Every year since iOS 5, around mid 2011, I’ve been using the iOS betas. A few betas have been rocky, something to be expected. Some have been really pleasant. At times they have made me wish I could revert back to a stable build without losing data. But this time, in regards to stability, the iOS 12 beta has been the best I’ve ever used.
iOS 12 Stability and Performance
After a few days of toying around with the developer beta of iOS 12 on my personal device (don’t try this at home kids), the more I feel like Apple needed an update like this one. Right off the bat Craig Federighi promised iOS 12 would focus on performance and efficiency improvements. He couldn’t get on stage and say “Hey we know iOS 11 had some bugs so we’re going to fix them,” but we all understand that as the gist of his promise. The iOS 12 beta must feel so solid for this reason. Apple probably dedicated lots of resources to ensuring iOS 12 polished out the poorer parts of iOS 11.
For those who haven’t run beta before; poor battery life, crashing apps, sluggish performance, and running hot all come with the territory. Not once during my time in beta have I come across these kinds of issues. My phone lasts a full day, no problem. It hasn’t gotten hot, or even remotely warm for that matter. And although it doesn’t feel as fast as they promised, it’s faster than any other beta I’ve used. I have complete faith that the speed will end up at it’s promised level by release.
The only bugs I’ve come across are very minor. I’ve had one empty notification linger in Notification Center. Down Time durations (more on that later) have offset by a few minutes. My Movie Pass app crashes when I need to take a picture of a ticket stub. That’s it! I could’ve hit the jackpot and others aren’t having the luck I am, but from my perspective it has been smooth sailing.
Shortcuts and Siri
Currently Apple hasn’t included the Shortcuts app in developer betas, but I wish they did. Once available users will be able to link different actions together as a single command such as setting a reminder to get an umbrella if the weather forecasts rain. Apple purchased an app called Workflows, an automation app for people who enjoy tinkering, and essentially spun it off into a new built-in app. Workflow would have benefited from deeper access to iOS, and now they do. I can’t wait to create with it upon availability. The Siri aspect, however, doesn’t appeal to me.
Once a Shortcut has been created, a verbal command can associate it with Siri. In concept, this is a great idea. But while using Siri in iOS I don’t have confidence it will work as advertised. For me, Siri has had a hard time with catching what I’m saying. Just earlier this week I asked her to find a restaurant nearby, Kon Bistro. Instead she heard “con bistro” and inexplicably gave me a list of three adult video stores and a Salvation Army. What? By the way, Google Assistant got me exactly what I needed (photo of both results below).
If Siri can’t fully understand what I’m saying, then how can I trust her to understand a command I make up? I’m concerned that Apple’s lack of development in Siri’s voice recognition will hinder what could’ve been an interesting feature. But even without those improvements, Google Assistants will still have shortcut-like functionality in Android P without the need for the user to preemptively set tasks up in a different app.
Apple needed to do far more to improve basic level intelligence for Siri in iOS 12. Hopefully the rumored overhaul next year will fix Siri.
But it’s not all bad.
Siri Suggestions is a great idea that could use a slight tweak. Say you miss a call or inadvertently avoided someone’s text, Siri will give you a suggestion to contact them back via a darker notification on the Lock Screen/Notification Center. On my dad’s birthday I even got a suggestion to give him a call. But here’s the problem, that didn’t show up in Notification Center where I would have seen it. Luckily I already called him.
Some of these suggestions show in Notification Center such as the missed call prompt. Yet for some reason others, like my dad’s birthday, show up in the Search area underneath Siri App Suggestions. Why not put them all in Notification Center or all in the Search area? Splitting them seems unnecessarily confusing, especially for one of my favorite additions to Siri in some time.
A digital assistant should help you complete tasks without your continuous input, akin to a real assistant. Siri Suggestions marks a good step in that direction so hopefully Apple cleans this up before launch.
To be fair for both Siri features, Shortcuts and Suggestions, third party developers will really help bolster their usefulness. Unfortunately this can’t be done until iOS 12 releases to the public.
Let’s talk about some better stuff now.
Although late to the game here, having grouped notifications on iOS is a godsend. My Notification Center has never looked cleaner, nor has it been easier to get rid of a large amount of notifications from a single app. Once notifications are grouped, usually after about four per app appear in my testing, they can be tapped on to expand. From there each notification can be handled individually or all cleared at once.
Another savior, letting you manage notification settings for each app directly from a notification. Before in iOS 11 when a notification gets swiped left options for clearing or viewing come up. Now there’s a new manage option. You have three options under manage: “Deliver Notifications Quietly” “Turn Off” or another option to jump to settings for more granular control.
Thank you, Apple. iOS fans can rejoice.
Easily my favorite addition to iOS 12, Screen Time allows me to get a better understanding of how I use my phone. After that Apple provides controls over how much time you get with each app, when your phone goes into Down Time, or which apps are always allowed.
I’m surprised by how much I’ve already enjoyed Down Time and App Timers. Currently I’m limiting myself to forty minutes of Reddit and thirty minutes of gaming. Initially I figured I’d blow through my time and have the rest of the day blocked, but instead I’ve found myself using those apps in smaller doses to save time. In many ways going to each app has been a better experience as a result. For example in Reddit I haven’t consumed everything new in the subreddits I follow in the morning and find myself reading the same stuff over again later in the day. Every time I use Reddit, I get newer content and an overall richer experience.
There’s some slight confusion over some of the categories that Screen Time tracks. I’m not entirely sure what would count as a “Reading and Reference” app or a “Social” app. The only social app I use is Twitter and the time for that doesn’t match the “Social” category. It would be nice if there were an option to select the “Social” category and see all applicable apps.
Bed time has also gotten a lot easier for me. I’m often browsing through Twitter and Reddit late at night when I should be asleep. With Down Time I’m shutting down distracting apps between 11 PM and 7 AM. I still allow phone and text messaging since I don’t get hooked into those easily, but everything else is off for the most part. Sleeping has become genuinely easier since now I’m usually reading a book before bed rather than burying myself in my phone.
One odd issue I had occurred in time frame adjustments for Down Time. I noticed that if I set up my range to be from 11 PM to 7 PM, iOS might change it to 10:54 PM to 6:54 PM. It’s always six minutes off so I’ve been able to circumvent the issue by changing it to 11:06 PM to 7:06 PM.
Thus far iOS 12’s first developer beta has shocked me by being the most stable beta I’ve ever used. Any bug I have found hasn’t been a deal breaker. Apple has done fantastic work, and if beta 1 works this well I’m eager to see how well future builds perform. Especially the full release.
For reference, I’m using an iPhone 7 Plus. Different devices may perform differently. Also if you are experiencing bugs, please report them in the Feedback app. Everything I’ve mentioned as a bug I’ve reported. Gossiping and blogging doesn’t fix the issues!
Keep it here on The 8-Bit for more updates on the iOS 12 betas as they release!