On Monday, Apple announced its next big update for iOS that will be released this fall. Called iOS 11, the new operating system will see dozens of new features when it’s made available as a free download to users.
Some of the features are about closing the gap with the competition, while others are a sign that the company could be trying to move its mobile and desktop operating systems together into more of a hybrid offering.
Though it will take some time to play around with iOS 11 to see what all is new under the hood, here are some of the standout features that we’ve seen so far (and in no particular order).
There wasn’t a killer app shown from the stage of Apple’s keynote for AR, but the company announced tools developers can use to start making AR content over the next few months so it is ready for when iOS 11 launches in the fall.
The new tools use the iPhone and iPad’s existing hardware — such as the camera or sensors — which are powerful enough to run AR, so the developers just have to worry about making the content. And with millions of iOS devices in the market today, this has the potential to move AR into the mainstream essentially overnight once iOS 11 launches.
‘DO NOT DISTURB’ FOR DRIVING
In an effort to curb distracted driving, Apple announced a Do Not Disturb feature for the vehicle. When enabled, iOS 11 will detect when you are in a moving vehicle and block all notifications from appearing on your screen, essentially making it go dark.
If someone tries to text you, they’ll receive an out-of-office-like reply saying you’re currently driving and will respond when you get to your destination. If it is urgent, certain friends or family members can be allowed to break through the Do Not Disturb by following a set of commands.
Meanwhile, if you have the feature enabled and you’re just the passenger, you’ll have a button you can easily press to tell iOS 11 you’re not the one driving and then it’ll disable Do Not Disturb.
APP STORE OVERHAUL
If you didn’t like what Apple did with its Music app overhaul last year in iOS 10, then you’re not going to like what it is doing with the App Store in iOS 11. That said, a complete redesign of the App Store has long been overdue and it makes sense that the company pulls from its other store-like app for inspiration.
The App Store is now full of large images, big text and more human curation to help make discovering new apps easier, according to Apple. App Store editors are going to be highlighting more of their own favourite picks, plus interviewing developers to tell the stories behind different games or apps. You’ll be able to see new picks for the day and go back on days you missed.
It’s a big change though, and we all know how much iOS users love change (hint: they don’t usually).
iOS’s virtual assistant Siri is supposed to be getting a lot smarter with more machine learning and artificial intelligence. Using “on-device learning,” Siri will attempt to create more personal experiences throughout the device (so even between different apps) and offer suggestions based on things the user has been reading or looking at.
Answers and follow-up questions are supposed to be smarter and more contextual as well, plus Siri’s voice sounds more human with better tone and pitches. If you have an Apple Watch, there will even be a Siri watch face that will serve you the most relevant notifications or widgets based on the time of day, your schedule, where you are and so on.
Apple needed to step up its Siri game after both Google and Amazon’s virtual assistants recently passed Cupertino in terms of overall usefulness and capabilities. If these new Siri features work as well as advertised, it would put Apple right back in the game again.
FILE MANAGEMENT AND BETTER MULTITASKING
One of the biggest complaints about iOS has always been its lack of file management capabilities. With iOS 11, restrictions are finally being lifted in a significant way thanks to a new Apple-made app called Files, which will allow users to organize their files properly with folders and the like.
There is also improved multitasking, with new features such as the ability to drag and drop images or text between apps. The iPad specifically is getting some extra bonuses, like what is essentially a three-window split screen now or a macOS-like dock appearing at the bottom of the screen. Apple’s Pencil will also be able to markup in more apps such as in the operating system’s web browser, similar to what users have been able to do in Microsoft’s Windows 10.
These additions are some of the most interesting from a strategy point of view, signalling a shift that the company may be slowly moving toward a hybrid approach for its Mac and mobile operating systems. This would be a direct response to Microsoft’s Surface line, which puts a full version of Windows 10 into a tablet-meets-laptop touchscreen device.
Could Apple finally make a touchscreen computer after years of saying it never would? The groundwork is certainly being laid here if the company wanted to.
CONTROL CENTER AND LOCK SCREEN
When you swipe up on your phone right now, you’ll see a number of tools and settings such as controlling the screen’s brightness or turning on airplane mode. This is Control Center, and it is about to look significantly different in iOS 11.
Now everything has been crammed into one screen, so you don’t have to scroll back and forth between multiple cards. Some buttons are a lot smaller now though, and some options are hidden and won’t show unless you long press on some of the folders housing others (for example, AirDrop won’t be seen until you long press on the area with airplane mode). Otherwise, it does feel handy having everything right there.
The change to Control Center comes as the lock screen gets a bit of a makeover a well. Now when you swipe down on the screen, instead of seeing notifications you see your lock screen with any new notifications. You then have to swipe up after swiping down to see the rest of your notifications. If that sounds a bit confusing, that’s because it is at first.
Though they seem like just a user interface design tweak, it feels as if Apple is preparing for a world without a physical home button with these changes. Perhaps this is the hint that the rumour of the home button disappearing on the next iPhone is true?
APPLE PAY FOR SENDING MONEY TO FRIENDS
Watch out Venmo or PayPal, Apple is gunning for you. The company announced that peer-to-peer Apple Pay is coming in iOS 11, which will allow users to send money securely to each other directly through Messages.
Any money sent to the other person will be stored in an Apple Pay wallet, which then can be used to make purchases at a retailer that supports Apple Pay or sent to your financial institution.
Details are still fuzzy in terms of availability and whether Apple takes a fee for a transaction, but at the very least it is expected that this new functionality will work in markets that Apple Pay has already launched in. So Canada should be good at launch. Well, we assume.
MAPS, PHOTOS AND MUSIC GET A BOOST
There are plenty of other new features throughout iOS 11 that didn’t make this list, many of which can be found throughout Apple’s built-in apps.
For example, Maps will now display speed limits while driving and show which lane you should stay in as you get ready for your next move. There will also be indoor maps for places such as major airports and shopping malls.
Meanwhile, Photos is getting a number of new features sprinkled throughout that will let users do a little more professional editing than before and sync up with other professional apps. Memories and facial recognition are also getting smarter, while Apple is using a new file format that offers better compression for both photos and videos.
Music is getting a couple of new social features as well, such as the ability to see what your friends have been listening to. Apple Music subscribers can allow people to follow them, listen to shared playlists and see the music listened to most.