iOS 18 may be a giant iPhone update. Here are 6 things it needs

iPhone 15 Pro display with iPhone 15 Pro Max in background.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

A new year means new software updates. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, iOS 18 could be the “biggest” update for iOS in quite some time, though this is something we tend to hear every year. I’m not sure any iOS update has been as big as the jump from iOS 6 to iOS 7, as a lot of the features and design changes since then could be considered iterative.

Personally, I think the last “biggest” iOS update for me was iOS 14, as it allowed for home screen widgets and app icon customization without a jailbreak for the first time. Since then, there haven’t been as many new features in iOS that have been game changers for me, but this is all subjective. What was a big deal for me may not be the same for you, and vice versa.

Apple will likely show off the first glimpse of iOS 18 during its annual developer’s conference (aka WWDC) in June, with a public release coming around September alongside the iPhone 16. Here’s what we want to see in iOS 18, including some things that have already been confirmed.

RCS in iMessage

Google Messages app on a Pixel 8 Pro, showing an RCS Chat message thread.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

This is a feature that I’ve been wanting to see for years, and it’s finally happening. Truth be told, I never thought I’d see the day it would arrive, so when it was officially announced, it was a huge surprise.

For those who aren’t familiar, RCS is a chat protocol that is designed to replace SMS. It’s more secure, for one, and it has features like read receipts, typing indicators, higher-resolution photos and videos, audio messages, and more. Basically, it’s like iMessage but for non-iPhones.

When Apple announced in November 2023 that RCS support would be coming, the only time frame that we got was “later next year.” I think it’s safe to assume that this will be an iOS 18 feature and will notbe added anytime before then. With RCS support, iPhone users will have a better experience when messaging non-iPhone users due to higher-resolution photos and video, read receipts, typing indicators, and more.

Though it’s likely that the RCS support will be more basic than we’d expect, I hope that we can have features like the ability to leave group chats and to give names to group conversations. Really, though, even just being able to send and receive non-pixelated photos and videos is enough.

Siri with actual smarts

Hey Siri
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Siri has been an integral part of iOS since the iPhone 4S and iOS 5. However, it’s been 12 years, and Siri has been so bad at understanding basic commands compared to other digital assistants that it’s more like a joke at this point. And with generative AI taking off in recent years and making its way into smartphones, Siri’s just been left in the dust.

Hopefully, this changes in iOS 18. Reports have suggested that Apple is investing quite a bit into generative AI research, and it plans to integrate large language models into Siri. This would allow users to automate complex tasks, suggesting more Shortcuts integration. With generative AI, Siri would be able to better help with fielding questions and auto-completing sentences. Other apps, such as Apple Music, Pages, Keynote, and Xcode, could also benefit from generative AI tools.

In general, I’m not a huge fan of all of the AI stuff, but I must admit that it can come in handy for certain things. For example, I like how Google Pixel phones use AI for call screening, Hold for Me, and more. It would be great to see such features come to the iPhone.

More editing capabilities in Photos

Google Pixel 8 Pro showing Magic Editor results.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

One of the reasons I upgrade phones annually is because I like having the camera upgrades — I take a lot of photos. While there are a ton of great third-party photo-editing apps on iOS, sometimes I just stick with the Photos app for the basics.

But after using certain Android phones, like the Google Pixel 8 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S24, I think Apple needs to make some big changes to the Photos app.

At the very least, there should be some kind of Magic Eraser-like tool to get rid of unwanted people and objects in an image, as that’s pretty standard stuff at this point. And if Apple is indeed looking into generative AI, then we should have that in the Photos app for photo editing too. After all, Google has the Magic Editor with the Pixel 8 series, and Samsung its own AI-powered photo editing tricks on the S24 series with Galaxy AI.

Sure, I could find a third-party solution for these things on iOS, but the problem is that a lot of apps require some kind of fee or subscription these days, especially for these kinds of features. I’d much rather have these tools baked into iOS itself, and when the competition is basically doing just that, Apple should follow suit.

Customizable lock screen shortcuts

Samsung galaxy S24 Ultra display.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

One thing that has confused me since the iPhone 15 Pro and the Action button debuted is the fact that Apple made no changes to the lock screen shortcuts. They’re still there to provide a simple and fast way to get to the flashlight or camera, both of which you can also assign to the Action button. It’s redundant.

Samsung has similar lock screen shortcuts on its Galaxy phones, but you’ve been able to change what they are shortcuts for. By default, the S24 shortcuts are the phone and camera, but you can change them to launch the calculator, flashlight, voice recorder, a Do Not Disturb mode, or any other app.

I just find it pointless that the lock screen shortcuts on iOS are still static and non-customizable when the Action button can also perform the same shortcuts. If Apple is also considering bringing the Action button to the non-Pro models of the iPhone 16 (after all, Dynamic Island and a 48MP camera trickled down to the base iPhone 15 models), then the lock screen shortcuts need to be opened up to customization. Otherwise, what are we even doing?

Camera settings in the … Camera app

A green iPhone 15 using the camera in landscape orientation.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Another thing about iOS that is weird compared to Android is the fact that Apple splits up some Camera app settings between the app itself and the Settings app.

For example, you can toggle Live Photo or even ProRAW (if enabled) from the Camera itself. But other things, like camera grid lines and default resolution? You have to go to Settings and then scroll through many other things before seeing the Camera section. Make it make sense, Apple.

On most Android phones, you can access such settings all directly in the Camera app in a separate settings panel. It would be great if Apple could change this in iOS 18 and make all the camera settings accessible directly in the Camera app itself. It’s a very clunky process the way it exists today, and it’s long overdue for some simplification.

Better notifications

iPhone 14 Pro with iOS 16 notifications compared to Google Pixel 7 with Android 13 notifications
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

This is something that I have to request every year because Apple still hasn’t gotten the message. In short, notifications on iOS still suck. Please, Apple, make them better in iOS 18. I beg you.

What’s the problem with iOS notifications? If you have a lot of notifications coming in, it’s just one big, giant list and it looks so unorganized the way they’re grouped. And they also take up so much space — if an app has multiple notifications, you have to tap on it to expand the “stack,” which just makes the overall list bigger. It’s messy, cluttered, and just bad.

Android, on the other hand, handles notifications so much better. They’re more condensed and organized by app better, you can clear out all notifications easily, and there’s even notification history if you really need to go back for something.

If iOS 18 is going to be one of the “biggest” updates yet, then notifications really need to be one of the things that Apple fixes. It’s embarrassing at this point.

Time to play the waiting game

The Apple iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 14 Plus camera modules.
Apple iPhone 15 Plus (left) and iPhone 14 Plus Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

It’s still early on in the year, so we have a few months before we start seeing anything that iOS 18 has to offer. But we do know that RCS is highly likely, and a smarter Siri is a possibility.

The other things I’ve mentioned are just features I would personally love to see. I mean, after all this time, iOS notifications are still far behind Android, and it’s so weird how Apple has various camera settings in two places. Lock screen shortcuts are long overdue for some user customization, and the Photos app needs to catch up with the competition in terms of native photo-editing tools.

Leaks for iOS changes are less prolific than for iPhone hardware, but hopefully we get some sneak peeks in the coming months leading up to WWDC in June. I’m definitely eager for that RCS support, at the very least.

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