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iOS 18: Your iPhone Gets Upgrades to Messages, Photos and More This Fall

The next iOS update will upgrade your Messages app in some big ways and bring more improvements to your iPhone later this year.

Zachary McAuliffe Staff writer
Zach began writing for CNET in November, 2021 after writing for a broadcast news station in his hometown, Cincinnati, for five years. You can usually find him reading and drinking coffee or watching a TV series with his wife and their dog.
Expertise Web hosting | Operating systems | Applications | Software Credentials
  • Apple software beta tester, "Helps make our computers and phones work!" - Zach's grandparents
Sareena Dayaram Senior Editor
Sareena is a senior editor for CNET covering the mobile beat including device reviews. She is a seasoned multimedia journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience producing stories for television and digital publications across Asia's financial capitals including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mumbai. Prior to CNET, Sareena worked at CNN as a news writer and Reuters as a producer.
Expertise Huawei | Oppo | Smartphones | Smartwatches Credentials
  • More than a decade of journalism experience
Zachary McAuliffe
Sareena Dayaram
7 min read
iOS 18 iPhone15 Pro Max Home Screen
Viva Tung/CNET

Apple unveiled iOS 18 at its Worldwide Developers Conference 2024 keynote event on Monday. The tech giant said the next iPhone operating system will include a lot of new features, like more ways to customize your home screen, updates to the Messages app and an updated Photos app. Apple said online that the next operating system will be available to the general public this fall.

Read more: Apple Intelligence, MacOS 15 and Everything Else Apple Announced at WWDC 2024

While many people won't get iOS 18 until the fall, developers can download the iOS 18 developer beta now. We recommend downloading a beta only on something other than your primary device. Since this isn't the final version of iOS 18, these features might be buggy and battery life may be short, and it's best to keep those troubles on a secondary device.

Watch this: iOS 18 Brings New Tapback Features and Text Over Satellite

Here's what we know about all the new features and improvements iOS 18 could bring to your iPhone.

Customizable home and lock screens

Apple Dark look for iOS 18
Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

While you've been able to customize your iPhone's home and lock screens with widgets and different backgrounds, iOS 18 will let you customize your home screen's apps and their layout, as well as your phone's lock screen functions.

During WWDC, Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, showed how iOS 18 lets you arrange your iPhone's apps and widgets on your home screen however you want. Previously, these icons would fill your home screen from top to bottom, sometimes obstructing backgrounds you might like. But iOS 18 should let you arrange your icons around your background, or in any way you want -- something Android has offered for many years.

You can also easily customize the appearance of your app's icons. You can give your icons a dark mode filter, or tint your icons to match your wallpaper.

Federighi also said iOS 18 will let you swap out the camera and flashlight functions on your iPhone's lock screen. That way you aren't accidentally turning on your iPhone's flashlight on while putting it in your pocket -- but you might open another app instead.

Updated Control Center

Apple also announced that iOS 18 also updates your iPhone's Control Center. With the next operating system, you can access more controls for things, like whatever music you're listening to and specific apps. You can also change which apps you see, as well as their size, so you have quicker access to the buttons you use more often.

ios 18 on iphone screen
Apple/Screenshot by CNET

Messages gets an upgrade

Your iPhone's Messages app will also get an update with iOS 18. With the next operating system, you'll be able to schedule messages to send later, react to messages with more Tapbacks, and format messages and specific words in your messages with text effects. So if you want to emphasize something in a text, you can bold it, underline or use other effects to get your point across. 

The next OS will also bring Messages via satellite to many iPhones. The feature works similar to Apple's Emergency SOS via satellite feature introduced on the iPhone 14 and 15 series. But while Emergency SOS is for making an emergency call even if you don't have a signal, Messages via satellite will let you send a message to anyone, even without a signal. So you'll be able to message your spouse or parents to let them know how your camping trip is going.

Apple also briefly mentioned it is bringing RCS -- rich communication support -- to Messages.

ios 18 messages on phone
Apple/Screenshot by CNET

Read more: Messages via Satellite is iOS 18's Most Underrated Feature

Lock and hide certain apps

Letting someone borrow your iPhone can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you don't want them to see or access certain apps. But iOS 18 will allow you to lock and hide apps.

If you lock an app, it will then require your Face ID or passcode to unlock and access it. And if you just don't want someone to know you have a certain app on your iPhone, you can stash it in a Hidden apps folder in your App Library. This is similar to removing apps from your home screen without deleting them from your iPhone, but it arranges all your hidden apps in one place.

