Apple recently provided a sneak preview of some of the new features that will be available in iOS 12, scheduled for release in September. Additional features and enhancements have been revealed in the developer beta releases Apple has made available. There’s no guarantee that all of these will make it into the final release, but we now have a pretty good idea of what iOS 12 will look like.
As is usual for Apple, most of the high-profile enhancements are aimed at the consumer market. However, there are a number of items that will be of interest to business users (depending, of course, on which business) and enterprise mobility administrators. This article hits these highlights.
Security and Privacy
With iOS 12, Apple introduces a number of security-related enhancements that make password management easier and make it more difficult to break in to the device, among other nice features:
- In an enhancement that was actually introduced in iOS 11.4, it is more difficult to access files on a locked device that is connected to a computer via Lightning cable.
- An additional enhancement enables users to choose, by a setting, to disable USB-connected devices when the phone is locked. Again, the idea is to prevent access to files and data on the device.
- Users can also disable access to digital wallets while the phone is locked. This should prevent any malware that does make its way onto the device from spending your money while you aren’t looking.
- The Face ID feature gets an improvement by enabling users to supply an alternate photo for the device to use when trying to match your face. For instance, use one photo with a hat and sunglasses, and one without.
- iOS 12 includes a number of password enhancements for the websites you visit and the apps you use. It can create and store strong passwords for each site or app, and enables auto-fill when entering passwords. Passwords can be stored in the iCloud Keychain service, and can be shared with nearby iOS devices.
- With password storage, iOS 12 also can alert you when you are using the same password for multiple sites or apps, and will prompt you to replace them with stronger, unique passwords.
- When you receive a test message with a security code to enter in an app or website, iOS 12 makes it available as an auto-fill suggestion, eliminating the need to copy and paste or to memorize the code from the text.
- Finally, Safari in iOS 12 makes it harder for Share buttons and comment widgets to track you, and prevents advertisers from accessing your device’s unique settings.
Performance and Battery
The battery health information screen that Apple introduced in iOS 11.3 has been enhanced to include more details. Now you can see what apps use the most battery power—not just in real time, but over the past 24 hours and the last 10 days. This can enable users to make better decisions about what apps to run and when.
On the performance side, Apple is promising faster app load times, faster opening of the keyboard, and faster swiping to the Camera app.
The FaceTime app gets a major enhancement that will interest enterprise users: Group calling, with up to 32 participants. This should be especially useful for virtual teams. Of more interest to enterprise admins: End-to-end encryption for all FaceTime calls.
Notifications and Do Not Disturb
In a move that should reduce the chaos of multiple app notifications, iOS 12 offers the following improvements:
- Notifications from the same app are grouped together, so you can better view and manage them.
- Users now have more control over notification settings—you can set or change them right from the alert, without interrupting the task at hand.
- You can choose to have notifications delivered silently, without a sound or vibration.
- You can also choose which notifications are considered “critical,” and thus delivered regardless of any other settings, including Do Not Disturb.
Speaking of Do Not Disturb, there are enhancements in this area as well:
- You can set Do Not Disturb to be enforced automatically at bedtime (or any other schedule you choose).
- If you turn on Do Not Disturb manually, you can choose to have it turned off automatically in one hour, at the end of the day, when leaving a location, or at the end of a calendar event.
Although some enterprise users and admins might see augmented reality (AR) as a great way to waste time and use up bandwidth, there actually are many potential business applications for AR. Architects, engineers, interior designers, furniture designers, and others engaged in space planning can benefit greatly from the ability to place virtual objects in real spaces to test their fit and function. ARKit 2, Apple’s next-generation AR development kit, offers some interesting functionality that’s available in iOS 12:
- Better ability to recognize three-dimensional objects from various angles
- Automatic object measuring—currently limited to the width, height, and depth of rectangular real objects in the device’s field of view
- Multi-user experience, which enables multiple participants to experience the same virtual scene simultaneously
ARKit is still quite in its infancy, so look for some exciting enhancements in this area as developers learn the toolkit and Apple provides further updates.
Photos and Camera
There aren’t a whole lot of enhancements in iOS 12 in the Camera and Photos apps, but they are pretty nice additions, especially for users who need to (or simply do, out of habit) take tons of photos:
- Photos can be searched by multiple criteria, including keywords, location, and event. This, of course, depends on enabling the device to tag photos with such data automatically, or diligent manual tagging on the part of the user. When you take dozens or hundreds of photos every day, as some enterprise users need to do, keeping them organized and searchable is a lifesaver.
- iOS 12 also enables easier importing of photos, from other devices, computers, and cloud storage.
- The camera’s built-in QR code reader is better able to recognize and capture QR codes.
Screen Time App
When we think of analyzing and limiting one’s time on an app, website, or device, we usually think of parental controls to keep the kids from being glued to their screens all the time, but grown-ups can use a little nudge now and then too. The new Screen Time app in iOS 12 enables users to see how much time they’re spending on their devices and how they’re spending it, and lets users impose limits on themselves. It will be interesting to see how enterprises use this functionality.
…And A Couple of Less-Good Things
iOS 12, although lacking in enterprise-specific enhancements, does offer quite a bit for the enterprise. However, it does include a couple of things that enterprise admins will need to evaluate before making them available to their users:
- Password auto-fill: At first glance, this would seem to defeat the purpose of having a strong password, if the device fills it in for you. Administrators will need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this feature.
- Automatic OS updates: iOS 12 offers users a setting that enables the device to download and install operating system updates. Most enterprises should be wary of any “feature” that automatically updates the device OS.
But on the whole, iOS 12 promises some exciting goodies. Look for it on a device near you late this summer.