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Apple thinks iOS 18 is the ‘biggest’ update in iPhone history, and that can only mean one thing

Published Jan 29th, 2024 6:50AM EST
The main iOS 17 features, some of which are available in beta.
Image: Apple Inc.

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The often-accurate Mark Gurman penned his usual newsletter over the weekend at Bloomberg, where he dissected Apple’s most recent move that shook the mobile industry. iPhone sideloading and other big iOS changes are happening in Europe come March 7th, and Apple laid out the entire plan for complying with the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

That’s where Gurman also provided an update on the iOS 18 update coming this summer. He said that Apple sees iOS 18 as potentially the biggest iPhone software update in history. Gurman did not reveal specifics, but I think I know what would prompt Apple to think something like that. 

We don’t need that many leaks to know Apple GPT is coming to iPhone and other devices this year. We’ll probably see Apple’s ChatGPT rival in action at WWDC 2024, as Apple unveils Apple GPT features for iOS 18 and its other operating systems. We did have rumors indicating that’s going to be the case. That Apple will also debut a smarter Siri running on one of its large language models. 

All of that would be enough to qualify the iOS 18 update as a major one.

“I’m told that the new operating system is seen within the company as one of the biggest iOS updates — if not the biggest — in the company’s history,” Gurman said in a premium version of the Power On newsletter, per MacRumors.

Gurman is usually accurate about unreleased Apple products, so this iOS 18 tidbit is likely correct as well. Apple being excited about iOS 18 is certainly amazing news. It comes at a time when software updates can’t really be that exciting. 

For the first time in iOS beta history, I skipped the iOS 17 beta last year. I only got on the iOS 17.4 beta to inspect the iPhone sideloading-related settings, of which there are none.

But iOS 17 was nothing to be excited about. Contact Posters, Standby, and the Journal app are a few examples of good iOS 17 features and certainly important additions to the iPhone experience. But I do not use any of that. At all. I could easily have stayed on iOS 16.

The same goes for Android. The operating system can’t get massive upgrades, and I say that knowing that the Android 15 developer preview is just around the corner. But add AI features to it, and Android is starting to become something else. It’s not just Android 14 on Pixel 8 phones. Samsung made Galaxy AI the focal point of its Galaxy S24 launch event, and for good reason. 

Generative AI is the best thing that happened to tech last year. It’s also one of the most disturbing ones, according to some people. And others have yet to use products like ChatGPT, let alone on a regular basis. 

Adding generative AI features to iOS 18, including the rumored smarter Siri, has the potential to change the iOS experience in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. 

Furthermore, as MacRumors points out, there’s one other big feature coming to the iPhone, one that Apple confirmed. RCS support will be available in iMessage, Apple said recently. It might not be Google’s RCS, but it’s an update some users have been waiting for.

Add to that rumors that the iPhone 16 phones will get a camera-centric Capture button, and you get a camera experience overhaul in iOS 18. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Those will be iOS 18 features dependent on hardware features. 

Apple is probably excited about the general iOS 18 experience that most iPhones will get whether they’re brand new iPhone 16 models or older devices. 

All of this is speculation, of course. But if it’s not generative AI built into iOS 18, then what could it be? Gurman teased he would share more details about iOS 18 in the future.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.