Yesterday at its WWDC conference for app developers, Apple provided the first sneak peak of iOS 12, due out this fall. This free update will bring lots of great new features to the iPhone and iPad. It does not look like iOS 12 will include a heavy focus on iPad productivity features like iOS 11 did (the dock, multitasking, etc.), but there is still a lot in iOS 12 that lawyers and other professional users of the iPhone and iPad will love using to get things done. Here are the highlights.
A common worry regarding iOS upgrades is that the new features will work well on newer devices but will cause older devices to run slower. But the first thing that Apple said yesterday about iOS 12 is that it will increase performance. iOS 12 should make every device that can use iOS 11 run faster at many tasks — including older devices like the iPhone 5s and iPad Air, which were released in 2013. Apple says that on some tasks, the performance increase will be an impressive 40%.
If your iPhone is like mine, then you are always getting notifications. New emails, new text messages, various apps that want your attention, etc. iOS 12 improves just about everything that there is about notifications.
First, when you get multiple notifications from the same app, they are now grouped together like a stack of cards. The top card may tell you that you have 8 new emails. Tap on that to get more specific information if you are ready to work with emails, but if not you can move on to the next stack. You can even manage all of the notifications from a single app at once, such as marking all new emails read.
Second, you can now adjust the notifications when you get notifications. If an app sends you a notification and no no longer want to hear from that app, swipe on it and tap Manage to turn off notifications without having to open the Settings app and then going to Notifications and then finding the settings for that particular app.
Third, you can set some types of alerts to be "critical" alerts so that they always come on top, even when Do Not Disturb is engaged. (I don't yet know the details on this feature.)
Fourth, you can manage the notifications that you see during the night. Apple has improved the Do Not Disturb features in iOS, and you can now turn on Bedtime Mode. With this mode turned on, if you happen to look at your iPhone in the middle of the night (for example, to see what time it is) you won't see any notifications on the lock screen. Thus, you won't be tempted to start looking at emails, only to realize that now you cannot go back to sleep. In the morning, the first thing that you see is a friendly Good Morning message with the time and weather. Once you are ready to move past that and start your day, then you see all of the notifications that came in during the night.
Fifth, you can use Do Not Disturb during the day, with new 3D Touch options. For example, you can quickly turn on do not disturb for just the next hour or during the next even on your calendar to make sure that you are not bothered during an upcoming meeting, but then your notifications will return after the meeting is over.
I am a big fan of the Workflow app, which I first discussed on iPhone J.D. back in 2015 after California attorney David Sparks crated a useful guide on using the app. I've since expanded the number of automated tasks that I do with this app, but it always had inherent limitations because it wasn't built-in to iOS.
Fortunately, those limitations may be going away. In early 2017, Apple purchased the Workflow app and (more importantly) hired the team which created the app. This team has been working in the Siri division of Apple. Now we know why: yesterday, Apple revealed the new Shortcuts app with Siri. Individual app developers can now enable their apps to expose certain functions to Siri, and the Shortcuts app can now trigger one or more actions after a voice prompt that you give Siri.
As an example of multiple steps, you can create a set of actions which occur when you tell Siri you are leaving work. For example, that can trigger Siri doing the following: (1) send a message to your spouse to say that you are on your way home, (2) tell you how long it will take to get home with current traffic, (3) start playing a song playlist in your car using CarPlay, and (4) tell the HomeKit thermostat at your home to adjust the temperature to something that will be more comfortable when you arrive at home. The Shortcuts app comes with hundreds of workflows, and you can adjust them to meet your specific desires.
As an example of a single step, you can now interact with a single third party app using Siri. Apple yesterday gave the example of an app containing your travel itinerary giving Siri access to the next item. You might decide that every time you say "travel plan" to Siri it tells you what is next, without you even needing to open up that travel app. That way, when your plane lands, just say "travel plan" and Siri will tell you the info on the hotel where you will be checking in so you have that information as you approach the taxi stand.
Siri will even recommend shortcut actions to you based upon your frequent activities. If you start every day by using an app to order a specific type of coffee from a coffeehouse on the way to work, Siri can help you do so more easily.
