iOS 12 is here, and it’s not drastically different than iOS 11. But there are a few standout features beyond the obvious performance enhancements, the new Screen Time feature, and FaceTime calling—you just have to know where to look.
So we’ve rounded up 15 of our favorite lesser-known (or hidden) iOS 12 features that aren’t immediately obvious after you’ve installed the update. If you haven’t got iOS 12 yet, simply head to Settings > General > Software Update on your iPhone or iPad to download and install.
1. Notification Control
One of the most obvious new iOS 12 features is grouped notifications. If you get multiple notifications from a single app, they now show nested with a Show More button that expands each of them. You can turn this feature off by visiting Settings > Notifications, tapping on an app, and then tapping Notification Grouping.
But there’s an easier way to customize notifications in iOS 12. From the lock screen, swipe left on a notification (or group of notifications), then tap Manage. This will bring up a menu for that particular app’s notifications preferences, allowing you to disable them entirely or simply mute the app for a while.
This is particularly useful if you get a rogue notification from an app you barely use, and you want to prevent it from appearing again in the future.
2. Live Listen Hearing Mode
If you own a pair of AirPods (our review), or Made for iPhone (MFi) hearing aid, you can use a feature called Live Listen to hear the outside world more clearly. It’s useful for the hard of hearing, but also works for reconnecting with the outside world when you’re playing music or listening to a podcast.
To use the feature, head to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls and add the Hearing option to your shortcuts. Now bring up Control Center (swipe down from the top-right corner on iPhone X or later; swipe up from the bottom of the screen on iPhone 8 or earlier) and tap on the new Hearing icon.
If you have your AirPods or MFi hearing device connected, tap on it to enable Live Listen. You should now be able to hear the outside world, and adjust your device’s volume accordingly. Disable it by tapping on your device again. Unfortunately, this won’t work with regular Bluetooth headphones.
3. Measure in AR
iOS 12 installs a new app on your iPhone called Measure, which uses Apple’s ARKit to measure distances using augmented reality. Find it quickly by pulling down on the home screen to reveal the search bar and searching for it.
You’ll first need to calibrate the app by moving your iPhone around. Once ready, you can measure point-to-point using the on-screen controls, and then take a picture using the shutter button on the right-hand side of the screen.
You can connect multiple points together, and the app will detect certain shapes and attempt to measure them for you. Note that these are only rough estimates, but it’s still a pretty handy feature. This is also where you’ll find a handy level tool on the Level tab, which uses your device’s accelerometer to measure the angle.
4. iPhone X Screenshot Fix
This isn’t so much a feature as it is a popular request, but Apple has finally fixed one of the iPhone X’s biggest issues. Due to the Side button + Volume up shortcut, taking accidental screenshots of your lock screen on the iPhone X was all too common in iOS 11.
Now in iOS 12, your iPhone X must be unlocked with its display on to take any screenshots. So it’s still possible to take a screenshot of your lock screen if you want, but you’ll need to holding and face your phone (assuming you’re using Face ID) to do so.
5. New iPad Gestures
It’s clear that Apple wants to kill off the Home button entirely, since this year’s iPhone lineup doesn’t feature any. Another indication that the Home button is on the way out is the way iOS 12 changes gestures on the iPad.
Users now need to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the Home screen, and swipe down from the top-right corner of the device to access Control Center. These are the same gestures used on the iPhone X and later, which also lacks a Home button.
6. Location Sharing With Emergency Services
Apple users, have you downloaded iOS 12 yet? It was released yesterday! Among the new features that it offers, the phone automatically & securely shares your location with 911!
Help 911 help you by downloading iOS 12 today and always know your location!
— Kaitlin Jordan (@Kjordan_911) September 18, 2018
Here’s a completely passive feature: when you dial 911, your iPhone will now automatically and securely share your location with the emergency services receiving the call. It’s not clear whether this will work in other countries, since it largely depends on what technology emergency responders have at their disposal.
7. QR Code Reader Shortcut
QR codes are so 2012, yet Apple added a QR code shortcut to Control Center. Head to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls and add the Scan QR Code shortcut to your list. You can now access the QR scanner directly from Control Center.
iOS has been able to scan QR codes with the Camera app for a while, so really this is just another shortcut to the Camera app. You can turn off the functionality in the camera app if you want to use the shortcut instead by going to Settings > Camera.
