Apple Releases iOS 12.1 with Group FaceTime, New Emoji, and Some Fixes for VoiceOver and Braille Users

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today released iOS 12.1 to the public, following its Brooklyn event that saw the launch of new iPad Pro models and refreshes to its range of Mac computers.

In addition to some new features and enhancements, iOS 12.1 also brings a few improvements for blind and low vision users.

Accessibility Improvements in iOS 12.1

In iOS 12.1, Apple has made continued progress towards addressing the accessibility bugs in iOS 12. Based on our testing, we believe the following issues have been resolved in iOS 12.1:

  • Users of devices supporting Face ID once again receive haptic feedback when the device has been unlocked.
  • Users of braille displays are now able to access and use the misspelled words option in the VoiceOver rotor that was introduced with iOS 12.
  • Notifications once again work as expected if you do not have a passcode set.

At the time of posting, we are unaware of any new bugs or regressions for blind or low vision users in iOS 12.1. However, as we always stress, it is impossible for us to test all devices; configurations; and use cases—so there may be improvements or regressions that we did not identify during the beta cycle. With this in mind, please do let us know in the comments of any fixes; enhancements; or regressions that you find in your own testing of iOS 12.1.

General Changes in iOS 12.1

iOS 12.1 brings support for some of the previously announced capabilities and features of the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR:

  • Support for the eSIM; a digital SIM that lets you activate a cellular plan from a carrier without the need to use a physical SIM card and provides dual-SIM capabilities to these iPhone models.
  • Adds a new real-time Depth Control feature, which lets you adjust the depth of field of your Portrait Mode photos before you capture them. With the initial iOS 12 release, this could only be done post-capture.

In addition to these iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR features, iOS 12.1 introduces the Group FaceTime feature that Apple had originally indicated would ship with the initial iOS 12 release.

FaceTime will also gain some further new features in iOS 12.1:

  • 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.

iOS 12.1 also brings more than 70 new emoji. These include:

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.

Additionally, it's been reported that iOS 12.1 will address what's been dubbed “Beautygate”, a controversy surrounding the front camera on the iPhone XS and XS Max which are claimed to adjust colors and apply “aggressive” skin smoothing that hides fine details such as blemishes, freckles, and more.

How to Update to iOS 12.1

iOS 12.1 is available via Over-the-Air Update (Settings > General > Software Update) or via iTunes on a Mac or PC.

Before updating, we strongly recommend making a full and complete backup of your device (either in iTunes or iCloud, depending on personal preference). This will ensure that, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong during the update process, you will have a current backup on hand in case a device restore becomes necessary. Also, if using OTA update, we recommend plugging your device into a power source for the duration of the download/installation process, so as to prevent the unlikely event of your battery going dead during the update.

More information on how to update the software on your iOS device is available on this Apple Support page.

As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on this update.

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Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Seriously people complain about looking younger? Nuts. If picture of me makes me look young why will I complain. Specially Women since they are into looks.

Submitted by Angel on Tuesday, October 30, 2018

iOS 12.1 got released today. I have iOS 12.1 on my phone and there is lots of improvements for voiceover.

Submitted by alex wallis on Tuesday, October 30, 2018

the haptic feedback has been restored when you unlock the phone using face ID.
I did notice that this haptic feedback is dependent on VoiceOver running, if you unlock your phone and VoiceOver isn't running then you get no haptic feedback or sound played when the phone unlocks, so that's a nice compromise I guess to avoid annoying sighted users, like they did with the volume button sounds.

Submitted by MikeFont on Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Just recently as of a day or so ago, I've just upgraded my iPhone 7 case in the evening hours to a wireless charging dock and case combo. I use my Otterbox defender case during the daytime hours while at work as its much safer.
Now, this evening I updated to IOS 12.1 and none of my audio games on my I7 aren't playing any music or sound affects. The games I've tried so far are, Crafting Kingdom, Kingdom of dragon pass, and the sequel, The six ages.
I have background music checked in all of the game settings and controls, but nothing. not even clicks are playing while in crafting kingdom.
I have had no problem playing an audible book through the speakers, but this is very strange!
This again maybe completely unrelated to IOS 12.1, but if anyone has any ideas, I'd really love to see who else is effected by this.
Thanks much! :)

Did you happen to flip the Mute Switch on the top left edge of the phone when changing cases? It would cause the behaviour you describe. You want the switch flicked towards the display, not the back of your phone.

Hope that's all it is.


Submitted by MikeFont on Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Man thanks a ton! That was it exactly! This is the first time dealing with this new case, and yeah, its kinda thin and cheesy and leaves that mute switch open for toggeling.
Thanks again! :D

Submitted by Ekaj on Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Subject line pretty much sums it up. I let my iPhone do its magic overnight, and was eventually able to unlock my device with the passcode. This update seems pretty nice thus far on my end. I just received yet another call from an unrecognized number and went to my call log. I'm noticing that extra verbiage too, but it hasn't presented a problem for me.

Submitted by Carter Wu on Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In Chinese voice TingTing and TianTian,the pronunciation of uppercase letters has always been inaccurate.This bug was finally fixed in IOS 12.1.It sounds like a good news,But I don't feel happy because in fact, this bug was reported to us for nearly two years.What's more, there are still many bugs that have not been fixed yet.For example,mac users in China are now unable to successfully enter text through VoiceOver.I think Apple is too disregarding the voice of Chinese users.

Submitted by turner42 on Thursday, November 1, 2018

With iOS 12.1, you now hear words that are not on the screen visually. on my iPhone SE I do not have punctuation turned on, but I hear the underscores in the phrase "user underscore lable underscore primary" in the following example:
Walgreens, Incoming: , USER_LABEL_PRIMARY, 1 call, Pharmacy, October 30, 2018 at 5:02 PM Button
I reported it to Apple Accessibility and they duplicated it and "sent it on to the appropriate people."

Submitted by That Blind Canuck on Friday, November 2, 2018

I believe that this bit of text is to indicate whether the call came from your primary or secondary SIM card, but this is for those using newer iPhone's that support dual sims, but what they are hearing from VoiceOver is just "Primary". Those who have iPhone's that don't support dual sims, like myself, are hearing that label "user_label_primary". I am guessing that something in the code will need to be tweaked so that those using iPhone's that support dual sims will hear "Primary" or "Secondary" and those who have iPhone's that don't support dual sims, that bit of text will not be read aloud by VoiceOver.

I agree that this is something that, had Apple perhaps had more VoiceOver beta testers, perhaps this glitch would have maybe been picked up. But for the most part, it's more of a nuisance really and doesn't prevent the phone from functioning. I am sure that they'll fix it in the next update.

Submitted by Ipadman on Friday, November 2, 2018

Does anyone know if image descriptions better in iOS 12.1, or if Apple has fixed the PDF viewer in Safari?