Apple introduces iOS 18 with customizable home screen, updates for macOS, watchOS

Apple (AAPL) has unveiled a host of software updates to its core software offerings, including iOS, the operating system that powers the iPhone, iPadOS, watchOS, macOS and more. The updates bring a variety of changes to Apple’s devices, ranging from an upgraded Photos app for the iPhone to a new Vitals app for the Apple Watch. The features also come as the company rolls out its artificial intelligence strategy across its various products and services.

The company also announced its new Apple Intelligence generative AI platform, complete with an enhanced version of Siri and access to OpenAI’s GPT-4o for its iPhone, iPad and Mac products. More about that here.

Here are the biggest upgrades coming to Apple’s devices later this year.

The latest version of iOS, called iOS 18, will include a new, customizable home screen for iPhone that will let you rearrange icons the way you want them to appear, so you no longer have to keep them in a tight grid like before since the iPhone before it first debuted in 2007. You can also change the color of your apps’ icons to give them a personalized look.

Control Center also gets major improvements, letting you add and reconfigure app shortcuts to third-party apps. On the privacy front, Apple has announced a new feature called Lock An App, which will require users to use Face ID to unlock and open certain apps. A new hidden folder option also lets you hide specific apps on your iPhone.

The Messages app now offers the ability to schedule text messages, send text effects that let you send animated words and emojis that jump off the screen to emphasize your messages. The Mail app gets a new look via on-device categorizations, which puts your messages in things like primary emails, promotions, or updates to other notes.

Apple is also finally bringing Rich Communication Services (RCS) to its Messages app. This feature means iPhone users can send high-quality images, videos and encrypted texts to Android users. However, you will still have to deal with those obnoxious green chat bubbles.

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the annual developer conference event at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, California, U.S., June 10, 2024. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the annual developer conference event at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, U.S., June 10, 2024. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (REUTERS/Reuters)

Apple’s Wallet app is now getting a tap-to-cash feature that lets you quickly send money to a friend by tapping your phones together with Apple Cash.

Game Mode is also coming to the iPhone. This way, while playing games, your iPhone will automatically reduce background activities to ensure games run smoothly and without lag.

The Photos app for iOS 18 is getting a major design update that puts a photo grid of the entire library at the top of the screen, and a filter button to help you organize images. You can also explore photos through the People & Pets section, where you can view groups of photos of specific people and, well, pets.

Apple’s iPadOS 18 comes with many of the same features as iOS 18, including the new Photos app and a customizable home screen. The software will also come with new updates to things like SharePlay, which lets you take over other users’ iPad to help them navigate and adjust settings. The company is also bringing the Calculator app to the iPad, something that has been missing for a while. The app includes a math notes feature that lets you write math equations on your screen with the Apple Pencil and have the iPad solve them for you right away.

Apple also announced its visionOS 2, the second version of the operating system that powers the Vision Pro headset. The company says the AR/VR device’s Photos app now gives you the ability to traditionally convert 2D shots into 3D-style photos using machine learning, so you can view your photos from different perspectives to look at.

There are also new ways to navigate the operating system, such as holding up your open hand to open the home screen. Mac Virtual Display, which lets you mirror your Mac’s screen on the Vision Pro, is also getting an update to create larger virtual screens, and Apple says it’s adding train support for using the Vision Pro on the go while on the rails drives. The feature is intended to prevent the screen from moving in strange ways as you move. A similar option is one for flights.

Apple says Vision Pro is also coming to more countries in June, including China, Japan and Singapore, and to European countries in July.

Apple’s watchOS 11, in turn, has a new workout mode that can tell how your workouts are impacting your body over time. The watch uses an algorithm to estimate how much effort you exert during exercise. You can then rate your effort level from 1 to 10. Apple Watch then uses that data to help you understand how much your training is helping you improve over time.

Luckily, you can also pause your workout rings so you can let your Apple Watch know if you’re taking a day off from exercise, or if you have an injury that’s keeping you from working. out.

A new Vitals app for the watch can give you deeper insight into your overall health and tell you when your heart rate, temperature, and sleep are out of your normal range.

MacOS Sequoia, which is the foundation for Macs and MacBooks, brings many of the features of iOS 18 and iPadOS 18, including Math Notes for the Calculator app and more expressive text in Messages, as well as a new iPhone Mirroring feature that lets you access it wirelessly to and control your iPhone from your Mac.

You can also move your apps around your screen and place them in different quadrants so you can make the most of your display space. The Safari browser, meanwhile, offers the ability to summarize articles without web page distractions, which is sure to keep online advertisers in the loop.

Apple is also releasing a new version of its gaming toolkit to bring more Windows games to Macs and MacBooks. Apple has been diving deeper into gaming for years, and it seems to be paying off as more and more developers start releasing titles for the company’s systems. Case in point, Ubisoft has announced that its latest ‘Assassin’s Creed’ title will be available for both Mac and iPhone later this year.

Traditionally, Apple releases its latest software updates in the fall, with iOS launching alongside the iPhone. You can expect iPadOS, visionOS, watchOS, and macOS to release around the same time.

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