iOS 18 features — here's which ones will (and won't) work with your iPhone

iOS 18 logo on an iPhone 15 Pro
(Image credit: Future)

Just because your iPhone can run the latest version of Apple's iOS software doesn't mean every feature included in that update will work on your phone. Sometimes, select features have hardware requirements that older devices simply can't meet.

And that's true of iOS 18, which Apple just previewed at WWDC 2024. When it arrives later this year, iOS 18 will run on iPhones dating back to 2019, including the iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. But a handful of iOS 18 features aren't going to work on older handsets, and it's good to know which ones you're potentially missing out on.

We're not just talking about Apple Intelligence features, either. Those AI-powered capabilities are limited to the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max at the moment, though we're expecting all four iPhone 16 models coming in the fall to support Apple Intelligence. Rather, these are other capabilities baked into the software that have more stringent requirements than iOS 18 itself.

Here's a rundown of the iOS 18 features that have very specific hardware requirements. We'll also list features coming to the iPhone that will be restricted to specific languages and regions.

iOS 18 features restricted by hardware

Messages via Satellite

iOS 18 messages via stellite

(Image credit: Apple)

In iOS 18, you'll be able to text even when there's no Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity around, but you'll need an iPhone 14 or later to do so. That restriction is hardly a surprise, as Apple only started offering the Emergency SOS via Satellite feature with the release of the iPhone 14, and Messages via Satellite taps into that same capability.

If you've got a compatible phone, it sounds as if the texting experience over satellite will be the same as if you were connected to a Wi-Fi or cellular network. Send a message using Apple's iMessages platform, for example, and you'll still be able to send emojis and tapbacks even when connected via satellite. Those iMessages will have end-to-end encryption, too.

Audio transcription in Notes

Audio transcription in iOS 18 notes

(Image credit: Apple)

The Notes app is getting a built-in recording feature in iOS 18, and we'd expect that to be available on all iPhones capable of running the software update. What won't be widely available is the ability to generate audio transcripts on the fly that you can then search or combine with other elements. That feature will require an iPhone 12 or later.

While we're talking restrictions, audio transcripts will only be supported in English for users in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S.

Enhance Dialogue in Apple's TV app

If you've ever had a hard time making out what characters are saying amid all the background noise, sound effects and music in a show or movie, then Enhance Dialogue is tailor-made for you. It uses machine learning to boost speech over other audio, making things more audible.

You will need an iPhone 11 or later to enjoy Enhance Dialogue in the TV app, but the good news is that the feature works with the phone's built-in speakers as well as wired headphones, AirPods and other Bluetooth-connected audio gear.

Wirelessly use your phone to open smart locks

An update to the Home app in iOS 18 lets you unlock doors just by carrying around an iPhone or wearing an Apple Watch. But that feature depends on Ultra Wideband, so if you want to enjoy hands-free unlocking through your iPhone, you're going to need at least an iPhone 11 or later. That means owners of an iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max or any iPhone SE are locked out. (It probably goes without saying, but you'll need a smart lock with an Ultra Wideband chip of its own for this feature to work.)

Accessibility improvements

A pair of accessibility features will only work on certain iPhone models running iOS 18. Eye tracking, which lets you control your iPhone using your eyes, will require an iPhone 12 or later; the feature also works on the iPhone SE 2022

Meanwhile a Music Haptics feature that uses the iPhone's Taptic Engine to pulse in time with the rhythm of a song requires an iPhone 12 or later. That feature's aimed at helping people with impaired hearing use Apple Music.

iOS 18 features restricted by language and region

Mail categorization

iOS 18 Mail categorization

(Image credit: Apple)

A big change to the Mail app involves on-device categorization where incoming messages will be sent to different mailboxes like Primary, Promotions, Transactions and Updates. Not only is the feature coming in the year, it's also limited to English in Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S.

Safari Highlights and Reader Summaries

Safari Reader summaries in iOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

In iOS 18 our iPhone's built-in web browser will be able to skim through web pages and call out specific information — directions to a business that you've looked up using Safari, for example. That feature will only be available in the U.S., for now.

A similar feature is coming to Safari's Reader, as you'll now get a summary and a table of contents on articles that you view using this feature. It's English-only, but it has a wider reach, with availability in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S.

Topographic Maps

topographic maps in ios 18

(Image credit: Apple)

Maps on the iPhone will add topographic maps in iOS 18 that include trails and hikes, along with maps of all 63 U.S. National Parks. But those are only going to be available in the U.S. and Japan. You'll also need to be a U.S. iPhone user if you want to browse through Maps' collection of different hikes that you can save to your phone.

Call recording and transcriptions

The phone app on your iPhone gains the ability to record calls in iOS 18, and you can then transcribe those recordings. Those transcriptions will be available in English, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese and Portuguese.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.