM) to help Siri understand requests better.

That said, of course some requests will require an internet connection in order to obtain the answer. For example, asking Siri "what's the current score in the Canucks vs Predators hockey game?" requires online updates.

Siri might now pull such results from the same sources Live Activites uses for its up-to-the-minute sports scores widget. Hopefully, the days of "I found some information on the web for you" as an answer are numbered.

Likewise, the next version of Safari is expected to gain a "browsing assistant" in this fall's updated OSes. It should help users find websites they are looking for, similar to a built-in search engine.

Apple has recently published research suggesting it is making big advances in machine learning. The A16 and M4 chips coming later this year are said to feature a substantially larger and more powerful Neural Engine.

In addition, Apple's AI researchers are sharing their findings with developers. This will help more applications leverage the improvements Apple is making to its future hardware.

2024 will bring a new OS with a new look



The overall look of iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 will get a redesign. Combined with new features in the standard apps, this is expected to mark the biggest iOS redesign since 2013's iOS 7.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has reiterated a previous claim that users will be able to place icons freely in iOS 18 and iPadOS 18. This would still use an invisible "grid," but would allow more flexible use of "empty space" by users.

This gives users even more freedom to place apps and widgets wherever it makes the most sense to them. Related apps can be placed together leaving a "blank space" on the page to separate them from other apps.

Apple has previously encouraged the use of "app folders" in iOS to gather related apps.

2024 is the year included apps get a big refresh



The debut of iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 this fall will also change the look and abilities of many if not most of the "built-in" apps. Stock apps slated for design changes include Notes, Mail, Fitness, Photos, and Calculator.

The latter app's new version will also be coming to the iPad for the first time.

An iPad displaying a calculator app with a dark mode interface on a gray background
The iPad will finally get its own Calculator app.



Previous reports have said that Notes will also be getting a substantial overhaul, making it a more complete product on par with competitors like OneNote. Expected changes include built-in audio recording, and integration with the improved Calculator app for a "Math Notes" feature.

Currently, Apple has a separate app for Voice Memos. That functionality will now be available in the regular Notes app as of iOS 18.

As with the existing Notes app, anything stored there can be synced across devices using iCloud.

Notes in iOS 18 will also be able to add calculations and symbols from the new Calculator app for the "Math Notes" feature. This should let users augment formulas and calculations with text and graphics.

Two smartphones displaying a voice recording app and a calculator app with the Notes app icon in the middle.
Voice Memos and Math Notes bring audio recording and calculations to iOS 18's Notes app.



The Maps app will also benefit from the expanded machine-learning capabilities of the forthcoming A18 chip. It has been hinted in code snippets that Apple will add custom route planning for users, among other features.

Currently, when users seek a route in Maps, the app offers a few variations to get from A to B. For various reasons, some users would like to craft a custom route out of parts of the various options. Maps in iOS 18 is expected to let you do that.

In a related development, CarPlay is also getting a serious upgradethat includes a new overall look. This is said to include the ability to use additional screens in some new car models.

However, older model cars will benefit from a new look and software experiences on the conventional single screen.

Fitness+ and Photos will also leverage both a redesign and the expanded AI abilities to customize their abilities to individual users. Apple's design for iOS and iPadOS 18 includes many primary components of AI within the software.

This means that older devices that can run iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 will also gain these app redesigns and improved software abilities.

Is Apple late to the game?



Apple has long been accused of playing "catch-up" to rivals in the area of AI features incorporated into its products. Microsoft and Google, to name but two, have functional chatbot-based search already up and running.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has rejected such claims. He has said that Apple has been rolling out features for several years that rely on machine learning and AI.

Cook recently pointed out to analysts that recent features, including Live Voicemail and Personal Voice couldn't exist without those technologies.

Features that have been long staples of other apps, like Predictive Text, have steadily improved in "learning" the preferred vocabulary of the individual user. Apple has generally approached AI as a way to enhance existing apps first.

It has expressed little interest in creating what amounts to "AI toys" users can play with online, as ChatGPT has done.

Apple has also had to find a path that combines AI with user privacy and security. This is a concern for Apple, and far less so for other companies that have leveraged the AI "trends."

These companies and others are currently being sued by content creators for unlicensed use of their products to "train" their AI engines. Apple, meanwhile, appears to have paid for content used for LLM training, and worked with creators to license content ethically.

Not just for the latest and greatest hardware



Of course, iOS and iPadOS get minor updates every year, as does macOS, watchOS, visionOS and tvOS. Starting with iOS 18, however, Apple plans to add major new abilities alongside fresh new looks to them all to thrill existing users, and attract new ones.

