Software Update: iOS 12

Apple released the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 12, to the general public today. Traditionally, the software is available around 10am Pacific Time, so I started refreshing the Software Update screen on my phone around 11am here in Colorado. It was after lunch by the time I got around to installing it, thanks to some other meetings, and I’ve spent most of my downtime today exploring all the new features.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

It has been a long time since I remember being this excited about an operating system update; perhaps even since iOS 7 came out five years ago in 2013. I recall being at a conference center out of town, using the limited WiFi to try and download the new version, and eventually getting the app installed while riding to dinner in a friend’s car. IOS 7 was perhaps the most significant change in terms of user interface that Apple has ever made. In fact, looking back at screenshots of iOS 7, it still feels like my phone. Interestingly, screenshots of iOS 6 seem super dated. But I digress…

New Features and Tools

I don’t have time (or the interest) in trying to catalog all that’s new on iOS 12. Instead, I’ll highlight my most-anticipated features, and mention a few cool things I’ve found.

Screen Time

Since I’m always trying to curb the distractions of my smartphone, the Screen Time feature is a huge highlight for me. For way too long, it seems like I never can really put a finger on how often I pick up my phone or how much time I’m spending on an app. Apple provided that, and much more, in this version of the OS. I’m only now starting to think about what “restrictions” I might place on the time-wasting apps on my phone. I’m also wondering how long this feature will be relevant to our culture. Today, there’s a bit of “shock factor” in play when you open the Screen Time app only to find out to your horror that you regularly waste five hours per day on a specific game or app. But I think that knowledge was there all the time… I subconsciously know my time-wasting apps, and I’m aware that I simply need some self-control. The restriction controls will be helpful for a while, but will they eventually be relegated back to the shelf of tools to be used by parents who are paranoid about their teenager? It’s hard to say.

Siri Shortcuts

Now this was the big thing I was excited to try out: the successor to Workflow. I actually haven’t had enough time to start playing with this, but it completely scratches my automation itch. I expect there are many like me, and even a select few who have time to do completely crazy-complex stuff with the “workflows”1 that us normal people don’t have time to figure out. As I reviewed my list of workflows/shortcuts this afternoon, I realize there are things that I use because it’s an easy way to solve a problem, such as my ESV Bible Verse Workflow, or the workflow I built to report on a specific budget category in YNAB. However, that thing probably would work better as a Drafts action. This kind of thing has added another task on my to do list: to reorganize my automation and make sure I’m using the ideal tool for the job. In any case, I’ll be reporting back once I have some cool workflows to share.

Do Not Disturb Features

I’m actually contemplating turning on a whole bunch of my app notifications again2 and playing with the various aspects of Do Not Disturb and other Notification features. I like the idea of turning on DND during a meeting, or while at a specific location, and I hope they bring that to macOS someday. I’m also excited to try out the “Downtime” feature in Screen Time, and see how that disables things, especially on my scaled back iPhone screen.

Other Little Stuff

The redesigns to the Photos app and a few others are really nice. I also like the faster and smarter suggestions in the keyboard, and I noticed when taking photos that there’s a slight haptic touch when you snap the photo. All very cool details that I’m sure will become “normal” very soon.

New Background Image

To celebrate the new iOS version on my phone, I decided to change out my background image again. I settled on a bit of plant life with the white background in this photo from Chua Bing Quan:

For all you iPhone and iPad users out there, enjoy the update today and happy customizing!

  1. Can you call them workflows any more? Or are they shortcuts now? ↩︎

  2. During the great iPhone purge of 2017-2018, I practically disabled all my notifications, background app refresh, and many location services features. ↩︎