The new Shortcuts app already looks like a big improvement on the Workflows app, and if Apple gives this app enough tools, it has the potential to be something really special. I cannot wait to try this one out myself, and I look forward to Apple developing this app further over the next few years.
The new Screen Time tools in iOS 12 allow you to limit the way that you use your iPhone or iPad. Do you feel that you spend too much time in Facebook, Twitter, reading the News app, etc.? Screen Time will show you how much time you are spending using different apps on your device, and then you have the option to limit yourself. Maybe you don't want to use a certain app more than a certain amount of time every day. Just set the limit, and your iPhone will alert you when you have hit that time limit. You can choose to disregard the notification, but at least you'll know that you should start to wrap things up. The settings sync across your iPhone and iPad, so you cannot cheat yourself by looking at Instagram on your iPad instead of your iPhone.
If you feel that you are spending too much time on your iPhone or iPad on non-productive apps, the Screen Time app looks like a nice way to help you modify your behavior.
Note that you can use the same features to impose hard limits — which cannot be bypassed without explicit parental permission — on devices used by your kids. No text messages after 8pm, only a certain number of hours spent on YouTube each day, etc. Your child can request additional time or privileges, but you have to approve it. As a father of a 12 year old boy and a 10 year old girl, I'm already a big fan of the feature by which a child has to request a parent's permission before downloading an app from the App Store. I look forward to having similar controls on many other aspects of a child's use of a mobile device.
Currently, I only use FaceTime for talking with family members. If I have to talk with attorneys in other cities or clients, I typically use expensive videoconferencing solutions that sometimes don't even work very well. With iOS 12, however, I will be tempted to start using FaceTime for my work-related videochat needs.
Instead of being limited to you and one other person, iOS 12 lets you to have a FaceTime group videochat with up to 32 simultaneous participants. Each person appears in a square tile which increases in size as a person is talking, and which moves the background or the bottom of the app when a person is quiet. (But you can always tap on a specific square to bring that face to the forefront.)
I've used lots of multi-person videochat solutions in the the past, but after iOS 12 becomes mainstream and is used by a large number of folks, this free videochat solution might make it unnecessary to use other products, as long as you are talking with folks who have an iPhone or iPad.
Another nice feature — if you are in a Messages thread with multiple participants, you can initiate a FaceTime call for that entire group from within the Messages app. Great idea.
New iPad gestures
In iOS 11, you need to remember different gestures for the iPhone X and the iPad. A swipe up from the bottom of the iPhone X brings you to the home screen, but a swipe up from the bottom of the iPad brings you to the app switcher and control center.
In iOS 12, the gestures on the iPad will instead mimic the iPhone X. For example, swipe down from the top right to see the control center.
There is nothing really inherently obvious about any of these gestures, so I think that it makes sense to have them unified as much as possible across the different devices.
If you have a CarPlay technology in your car, in iOS 12 you will be able to use third party navigation apps such as Google Maps or Waze. It is nice to have more options when you are traveling to a deposition or a courthouse in a faraway town for the first time.
The fun stuff
Those are the primary new changes that will help you get more work done with your iPhone and iPad, but of course there are many other new features aimed at making the iPhone more enjoyable. There are lots of improvements to the Photos app, including better search options. For example, instead of just searching for pictures that include a dog, you can now search for pictures with a dog and a pig — or whatever other combinations are relevant to you.
There are new Animoji character, plus the ability to create "Memoji," a cartoon character that looks like you, opens your mouth when you do, etc. And you can even wear Animoji or Memoji cartoons like a mask when you are in FaceTime. This reminds me of this classic clip from The Jetsons cartoon.
Improvements to ARKit will allow for even more sophisticated augmented reality on the iPhone and iPad. For now, this is mostly just an entertainment feature, but as Apple continues to develop this technology I can see it being more useful for business applications in the future.
iOS 12 surely has other tricks up its sleeve that we haven't heard about yet, but even based on just what we saw yesterday, I'm already eagerly looking forward to this software update in the next few months.
This article won the BlawgWorld Pick of the Week award on June 11, 2018. The editors of BlawgWorld, a free weekly email newsletter for lawyers and law firm administrators, give this award to one article every week that they feel is a must-read for this audience.