Apple has today released iOs 12, proudly claiming it will “make your iPhone and iPad experience even faster, more responsive and more delightful.”
Below we offer an overview of some of the general changes and new features in iOS 12; along with details of some new accessibility features and changes that VoiceOver and braille users can expect.
The New Features That We Think You Will Like
Faster and More Responsive
Yes, we know that it's not a ‘feature,’ but Apple has made some serious under-the-hood improvements with iOS 12 to break the tradition where installing a major OS release usually brings a drop in performance to older devices. With iOS 12, Apple has strived to ensure that every supported device should actually experience a performance boost:
Whether you’re using your iPhone or iPad, iOS has been enhanced for a faster and more responsive experience all round. Things you do all the time, like launching Camera and typing with the keyboard, happen faster than ever. And there are even more significant improvements when you’re doing a lot on your device at once. These enhancements improve performance on all supported devices, going all the way back to iPhone 5s and iPad Air.
Apple claims the following performance improvements under iOS 12:
- Up to 40% faster app launch.
- Up to 50% faster keyboard display.
- Up to 70% faster swipe to Camera.
- Up to 2x faster Share sheet display under load.
Although our own testing is limited and subjective, we've seen improvements in responsiveness and have no qualms in recommending this update for users of older devices.
Siri Shortcuts Lets You Streamline Regular Tasks
Siri can now intelligently pair your daily routines with native and third-party apps to suggest convenient shortcuts just when you need them. So if you typically pick up a coffee on the way to work, Siri will learn your routine and suggest when to place your order from the Lock screen. You can also run shortcuts with your voice or create your own with the forthcoming Shortcuts app. for example, telling Siri that “I'm leaving work” could trigger a series of actions, such as sending a message to your partner, starting GPS directions to your destination, and beginning playback of a playlist.
While we did not have the opportunity to test Shortcuts during the beta cycle, it's already evident that this is something which should offer added value to blind and low vision users - particularly as third-party apps add support and their developers realize the possibilities. For example, we can imagine saying “tell me what this is” or “read me this letter” and having our app of choice step in to help. We look forward to hearing the ways that you find for these to extend the capabilities of your iOS device.
Be More Aware of How You and Your Kids Use Your iOS Devices
Screen Time is a new feature available in iOS Settings that helps give you a better understanding of the time you and your kids spend using apps, visiting websites, and on your devices overall. Detailed Activity Reports show the total time spent in each app; usage across categories of apps; how many notifications are received; and how often you pick up your iOS device.
Screen Time aggregates data from all of your devices that use the same iCloud account and are running iOS 12. it can also be used to track your children's usage via family sharing.
Screen Time lets you set scheduled downtime and place time limits on the use of specific apps or types of apps.
This MacRumors post provides more information on how to Use Screen Time in iOS 12.
More Granular Control Over Notifications
iOS 12 gives you new ways to fine-tune your notification preferences - you can now manage your notifications in real time from the Lock screen, sending notifications from a specific app to Notification Centre or turning them off altogether. Siri also makes intelligent suggestions about your alerts based on how you interact with them. And message threads and notification topics can be grouped together, so it’s easier to see what’s important at a glance. Simply look for the Manage button or VoiceOver Action menu item on a notification or head over to the Notifications section in Settings.
This AppleInsider article offers a good summary of all the changes to Notifications in iOS 12.
Live Listen Support Comes to AirPods
Live Listen enables you to use your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch as a sound-boosting microphone to help you hear in difficult situations. Previously only available when using Made-for-iPhone (MFi) compatible hearing aids, with iOS 12, the Live Listen feature comes to AirPods, too.
To make use of this feature, you will first need to go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls and ensure that the ‘Hearing’ control is enabled. Now, when you are using your AirPods and want to activate Live Listen, simply go to Control Center and double-tap the ‘Hearing Devices’ button.
Some Changes to Gestures for iPad Users
With iOS 12, Apple has changed the way iPad users access the Control and Notification Centers, App Switcher, and Home Screen. As Apple's next-generation iPads are expected to have no physical Home button, the iPhone X's "swipe up for Home" design was almost certain to arrive on iPad. Since swiping up is now Home, the Control Center had to move.
