Apple recently released the first beta to iOS 11, the next major software update for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. It has a ton of new features and little tweaks worth noting, so we’ll try to mention everything we can in this hands-on.
For now, we’ll have to manage using an iPhone 7 running beta 1 of iOS 11, meaning we can’t show you all the new features on the iPad as of yet. We hope to be able to dive deeper into iOS 11 soon with Apple’s tablet. Stay tuned!
One of the first changes you’ll notice in iOS 11 is how notifications are managed. Usually, you’d just receive a pretty static list of notifications in chronological order or by app, your choice. But now, you get just your most recent notifications when you either swipe down to view your notifications or view your lock screen, By swiping up on those notifications, you’ll be greeted by any missed notifications you may have not noticed. These can’t be individually cleared out one by one, but they can be cleared all at once. I think this is a pretty handy feature, but since I’m coming from an Android phone to test iOS 11, I do find how Apple manages this element of the OS a bit odd.
New Control Center
It feels like we’ve had to wait an eternity, but we can finally edit the Control Center. Gone are iOS 10’s paginated controls and in its place comes nearly unlimited customization. You can add various toggles to the center which are all accessible via a swipe up from anywhere on your phone. 3D Touch also plays a role in the Control Center as it allows you to access certain shortcuts within toggles to quickly fire off an action like a selfie. While I think the Control Center could use a bit more refinement since it looks like it does right now, all of these changes are very welcome.
Oh yeah, and hidden in the Control Center settings is an option to toggle screen recording. Yup, native screen recording in iOS 11 is a thing. No third party software, no Mac, nothing. Just you and your phone. Go make magic happen.
Tweaks to Apple Music
In iOS 11, you can now share your music with friends using Apple Music. You can create a profile and share playlists, songs, albums, and more with others you’re in contact with. There’s also a nifty new music widget that pops up any time you play a song on the lock screen. This rids iOS of its previous full-screen listening experience while on the lock screen, so in my opinion, this change was much needed.
Peer-to-Peer payments through Apple Pay
Apple has stolen Venmo’s thunder. In iOS 11, you can now send payments to your friends via Apple Pay in the Messages app. All payments sent go into a special Apple Pay Cash account which can be used at Apple Pay-accepting stores or transferred to your bank account. This feature has been obviously highly requested by users so it’s about time Apple added it.
Other changes to Messages
There’s also a few new animations in Messages you can send to your friends, but these changes are basically as big as a new watch face on the Apple Watch. In other words, are they really that significant?
Oh yeah, and you can scroll through your list of Messages apps at the bottom of your screen. Again, ground-breaking stuff here, right?
Siri gets an upgrade
In iOS 11, Siri has received a pretty nice upgrade. The AI assistant can now suggest different content from within various apps and can respond to texts rather just your voice, similar to what Google added to the Assistant. The only caveat regarding the latter feature is that you can’t instantly choose whether to use your voice or fingers to touch base with Siri. Rather, there’s a toggle in Settings > General > Accessibility > Siri that you can turn on or off to activate texting to Siri. If you turn it on, you can’t use your voice. If you turn it off, you can. Obviously, the ideal use case would be having the freedom to decide whether to use your voice or fingers at a moment’s notice rather having to jump all the way into settings, but this could change since this is, after all, the first beta of iOS 11.
Siri has also received a new voice. The new female and male voices sound more human-like and drop the whole robotic essence previously found. Apple says they’re using machine learning to gain this ability to have a digital human speak with you, but it regardless still needs some work before the company can tout this.
Finally, Siri can translate voices now. If you say, for instance, “Hey Siri, how do you say ‘What’s the weather today?’ in Spanish,” Siri will translate what you said for you and repeat it back to you. It’s a pretty nifty little feature to have if you need to tell the Chinese food restaurant what you want for dinner or if you’ve gotta tell your friend from across the border about that new song you’ve been jamming out to.
A new App Store
Apple has famously redesigned the App Store for iOS 11. Gone are all the various lists and grids of apps that so many have come to love, and in their place arrives big, bold lists that make the experience feel a bit limited. I don’t exactly like the redesign since you don’t have access to as much as you used to. But on the contrary, I do like the quick access to different sections of the App Store via tabs along the bottom, so there’s that.
Of course, Apple has upgraded Live Photos with new features. You can now select which part of a Live Photo to feature as the main image, let them Bounce (in other words, allow them to loop again and again similar to how Boomerang on Instagram works), and even use a long exposure to capture more dramatic shots that combine all the images collected from a Live Photo. The former two features are a bit goofy and should be labeled “FUN STUFF”, but the latter could actually prove to be pretty useful in day-to-day usage.
There’s a new app in iOS 11. It’s called Files, and it lets users view files they’ve stored on their device. You can also connect third-party cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive to create a unified experience. I still have to set the app up, but once I figure it out, I’ll let you know how I like it.
We previously saw a one-handed keyboard mode in a separate iOS beta, and now the feature is officially here in iOS 11. By holding down the globe icon on the keyboard, you can either choose to have your keyboard shift over to the left or right side of the screen to make texting with one hand easier. This is a small feature, but it’s definitely welcome.
New Calculator app and icon
One final feature I’ll mention here is a new Calculator. You’ll immediately notice this change since the icon has changed. When opening the app, you’ll be greeted by a much rounder interface that’s still limited to basic functionality. Still, it’s a nice little tweak I actually am a fan of.
There’s a ton of other tidbits hidden and scattered around iOS 11. Here’s just some of them.
- Redesigned connection status bar
- Tweaked battery icon
- AirPlay 2 for connecting to more than one speaker around your home
- Drag-and-drop from within apps
- Do Not Disturb While Driving mode for non-disctracted driving
- In-door availabily for malls and airplanes in Apple Maps
- Tweaked PIN lock interface
- New app launching animation
- 32-bit apps are dead
- FLAC file support
- New iTunes Store icon
- Volume indicator no longer block screen while watching videos
- Take photos from within FaceTime calls
- New wallpaper
Obviously, there’s a lot more that we haven’t mentioned here, so feel free to check out the beta for yourself if you’re a developer. For those of you who aren’t, you’ll need to wait until later this month to test drive iOS 11.