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iOS 12: Siri shortcuts, group FaceTime and 'Memoji' Animoji of you

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Apple has just officially unveiled iOS 12 at its annual WWDC conference. This is the software that will define the experience of 2018’s new iPhones, and also update current iPhones and iPads when it comes out to devices in late 2018 (likely September). Developers will be able to get the preview software today.

Apple’s Memoji (an Animoji you make of yourself) takes on Samsung AR emoji.


Apple

Rumors prepped us that Apple would save a major iOS overhaul — a redesigned look, rebuilt Siri and reworked Photos app — for a later version of the software, focusing on stability and digital balance with a few flashy additions here and there. 

The most shocking one for me is Memoji, which is an Animoji (animated emoji) that you can create of yourself. Samsung beat Apple to the punch with AR emoji in its Galaxy S9 phones, but they were shockingly bad. Apple has a chance to once again popularize a fringe feature that a rival could not.

Apple’s first hint that we should temper our iOS 12 expectations was this:

“With iOS 12, we’re doubling down on performance,” Apple’s Senior VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said on stage at the keynote. iOS 12 will come to all the same devices as iOS 11. 


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Apple unveils Memoji for iOS 12


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Apple says it’s focusing its efforts on the oldest devices, like the iPhone 6 Plus ($399.00 at Amazon.com). For example, apps will launch up to 40 percent faster, and you can slide to take a photo at up to 70 percent faster than with iOS 11.

But that doesn’t mean this will be a ho-hum release, and remember — Apple loves saving iOS surprises for its developer preview and for the iPhone release. Expect to see a few more exciting iOS 12 features come to 2018 iPhones.

iMessage: Make an Animoji (‘Memoji’) of yourself

Memoji: Taking on the Galaxy S9’s AR emoji, iOS 12 will let you make an Animoji of yourself using the front-facing 3D camera. To make your Memoji feel like you, there are customization options for skin tone, hairstyles, facial features (like freckles) and accessories like sunglasses.

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Memoji gives you lots of options to choose from.


Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

New anomoji: Apple adds a koala, a ghost, a tiger… and a T. rex.

Stick your tongue out: It’s pretty self-explanatory, but now when you stick out your tongue, your animoji does, too. Finally, amirite?

New effects into the messages camera: You’ll see filters similar to Snapchat, stickers from your favorite sticker packs, and the ability to put your custom memoji in a chat. 

Read: How Apple’s emoji of your face already beats Galaxy S9

Siri shortcuts burrow deep into your day-to-day

Siri’s new shortcuts feature was created to provide the information and services that Apple thinks you need throughout your day. For example, if you go to a movie, Siri can remind you to turn off your ringer. It’ll prompt you to call your mom on her birthday, and offer to text your meeting organizer that you’re running late (again).


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Customize your Siri with shortcuts


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And if you do the same thing every day, Siri will identify the repeat behavior on your upcoming schedule and offer actions to help you out. So, saying “order my coffee” can place your usual order. Or you may see a button on your lock screen that offers to do this for you.

You can create a voice prompt (aka a “shortcut”) to ask Siri to do something. “Find my keys,” “order my groceries,” and “game time” are examples of what you can program Siri to do. There will be hundreds to download in addition to shortcuts you can create yourself. 

A new shortcuts tool with a shortcuts editor will help you set up your own quick commands. You can make shortcuts as detailed or numerous as you’d like; they’ll run from the iPhone, iPad, HomePod ($349.00 at Walmart) and Apple Watch ($463.00 at Amazon.com).

FaceTime with 32 of your closest friends

Group FaceTime will let up to 32 people jump on a conference call at once — audio, video or both. You can switch from a group chat into a group FaceTime. You’ll see tiles of your friends and a rosters where you can see all the people in the chat. 

When someone speaks, their tile automatically enlarges, or you can double-tap to bring someone front and center. FaceTime camera also gets animoji and sticker packs. 


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Now you can group FaceTime with multiple friends


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Do not disturb and Screentime aim to curb your phone addiction

Do not disturb during bedtime: Your device won’t show you all the chatty notifications that will keep you up. In the morning, you can tap to keep those notifications coming. This is a new mode in control center that you can set up.

Screentime: Weekly reports show you how often you use your device, day and night, and how much time you spend in maps. The app gets really detailed: how many notifications from each app, how many per hours, and so on. 


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Limit your screen time with iOS 12


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App Limits: You can set a limit on apps and receive a notification that you’ve been using an app too long (you set the limit). You can grant yourself an extension, but they’ll remind you to move on later on. Set it up for yourself or your kids. You can create allowances, including downtime. You can limit your kids in individual apps, like movies and games.

Dismiss notifications in bulk

You’ll be able to send notifications from specific apps or simply turn them off for specific apps. Notifications will now be grouped by app, topic, or thread — and you can swipe old notifications away in a group.


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Apple refreshes photos with new search, sharing features


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Better search in Photos

Search: You can now search for multiple search terms, people, and scenes. 

‘For you’ tab: You’ll see recommendations for memories to revisit, suggestions to share photos with your key people and suggestions like apply loop to this photo. Photos share at full resolution out of your iCloud photo library. When a friend receives them, iOS 12 will search their library (assuming they have an iPhone or iPad, too) to suggest pics that they can share with you, in return.

AR is going to be big

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The new Measure app for iOS 12.


Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Augmented reality is a highlight in iOS 12, where multiple people on their own devices can interact in the same AR experience in real time.

Measure app: A new app that uses the phone’s camera to measure real-life objects accurately. This is important for placing objects, like a new desk you want to check out, in AR apps.

3D graphics: Apple wants you to be able to drop any 3D object into the “real world,” like a toy or lamp or character. To help make it easier for app developers to do this quickly and easily, Apple made a new file format called USDZ, which was developed in conjunction with Pixar. 

ARKit 2.0: The second version of Apple’s AR software toolbox for developers is all about making multiuser experiences in VR happen. That means playing games or building Lego with friends, even sharing a virtual document. ARKit 2.0 also improves face tracking. Lego’s app will let up to four people into the AR experience at once.

These apps get a refresh

News: This app gets a personalized feed of stories from trusted sources. Top stories are hand-picked by Apple’s news editorial team. A new browse tab shows you new channels and topics. It’s easier to jump to favorites, and a new side bar lets you dig into other topics.

Stocks: New charts show stock performance throughout day. Apple News comes to the stocks app, as well as top stories and business news curated by Apple editorial. After-hours stock pricing will be added as well. Tap on the headline to get the full article without leaving the app. Stocks is coming to iPad in iOS 12.

Voice memos: Recordings stay in sync across all of your iOS 12 devices.


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Books: Previously iBooks, Books has a new store. Reading Now offers a preview that helps you pick up where you left off.

CarPlay: It now supports third-party traffic apps — woohoo!

What we didn’t get today

  • A redesigned home screen in iOS 12
  • VR: CNET was first to report that Apple is working on a standalone VR headset for 2020, with an 8K resolution for each eye, but we didn’t get so much as a wink in this direction
  • Hardware like the iPhone SE 2 or AirPower wireless charging pad that we’ve been so breathlessly awaiting.

Jason Parker contributed to this story.

Originally published June 2, 2018.
Update, June 4 at 1:23 p.m. PT: Most recent update from Apple’s WWDC keynote.

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