iOS 18 — our 9 favorite new features coming to your iPhone

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

iOS 18 is shaping up to be one of the biggest upgrades Apple has rolled out in several years, with a huge number of extra features, upgrades and customization options on the way. It makes other software upgrades, like Android 15, look positively boring by comparison.

Of course, new features aren’t all made equal, and they can range from something as major as Apple Intelligence to something as basic as adding statistics to the Journal app. So which iOS 18 features should you be the most excited about? Here are our picks for the top iOS 18 features.

Apple Intelligence

iPhones showing Apple Intelligence features

(Image credit: Apple)

The biggest new feature coming to iOS 18 is Apple intelligence, and it isn’t even a close contest. To the point where we have to bundle everything together to make it fair on the rest of iOS 18’s incoming upgrades. AI is going to have limited reach on the iPhone, since it’ll be exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max and the iPhone 16 series. But that doesn’t make it any less exciting.

Features coming as part of Apple Intelligence include image generation (aka Image Playground), access to ChatGPT, a new image editing tool called Clean Up, custom Genmoji, AI summarization, proofreading, smart replies and more. The best part is most of it will be running on your device, rather than some random cloud server. Be sure to check out our list of the top Apple Intelligence features to find out more about everything it will be able to do.

All New Siri

Siri

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While related to Apple Intelligence, the all new AI-infused version of Siri is a key part of the iOS 18 upgrade. And frankly it is something that is long overdue. This new version of Siri will be smarter than ever, and capable of responding to a lot more than individual queries. This new Siri is conversational and contextual, meaning it can understand follow-up questions and responses — making the interaction seem more natural in the process.

On top of that, Siri will be aware of what’s happening on screen to better help it understand how to help you, and will let you send commands by typing instead of using your voice. What’s really cool is that Siri will be able to control actions in various apps, saving you the effort of having to do the whole thing yourself. While that’s likely to be quite limited at first, Apple is giving developers the chance to add that functionality to their own apps as well.

Apple Photos redesign

iOS 18 photos main interface

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Photos was never going to win any beauty contests, which is why we’re glad Apple is revamping the whole app into something (hopefully) better. Tabs are out, in favor of a new unified screen that gives you access to everything without having to jump back and forth. 

Your Photo Library is now split into Photos and Collections), while a new carousel feature lets you see featured and favorite photos at a glance. Essentially, iOS 18 is going to make finding photos a lot easier, and much nicer to look at in the process. Apple Photos will also tie into Apple Intelligence, with features like the Clean Up image editor being available in the app. For more, see our guide to all the iOS 18 Photos features

iPhone Mirroring on Mac

WWDC 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

Given how tight-nit the Apple ecosystem is, it’s no surprise that Apple is upgrading the Continuity feature to support iPhone mirroring. This feature beams across a virtual version of your iPhone to a connected Mac or Vision Pro headset, letting you control your mobile device without actually having to touch it. In fact,the phone doesn’t even need to be unlocked for the link to work.

That means you can keep your iPhone in your bag or pocket and still get things done through another device — using either the keyboard and mouse or visionOS’s motion controls. Better still, you can drag and drop content from your iPhone onto your Mac, and pump the iPhone audio through your Mac’s speakers. It’s a wonder Apple didn’t do this sooner.

Locked apps

Screenshot of lock an app demo with iOS 18 during WWDC 2024 keynote.

(Image credit: Apple)

We store a lot of sensitive and private information on our phones, and the last thing we want is for someone to have access to that when we’re not looking. iOS 18’s Locked apps feature lets you keep those apps extra secure, in the event that someone stumbles across your unlocked phone or manages to get past your lock screen.

Plus, if there are apps you’d rather people don’t know you had, iOS 18 will also include a locked folder for hiding those apps from prying eyes. Locked and hidden apps are more or less treated like they’re not there, suspending all notifications and not having any details show up in search or Siri recommendations.

Messaging via Satellite

Image showing iPhone with iMessage app open

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

There are plenty of places where data and phone signals don’t reach, which is why Apple’s Emergency SOS via satellite is so important. But it was restricted to emergency communication only, and that’s something Apple is changing with iOS 18. This time anyone with an iPhone 14 or newer will be able to send text messaging (with emojis if you want them) to anyone via a satellite link. 

The key difference is that this service is available in non-emergency situations, too. So if you’re hiking in the wilderness and need to text your roommate asking them to buy eggs on the way home, you won’t have to wait until you return to civilization. The system works just like regular iMessage, but it’s limited to text-based communication only. No voice notes or video calls are allowed. (For more on the changes to the iPhone's built-in messaging app, check out our guide to iMessage on iOS 18.)

Tap to Cash

WWDC 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Pay and Wallet are getting a bunch of little upgrades with iOS 18, but none of them are quite so impressive as Tap to Cash. This feature utilizes the NameDrop system that debuted on iOS 17, letting you send Apple Cash to your fellow iPhone users by tapping the top of your phones together.

This should make it significantly easier to settle bills and other financial scores, even if Apple Cash is the only payment system supported right now. Especially since it doesn’t share any personal information. Though, like other instant Apple Cash transfers, we’d assume that there will be fees associated with this particular service.

Customizable Control Center

iOS 18 Control Center

(Image credit: Apple)

Of the myriad of personalization options in iOS 18, the customizable Control Center is arguably our favorite. Because it finally lets you have a say in what the pull-down menu finally has to offer. You choose what appears, how big the buttons are and fine-tune that menu to match your own personal tastes.

On top of that, there are two more screens featuring revamped media and smart home controls. These are essentially quick-access widgets you can get to from anywhere on your phone, and with the same customization options as the main Control Center screen.

RCS Messaging

Google Messages on Android phone next to Messages app on iPhone

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

After years of resisting, Apple is finally improving the state of iPhone-to-non-iPhone communication by adding RCS. While it’s not going to be as robust as iMessage, it means significant improvements to the way you text and communicate with Android users. 

The biggest upgrades include end-to-end encryption and the ability to send photos and videos at full quality — no compression required. It also means you should have read receipts, the ability to send Tapback-style reactions and can add Android users to group chats without the whole thing breaking down.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.