Of Apple’s four operating systems shortly to receive BIG updates, it’s iOS 11 we’re most excited about. It offers refinements to make things you already do quicker and easier to accomplish, includes creative and fun new things to do with photos and videos, and looks set to introduce a whole new class of apps and games through augmented reality.
It’s an even bigger update on the iPad too, with huge improvements to multitasking, and newly added support for drag and drop between apps that make things much more Mac-like.
Try the beta...
Public beta versions of iOS 11, macOS High Sierra, and, for the first time, tvOS are currently available.
Sign up to participate in the public beta at beta.apple.com. If you choose to test out any of these beta versions, remember that you could encounter some issues, so make sure you back up your data. Also, for High Sierra, it’s wise to put it on a separate drive away from your existing installation.
Bear in mind that the public beta software is confidential. By signing up to access it, you agree not to disclose details, publish screenshots, or share the software with other people who aren’t also in the public beta program. Only details publicly disclosed by Apple itself are considered to be no longer confidential.
You should find an app installed as part of the beta versions that enables you to provide feedback on any bugs you discover, or to suggest changes to the software.
Installing a public beta version does not void your hardware warranty. However, bear in mind that it’s best to install on a device that isn’t your main one.
Control Centre is a little awkward in iOS 10, so the new version reverts to a one-page design, meaning you no longer have to swipe left or right just to reach the set of controls you need. Instead, controls are neatly grouped, and there are additional settings just a firm press away.
One of our favourite changes is that the redesigned interface dispenses with some of the clumsy, Mac-like controls. Notice in the screens here that the volume and screen brightness controls are no longer adjusted by dragging a small handle along a track. Instead, they’re shown as two vertical strips; you only have to place your finger on one of these and swipe up or down to adjust its value.
At first, it might appear that some important controls are missing. For example, the one that redirects your device’s audio to an AirPlay speaker or Apple TV, the switch that toggles Night Shift on or off, and the controls for your favourite HomeKit accessories and scenes. In reality, what’s changed is that Control Centre now makes more extensive use of 3D Touch than it does in iOS 10. Pressing firmly on some controls, or on groups of them, you uncover more detailed settings, such as those just mentioned.
3D Touch can also be applied to the group of connectivity icons at the top left, which initially shows four switches for Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular data. Pressing firmly on this group reveals AirDrop and Personal Hotspot, and status descriptions for all six items.
Beyond aesthetics and interactions, Control Centre sports a huge practical improvement: you can remove the familiar alarm, flashlight, camera, or calculator controls if you don’t use them, and there’s a bunch of extra controls you can choose to add instead. The additional controls include shortcuts to Low Power Mode, Dynamic Text size, and the special Magnifier camera mode, which is an accessibility feature introduced in iOS 10.
On the iPad, the Dock evolves from a simple place to keep up to six of your most-used apps visible on all pages of the Home screen and becomes a lot more like the one in macOS. Notice a dividing line to the right. You choose which apps are to the left of that and the items on the right are picked for you by iOS itself, based on what it thinks you might need next.
On the iPad, the new Dock is about more than providing a new way to quickly switch between apps. When you reveal the Dock while using an app, you can drag the icon of another app from the Dock to the side of the screen to open it in the temporary Slide Over view. If you decide to keep that app open you can pin it open in Split View to refer to as you continue to use the original app.
Apple has revamped the way notifications are presented in iOS 11, which should help if you’ve ever found yourself disoriented by the differences in their arrangement between Notification Centre and the Lock screen.
Your Lock screen always shows recent notifications, and you can swipe up to see older ones. When your device is unlocked, swipe down from the top of the screen to open Notification Centre; at first you’ll see only recent, unattended items. However, by then swiping up you’ll reveal a history of items going back chronologically through time.
Though this sounds like a small change, it brings a greater sense of continuity, regardless of whether you’re checking notifications after plucking your iPhone from a pocket, or taking a few minutes out of doing something else to deal with items that you’ve ignored for a while.
The Messages app gained apps and stickers last year, but accessing all the ones installed by apps on your device has been a cumbersome process in iOS 10.
Apple has redesigned the app drawer; app icons are shown in a scrolling row across the bottom of the screen, which you swipe to find the one you want. As you do so, the row’s height increases to make it easier to pick out the app you want – simply tap it to access stickers or other features.
