Apple has just released iOS 11 to the public, for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users. The major update brings a variety of new features including a redesigned Control Center, a brand-new App Store, the new Files app, Do Not Disturb While Driving, a new Lock Screen / Cover Sheet experience, and much more.

iOS 11 is also a major focus for iPad with new ways to share data and multitask with Drag and Drop, upgraded Split View and a whole new Dock. Read on for our walkthrough of all the new features in iOS 11 …

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iOS 11 is a free update for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users.

Most iOS devices that can run iOS 10 will be able to upgrade to iOS 11 for free.

The new iPhone 8 and iPhone X come preinstalled with iOS 11 out of the box and will have some unique features to take advantage of the improved hardware.

As iOS 11 heralds a 64-bit only software era, the iPhone 5, 5c and iPad (fourth-generation) will be left behind. Here’s the full list of compatible devices:

  • iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 5s
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro, 10.5-inch iPad Pro, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, iPad (fifth-generation), iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 2
  • iPod touch (sixth-generation)

To update to iOS 11, open Settings → General → Software Update. You’ll need to be plugged in or have at least 50% battery power for the update process to start. During the initial release window, Apple’s servers are often slammed so don’t be surprised if the update doesn’t appear immediately or takes a long time to download — everyone around the world is trying to do the exact same thing at once.

What’s new in iOS 11

iOS 11 includes many new features for iOS users, with a special focus for iPad this year with new, more powerful ways to multitask and use iOS on the big screen. We’ll cover the deep iPad-exclusive changes at the bottom of the page. Like always, there are also a lot of things coming to both iPhone and iPad.

Single-page Control Center with all-new shortcuts

After switching to a three-pane design in iOS 10, iOS 11 reintroduces Control Center as a single screen experience. Widgets and shortcuts now appear as individual platters that can be firmly pressed (using 3D Touch) to reveal deeper functionality. For example, 3D Touch on the Music platter to show album art, volume slider and track progress.

Apple has also added many new optional controls that have never been available before including an Apple TV remote, a text size button, shortcut to Wallet cards and passes and more. You can enable these (or disable the default set) in Settings → Control Center → Customize Controls. If you add enough custom shortcuts, the iPhone will not be able to fit everything on screen at once, and Control Center will become scrollable.

There is even a brand new screen recording feature that saves everything you see on your iPhone or iPad screen as a movie file to the Camera Roll. The only way to use Screen Recording is through the Control Center platter, which has to be switched on from Settings as it is not included by default.

Fresh app icons and simplified dock

Apple has spruced up the home screen design this time around with new iconography for several flagship Apple apps. The Maps icon features a more prominent theme of navigation and the location it depicts has changed from 1 Infinite Loop to Apple Park, marking the launch of the company’s new campus. iTunes Store and App Store have completely new branding, whilst the Reminders and Notes icon have seen simplifying refinements. Contacts now displays a man and a woman in its icon to improve gender representation. The Calculator icon has changed from an abstract buttoned look to a miniature depiction of a desk calculator.

Many other of the system app icons have also received minor tweaks. Camera eschews its embossed detail for a flatter style, Settings turns up the contrast between light and dark, and Safari’s needle has changed orientation ever so slightly, to name a few.

The home screen itself has seen a few design updates including a bolder font face and the removal of name labels in the dock. On iPad, the dock has even more changes (see below).

Combined Lock Screen and Notification Center experience

Apple has unified the Lock Screen and Notification Center experience in iOS 11, with the latter renamed to Cover Sheet. Rather than having two distinct interfaces that show notification banners, the two areas of the system now share very similar appearance and functionality.

In fact, if you pull down from the top of screen in iOS 11, it may at first be confusing. You may think your device is locked when it’s really just the new way to view notifications (look for the padlock in the status bar to determine if the device is truly locked).

