iOS 12 Beta: 4 Biggest Letdowns Ahead of Apple Software Launch

Apple's next software update may not satisfy everyone's needs.

iPhone X lying on table

IOS 12 is almost here, and it’s given early adopters plenty to get excited about, from much-needed performance boosts for older phones, a brilliant new bedtime mode, and new augmented reality features. That said, Apple’s next update may not include all of the changes users are looking forward to most.

To be fair, it’s still important to note that the public beta of iOS 12 is pre-release software, meaning there’s plenty of time yet to address most of the gripes listed below. However, Apple’s announcement keynote outlined the features that users can expect to find in this year’s release, and some of the omitted features were rather disappointing.

Here’s the features that are missing in action:

iOS 12 Siri Is Still Pretty Limited

iOS 12 brings a number of big boosts to the Siri voice-activated smart assistant, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. The introduction of “Siri Shortcuts” is one of the biggest changes to the A.I. assistant since its launch in 2011, and tries to make Siri more helpful by enabling voice command-triggered workflows. Users can now say “coming home,” and Siri can set the thermostat, play the radio and send a message to a friend. It’s pretty good, but it still feels like too little too late when stacked up against other A.I. assistants.

iOS 12 in action.
iOS 12 Kayak shortcuts in action.

For a look at what Siri could achieve in theory, you only need look as far as the competition. Apple analyst Gene Munster found in December 2017 that of the team’s 800 questions, Siri could accurately answer 75 percent while Google Assistant could answer 85 percent. Google unveiled upgrades to its Assistant at the I/O conference in May, where the A.I. phoned a business and booked an appointment by pretending to be a human. It’s cool, futuristic, and pretty far removed from anything Siri can do today. Maybe next year.

Still No Side-by-Side iPad Apps

The iPad is very nearly a productivity powerhouse, but there’s still a number of areas where it needs improvement. The split screen mode introduced with iOS 9 enables users to work on two tasks at once like a regular Mac, but the interface still only allows for one app alongside a different app. Users who want to look at two pages on Facebook at the same time, for example, have to whip out another computer. Three years after the feature launched, it’s still not possible to run the same app side-by-side.

Thankfully, this may change soon. Apple reporter Mark Gurman claimed in May that iOS 13, due for release next year going by the company’s release history, will include a slew of big changes:

iOS 12 Still Has Clunky Notifications

Apple considerably reworked iOS notifications for this release, but it still needs changes. In iOS 12, the software will group alerts based on the app they came from, creating “stacks” that expand with a tap. The problem is these notifications themselves are still huge in terms of display, and take up a strangely large amount of screen real estate. Users may find that they wind up obscuring the background to a far larger degree than the style used in iOS 7, 8 and 9.

Notifications used to appear on the lock screen by darkening and blurring the background, and overlaying as a clean alert in white text. With the launch of iOS 10 in 2016, Apple reworked this stylish design into giant white blobs that plop their way across your chosen lock screen photo and demand your attention. These changes came as part of a wider shift in user interface elements that take more advantage of larger-screened phones to show more design flair.

There is a reason for this change. MacStories noted in its iOS 10 review that the new system works more like “a new layer on top of apps,” where users can pop them open to complete a number of tasks, like quickly replying to texts with a full conversation history view. In this light, it makes sense that notifications take on new-found prominence. However, like the changes to the Music app and other interface elements, Apple may have changed the design to use space less efficiently with little tradeoff in terms of function.

MacOS Mojave Has Dark Mode, but Not iOS 12

As noted in a previous rundown of the five biggest disappointments of WWDC, iOS 12 still doesn’t include a dark mode. This seams like a missed opportunity, as the option to change the user interface to use darker elements could really shine on newer iPhone screens.

The iPhone X is the first Apple phone to use OLED, which means the system can switch off individual pixels to make the screen appear truly dark. It’s a key feature of the Apple Watch that its lead designer Jony Ive has highlighted in interviews, telling the New Yorker in 2015 that the way the whole display on an LCD iPhone lights up feels “very, very old.” A dark mode could give the iPhone a futuristic feel, with the interface looking as if it’s floating on the black slab.

macOS Mojave, announced the development of a dark mode at the same conference as iOS 12, and shows how this could be done with great effect. The new update offers a switch between light and dark mode, with a new “dynamic wallpaper” setting flicks between light and dark depending on the time of day.

macOS Mojave.
macOS Mojave.

Note that this hypothetical feature is different from the “Smart Invert” mode introduced with iOS 11, an accessibility feature that inverts colors while maintaining the original colors of photos and other important elements.

“Smart Invert” changes the background from white to black and the text in the reverse direction, but it’s still ultimately a tool for accessibility. Apps that don’t support the feature will flip all colors like regular invert, for example. “Smart Invert” shows how Apple could implement a true dark mode with a few tweaks, but it still hasn’t taken that extra step just yet.

Check out more of our iOS 12 coverage here, our guide for downloading the beta, and a rundown of our favorite upgrades here.