There are more Animoji this year, but Memoji are the big new addition in iOS 12. In case you’re not up to speed, you can do more than just put on a virtual T-Rex mask for your silly messages: You can cobble together your own, with dozens of options for skin tones, hairstyles, eyebrows, head shapes and more. If you’ve ever agonized over creating the perfect Mii, you’ve got a good idea of what to expect. The thing is, the novelty of putting a virtual face on top of my real one didn’t last long when Animoji debuted last year, and Memoji hasn’t changed that. Don’t get me wrong: I spent the better of 10 minutes meticulously building a chubby, brown, Pixar-like Memoji and had a great time doing it. I just can’t remember the last time I — or anyone I knew using iOS 12 — actually used one in a conversation.
This would’ve been the part of the review where I talked about the pure madness that is a 32-person Group FaceTime call but, uh, the feature isn’t actually ready yet. Curiously enough, Apple yanked support for those massive chats from this release even though it was present — and mostly functional — in the earlier beta builds. Apple has never offered a reason for its decision, so all we can do is wait until the feature goes live sometime this fall.
Siri, suggestions and shortcuts
You probably know Siri best as a chatty virtual assistant (and one with a bad rap, no less). In iOS 12, though, you’ll see Siri pop up in ways you might not have seen coming. If you miss a call from a friend, a notification will pop up to make sure you call her back. If you have a calendar event set for early in the morning, Siri will mention that setting an early alarm might be a good idea. Rather than wait for you to ask for help, this year’s version of Siri actively tries to help you get things done.
These suggestions are part of Siri’s new shortcuts, and the assist looks at a long list of data points to figure out what it should suggest to you and when. Your location, the current time, how you’re moving — Siri keeps tabs on all these and more to help inform its suggestions. While that might sound a little creepy, all that behavioral data stays on your iOS device and genuinely helps Siri feel more proactive. In my experience, these new suggestions don’t pop up too frequently, but that’ll almost certainly change as developers continue to give Apple’s assistant access to the data and actions contained in their apps.
I sort of prefer the serendipitous way Siri shows me shortcuts when it thinks I need them, but you can also create your own voice-activated shortcuts in your device’s settings. It’s about as straightforward as the process could be: You pick an app action you’d like Siri to fire up and record a voice command. So far, these homemade shortcuts have come in handy when I’m sitting down to interview someone (“Hey Siri, start recording” creates a voice memo) or catching up on news at the end of the day (“Hey Siri, news me” takes to me Apple News’s spotlighted stories). And if you want to take this whole thing a little further, there’s the new Shortcuts app.