The hidden successes of iOS 12: My three unsuspected challenges

For developers and tech-enthusiasts, the beta release of iOS 12 is an exclusive insight into what Apple will bring to the table as part of its Autumn release schedule. Many of the features are listed on Apple’s website, as well as being discussed by tech bloggers. But there is one success story that I haven’t seen so much: the desire to get my numbers down.

What numbers?

Let me explain.

But first, some of the features that Apple lost on their website:

  • Faster app load speed
  • FaceTime group video calls
  • New Animoji
  • New Memoji (an Animoji or yourself)
  • New camera effects
  • New augmented reality capabilities, including new Measure app
  • An app usage timer (aka ScreenTime)
  • New notification management
  • New do not disturb settings
  • Updated Stocks, Photos, and Voice Memo apps
  • Siri shortcuts for third party apps
  • Automatic strong passwords

There’s a lot to take in, and so many more I didn’t mention.

And while it may not seem obvious from the list, there are features that will actually do people real personal good.

Two, to be specific.

And these two features, I believe, might be the best features to be shoved into new a mobile operating system. And no, I’m not referring to the new Animoji’s. ScreenTime, and the strong password prompts, are what I want to focus on.

ScreenTime records how long you spend on each application, and presents it in a clear chart within the settings menu. It’s also accessible as a widget, but that’s irrelevant here.

Apple’s ScreenTime in iOS 12. Image: Apple

Part of the feature measures the number of notifications you receiver, and another counts the times you pick up your phone. While you can’t very easily control the number of emails you get from work, texts from your significant other, or calls from mum, you can control the time you spend looking at your little pocket computer.

Take today, for example. For me, it’s an average working day. I wake up early and read through Twitter over breakfast, and catch up on news and listen to the radio on the half-hour bus journey to work. I checked my phone during my shift every now and then when it bleeped. I also took it with me when I popped out for lunch, or took a break. Ironically, breaking away from the computer only resulted in me looking at a smaller screen. But shelving that thought for a moment – I resumed reading articles online from Twitter on my way home, before checking up on the latest posts by friends on Instagram.

In all of 18 hours, I had somehow picked my phone up over 150 times.

Oh, and apparently accumulated six hours worth of staring.

So these are the first numbers I want to set a challenge to. I don’t know what a reasonable number of pick ups or usage time is yet, but to me that doesn’t matter.

I feel challenged.

I also feel challenged by the better password prompt.

Tech companies are always telling us to change passwords frequently, and to not recycle the same password on different sites. And Apple is famous for its stance on privacy, especially after court cases such as the San Bernardino battle to unlock a terrorists phone.

Within the Passwords and Accounts subsection of the Settings menu, you can see a list of all the saved passwords in your keychain – nothing new here. But one startling new addition is a warning flag next to each password that is shared with another site. Even more embarrassingly, the app numerates how many sites that password is used for.

I’ll admit, I’m not too bad when it comes to passwords. After a string of data hacks and leaks over the last few years, I have made effort to set some of my accounts with a string of mixed-case alphanumeric gibberish that I couldn’t never remember myself. But there is that one ‘go-to’ password we all have, for those hardly-ever used accounts, that might as well be the word Password1. I’m ashamed to see exactly how many times this (not actually Password1, but the format) was used across the various sites I interact with. And as soon as I saw it, I began to up my game.

And that’s my second challenge; bringing the number of duplicate passwords I use down to zero. Unlike the picks ups or screen time, this is one counter I can get right down to to zilch.

They are three challenges that I think will result in me becoming a more mindful user of technology. I hope they make me less dependent on my pocket computer, while also making my online activity much safer and private while the internet is becomes more gruesome with attempts to undermine users with creepy social profile scraping and targeted political adverts.

Tin foil hat much?