You can now download Apple's iOS 12 public beta. Bring on the Memoji
Get ready for plenty of animated selfie emoji -- but you won't be able to use Siri Shortcuts until the final version of the software is available this fall.
Shara TibkenFormer managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Apple unveils its newest mobile software each year in June at its Worldwide Developers Conference. It then releases the operating system to developers to make apps ahead of the
release, typically in September. In early 2015, it started letting the public test its mobile software with iOS 8.3. Offering the operating system early both to developers and the public aims to catch more bugs and make sure the software works well before it's rolled out to a broad audience.
Watch this: iOS 12 public beta is out now: Here's what you can do with it
iOS 12, which will arrive with the next crop of iPhones in a few months, focuses more on bug fixes and smaller tweaks than major new updates. But it does have some new features that you'll be able to test out in the beta.
One -- for iPhone X users -- is the updated Animoji, those animated
that track your facial movements and can be sent to friends through the Messages app. With iOS 12, you can make Memoji that look like you, turn yourself into a ghost or dinosaur or even stick out your tongue. You can put your Memoji on top of your body and use it during a FaceTime conversation. And with the beta, you'll be able to talk to up to 32 people in FaceTime at the same time.
Another new feature you'll be able to access is one that helps you actually use your phone less. The Screen Time app tells you how much you're using a device, what you're actually doing on it and even how often you pick up your iPhone. Apple revamped its Do Not Disturb feature to include a bedtime mode that dims the display and hides notifications on the lock screen until prompted in the morning.
Do Not Disturb has new options from Control Center, where it can be set to automatically end based on a specified time or location. And Apple also gives users more options for controlling how notifications are delivered, and it tweaked its notifications to group similar items into a stack.
Photos gets some updates, including a new "For You" tab that lets you easily share images with your contacts. And search in Photos works better, even letting you search multiple parameters at once.
Here are the biggest iOS 12 features Apple announced at WWDC 2018
There are some new features you won't be able to access in the public beta -- largely because third-party apps won't be available yet.
You won't really be able to tap into the new augmented reality features from ARKit 2. The biggest improvements -- like playing group games -- require third-party apps that won't hit the App Store until the fall. You will be able to access Apple's new Measure app, though, to determine the dimensions of things like boxes.
Siri Shortcuts is another feature you won't really be able to use in the beta. The feature lets you create personalized requests for Apple's voice assistant, such as setting up a request that brings together a surf report, current weather, travel time to the beach and a sunscreen reminder, all by just saying, "Hey Siri, surf time." But third-party apps don't yet support the feature, and the standalone Shortcuts app won't hit iPhones and iPads until the fall.
As with all betas, it's likely some things will change before the final release. And there could be bugs and other issues that come from downloading software still in development. The iOS 12 beta has a built-in Feedback Assistant app to give Apple information about your experience with the device.
Download iOS 12 at your own risk -- and be sure to back up your iPhone or iPad before you do. As Apple warns, "since the public beta software has not yet been commercially released by Apple, it may contain errors or inaccuracies and may not function as well as commercially released software." The company advises people to only download the beta software on a secondary device or one that's not "business critical."
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