The new Cover Sheet uses your Lock Screen wallpaper and includes the same quick access to widgets and Camera as the real lock screen. Whilst the lock screen only displays recent banners, the Cover Sheet will always show the full list of notifications. Whilst the unification was aimed at simplifying two related concepts of iOS, it is confusing to get to grips with.

Redesigned App Store for better discovery

Apple has rethought every screen of the App Store in iOS 11 to improve discovery and cleanly distinguish between apps and games categories and charts. The new Today screen will update regularly with rich editorial content from App Store writers featuring hit apps, how-to guides, interviews with developers and more.

View games in the Games tab, apps in the Apps tab. Apple is making a clear distinction between the two categories to hopefully improve visibility of both apps and games with dedicated features and independent top charts.

The new App Store also surfaces a lot more video previews, makes it easier to read top reviews, and offers new options to developers for promoting In-App Purchases as first class citizens in the store.

Siri gets a new voice

Siri now supports translation from U.S English into Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish. There are new third-party SiriKit integrations for notes and list-based apps, QR codes and banking apps. Siri intelligence is also being used in more places to recommend stories in the News app, find related search queries in Safari, and more. The UI of the main transcript overlay has also been refreshed with a tweaked appearance and new animated Siri ‘orb’ logo.

The flagship change for the virtual assistant this year is a brand-new synthesised voice: the U.S. female Siri voice uses machine learning to convey more personality, speak with natural inflections, and ultimately sound more human. Apple has used a new voice actor to record the base sound profile. To take advantage of the new voice, go into Siri settings and select the United States Female voice. Hopefully, Apple will bring the same technology to more voices and localities in future updates.

Space-saving photos, new Camera filters and more

The Camera app includes a refreshed set of nine artistic filters to apply to shots; swipe up from the bottom of the viewfinder to reveal the new filter wheel (or tap the Filters button in the toolbar). Apple has updated the Portrait mode to create more realistic depth effect imagery. Moreover, Portrait mode now supports optical image stabilization, HDR and True Tone flash functionality.

Photos and videos taken with the Camera will now use up to 50% less space on disk, as Apple has adopted new efficient image formats which reduce file size. By default, exported images and videos will be converted into the usual JPG and MP4 formats for compatibility.

Also new in the Camera app this year is an integrated QR code reader. There is no UI for this but if you point the Camera at a QR code, it will automatically scan the code and display a banner on the screen. Users can simply tap the banner to perform the action (like opening a website).

New Memories and animated GIFs in Photos

The Photos app will now sync faces in the People album across devices using iCloud Photo Library, allowing users to organize their family face albums once but view the same information across iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac. There are also many new automatic memories to find in the Memories tab; iOS will automatically detect pets, babies, weddings, sporting events and more.

Apple is offering new editing tools for Live Photo shots, including fun new effects that you can apply after the fact. Swipe up when viewing a photo to select from Loop, Bounce and Long Exposure effects. You can also mute the audio on a Live Photo and select a new key frame.

Perhaps most excitingly for many, the Photos app will now properly display animated GIFs in their full glory.

Do Not Disturb While Driving

Apple is trying to keep iPhone users safe at all times. With iOS 11, the iPhone will use GPS and other sensors to detect if its owner is driving in a car. If it determines the user is driving, the phone will automatically silence itself and keep the screen off to minimize distractions.

The iPhone can even send automatic text replies if people try to contact you on the road, if you enable the option. You can also disable Do Not Disturb While Driving feature entirely in Settings (find it in the Do Not Disturb screen) if it is annoying.

Lane guidance and indoor Maps

Apple has added several new features to Maps this year. Maps can now display lane guidance and speed limit information, providing useful information when using turn-by-turn directions on unknown roads. The new information can be shown within the Maps navigation interface or through CarPlay.

Some locations like large airports and malls will now display indoor floor plans inside Maps. In the best case, this means Maps can direct you to your gate, not just the general airport campus. Obviously, this relies on the backing datasources providing this information. Indoor maps will rollout to new places slowly over time.

