iOS 18 will not resemble the recent iPhone software updates, according to informants who are knowledgeable about Apple’s plans for the next year’s major release. Instead, based on the anonymous statements from the company’s Cupertino headquarters, this could potentially be the most substantial iOS update in quite some time.
This is a departure from previous years which have seen, relatively unremarkable upgrades, as exemplified by last year’s release of iOS 17. While there were some significant changes in that update, it would not be accurate to describe it as a major overhaul — more like a fine-tuning that resulted in some new and improved capabilities.
Apple is reportedly not adopting the same approach with iOS 18. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman refers to the iOS 18 update as “even more crucial than usual.” That is because hardware enhancements to the iPhone 16 may not be as significant as what Apple unveiled with this year’s iPhone 15 models, including an upgraded main camera for the entry-level phone and a new titanium design and more powerful chipset for the iPhone 15 Pro models.
“Apple is relying on [iOS 18] to entice people to buy the new [iPhone] models,” Gurman wrote last year. And the anticipation has only increased in the months that followed.
“I’m informed that the new operating system is viewed within the company as one of the most substantial iOS updates — if not the most extensive — in the company’s history,” Gurman wrote in January.
The reason for this has everything to do with AI, which promises to take center stage in some of the features being planned for iOS 18. That puts Apple in the position of hoping to answer Google, which makes AI-driven features a centerpiece of the experience with its Pixel phones, and Samsung, which made Galaxy AI tools a centerpiece of its recent Galaxy S24 launch.
Can Apple make its own unique mark with the planned features in iOS 18? We won’t know until we get the first iOS 18 preview midway through 2024 at the earliest. But here’s what we know about iOS 18 and its planned features so far.
iOS 18: Latest news (Updated January 30)
iOS 18: Potential release date
iOS 17’s preview at WWDC 2023 (Image credit: Apple)
While Apple does not provide a schedule for its iOS updates, there is a good idea of what to anticipate from the iOS 18 launch based on the company’s established track record for scheduling iPhone software updates.
If past performance is any indication, the first official word we will hear about iOS 18 will be at 2024’s Worldwide Developers Conference, when Apple previews the software update alongside similar updates for its iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac software. There is no set date for WWDC 2024, but Apple’s developer event typically takes place in early June.
A developer beta for iOS 18 will be accessible at WWDC 2024, with a public beta following a few weeks after. Past iOS beta programs have lasted the entire summer, with frequent updates for bug fixes and new features. It should all culminate shortly before the start of fall when a full version of iOS 18 becomes available for download, coinciding with the arrival of the iPhone 16 models in stores. This typically happens around mid-September.
Reports emerged in early November that Apple had put development of iOS 18 on hold to address bugs that had arisen during the first milestone release of an internal version of the software. However, at the time, the pause was anticipated to last only a week, and there has been no indication since then that there has been any impact on Apple’s normal release schedule for iOS updates.
iOS 18: Supported devices
iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max (Image credit: Tom’s Guide)
There is no official word on which current iPhones will support iOS 18 and which will see the end of support. For iOS 17, Apple discontinued support for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus — all devices that came out in the fall of 2018. This aligns with Apple’s routine of providing around five years of software and security support for its phones.
If Apple sticks to that five-year window, phones released in 2019 will be on the chopping block for iOS 18 support. As of this fall, the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max will reach that five-year mark, making them the most likely candidates to be excluded from future iOS updates.
However, we won’t know for sure which phones are supported until Apple makes an announcement. This usually takes place during the iOS preview at WWDC.
iOS 18: Rumored features