Thanks to all this shuffling, we now have a new set of commands. We have a complete guide to the new iPad gestures in iOS 12, but here's a brief summary:
- To go to the Home Screen, swipe up from the bottom until you hear the first sound.
- To open the App Switcher, swipe up from the bottom until you hear the second sound.
- To open Control Center, swipe down from the top until you hear the first sound.
- To open Notification Center, swipe down from the top until you hear the second sound.
- To cancel a gesture, slide your finger either to the left or to the right.
A few More Notable Changes in iOS 12
- You can now set Do Not Disturb just for a meeting or while you’re at a location, and it will automatically turn off as soon as your event ends or you leave that place. Tip: a quick way to access these options is to use 3D Touch, or swipe down and double-tap, on the Do Not Disturb button in the Control Center.
- you can now see the amount of mobile data each app uses by going to Settings > Mobile Data.
- In Settings > Battery, you have more data available, enabling you to drill down to find what's consuming most battery life and when.
- Safari can now prevent Share buttons and comment widgets on web pages from tracking you without your permission. It also prevents advertisers from collecting your device’s unique characteristics, so they can’t identify your device or re-target ads to you across the web.
- iOS 12 will automatically suggest strong and unique passwords whenever a website or app prompts you to create an account.
- When creating a password in iOS 12, you will be warned when using a weak password or one that you already use with another website or app.
- You can now use AirDrop to share saved passwords to other devices or people.
- iOS 12 offers improved integration with third-party password managers such as 1Password, meaning that passwords stored in these apps will be offered as suggestions on login forms.
- Whenever a login requires two-factor authentication, iOS 12 will automatically fill in the six-digit codes you receive through SMS.
- Users of devices that support Face ID will now have the option of adding a second Face ID profile; referred to by Apple as an “alternate appearance”.
- If Face ID does not recognize you at its first attempt, you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen with one finger to have it try again.
- iPhone X users gain a new type of customizable Animoji called Memoji, that can be used in Messages and FaceTime to match your personality and mood.
- iPhone X users now have four new Animoji to choose from - koala, tiger, ghost and T. rex. Animoji will also now recognize if you wink or poke out your tongue.
- When making a 911 call in the United States, your iPhone's location data will be shared with the despatch center.
- iOS 12 introduces an option to turn on automatic software updates under General > Software Update. This will update your version of iOS automatically when an update is available.
- A new AR app in iOS 12 called Measure helps you measure real-world objects just by pointing your camera at them. This app requires you to tap on the screen to place measurement markers. Because of this, although the app itself is accessible with VoiceOver in regard to buttons and controls, its functionality will only be usable by those who have enough vision to see and mark on the screen what they want measured. Note that Measure requires ARKit, which is not supported on every device that runs iOS 12. You’ll need an iPhone 6s or later, an iPad Pro, or a 2017 or later iPad.
- In Apple Music, you can now play an artist's complete discography from a shuffle button on the artist's page.
- A new For You tab in the Photos app shows you selected moments from your photo library and intelligently suggests sharing photos with the people in them. And if the recipients are using iOS 12, they’ll be prompted to share their photos from the event with you too.
- The search tool in the Photos app is now smarter and more powerful. It prompts you with suggestions of recent events, places and people; and allows you to refine your search by using multiple keywords.
- In Apple's Podcast app you can now set custom durations for the Forward and Back buttons. The two options are separate, and durations from 10 to 60 seconds are available.
- iBooks has been renamed to Apple Books and sports a new design.
- The native Stocks app has seen a makeover and now offers more data and news. It is also now available on the iPad.
- The native Voice Memos app is now available on the iPad, has been redesigned, and now supports syncing recordings to all your devices via iCloud. It also supports saving recordings in lossless audio.
- There are three new language dictionaries: an Arabic and English bilingual dictionary, a Hindi and English bilingual dictionary, and a Hebrew dictionary.
Note: Apple had previously announced that FaceTime in iOS 12 would support group calls with up to 32 people. However, late in the beta cycle it was announced that this will not be available with the initial release of iOS 12, and will instead be available “later this fall”.
The above is just a small sample of the new features, enhancements and changes that can be found in iOS 12. MacRumors offers a more complete list of all that's new and changed which we recommend for a much more in-depth roundup.
To help you get to know some of what's new and changed in iOS 12, Thomas Domville has recorded a summary podcast.
And What About Accessibility?