8. Big Improvements to Face ID
If you have an iPhone X or later, you can now add two faces to Face ID. Head to Settings > Face ID & Passcode and tap Set up an Alternative Appearance. You could use this for adding a temporary look, or even add a second face for your partner or best friend who already knows your passcode.
One other useful change to Face ID is the ability to rescan your appearance from the lock screen after it has failed. Simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen when prompted for your passcode to re-scan.
9. Password Managers Can Now AutoFill
Apple’s iCloud password management has always felt lackluster. iOS 12 introduces a new Password Management API which makes third-party password managers more powerful than ever before.
It means that third-party password managers like 1Password and LastPass can now share AutoFill password information via the QuickType box. So when you’re logging in to your favorite apps or passwords, you can pull that information right from your password manager rather than having to open the app.
Your password manager of choice requires an update to make use of the new API first. Head to Settings > Passwords and Accounts > AutoFill Passwords to enable the feature for your chosen app.
10. Paste 2FA Codes
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an important and effective way to secure your accounts. It requires a piece of information you know, plus something you have on you—usually your smartphone. Through the use of one-time codes via SMS, you can authenticate services by verifying the code sent to your device.
In iOS 12, your messages are automatically scanned for incoming one-time codes. When detected, iOS will automatically copy the code to the clipboard so you can simply use the paste function to verify without having to check the notification or visit the Messages app.
11. Improved Photos App
Photos gets a small makeover in iOS 12 too. A new For You tab suggests items you may be interested in. It also highlights Sharing Suggestions based on the people within or locations where your images were taken.
On the Search tab you’ll find Moments and People, which is where you’ll see photos you took one year ago, categories like Trips, Concerts, and various seasons, and even Places relevant to your collection. The Photos and Albums tabs are basically unchanged.
12. Voice Memos Overhaul
It might not be the most exciting app, but Voice Memos gets an overhaul and a dedicated Mac version. You can now sync your recordings with iCloud, so they’ll appear on other devices and your desktop.
There’s also better editing controls, and an overhaul to the UI. Hit the big red button to start recording, then tap the ellipsis to edit, duplicate, or share it elsewhere.
13. Third-Party CarPlay Navigation
— Google Maps (@googlemaps) September 18, 2018
If you’ve got a car that supports Apple CarPlay, you can now use third-party navigation apps right from your dashboard. Previously navigation was limited to Apple Maps, but Google Maps is ready to go with full CarPlay integration now.
You can’t use Siri to navigate, but the app already includes integration with Google’s voice technology (though you need to tap a button, and thus remove your hands from the wheel). Google is also bringing crowd-sourced navigation app Waze to CarPlay at a later date too.
14. Enhanced Do Not Disturb
Hate distractions? Do Not Disturb is a feature that mutes incoming notifications and calls based on a timetable of your choice. iOS 12 now brings enhanced DND mode via the wonders of 3D Touch (or simply holding and tapping on older devices).
To use them, bring up Control Center and 3D Touch the Do Not Disturb toggle. You can snooze your device for an hour, until later in the day, or until you leave your current location. You can also tap the Timetable to go straight to DND mode settings.
15. Cursor Control on the Spacebar
If you 3D Touch the keyboard while typing, you get finite cursor control over the text input area. Now this feature is even easier to use, even on older devices. Simply tap and hold the spacebar, and you’ll get the same cursor control.
If I had a dollar for everyone I’ve told about this feature, I’d have a few dollars in my pocket by now, so it’s worth mentioning again.
iOS 12 Features We Didn’t Get
For me, the biggest omission from iOS 12 is the inclusion of a dark mode. Surely Apple won’t leave this feature out of next year’s update. With the fancy OLED screens seen in the higher-end iPhone models, now is the perfect time to turn down the lights on iOS.
Other features that would be nice include better control over default apps, a redesigned home screen with more useful reactive icons, and split view for more devices beyond the iPhone Xs Max.
If you’re just getting started with a new iPhone, don’t forget to check out our iOS beginners’ guide for essential tips and tricks. Don’t forget about the Screen Time feature in iOS 12 either.