With hundreds of new features, not everything can be a standout, but these caught our eye.
Apple’s iOS 11, its latest and greatest mobile operating system, is fast approaching your iPhone and iPad. And it brings a slew of productivity features that let you do more with your Apple device.
At WWDC 2017, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, promised “hundreds of new features and incredible updates” for existing iOS apps. For those who like to tinker with new software, the public beta of iOS 11 is already delivering on that promise. Everyone else will get iOS 11 later this month, likely when new iPhones arrive.
With hundreds of new features, not everything can be a winner. A new look for the App Store? Meh. Revamped Control Center? Better than before, but looks a bit cramped. But there are several things that caught our eye and will likely improve the iOS experience. Check them out in the gallery below.
Though some of its biggest rivals have embraced virtual and augmented reality, from Microsoft’s HoloLens to Samsung’s Gear VR, Apple has mostly observed from the sidelines. Last fall, Tim Cook said AR was “incredibly interesting,” but that’s all we heard from Cupertino on the matter, even as Pokemon fans ran around the country in 2016 catching AR creatures on their iPhones.
Now it appears Apple is finally ready to embrace AR with new tools for software developers that will allow them to bring augmented reality apps to iPhones and iPads. Remarkably, Apple’s first stab at AR doesn’t require special sensors or multiple cameras, and will work with devices going back to the iPhone 6s. You won’t need a special phone to see AR tricks like you do with Google Tango—something that perhaps inspired the recent release of Google ARCore. Instead, Apple uses the internal gyroscopes to help track objects on the screen.
When it rolls out, iOS 11 will put AR in the hands of millions, and dramatically improve your Pokemon Go experience almost overnight. There are several AR iOS apps in the works for shopping and games that are sure to draw a lot of attention.
Apple Pay Person to Person
Apple Pay is cool; we’ve used it to buy shampoo at Duane Reade and perfume at Sephora. What a world. But it doesn’t allow for person-to-person money transfers, a la Venmo. Until now. With iOS 11, you’ll be able to send money via iMessages to friends who also have iOS devices. No more hunting down friends for that $20 they owe, or having to (gasp!) write a check.
When you receive funds, the money is deposited on a virtual prepaid debit card backed by Green Dot bank that lives in the Wallet app. It’s got a cool, animated design and is tokenized with the same security as your other Apple Pay cards. Funds are transferred immediately behind the scenes. People can then send it to someone else, use it anywhere Apple Pay is accepted (on the web or in stores) or transfer funds to their bank accounts.
Person-to-person payments will initially only be available to US citizens (because of the prepaid card); no international payments just yet. But you can bet we’ll see something like that coming soon.
Siri has a lot going for her, but she’s still a work in progress. At WWDC, Apple touted Siri’s increasing smarts, including her multi-lingual capabilities. The voice assistant can now speak 21 languages across 36 countries, with all the associated foibles that come with spoken words in those areas. For example, Siri now includes 14 different flavors of English.
In iOS 11, Siri will give Google Translate a run for its money by translating things you tell her in English into Chinese, Spanish, French, German, or Italian. Translation cards appear on the screen with the response spelled in the spoken language and transliterated into your language, if you want to take a stab at speaking yourself. A handy playback button lets you replay Siri’s translation aloud, in case the person didn’t hear you. Apple’s iOS 11 website notes that this feature is in beta, so be prepared for some iffy answers.
Siri is also getting a new voice in iOS 11. The change is subtle, but Siri can now change up its cadence and tone to sound more natural. She might say the same phrase with slightly different inflection at different times, just like real, breathing people. It’s a small change, but shows that Apple is keen to get even more people talking, and listening, to Siri.
If something gets lost in translation, you can always try the universal language: music. A Personal DJ feature will let you ask Siri to play something you’d like, which she’ll do based on previous music choices.
Multi-Tasking With Files App, Dock
Microsoft is going after Apple pretty aggressively with its Surface Laptop and Surface Pro devices, arguing in part that Windows is easier to use for business types. It has a point; iOS is beautiful, and the iPad Pro is sleek, but there are some productivity hiccups.
Apple wants to change that with the multi-tasking updates in iOS 11 for iPad. The Files app, for example, lets you “browse, search, and organize all your files in one place,” Apple says. No more copy-pasting or using share sheets to get important information somewhere else. Apple is also able to do all this without breaking its security model that prevents one app from talking directly to another app, so you know your information will always be safe.
The Dock from the Mac, meanwhile, is also coming to iPad for easy access to apps. Reaching for the Home Button is easy when you’re on an iPhone, but it’s a pain when you have your iPad in landscape view. The Dock keeps the apps you want within easy reach, and can always be summoned by just swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
Slide Over and Split View Apps
The iPad has supported splitscreen for a while, but iOS 11 lets you have an app floating over another app while keeping both in focus. That means you can move seamlessly between the two, as well as moving files and information, too. If you want to switch back to split screen view, just tap the top of the slid-over app, and vice versa. On the iPad Pro, you can have up to two Slide Over apps active over a third app.
It sounds simple, but this is going to be a game changer for the iPad. It’s not necessarily a question of whether Apple can recreate the laptop experience on a tablet, but if it has created a new way of working that might actually be better. We’ll have to wait and see for ourselves.
Tap, Drag, and Now: Drop
The first iPhone showed off what multitouch gestures could do, and has defined the smartphone world ever since. But in the following decade, precious little has changed until iOS 11. Now, you’ll be able to tap and drag files, text, and just about anything else wherever you need them. Move layers in PhotoShop, or Slide Over the Files app to drag assets into an animation app. One neat trick is dragging text from a text message into the Maps app, quickly triggering a search.
iOS 11 also lets you select multiple files with ease. Just tap and drag one file, then, with a different finger, tap more files to add to the bundle. It’s very different than dragging a mouse cursor to define an area, but is deft and a little startling to long-time iOS users. Apple has integrated drag and drop wherever they can, but it’s up to developers to add it to their apps. Looking at you, Microsoft Office.
Music fans who want to keep the party going from room to room will appreciate AirPlay 2, which brings HomeKit support to speakers for multi-room audio. So you can play a song on the Bang & Olufsen speaker in the living room and the Bose in the kitchen. Of have a playlist play on every connected speaker you have in the home—including, presumably, Apple’s upcoming HomePod.
Apple Maps Do Not Disturb
Apple Maps has improved since its disastrous debut, though it’s not quite as robust as Google Maps. That could change in iOS 11, which adds features like lane assist, speed limit, and a “do not disturb” while driving mode. With “do not disturb” enabled, you won’t get any notifications or messages while the car is in motion. If anyone texts you, they’ll get an auto-reply that says you’re driving and will get back to them at your destination. If it’s an emergency, though, there is the option to break the “do not disturb.” And if you’re a passenger, you can select “I’m not driving” so you can still peruse Instagram on your commute.
When you really need to track down a Shake Shack before your flight, Apple also promised detailed maps of hundreds of airports and shopping centers.
Apple’s Live Photos, which arrived with the iPhone 6s lineup, attaches 3-second videos to your still photos. With iOS 11, Live Photos will add three new tricks: the Vine-like Loops (above); the Boomerang-esque Bounce; and a Long Exposure option.
In the bad old days, screenshots were stored out of sight and mind in your camera roll. In iOS 11, taking a screenshot brings up a little preview in the lower corner that you can drag and drop to share.
Tap the preview image, and you’ll get a slate of tools to doodle and draw on the screenshot. To highlight a particular street intersection, for example. On the iPad Pro, you’ll be able to use the excellent Apple Pencil, too.
With hundreds of new features, not everything can be a standout, but these caught our eye.