Tech Guide

The best improvements in iOS 12, which you can try now

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California.
Getty Images
Key Points
  • The iOS 12 public preview is now available for iPhone owners to download.
  • It includes some of the best new features in iOS 12, so CNBC's Todd Haselton walks you through what to look for.
  • Remember to keep updating your iPhone with new public previews, and that they can be buggy.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Apple released the public preview of iOS 12 on Monday evening, which means you can already try some of the new features that will hit iPhones and iPads sometime this fall.

The public preview is a little buggy and doesn't yet include everything that will be included in the full launch, but there's already a lot you can test out on your own. I've been digging through an earlier developer beta to show you what sorts of features are available, should you want to install the public preview of iOS 12.

Keep in mind that some apps might not work properly, your battery life could suffer and your iPhone might crash from time to time. You might want to install it on an older iPhone first.

Here's a look at some of the highlights.

Apple's Measure app

A first look at Apple's Measure app for iOS 12

Once you've installed the iOS 12 public preview you can head to the iTunes App Store and download Apple's new Measure application. This lets you get estimates for measurements -- the length of a couch in a room, for example -- all using your iPhone's camera. You'll probably still want to have a tape measure nearby to get exact dimensions, at least until the final version is released, but this is a pretty cool way to estimate measurements in a bind.


Apple's Memoji lets you make Animoji of yourself

Be sure to check out our guide on how to create Memoji. This new feature -- only available for the iPhone X currently -- lets you create a digital animated version of yourself that you can share with friends through Apple iMessage. Memoji work just like Animoji, so the animated version of you will mimic your face as you look at the screen. You can record yourself, with audio, and send the clips out to friends and family. It's a lot of fun, so try it.

Group FaceTime

Apple announces group Facetime

Group FaceTime lets you place a video call with up to 32 people. The person speaking will automatically dominate the display, while others on the call will be represented with small thumbnails on the bottom of the screen. It has fun features, too, like masks and hats you can place on your head to liven up a video chat. I demoed this briefly with Apple back during WWDC earlier this month but haven't yet had enough people running the beta to test it out on my own. It's active in the public beta, though, so give it a whirl.


New Notifications in iOS 12

The iOS 12 public preview also includes the new changes Apple is making to notifications. This means you can batch them all together, manage what apps can alert you right from each notification and more. I like that it's easy to receive alerts silently, too, so when I go to check the Notification Center on my iPhone I can still see alerts, but without getting a "ding" or a buzz from my iPhone. I walk through this in our iOS 12 Notification guide, so be sure to check that out.

Screen Time

All of the ways Apple is helping us put our phones down

Apple's new Screen Time feature in iOS 12 lets you see how long you're using each app and set time limits. That means, if you find yourself on Instagram all day, for example, you can set your iPhone to stop the app from working after a few hours of use. That timer resets after each day. There are family controls, too, so you can limit how long your kids spend in certain apps, like YouTube or Facebook, or stop them from using anything after a certain time of day.

Try it now

These are a few of the highlight features in the iOS 12 public preview, which you can download now. Apple will continue to update it with stability and performance enhancements until the final launch sometime this fall, so be sure to apply those updates as you see them. New features may be added, too, so keep an eye out.