For a number of years, one of our greatest frustrations with Messages has been inconsistent records of communications when moving from one device to another. Apple’s solution to this is to store a copy of all the messages you receive in iCloud, and have all your Mac and iOS devices use that collection. Messages you delete in one place disappear from all your other devices, too.
Naturally, this might concern you when it comes to privacy; but Apple says that delivery of your messages is end-to-end encrypted.
Due to storing your long-term archive of messages in the cloud, only recently received items are cached on your devices; older ones are retrieved on demand. And if you send a lot of photos and videos, they’re put in the cloud on the go, so devices’ periodic iCloud backups will complete faster.
Person-to-person Apple pay
Apple’s contactless payment and iMessage systems pair up in iOS 11, enabling you to send money to friends, family, or colleagues right from your conversations with them.
Let’s say you’re talking with a friend about booking cinema tickets. They use an app to purchase the tickets and send you an iMessage to let you know how much you owe them. You then tap the Apple Pay icon in Messages’ app drawer (or the Apple Pay suggestion that appears above the keyboard), confirm that the amount the app has picked out of the message is correct, then place your fingerprint on your device’s Touch ID sensor. Money received is held on an Apple Pay card in the Wallet app; you can either keep it there to fund future payments using Apple Pay (in a retail store or online), send it on to another person, or transfer it to your bank.
The new-look App Store
The App Store is now nine years old, and its presentation has been looking a little stale. That changes in iOS 11, with a new look inspired by the Music app’s 2016 redesign. The store opens to a Today page, which includes a new app of the day and a new game of the day, a list of themed apps that changes each day, stories about developers, and tips on how to use certain apps.
Promotional images on the Today page can automatically play video as they scroll into view, so beautiful games really ought to catch your eye. If you don’t check the store for a few days, you can keep scrolling down the Today page to catch up. Developer stories benefit from the same kind of rich presentation as iOS’s News app, including embedded videos and pull-quotes. At the bottom of a story is a link to share it with others, as well as a button to buy the app you’ve just read about.
Games are the biggest area of the App Store, so their domination of the store’s opening page in iOS 10 is understandable. However, apps sometimes barely get a look in as a result, so one aspect of the refreshed store design to look forward to is that apps and games, along with popularity charts, are separated out into their own dedicated pages. As with the Today page, you’ll find playing tips from the App Store’s editors among the content on the Games page.
In-app purchases will be highlighted among the store’s recommendations for the first time. This could draw your attention to new content you’d otherwise miss if you’ve removed a game. Product pages are also overhauled in the redesign; they look familiar overall, but the rating from customer reviews, chart position, minimum recommended age, and Editor’s Choice badge (where applicable) are highlighted more clearly.
Photos & Camera
There’s great news when it comes to taking photos and videos with your iOS device: on the iphone 7 and iphone 7 plus, video is captured in hEvC format. This is the next-generation successor to the H.264 format you’re probably already familiar with after years of it being used in Apple’s and other manufacturers’ video cameras, and for content delivery from places like the iTunes Store. Sometimes referred to as H.265, the HEVC format allows for up to twice the compression compared to H.264. This is fantastic news if you bought an iPhone 7 with a low storage capacity and often find yourself running out of space.
The underlying technique used in HEVC also applies to photos, so your iOS devices will no longer shoot in JPEG but High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF – pronounced ‘heef’). You’ll get the same sort of reduction in size as video, too, though Apple has stressed these are still high quality formats; though they’re more heavily compressed, that’s due to the algorithm’s efficiency rather than more data being discarded.
There’s no need to be concerned about what this means for compatibility with older devices; when you use AirDrop or email to send media to someone, or post to Facebook or another social network, your device will fall back on a format those destinations can use.
The iPhone 7 Plus’s portrait photography mode, which uses the device’s dual-lens camera to apply a depth-of-field effect to images, is enhanced in iOS 11 to deliver improved performance in low light. Overall image quality is also improved, with support for optical image stabilisation, the True Tone flash, and high dynamic range (HDR).
Additionally, expect third-party apps to start doing their own clever things with the depth information captured by the iPhone 7 Plus’s camera, as iOS 11 provides developers with a method that enables access to that data.
Be even more creative with photos and videos
Apple’s machine learning efforts were already applied to your photo library in Sierra and iOS 10, enabling you to search for objects and certain kinds of scene without having to manually tag images in advance; the app recognises trees, beaches, cars, and many more things.