As is usual for major iOS releases, there are several changes, enhancements, and fixes in iOS 12 for blind and low vision users. below are the changes we are currently aware of:
New Commands for Braille Display Users
New braille display commands have been added to assist with quicker navigation of web pages and documents based on many different text attributes. Though these braille display commands have been added, they do not have keyboard commands assigned to them by default and are user-configurable. To see a list of all of the new options, go to Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver>Braille>the name of your display>More Info>Braille Command>Navigation. The new navigation options allow the user to quickly jump to the next and previous of any of the following changes in text:
- Block quote
- Bold text
- Color change
- Different item
- Font change
- Form item
- Italic text
- Item of same type
- Misspelled word
- Plain text
- Same block quote
- Same heading level
- Style change
- Underlined text
- Visited link
To assign any of the above options a braille keyboard command, do the following:
- Go to Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver>Braille>the name of your display>More Info>Braille Command>Navigation.
- Find any of the options listed above and select it.
- Navigate to "Assign New Braille Keys," and activate this option.
- Press the key, or combination of keys, that you wish to be assigned this command. Be sure to either pick something you do not ever use, or a brand new command altogether. For example, on the Focus display, I may use Nav Rocker Down, since it will scroll the iOS Device right one page, but I always use Space with O to achieve this.
- If the command you have chosen doesn't already have something assigned to it, you will be done with this process. If the Braille keyboard assignment does have a command already associated with that keyboard combination, you will get an alert telling you what the already-assigned action is, and asking you if you wish to change it.
- Choose "OK" or "Cancel," and the appropriate option will be chosen. You can now press that Braille keyboard combination you have assigned this function, and the desired action should be taken.
Other Accessibility Changes and Enhancements in iOS 12
- Speak Confirmation is a new option available which allows the user to decide whether they want to have confirmation that tasks carried out with the Actions rotor are confirmed. For example, adjusting this setting will affect whether VoiceOver speaks confirmation of whether a message has been deleted from the Mail app; whether an app has been closed in the App Switcher; or that an app has been moved to a new location on the Home Screen. Find this new option under the Verbosity section of VoiceOver's settings.
- New Irish and South African voices have been added to Siri. This means they are also available to VoiceOver, Speak screen, and any other feature utilizing the iOS voices. Note that these voices were briefly available under iOS 11.4.1, but were removed for reasons unknown.
- When using the misspelled rotor option, a misspelled word is selected and you can now swipe left or right to select a replacement and then double tap to choose that word.
- If you are making a presentation and need to send audio to an HDMI display, you can select this option in the Audio section of VoiceOver's settings before you connect to HDMI. Then, when you connect, VoiceOver audio will go to the HDMI device.
- After composing a new text message, pressing the enter key on a Bluetooth keyboard or braille display would send a message. While being fairly consistent, this would sometimes not work. If you have sounds unmuted, you would get confirmation that your message was sent. VoiceOver now speaks “message sent” to further confirm that your message has been sent.
Fixed and New Bugs
iOS 12 brings bug fixes for VoiceOver users and also introduces some new bugs. We've put these on their own pages, linked below. While there are fewer new bugs for VoiceOver users than in previous releases in recent memory, it is disheartening to see that some braille bugs have been carried over from iOS 11 and another introduced in iOS 12 which eliminates access to the Misspelled Words rotor option for braille users. While text input with a braille display remains unchanged since iOS 11.4.1, it is sad to see that it has not improved.
- A list of new accessibility-related bugs that we believe to have been introduced in iOS 12
- A list of longstanding accessibility-related bugs that we believe to have been fixed in iOS 12
How to Update to iOS 12
iOS 12 is compatible with all devices that were supported by iOS 11. Apple lists all supported devices on its iOS 12 preview page.
iOs 12 is available via Over-the-Air Update (Settings > General > Software Update) or via iTunes on a Mac or PC.
Before updating, we strongly recommend making a full and complete backup of your device (either in iTunes or iCloud, depending on personal preference). This will ensure that, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong during the update process, you will have a current backup on hand in case a device restore becomes necessary. Also, if using OTA update, we recommend plugging your device into a power source for the duration of the download/installation process - so as to prevent the unlikely event of your battery going dead during the update.
More information on how to update the software on your iOS device is available on this Apple Support page.
As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on this update.