Redesigned Photos app

It can be fun to look at memories in your Photos app, but navigating through the app can be challenging if you take a lot of photos. So Apple announced iOS 18 will redesign your iPhone's Photos app.

The redesign should make it easier to find specific photos by organizing your photos in more ways, like month and year. Photos will also be organized by theme, so if you're looking for photos from a trip, you should be able to find them faster.

The updated Photos app in iOS 18 will also let you filter out receipts and screenshots so they don't clog up your Library.

Read more: Apple Photos Redesign Will Help You Find That Specific iPhone Image

New password manager app

Apple is turning its password keychain feature into a full-blown app, called Passwords. According to Apple, Passwords safely stores all your credentials in one place. It can also sync your passwords across your Apple devices. That way if you change your Netflix password on one device but not on another, the password will follow you so you don't forget it.

Read more: Apple's New Password Manager App Will Sync Across Devices and Platforms

Apple Intelligence for Siri and more -- on certain iPhones


Apple announced that it's rolling out Apple Intelligence, its spin on generative AI, in iOS 18. But on Apple's website, the tech giant said these improvements will be available only on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max for now. 

Apple Intelligence will bring improvements to Siri to make the assistant more capable and helpful, it will allow you to create new images called Genmojis and it will bring new writing tools and capabilities to those iPhones.

Read more: The Smartest Part of 'Apple Intelligence'? Doing Stuff I Don't Want to Do

AirPods and hands-free Siri interactions

With iOS 18, if you're wearing the second generation of AirPods Pro, you'll be able to interact with Siri by nodding or shaking your head. So if you need to be quiet because the baby is sleeping, or your partner is on an important phone call, you can keep Siri working without saying a word.

Watch this: You'll Soon Be Able to Control AirPods by Nodding

Notes app upgrades

A person solving for different dollar values in the Notes app

Apple's iOS 18 will improve your Notes app. Notes will get live audio transcripts, collapsible sections to keep the app organized and the ability to highlight certain phrases. You'll also be able to solve mathematical problems in the app while you type.

These upgrades are similar to the Notes app upgrades Apple announced for iPadOS 18.

Read more: Apple's iPadOS 18 Gets New Controls, Handwriting Features and Math Notes

Game Mode

According to Facts and Factors, mobile gaming as an industry is expected to grow by over 13% by 2030. And Apple seems to recognize that with the introduction of Game Mode in iOS 18.

Game Mode will minimize background activities on your iPhone to improve your game's performance. It will also have improved responsiveness with AirPods and wireless gaming controllers, Apple says.

More ways to organize Mail

Apple said that with iOS 18, your iPhone's Mail app will organize your emails better. Your app will have new categories for things like receipts, newsletters and more. That way you don't have to dig through your emails and find an invitation to a party you forgot to respond to.

Tap to Cash

With iOS 18, it will be easier to send cash to your friends and family with Tap to Cash. With this new feature, you can send Apple Cash directly to others by bringing your iPhones close together, similar to how you can quickly AirDrop a photo or message to someone, or NameDrop your contact information to others, by bringing your iPhones close together.

Improvements coming to Apple Wallet

Speaking of cash, your Wallet app is getting an upgrade in iOS 18, too. In the app, you'll be able to view your rewards or points balance, and you'll be able to redeem those points with Apple Pay online or in one of your apps. The app will also let you access any installment financing options your bank might offer.

Apple is also bringing new features to your event tickets in Wallet. Apple wrote online that the new features includes, "an event guide combining helpful information about the venue with recommendations from Apple apps."

Safari gets highlights and a redesigned Reader

With iOS 18, your iPhone's Safari app will detect important information on a page and highlight it for you. For example, directions and quick links to people and movies should be highlighted and easily findable.

Reader will also provide a table of contents and summaries of articles in Safari.

Topographic maps in Maps

When Apple introduced iOS 17 in 2023, it brought offline maps to your iPhones Maps app. With iOS 18, Apple said your iPhone's Maps app will get topographical information, too. Maps will also get detailed hiking trail information, including hiking routes from over 50 US national parks, so you can plan your next hike accordingly.

Journal app improvements

Apple also announced that iOS 18 will bring some changes to your iPhone's Journal app. Once upgraded, the app will let you log your state of mind, as well as help you track your goals. It will also give you certain stats, like writing streaks. You'll also be able to search within Journal for previous entries so you can find older thoughts and more.

Watch this: Everything Announced at Apple's WWDC 2024

For more on Apple, check out everything Apple announced at WWDC 2024, how to download the iOS 18 developer beta now and why you might not want to install it just yet.