The 7 biggest features we expect to see in iOS 18

The home screen on the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Apple revealed that its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) will take place on June 10. This is when we expect to see the next iteration of software across all of Apple’s products, including iOS 18.

From the sounds of it, we’re in for a big update with iOS 18, rumored to be one of the “biggest updates” yet. Here’s what we expect from Apple’s next major iPhone update with iOS 18.

A more customizable home screen

Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro showing home screen with widgets.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

One of the strengths of Android phones is that you can customize your home screen pretty much any way you want, including placing app icons anywhere on the grid, even with spaces between. With iOS, app icons and widgets are locked in place with the grid format, not allowing for gaps or spaces between — unless you use apps that provide a workaround with “invisible” icons to create the look you want.

iOS 18 is looking to change that. According to recent reports, while the invisible grid will still be used, users will be able to create blank spaces, rows, and columns between app icons and widgets. This would allow users to place their apps and widgets anywhere they please, similar to what can be accomplished on Android.

This would be a huge update for iOS customization. The last major updates were iOS 14, which added home screen widgets and customizable app icons through Shortcuts, and iOS 16, which added lock screen widgets.

RCS messaging

iMessage on an iPhone 14 Pro Max, plus iMessage on an Android phone using the Beeper app.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

One of the biggest announcements Apple made in 2023 was that it would be adopting RCS (Rich Communication Services) messaging in iMessage sometime in 2024. This would be a major change that is likely going to require a major software update, which is why we expect this to be an iOS 18 feature.

With RCS support, the overall messaging experience between iPhones and Android phones would improve, becoming more like iMessage between Apple devices. However, RCS messages will still likely retain the infamous green bubbles, so don’t expect that to change.

Regardless, some of the features that RCS would bring include:

  • Higher-resolution photos and videos

  • Larger file sizes and file sharing

  • Audio messages

  • Emoji reactions

  • Real-time typing indicators

  • Read receipts

  • Ability to send messages on Wi-Fi or cellular

  • Better group chats

Though not every Apple user has asked for this feature, others have been more vocal and have waited for this day for a while. Either way, it’s a win for everyone — and something that Apple should have implemented years ago.

Artificial intelligence

S24 Plus showing Advanced Intelligence options.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

It seems that AI is making its way into everything, including mobile devices, as demonstrated by Samsung’s Galaxy AI and Google Pixel 8 AI features.

Apple is very likely to be next in line to add AI features to iOS 18, as the company has been heavily investing in generative AI technology with spending of more than $1 billion per year.

Recent reports have suggested that Apple is working with Google to license Gemini AI for the iPhone, which is similar to what Samsung did for its S24 series. But this isn’t set in stone yet, and it’s also possible that Apple is looking into OpenAI as another possibility.

If Apple is indeed adding AI features, the company has to decide if it will all be done locally on-device or if the features will be deployed via the cloud. On-device would be more secure, which is always a top priority for Apple. It’s also possible that AI features will be exclusive to iPhone 16 Pro models with the A18 chip, which would provide the power that is needed for improved AI and machine learning performance.

Since Apple is late to the game, it will take time for Apple’s AI vision to fully scale. This could mean we only get a small sample of Apple’s AI features in iOS 18, with more to come in the future.

Improved Siri

Hey Siri
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Since Apple is investing in AI features, that should also mean that improvements are coming to everyone’s favorite voice assistant — Siri.

According to a report last year, Apple could be planning to implement large-language models (LLMs) to drastically improve Siri. LLMs are used behind chatbots, such as ChatGPT, which incorporate large amounts of data and create algorithms to generate content based on the information found in those models.

With that in mind, Siri could be better at natural conversation capabilities and have better user personalization. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, one of the features that Apple is working on is improved interaction between Siri and Messages, having Siri auto-complete sentences and even answering complex questions.

Another report from The Information suggests that Siri will be better integrated with the Shortcuts app for better automations for complex tasks.

New Maps features

Offline maps feature for Apple Maps in iOS 17.
Digital Trends

Apple Maps has improved a lot over the years, though some people still prefer other options like Google Maps due to Apple’s lack of certain features. Thankfully, iOS 18 could make Apple Maps more appealing.

Some code within iOS has teased support for custom routes in Apple Maps, allowing users to input self-selected routes. This would be an additional option to the pre-selected options you typically get from Apple when pulling up directions. With custom routes, users could select specific roads they want to travel on for scenic purposes or just overall familiarity with the route itself.

Apple could also bring topographic maps to the iPhone with iOS 18. Topographic maps, introduced in watchOS 10, show trails, contour lines, elevation, points of interest, and more on the map.

Hearing Aid mode for AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro 2 sitting beside iPhone 14 and charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Though it was originally rumored for the next iteration of the AirPods Pro, it looks like iOS 18 will bring a hearing aid mode for the current-gen AirPods Pro instead. This will be done through a software update, which will be good news for current owners of AirPods Pro.

Right now, AirPods Pro has a Conversation Boost feature that increases the volume of those speaking directly in front of the wearer. It’s unclear what a hearing aid mode would do differently at this point, but it’s something to watch out for.

More accessibility features

Apple iPhone 15 Plus and Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max seen from the back.
Apple iPhone 15 Plus (left) and Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

iOS 18 will also bring a slew of new accessibility features for users. There will likely be a new Adaptive Voice Shortcuts feature, allowing users to create custom phrases and link a certain accessibility setting to that phrase. This would work with VoiceOver, Voice Control, Zoom, and more.

The Live Speech feature that debuted in iOS 17 will likely get new categories, allowing users to better organize their desired phrases. Expanded support for adjustable text size in more apps is also possible.

iOS 18 is coming soon

The Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max and iPhone 14 Pro seen from the back.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro (left) and iPhone 15 Pro Max Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

We expect iOS 18 to be revealed at the WWDC 2024 keynote on June 10. Typically, a developer beta will come out not long after that, followed by a public beta. The general release of iOS 18 will be in the fall alongside the iPhone 16 launch.

Are you wondering if your iPhone will be able to support iOS 18? Current rumors suggest that if you were able to upgrade to iOS 17, then you should be able to get iOS 18.

Here’s a list of what devices should make the cut:

  • iPhone 15 Pro Max

  • iPhone 15 Pro

  • iPhone 15 Plus

  • iPhone 15

  • iPhone 14 Pro Max

  • iPhone 14 Pro

  • iPhone 14 Plus

  • iPhone 14

  • iPhone 13 Pro Max

  • iPhone 13 Pro

  • iPhone 13 mini

  • iPhone 13

  • iPhone 12 Pro Max

  • iPhone 12 Pro

  • iPhone 12 mini

  • iPhone 12

  • iPhone 11 Pro Max

  • iPhone 11 Pro

  • iPhone 11

  • iPhone XS Max

  • iPhone XS

  • iPhone XR

  • iPhone SE 2

  • iPhone SE 3

Unfortunately, anything older than that likely won’t get the iOS 18 update. But considering that the oldest iPhone on the list came out in 2018, it’s actually not too bad. Just don’t expect all of the latest features in iOS 18 to work on those older devices (e.g., AI features).