Flyover can now act like an augmented reality scene; simply move the iOS devices in 3D space to adjust the Flyover camera. There is also a handy new one handed zoom gesture for panning around 2D maps; simply double tap and start sliding your finger to scale the map.

Keyboard flicks and one-handing typing

The iOS system keyboard has seen a handful of improvements this year. iPhone users can activate a one-handed keyboard mode which compresses keys into a smaller space on either the left or right side of the display, which should make it easier to type with a single thumb whilst gripping the phone.

iPad users can now flick down on keys with multiple characters to type the alternate symbol. This speeds up typing by reducing the amount of times you need to switch keyboard contexts. On 9.7-inch and 10.5-inch iPad models, more keys now include secondary numbers and punctuation for use with the Keyboard Flicks feature.

Files app manages iCloud Drive and third-party file services

The Files app is the one entirely-new Apple app introduced in iOS 11 and it replaces the crummy iCloud Drive file browser with a much more complete and universal experience. It integrates with iCloud Drive and third-party services like Dropbox or Google Drive. Third-party apps will update over time to replace custom galleries with the built-in Files document browser, making it the one place to find all of your documents.

You can browse your documents and folders, add tags and see active projects in a Recents view. Sort folder listings by name, date and more. Exclusively on iPad, if an app stores documents in Files, long-press on the icon from the Home Screen to preview its files as a popover without even launching the app.

iPad: Summon the Dock from anywhere

The first iPad exclusive feature is an all new Dock. The Dock can contain many more apps now; as you add more apps to it, the icons shrink to make room. There is also a new section on the right-hand side of the Dock to show Continuity suggestions and recently-opened applications.

The big game changer here is that the Dock can be shown from anywhere in the system. Inside an app, simply swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen to show the Dock. This acts as a super-fast way to switch between your favorite apps without having to bounce around the Home Screen.

If you perform a longer edge swipe (or swipe again whilst the dock is visible), iPad will enter the new ‘Mission Control’-esque multitasking interface which combines recent app cards with Control Center.

iPad: New Slide Over and Split View modes

Apple has dramatically improved iPad experience for achieving more complicated workflows involving multiple applications. Slide Over apps now persist as a floating skinny window and can be dragged to the left or right side of the screen.

Split View still only supports two apps at once, but now you have much more flexibility in their arrangement. You can have 70/30, 30/70 or 50/50 splits … and you can quickly drag to swap the position of the panes around. Split View arrangements now stay fixed as pairings so if you come back to the same app later, it will still be attached to its sibling. Apple has a new iPad-designed multitasking switcher to accommodate the new workflows.

The newest iPad Pros let users display and interact with four apps simultaneously; two apps in Split View, a floating Slide Over app and a Picture-In-Picture video window. Using Split View and multitasking on iPad is inextricably linked with another new iOS 11 feature …

iPad: Drag and Drop

Another huge architectural update for iPad is Drag and Drop. This is used throughout the system for multitasking interactions and for simple multi-touch data sharing between apps.

For starters, you launch new apps into Split View by dragging their app icon — either from the Dock (which can be summoned from anywhere) or by going via the Home Screen. In iOS 11, dragging an app icon is a critical part of the multitasking flow.

For example, imagine you are using Safari in full screen. If you want to open the Calendar app, but it isn’t in your dock, you have to go via the Home Screen to start a Split View with it. Here’s what you do:

  • Press the Home Button or use the five-finger pinch gesture to return to your Home Screen.
  • Locate the Calendar icon. Hold down on it to start dragging it.
  • With another finger, probably using two hands, re-open Safari by tapping on its icon. Do not let go of the Calendar icon.
  • Then, drag the Calendar icon to the right edge of the screen and release when you see it snap open. iOS will enter Split View mode with Safari on the left and Calendar on the right.

