Apple recently unveiled all their upcoming plans, including the annual update to iOS, the operating system that runs on all iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch devices. This year will bring us iOS 11, and it’s certainly come a long way since the first iPhone was introduced back in 2007. The tech giants have added a bunch of long-awaited features, and a few unexpected ones as well. The software won’t be available until the fall (likely around the same time that the next iPhone goes on sale, which hasn’t officially been announced yet).
In the meantime, here’s a preview of everything you need to know about iOS 11. It should be noted that the new version won’t be available on older generations of Apple devices, as per usual. The new iOS will only work with iPhone 5S or newer, 6th generation iPods, and 7th generation iPads, iPad Air and Air 2, iPad Mini (generations 2, 3, and 4), and all iPad Pro models.
New Control Center
When Apple first introduced the control center, it was a nice touch. Many people found it really annoying to have to constantly go into the Settings app just to change simple things like turning the WiFi on or off, or adjusting screen brightness. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t make the Control Center customizable at all, meaning that if a toggle you use a lot isn’t in there, then too bad.
The iOS Control Center will have an expanded interface, and customizable buttons. Additionally, users can activate 3D touch to access additional settings. Some of the things mentioned by Apple were Voice Memos, Low Power Mode, and Home controls. And screen recording. Speaking of which…
For a decade, the iPhone and iPad had no native method of screen recording. Even third-party apps that attempted to complete the task were banned from the App Store, for some season. Determined iOS users often resorted to jailbreaking in order to get a screen recording feature. Now they won’t have to, though.
The new iOS version includes a “Screen Recording” feature (which you can activate from Control Center, if you want), that will take a video of whatever is on your screen. This will be great for tutorials or YouTubers who want to review mobile games. Presumably there will be some sort of anti-piracy measure in place so that you can’t simply screen record Netflix videos and upload them to the internet.
Apple Maps was a disaster when it was first released, and took a ton of deserved heat for inaccurate maps and hilariously bad directions. The service has actually gotten a lot better since then, and it arguably is a legit rival to Google Maps these days. One of the biggest things added to Maps in iOS 11 is indoor maps, which will give users a floor plan of major shopping malls and airports, helping them get around.
If you use Maps as a GPS for driving, the new update will bring some things that Google Maps has already had for a while — speed limit warnings and lane guidance suggestions.
iMessage, now with Apple Pay
If most of your family and friends also have iPhones, then iMessage is certainly your go-to messaging service. Apple previously dressed it up with stickers, GIFs, and doodles, and that obviously won’t change in iOS 11. However, Apple did promise that iCloud will now do a better job of syncing your iMessages across all your devices (including actual computers), ensuring your conversations don’t get lost as your move from your iPhone to your iPad, and later to your laptop.
The coolest feature they announced, though, was peer-to-peer payments via Apple Pay. This could spell doom for third-party payment apps like Venmo, as you can simply send your friend that $20 you own him through text messages by verifying your identify with Touch ID. Very cool.
Do Not Disturb Mode While Driving
Despite all the PSAs telling us not to, a scary number of people continue to text and drive. Or Twitter and drive. Or play Pokemon Go and drive. Whatever, just put the damn phone down, people! It’s dangerous and could cost you (or somebody else) their life. Apple gets it, and will implement a “Do Not Disturb” mode to remove temptation. It will give you nothing but a blank screen to stare at, with an option to quick reply to incoming messages. It will say something like “I’m driving right now, will message you back shortly.”
Of course, if you insist on breaking the law and endangering fellow humans, there’s likely an option to turn it off. After all, many people in cars and buses are merely passengers, who shouldn’t be locked out of their phones just because they are moving.
Apple’s streaming music service still isn’t quite as popular (or quite as good) as things like Spotify, but it’s getting there. The newest updates to Apple Music will bring a couple nifty features, most of them social. It will introduce a feature that lets you see what your friends are listening to (and the ability to hide your own guilty pleasures like Creed or early Jessica Simpson). There’s also an “Up Next” shared playlist feature, that will multiple people to add songs to a queue at a party. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Apple Music will get much of a UI overhaul — something that many iOS users have been begging for.
For starters, Siri is finally getting a new voice. The robotic sounding Siri will be upgraded to one that Apple says is smoother and more expressive (and available in both male and female). The company also says that Siri will be equipped with “machine learning” that should give the digital assistant more personal context, allowing it to learn more about the person using that specific device and offering more useful suggestions.
The big leap forward is that Siri will now offer native translation, from English into Chinese, Italian, German, French, and Spanish. So you can ask Siri, “How do you say ‘We’ll have two tacos, please’ in Spanish?” and it will respond with a text and audio translation. Unfortunately, the translations don’t work the other way yet (from Spanish to English, for example), although it’s probably something Apple is working on.
Camera and Photos
While a software update itself can’t make the physical hardware in the iPhone camera better, it can offer more features to make taking good photos easier. (Note: the next iPhone will almost certainly have a slightly improved camera, though). In iOS 11, the camera app will get new filters including a Long Exposure effect for Live Photos, something that will be fun to play around with.
On the technical side, Apple will introduce a new HEIF compression format, which will reduce file size with barely any quality loss, freeing up valuable space on your device. And as a completely unimportant, but much appreciated bonus, GIFs will now fully animate in Photos. Finally!
Although not available for the general public right away, Apple introduced a Augmented Reality feature right into the operating system, allowing developers to play around with the multiple iPhone sensors to develop new games and tools using advanced augmented reality.
One of the coolest uses for this new tech is seeing how IKEA furniture would look in your own living space, looking through the lens of your iOS device.
These tweaks won’t capture the headlines, but they are nevertheless very much important to improving the overall ease of using iOS. The iPad is getting an expanded dock and app switcher, the iTunes Store is getting a new icon (and a redesign), the Podcasts app is getting an overhaul, and improvements to iCloud family and file sharing tools.
Other small aesthetic changes include the elimination of the “dot” signal bars (going back to the traditional “bars”), and moving the gigantic Volume change square from the middle of the screen up to the top corner, to the praise of anyone who ever watched videos on iOS.
Last but not least, iOS is finally getting an honest-too-goodness file manager. Not only will it give users a way to easily navigate through their hard drive, although obviously it won’t allow access to the core iOS file systems. It will still be a great tool for seeing how much space on your device is devoted to photos, videos, music, and apps, and a convenient way to trim the fat when your hard drive is getting close to full.
Additionally, the Files App will include the ability to see your files stored on various cloud services, like iCloud, Dropbox, and Google Drive. It’s nice to have everything in one place. Unfortunately, it seems to only be on the iPad — for now.