Naturally, Apple's software advances work best with the latest hardware. This will certainly be true of the combination of the A18 and M4 chips in the newest Apple devices along with iOS and iPadOS 18 and the other OS versions.

VisionOS 2.0 is expected to be released later this year as well, the first major update to Apple's latest hardware category. It seems likely that the hardware was built with AI use in mind, and that future visionOS updates will take further advantage of those abilities.

All that said, a lot of what we believe we know about iOS and iPadOS 18, macOS 15 and the rest remains to be seen. App improvements and refreshed designs should run perfectly well on older but still compatible iPhones.

Apple's existing chips have had Neural Engines in them for years now. That technology will be leveraged to a greater extent in iOS 18 and the others as developers explore more use of AI.

It's likely that Apple's next iOS release will continue to support at least the iPhone 11 and later. If you own an iPhone X or related models of that vintage or earlier, iOS 17 could potentially be the end of the line.

We'll find out more about what models will be supported at June's WWDC conference.

Apple's AI advances across 2024 should substantially enhance the company's legendary emphasis on its full integration of hardware with software. Existing apps on recent iPhones will get a fresh look and new capabilities, and set the stage for the next round of powerful new hardware.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    jas99jas99 Posts: 159member
    I’ve already noticed improvement in Siri. They must be releasing something on current OS’s already. 
    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 12
    M68000M68000 Posts: 793member
    Apple,  please turn off ability to change wallpaper from lock screen by touch and hold on the lock screen.   This “feature” is so incredibly annoying.  I have found my wallpaper changed many times or find my phone waiting for me to select the new wallpaper, which i did not intend to do.  Absolutely one of the worst things with ios at the moment. 
    maggot777appleinsideruserwilliamlondondewmeAlex1Nwatto_cobraOnPartyBusiness
  • Reply 3 of 12
    M68000 said:
    Apple,  please turn off ability to change wallpaper from lock screen by touch and hold on the lock screen.   This “feature” is so incredibly annoying.  I have found my wallpaper changed many times or find my phone waiting for me to select the new wallpaper, which i did not intend to do.  Absolutely one of the worst things with ios at the moment. 
    Indeed. It’s called the Lock Screen for a reason. It’s now got so much UI.
    williamlondonAlex1Nwatto_cobraOnPartyBusiness
  • Reply 4 of 12
    When is Apple Music going to get an upgrade?  Doesn’t it annoy anyone else that every time you play your music one day, then the next day you start playing music again and it repeats the same songs in the same order??  It’s so annoying and I can’t believe no one else has complained about this 
    Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 12
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,553member
    I wonder if they'll update the Contacts app and its icon? It seems like they're keeping that ancient looking Contacts icon around to pay homage to something in the iPhone's prehistoric past. At this point in time it seems so out of place and about as appealing in its brownness or grayness as leftover meatloaf that's been left in the fridge too long and grown hair. What's up with the tiny round contact photos? Try fitting an image from a real photo or screenshot into that tiny little picture hole. What's up with the Jabber in the default edit list of contact information? Contacts is the last surviving Neanderthal from the age of Skeuomorphism. 

    That calculator rendering looks awful. It looks like a kiddie toy. Does it play a duck sound when you press number nine? Maybe they should think about removing some decrepit old stuff rather than adding new stuff. The Reminders app was dead wood when it first arrived. It's still dead wood but now it's infested with termites. We don't need both a calendar app and a reminder app, a crappy one much less. Throw the Reminders app log into the fireplace already and listen to it sizzle. 

    All this talk of AI and ML is making me nervous. Why can't Apple just keep implementing the AI and ML logic into their OS and apps like they've been doing for years to solve actual, identified problems? Just keep building tools and features that solve the challenges we already have, with simplification, usefulness, and practicality as prime objectives. It seems like a lot of the AI and ML hype is describing it as a magical entity with intrinsically preordained greatness. We don't need more solutions in search of problems.

    I don't need up-to-the-minute sports scores. Is this really intended to benefit from gambling addicts' behavioral demons who are slowly draining their kid's college funds? I don't need something that can answer my random and nonsensical questions. I have a wife. I just hope every new interactive AI/ML super brain bot glorious digital deity has a STFU button on it to keep it from trying to invade my personal space. Mute it. Siri was a cute little "special" child and has served  her, him, it, or whatever's time with honor. Let her, him, it, or whatever take an early retirement and go explore the rest of the world where nobody Is asking questions that exceed her, him, it, or whatever's synthetic intellect created by meat based lifeforms just trying to make a buck with something that works about half of the time.
    edited April 29
  • Reply 6 of 12
    how can anyone not notice and appreciate iOS improvements, whether AI related or not (are we supposed to know the difference, or does it just feel #AppleRight) because it feels efficient and so comfortable to use??? IMO
  • Reply 7 of 12
    oscargoscarg Posts: 24member
    dewme said:
    I wonder if they'll update the Contacts app and its icon?
    The last time they "updated" it, they ruined the groups functionality. Instead of simply tapping on the group you want to go into, you now have to scroll through your whole Groups list and uncheck the one you don't want to see, and then scroll to the one you do want to see and check that. And then confirm your decision to actually show the contacts. Gallingly stupid. It's mind-boggling how detached from reality some groups are at Apple.