It isn’t just about multitasking. Drag and Drop can be used for all sorts of things like picking up a web link from Safari and dropping it into a compose email view, bypassing the Cut-Copy-Paste menu dance entirely. Organize your emails into separate inboxes by just dragging them around. Take a screenshot and drag the preview window straight into a Messages conversation. You can drag multiple items at once, like moving several photos into a new album with one action.

Apple has even built the Home Screen app arrangement feature in iOS 11 on top of Drag and Drop. After entering jiggle mode, start dragging an app icon, and then tap on other apps to add them to the stack. Move the stack around and release to move many apps in one go. This makes re-arranging your Home Screens faster and much more enjoyable.

The possibilities of Drag and Drop are really exciting and it will become a staple feature of how people use iOS on the iPad, especially as third-party apps update to support the integration.

The new Drag and Drop system also exists on the iPhone but items cannot be moved between applications like they can with the iPad. You also cannot have multiple applications on the iPhone screen at once, which is a major part of what makes Drag and Drop useful on iPad.

iPad: Rich Apple Pencil integration with Notes

Notes on iOS 11 features much richer Apple Pencil integration than ever before. For starters, you can begin a new note instantly when the iPad is locked just by tapping the Apple Pencil on the lock screen, bringing iPad closer to an impromptu notepad experience.

Notes now supports inline drawing. Just start making marks and annotations with the Apple Pencil stylus. If you prefer to jot down handwritten notes with the stylus rather than typing, Notes now includes basic handwriting recognition features. Notes reads your writing and adds the keywords to the Spotlight index, so you can search for them later.

Available on both iPhone and iPad, Notes includes a new document scanner (for digitizing physical documents) and support for tables in a note. You can also pin important notes to the top of the library list.

Miscellaneous

There’s a lot more to iOS 11 beyond the flagship features above that we haven’t covered here. Here’s some of the highlights:

  • Use a new screenshot preview and editing interface to quickly redact, annotate and share screenshots.
  • Markup documents, PDFs, websites in Safari and more.
  • Support for new HomeKit accessories like sprinklers, faucets and speakers.
  • See what friends are listening to with Apple Music.
  • Speedy configuration of new iOS devices using Automatic Setup.
  • In emergencies, use the SOS feature to call emergency services and alert selected contacts.
  • AirPods get new features after updating to iOS 11, including independent actions for the double-tap gesture on each earbud.
  • In the US, Apple Pay will soon support peer-to-peer payments so you can send money to friends from inside the Messages app.
  • Check if your plane is delayed by typing the flight number into Spotlight.
  • Capture a Live Photo from within FaceTime video call.
  • Smart Invert Colors offers a more intelligent mode for vision-impaired users to interact with bright white iOS content.
  • Share your home WiFi with friends easily.
  • AirPlay 2 supports multi-room audio output on iOS for the first time (requires compatible hardware).

Conclusion

iOS 11 is another very-much-welcomed major free update for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch user base. The big features are definitely reserved for iPad this year, but things like the redesigned Control Center and new App Store represent significant updates for all iOS 11 users.

The one big gotcha this year is that iOS 11 is 64-bit only. This means older 32-bit only apps and games will not launch after upgrading. You can check if you have any such software by visiting Settings -> General -> About. If you have obsolete apps installed, tapping on the Applications row will display a list of software that will no longer work on iOS 11.

Whether this causes big problems in reality is yet to be seen as 32-bit only apps are almost always apps that have been abandoned by their developers and are already outdated for reasons other than technology. You should probably look for alternative apps that do the same thing and are still maintained by their creators.

All in all, iOS 11 is a great update for iPhone and a fantastic leap for iPad with many new features to boost productivity and make the iPad a serious computer replacement. Let us know in the comments what you think of the latest iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system.

Apple has already said that Messages in iCloud and Apple Pay Cash, peer to peer mobile payments, are coming in a future update to iOS 11. Keep your eyes peeled for betas of iOS 11.1 soon!

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