I dropped Apple’s Journal app but iOS 18 could bring me back — here’s why

 IOS 17 Journal app start screen.
Credit: Future

A while ago I tested using Apple’s journal app for a week to see if it could convince me to keep and maintain a journal. Unfortunately, I ended up stopping a few weeks later, but there is a chance that I could start again thanks to iOS 18.

While the main focus of Apple's WWDC was the introduction of Apple Intelligence, there were a fair amount of features for iPhones not connected to the new AI. For example, there's an improved customization options for the Home screen and even a new Lock App feature that helps to keep your apps private. However, I was interested in the changes coming to the Journal app.

The new additions have me wondering if I should return to the Journal app and if they would help me to stick with it. Alternatively, are they too minor or too focused on the wrong thing to capture my attention?

iOS 18 Journal: what is it and why’d I quit

iPhone with Journal app
iPhone with Journal app

The premise of the Journal app is pretty simple, it allows users to write down their thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Unlike the Notes app, which can get confusing and cluttered quickly with random pieces, the Journal app is designed to help you make the most out of it with alerts reminding you to write and prompts for ideas. The app can also connect with other apps on your phone and draw certain data to create prompts to write to, for instance, music.

When I tried it I found that a few bits were missing, but the overall experience was good enough that I would continue using the feature. I did end up returning for a few months and putting in entries; however, I found myself dropping off over time. The reason is that the way the app worked began to annoy me. For instance, if I wanted to put in a photo and write a post, the app put in 10 images and made me cut them down. I also found that if I forgot to post or put it off, I ended up not writing in the app altogether.

Another concern I originally had was the Journal connecting with other apps and recording when I spoke to people. While I was initially able to ignore it, this started to grate on me a bit. The app asking me to write how I felt after speaking to specific people started to feel offputting. It wasn’t the worst feeling, but it did make me wonder if this was really a safe space to put down my thoughts.

iOS 18 Journal: What are the changes?

iOS 17 Journal app logo and screenshot on iPhone
iOS 17 Journal app logo and screenshot on iPhone

iOS 18 is bringing a few changes to the Journal app, but not many that change the overall experience. However, the update will make the app easier to navigate and better organized. Journal in its current state is hard to search through as you can only filter posts into three broad categories. It’s not a bad change per se, and it will certainly help some people to keep their thoughts organized, but this iOS 18 change more like a needed addition than something to improve the experience.

The updated Journal app will also include a new insights tool that aims to compile all your journaling activity into one easy-to-read page. According to the statements made at WWDC, this includes tracking writing statistics and displaying your entries in a calendar, or perhaps linking them to the calendar app, so it's easy to see when you wrote and what. It will be interesting to see how this information is compiled, and how it will integrate with the alert system that reminds you to write.

Added to this are a few new features designed to help with your mental health, namely the introduction of mindfulness minutes. Currently, there isn’t a huge amount of information about what this means but it will likely link to the health app. It will also be easier than ever to add entries to the journal as there are a bunch of new widgets. It’s hard to comment on the advantage of mindfulness minutes, considering we know nothing about them, but the increased widgets could make adding a quick entry much easier.

Finally, the app can transcribe entries, meaning you could talk into the app and then have it write that down. I like this feature, especially since I think journaling shouldn’t be planned, it needs to be a spur-of-the-moment thing. However, it hopefully won’t be locked to phones capable of using Apple Intelligence, as I have no plans on buying an iPhone 15 Pro anytime soon, regardless of how tempting it is.

iOS 18 Journal: are these changes enough?

iOS 17 Journal app suggested photo collections
iOS 17 Journal app suggested photo collections

The real question is if this is enough to really get me back into the journaling app and. While I can see the advantages of the new changes, I don’t think they’re enough yet. While the improved organization options and the tracking are interesting, they don’t add much to the experience. One of my initial issues was that I lost interest, and while having an easy-to-read breakdown is nice it's not enough to bring me back.

I will say that the new widgets and the transcribing are interesting and could be enough to entice me for several reasons. One issue I had with journaling was finding the time to stop and write something out. The way the app currently works you need to find the widget, open it, select an option and then type. This only takes a few seconds but the point is that a lot of journaling is a spur of the moment; if you have to stop and think ‘I should write this down’ then you’re doing it wrong. Having an easy-to-access button that lets me speak my mind and have that be written down is a big win.

My biggest concerns about the Journal app and its connection with other apps and monitoring my conversations haven’t been addressed. All Apple really needs to do is integrate the Journal app with the Lock App. However, that might come later and I think that, in conjunction with the transcribing, it could be enough to bring me back. I would also like to see a bit more connection with Apple Intelligence as well, perhaps letting users talk to Siri or ChatGPT as part of an entry.

Overall, the Journal additions are nothing major, but they will be a benefit for those who are already using the app. While it won’t be enough to bring me back, I can see the advantages and am hopeful for more in the future. However, there is plenty to be excited for in the upcoming update so check out our full iOS18 breakdown for all the new features.

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