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Apple launches iOS 12.1 with Group FaceTime, new emojis, eSIM support, and more

Published Oct 30th, 2018 1:00PM EDT
iOS 12.1 Release
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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In the wake of Apple’s iOS 11 release last year, Apple was hit with a barrage of complaints regarding system stability and performance. As a result, Apple with iOS 12 opted to take on a different approach. Instead of jam-packing the release with a bevy of new features, Apple with iOS 12 decided to focus on enhancing the overall user experience. In turn, some of the more compelling features Apple had been working on — including a redesigned home screen — were pushed back to iOS 13.

Now that’s not to say iOS 12 is a completely boring upgrade. The improvements in performance alone — especially on older phones — make iOS 12 an update everyone should download. All that said, Apple’s work with iOS 12 is far from over. Earlier today, Apple rolled out iOS 12.1, the first major update to iOS 12 since its release a few weeks back. Notably, iOS 12.1 introduces a number of compelling features that arguably make it a must-have update. If you haven’t been following what the update brings to the table, we’ve highlighted some of iOS 12’s more exciting features below.

Group FaceTime

First and foremost, iOS 12.1 will finally bring Group FaceTime to the iPhone. Originally introduced at WWDC this past June, the feature didn’t ship with the first incarnation of iOS 12. Apparently Apple just needed a bit more time to make sure the feature was able to run smoothly. Group FaceTime will be able to support upwards of 32 participants, though I can’t imagine a scenario where that would actually be more beneficial than a conference call. Nonetheless, some of the other features Group FaceTime brings to the table are listed below.

  • Automatic detection of active speakers: FaceTime uses on-device intelligence to display the most prominent speakers on the call, automatically highlighting the current speaker by bringing them to the forefront. It automatically sizes each person’s image depending upon how active they are in the conversation, based on duration of speech, volume and even motion. Participants who are not active will appear at the bottom of the screen until they speak. A simple tap also brings a participant front and center.
  • Ringless notification: When calling more than one person, FaceTime displays a notification that lets you instantly join a call without being disruptive.
  • Messages integration: Group FaceTime is integrated into the Messages app, making it easy to start a Group FaceTime right from a group iMessage chat. If people in a conversation have already started a FaceTime session, Messages shows the active call in the conversation list and inside your conversations.
  • Private: All FaceTime conversations, both one-to-one and multi-person, are encrypted end to end so they remain private and viewable only by the participants.

Even more Emojis

Do we already have enough emojis? Of course not. Less is certainly not more when it comes to emojis, though I have to admit that it can sometimes be a bit frustrating to find the exact emoji you’re looking for as the selection grows even larger with each passing year. With the iOS 12.1 release, Apple will introduce 70 new emojis, including “new characters with red hair, gray hair and curly hair, a new emoji for bald people, more emotive smiley faces and additional emoji representing animals, sports and food.” Some specific additions to look forward to include a kangaroo, a mango, and a newly designed bagel.

Advanced Depth Control

This particular feature is pretty darn cool. Users looking to take advantage of the bokeh effect on supported iPhones will be able to adjust the depth of field in real-time, straight from their device. Apple adds: “With iOS 12.1, users can now dynamically adjust the depth of field in real-time preview in addition to post-capture, enabling more control to create portraits with a beautiful background blur. Portrait mode with Depth Control is also available on the TrueDepth camera for selfies, which includes Memoji and faster face tracking support for third-party ARKit apps.”

Dual SIM 

And lastly, we have Dual SIM support. It’s likely not a feature the majority of iPhone users will take advantage of, but it’s certainly exciting for users who need it.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.