While there were a ton of features added in iOS 12, one that Apple had been bragging about since June was nowhere to be seen. Until now. With the iOS 12.1 update, your iPhone gets a huge feature, as well as a few smaller ones to boot.
The iOS 12.1 update was released on Oct. 30, 2018, so make sure to update your iPhone by going to Settings –> General –> Software Updates and installing it. If you have "Automatic Updates" enabled, you just have to wait until night comes when it will update itself while you're sleeping. (And if you want to get new features first, consider becoming a public beta tester.)
1. There's More Than 70 New Emoji
Apple added 146 new emoji in total to iOS 12.1, however, a lot of those are skin variations of people or body parts. So, the total emoji added minus skin tone options comes out to 76, which are all from the Emoji 11.0 list that was released to vendors in June 2018. Actually, one of those 76 is the United Nations flag that was available in Emoji 4.0 in 2016 but not adopted by Apple until now.
Also, Apple has changed the two phone emojis from phones that have Home buttons to ones with Face ID instead of physical Home buttons. At some point in the beta, after the bagel emoji was added, Apple updated it with cream cheese since it didn't have any spread on it — which was blasphemy for all who eat bagels.
2. Group FaceTime Has Finally Arrived
This was the big feature that Apple promised us back in June, and it's finally available to try out. With it, you can have FaceTime audio or video chats with up to 31 additional users for a total of 32 users in one group call. Group FaceTimes can be initiated or answered in Messages or in the FaceTime app itself.
3. You Can Take Advantage of eSIM Now
If you're sporting one of the new iPhone XS, XS Max, or XR devices, they came with dual SIM support so that you can use two different cellular plans at once, like one for personal use and one for work. However, this was not possible out of the box since they don't have two slots for physical SIM cards. Instead, they have one nanoSIM and one eSIM, the latter of which was not ready for prime time until now.
Even if you don't want to use two cellular plans right now, you may want to convert your current cellular plan from the nanoSIM to the eSIM so that when the times comes when you're traveling or need to pop in another SIM, you'll be able to do so without any hassle. Speak to your carrier for information on transferring your current plan to the eSIM.
4. iPhone XS & XS Max Users Get Real-Time Depth Control
One of the hottest features on the iPhone XS and XS Max out of the box is the depth controls when editing a Portrait mode image. Well, in iOS 12.1, you can adjust the depth of Portrait mode photos while you're taking them, not just after the fact.
5. New Flashlight & Camera Sound on Lock Screen
This is one of those things you'll probably never even notice, but when you open the Flashlight or Camera on the lock screen on an iPhone X or newer model, the accompanying audio sounds more pronounce and clicky. Before, it was a very dull sound, but now it sounds almost metallic.
6. There Are Changes for Apple Watch Owners
If you have an Apple Watch, you'll notice a new color under "Face Gallery" in the Watch app, and you can enable the speaker during a phone call using one touch like it was in iOS 11, as long as the Apple Watch is connected.
7. The 'Beautygate' Phenomena in Portraits Is Gone
There was a huge controversy over how the Camera app took selfies with the front-facing lens on the iPhone XS and XS Max. Dubbed #beautygate, Apple's software would smooth out the details in a self-portrait, making the skin look like it had a "beauty" filter applied. The new Smart HDR feature was at fault here, according to The Verge, which was choosing a blurrier base image as the lead image when combing exposures. Apple confirmed this was a bug and fixed it in iOS 12.1.
Other Improvements Worth Highlighting
In Apple's release notes for iOS 12.1, they list the following as additional improvements and fixes.
- Improves cellular connectivity for iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR
- Adds the ability to change or reset your child's Screen Time passcode using Face ID or Touch ID
- Resolves an issue that caused messages to be merged into one thread when two users were signed in with the same Apple ID on multiple iPhones
- Addresses an issue that prevented some voicemails from appearing in the Phone app
- Resolves an issue in the Phone app that could cause phone numbers to appear without their corresponding contact name
- Fixes an issue that could prevent Screen Time from reporting specific websites in the activity report
- Addresses an issue that could prevent adding or removing family members from Family Sharing
- Adds a performance management feature to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down, including the option to disable this feature if an unexpected shutdown occurs, for iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus
- Adds the ability for Battery Health to inform users that it is unable to verify if a genuine Apple battery is in iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR
- Improves reliability of VoiceOver in Camera, Siri, and Safari
- Fixes an issue that could cause MDM Device Enrollment to report an Invalid Profile error for some enterprise users
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