    Oh yeah, another and more-damaging example: The Calendar app changes appointment times behind your back, just because you traveled. When you buy plane tickets, for example, they of course give you the local departure times. So you dutifully enter those times in your calendar and go about your business. But when you go on your trip, Apple has changed your appointment times because you went to a different time zone. So, if you went east, you're going to miss your flight because Apple has shifted your appointment hours later. Not to mention any meetings or events you also put in your calendar.

    And there's no way to override this stupidity. You can't just say, "Use the time shown on the phone for all appointments, no matter where I am." Apple assumes that someone in California who's going to Europe next month will look up the time difference for the country he's going to, figure out what time (and day) it'll be in California when his return flight leaves Europe, and then create a calendar reminder at that time. It's easy to mock whoever designed this as a dweeb who never leaves his basement, let alone travels... but it's also appropriate.
    edited April 29 appleinsideruser
  • Reply 8 of 12
    dutchlorddutchlord Posts: 242member
    Siri is a joke and switched off for years as it cannot understand even basic sentences in my language. It is many years behind Google Assistant. I don’t think an AI label will change much here. 
    What remains is calculator for the iPad. Hura but overdue for many years and not even worth talking about it. 
    edited April 30
  • Reply 9 of 12
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,427member
    dutchlord said:
    Siri is a joke and switched off for years as it cannot understand even basic sentences in my language. It is many years behind Google Assistant. I don’t think an AI label will change much here. 
    What remains is calculator for the iPad. Hura but overdue for many years and not even worth talking about it. 
    Dutch is listed as one of the supported languages, but I suspect you need to keep the requests simple for a while yet. "Remind me (about THING at TIME)" "Set an appointment (for THING at TIME)," "What's next on my calendar," "how far away is (PLACE) by car," those sort of practical commands.

    For me as a native English speaker, Dutch can be challenging. I was just in Holland earlier this month, and could manage only very basic phrases.

    Maar ik vind het leuk! :)
  • Reply 10 of 12
    chasm said:
    dutchlord said:
    Siri is a joke and switched off for years as it cannot understand even basic sentences in my language. It is many years behind Google Assistant. I don’t think an AI label will change much here. 
    What remains is calculator for the iPad. Hura but overdue for many years and not even worth talking about it. 
    Dutch is listed as one of the supported languages, but I suspect you need to keep the requests simple for a while yet. "Remind me (about THING at TIME)" "Set an appointment (for THING at TIME)," "What's next on my calendar," "how far away is (PLACE) by car," those sort of practical commands.

    For me as a native English speaker, Dutch can be challenging. I was just in Holland earlier this month, and could manage only very basic phrases.

    Maar ik vind het leuk! :)
    Your Dutch is great!

    The point is that Google Assistant does work perfectly in Dutch for years. Apple has a long way to go to catch up. Which is a shame in itself as they really had an opportunity to lead when they launched Siri years ago.

    And I don’t get excited from a long overdue Calculator for iPad nor from an irrelevant stock app. The bar for innovation seems to be lower and lower at WWDC.
    edited April 30 appleinsideruserchasm
  • Reply 11 of 12
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,111member
    dutchlord said:
    Siri is a joke and switched off for years as it cannot understand even basic sentences in my language. It is many years behind Google Assistant. I don’t think an AI label will change much here. 
    What remains is calculator for the iPad. Hura but overdue for many years and not even worth talking about it. 
    I agree about Apple supporting Dutch better but I think its a English speaker problem by in large in the (USA, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) I'm always amazed at how well many of the continental Germanic language speakers in Europe who could speak English without a accent.

    Worked with a very nice guy from Holland for many years and the only time I saw him get mad at anything was when the subject of bikes and Germans came up. :smile: 
  • Reply 12 of 12
    M68000M68000 Posts: 793member
    darbus69 said:
    how can anyone not notice and appreciate iOS improvements, whether AI related or not (are we supposed to know the difference, or does it just feel #AppleRight) because it feels efficient and so comfortable to use??? IMO
    Yeah,  ios does many things good,  nobody is debating that.  But some things that it does makes you wonder if the people writing the code and designing what it does actually use it day to day and have to deal with some of the issues.
    appleinsideruser
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