iOS 12 is out now, might actually make your iPhone faster

At last week’s iPhone launch, Apple gave the stage to Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives. Her message included some impressive changes in manufacturing designed to help the environment; as an example, by simply moving the iPhone’s logic board to 100 per cent recycled tin, Apple will prevent the mining of over 10,000 tons of ore next year.


But she had another message, one that seemed counter to the rest of the presentation. Jackson talked about the effort Apple was making to ensure its iPhones would last longer, so users could continue to use older devices:

“All of these devices, including the iPhone 5S, run iOS 12, and iOS 12 is designed to make your iPhone and iPad experience even better, even more responsive, faster… just better! And because they last longer, you can keep using them. And keeping using them is the best thing for the planet.”

I’ve been using the iOS 12 beta for a few months, and today iOS 12 is available to the wider public. I’ve been testing iOS 12 on multiple devices and it has not only been one of the fastest and most stable betas I can remember; it is probably the most stable version of iOS in years.

And while older iPhone users have been wise to avoid newer operating systems in recent years, iOS 12 is kind to older phones. I’m running it on the oldest model that supports iOS 12 — an iPhone 5s from 2013 — and the speed and stability of iOS 12 has brought that old phone out of retirement, as a modern walkman for my child.

Of the new additions, iOS 12's killer feature is the one making me use my iPhone less. When I installed iOS 12 I immediately set up Screen Time monitoring. The first reports showed I was using my phone a terrifying five and a half hours a day. I was expecting numbers that bad; I’ve got a fairly long commute and an addiction to Twitter, but even then, the numbers were shocking.

I’ve previously used a third party app, Moment, to capture a rough idea of screen usage, but it could never explain the information with as much detail as a something built into iOS. And Moment’s reports were easy to ignore, as they were all built on averages. Screen Time is harder to ignore, and its partner functions Down Time and App Limits make it much easier to take action on your addictions.

I started reducing the time I allowed myself in problem apps, at first just aiming for a 20 per cent reduction in problem apps. So if I spent an average of an hour a day in Facebook, then the next week I’d give myself 48 minutes a day. At first the self-enforced blackouts were annoying, but soon it really changed the relationship I had with my phone. After a few more weeks, I reduced the limits again. I’m now averaging just over two hours on my phone a day.

Screen Time lets you manage your — or your kids' — time with specific apps.

Screen Time lets you manage your — or your kids’ — time with specific apps.

The simple interface of Screen Time extends to parental controls, allowing parents just as much power in limiting Minecraft or Instagram on a child’s device. Google offers something similar in Android, but Google’s parental controls seem to be built on top of their enterprise tools; you’re effectively setting up an Android device as you would lock one down for a business. This makes their tools far harder to configure, and even as a systems admin by trade I struggled with Google’s tools. Apple’s tools, built upon the simple Screen Time interface, is instantly intuitive.

Obviously these tools do not do the parenting for you, you’ll still need to think of your own limits, and negotiate them with your children, but having the controls on your own device is fantastic. Of course, many children may not be as impressed. This message was sent to a friend of mine, once his seven year old’s Minecraft limits were reached:

Screen Time will not help you talk to your kids about Screen Time.

Screen Time will not help you talk to your kids about Screen Time.

Another highlight is Siri Shortcuts, which are rolling out to third party apps now. A great, simple example is available in public transport apps NextThere and TripView; using Siri shortcuts you can simply ask “when’s the next train” or whatever phrase you define yourself, and Siri will look for that saved phrase and find the information you need. If you want to deep dive into Siri Shortcuts, the best place to start is Federico Viticci’s review of iOS 12.

Even if none of the features of iOS 12 impress you, its speed and stability make it worth upgrading as soon as possible.

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