This feature gets even smarter in High Sierra and iOS 11, enabling you to search for sporting events, outdoor activities, ‘night out’, weddings, and many more events. The Memories feature now supports portrait playback, automatically reformatting its auto-generated movies to that orientation; in Apple’s examples at least, the app manages to keep the subject of photos and videos within the portrait frame.
The capabilities of Live Photos are enhanced too, with options to trim, mute, loop, and bounce. The loop option analyses a video to compute a seamless loop, according to Apple, while bounce plays some action and, upon reaching the end, plays the same frames backwards to the start, then repeats. Cue plenty of instant memes and animated GIFs. And, at last, you can choose which frame of a Live Photo’s movie component is used as the key photo.
Photos also includes an effect that mimics capturing a long exposure with a traditional camera, where moving objects such as water in a stream become softened. Apple demonstrated the kind of results you can achieve with this on a relatively static landscape with water running through it. Though the original Live Photo looks relaxing, there’s a serene, dream-like quality to the water once the long exposure effect has been applied to the clip.
Do more with your music
Apple seems to have realised that, for many of us, the social side of music is much more personal than following favourite artists or curators and reading what they post to Apple Music’s Connect service. So in iOS 11’s Music app, as long as you have an Apple Music subscription, you can stay up to date with what your real friends are listening to by looking under the heading ‘Friends are listening to’ in the For You page.
This feature at last puts your customisable Apple Music profile to more use than just for the attribution of your comments on artists’ posts. You can set your profile to be private or public, choose which playlists are shared with friends, and you and your friends’ chosen profile pictures are displayed as attribution on items in the aforementioned row in For You.
The biggest news concerning music is the announcement of a new Apple-branded speaker called HomePod. This is the first speaker under the Apple brand since 2006’s short-lived iPod Hi-Fi. As well as putting out room-filling sound, HomePod contains an array of six microphones that enable you to give commands by speaking to Siri. HomePod also supports AirPlay 2, an updated version of Apple’s media-streaming protocol that supports multiroom audio.
An Apple Music sub also unlocks collaborative playlist creation when you have a friend visiting; several people can queue tracks over AirPlay 2 without interrupting what you’re listening to.
Apple has also announced that AirPlay 2 will be supported by Apple TV, on which you’ll be able to control multiroom music playback from the Siri Remote or by speaking to the virtual assistant.
Finally, Apple has introduced a new framework for app developers, MusicKit, that enables their apps and games to be given full access to your library, including tracks that are stored in the cloud. Apps will be able to create playlists, add to your library, plus search playlists, stations, and Apple Music’s 40-million strong catalogue (if you subscribe to the service). We’re hoping this enhancement spurs developers into offering stronger, more capable alternatives to iOS’s built-in Music app.
Find your way indoors
Navigating with Maps in iOS 11 offers extra detail as you travel from A to b. The speed limit is displayed at the top left of the screen, and lane guidance appears across the top of the screen so you can get into the correct position ahead of the next junction along your journey.
In iOS 11 the reach of Maps is extended to cover the interior of shopping centres and airports. For the former, you get detailed floor plans, along with a business directory and the ability to search for retailers, as well as browsing by floor. For airports, features such as checkpoints are marked, helping you to navigate the often labyrinthine structures and catch your flight.
As with previous features added to Maps, the list of cities in which shopping centres and airports are covered at launch is pretty short, being mostly focused on large cities. Apple says it plans to add hundreds more indoor maps to the service every month, though.
Do not disturb while driving
Apple says Carplay is its safest solution for using your device in a vehicle, yet many of us simply don’t have this technology available.
So it’s extending the Do Not Disturb feature to work while you’re driving.
It uses Bluetooth to connect to your car or, if your car doesn’t have that, it employs your iOS device’s Wi-Fi to detect the Doppler effect and determine that you’re moving in a car. Your device then asks if you’d like to enable Do Not Disturb While Driving. If you accept, your device’s screen goes black and notifications won’t flash up on its screen.
Try to wake the device and you’ll be reminded that the feature is enabled. You can override the block, so the feature’s effectiveness ultimately depends on your sense of responsibility.
Do Not Disturb While Driving can tell anyone who texts you that you’ll get in touch when you finish your journey. And like regular Do Not Disturb, you can set exceptions to ensure certain people can always reach you.