iOS 11: All The Cool New Features Coming To Your iPhone And iPad

Can you believe Apple's iOS is 11 iterations old already? It seems like just yesterday we were excited about the prospect of an app store, or the ability to select and copy text. At today's WWDC keynote, Apple revealed a host of updates and upgrades to iOS, including many longtime requested features.

You'll have to wait until spring to upgrade your iPhone or iPad with the official final version of iOS 11, or in the coming weeks you can weasel your way into an early developer version of the new OS, if you're brave enough.

Apple Maps

Do you mostly use Apple Maps to get to the shopping centre? In iOS 11 you'll be able to keep using that app to find Supre, or Myer, now that Maps is introducing 3D maps to help you navigate your local shopping centres, starting in major cities first, with others to follow, similar to the train info rollout. The same goes for airports, with indoor maps now available in iOS 11 for major hubs around the world, and more to follow later on.

If you're one of the few who actually uses Apple Maps while driving, iOS 11 will finally introduce speed limits and lane guidance warnings for easier navigation while on the road. And like with Google Maps, Apple will finally be introducing a one-handed zoom option, although there are no details yet on how it will work.

Redesigned Control Center and Notification Center

iOS 11 will streamline Control Center, putting all of the options in a single screen, including playback and Airpley controls. It will also include an improved vertical slider design for the brightness and volume controls. The Notification Center and lock screen will also be merged into a single screen under iOS 11, basically requiring users to scroll up or down to jump to notifications, instead of sideways.

Siri Upgrades

In addition to visual improvements and more expressive male and female voice options, in iOS 11 Siri is getting improved translation skills, including English to Chinese, Italian, German, French and Spanish, with more languages enroute. Siri will also attempt to learn, on a per device basis, what a user is interested in, or needs, based on their location, or information they have already asked for.

Messages and Peer-to-Peer Apple Pay Payments

iMessage remains one of the best mobile messaging platforms out there (assuming your friends and family all have iPhones), and while a dedicated app store and stickers didn't quite revolutionise that app, you can now use Apple Pay via a new iMessage app, with TouchID fingerprint authentication, to quickly send payments (encrypted end-to-end) to someone you're chatting with.

Using iCloud, iOS will now ensure your iMessages remain perfectly synced across all of your devices, and Apple continues to push its stickers feature with a redesigned app drawer that makes them easier to access. But does anyone even still use those?

Apple Music

Apple set its sights on Spotify with Apple Music, and while it hasn't toppled the popular streaming service just yet, under iOS 11 Apple Music will finally let you creep on what your friends are listening to, or you can set all that to private if you're ashamed of your Hanson obsession. (You shouldn't be.) Apple Music will also have a Shared "Up Next" playlist so your friends can see what's queued up at a party and make your own contributions to the mix.

Augmented Reality

While not immediately available to users when they upgrade to iOS 11, Apple is introducing a new backend tool for developers called ARKit, allowing them to take advantage of an iPhone or iPad's camera, sensors, gyroscopes and other hardware to create and improve augmented reality experiences made popular by Pokemon GO, before we all stopped playing it.

Camera and Photos

Borrowing a card from Instagram, the iPhone and iPad's camera apps will be getting new photography filters under iOS 11, including a long-exposure effect for Live Photos for capturing dreamy, smeary images of things in motion, which should be perfect for waterfall photography enthusiasts. Live Photos can also be trimmed, and users can specify which frame of the short video can be used as for the still image.

To help maximise the storage space on your iPhone or iPad which can't be expanded, in iOS 11 is also introducing a new HEIF compression scheme, shrinking images better than JPEG can, with less compression. The same goes for video, with a new HEVC video codec.

Home Kit and Airplay 2

In addition to adding wireless speaker support to Apple's Home app, HomeKit will introduce AirPlay 2 to control your audio hardware that supports multi-room playback, including the Apple TV, but not Sonos -- at least for the time being.

Apple CarPlay Do Not Disturb

It's hard to make Apple CarPlay exciting, but under iOS 11 using your mobile devices in the car will get a little safer -- by not letting you use them. Taking advantage of clever Bluetooth and Wi-Fi doppler effects to detect when you're in a moving vehicle, CarPlay will automatically lock down your phone, giving you nothing but a blank screen to stare at. An auto-reply option for Messages will also be available under iOS 11, letting others know you're not ignoring them, but are busy driving.

iPad Dock, App Switcher and Keyboard Improvements

iOS on the iPad brings some additional improvements that won't make their way to the iPhone, sadly. This includes the ability to cram even more app icons to the iPad's dock, which can be accessed at any time, while any other app is open. The new iOS 11 iPad dock will also attempt to guess what apps you might need next, providing a suggestion at the end of the bar.

The iPad's new App Switcher now looks a lot like the one found on OS X, allowing users to drag and drop clipboard contents, images or other files between open applications in split-view. It would be nice to have on the iPhone, but the limited screen real estate would make things simply too tiny to see when all your apps were tiled across the display.

What could be the best improvement made to the iPad's UI under iOS 11 is the new QuickType functionality that allows punctuation, alternate characters and even numbers to be accessed from one keyboard by simply using small gestures atop each key. It seems extremely useful, and hopefully Apple will eventually include it on the iPhone's keyboard, even if just the horizontal one, eventually.

Improved iPad Apple Pencil Support

The Apple Pencil was designed to go hand-in-hand with the monstrous iPad Pro, giving artists, designers and engineers a more authentic feeling of sketching on paper. But Apple is now expanding what the Pencil can be used for on the iPad, in standard apps such as Mail, Safari, screenshots and Notes with markup that allows users to easily make hand-drawn annotations

In Notes, iOS 11 will now even use machine learning to translate and index hand-written notes so they can be searched, or copied and pasted as editable text. And it will serve as a rudimentary scanner, automatically straightening and converting documents captured using the iPad's camera.

Files App

After a decade of updates, Apple is finally giving iOS a dedicated File Manager app called Files -- at least on the iPad. But it won't be as robust as Finder is on OS X, as the iPad's core file structure will still remain hidden to users. Files seem more useful as a central place to find or delete files for when your device runs out of storage space.

But Files also has access to stuff you've stored on iCloud, and other online storage options including Dropbox, Box and Google Drive, so you don't need to hop from app to app to find a document you need, which is potentially the most useful feature of the new Files app.


    CarPlay will automatically lock down your phone, giving you nothing but a blank screen to stare at.

    Hopefully this is optional in some way. What about passengers using the phone, e.g. to type in a destination to Maps that Siri just can't seem to parse? I've had that happen multiple times.

      I guess the idea is that you'll be using the CarPlay interface instead.

        Which is all well and good, but they'd need to allow for typing in the maps interface. Siri is generally pretty good at understanding messages, but addresses are a bit harder to understand.

        This isn't a problem universal to Apple, mind you. I used to drive a Toyota 8 years ago that had built in GPS and as soon as you started moving the touch-screen would disable so you couldn't type in a destination. If you wanted to input a new location you had to stop the vehicle. Didn't matter if there was somebody in the passenger seat or not.

          I haven't seen CarPlay IRL so I don't know if it has alternative inputs or not. My Mazda 3 does the same thing but it has a physical dial control that still operates when the car is moving. It's a stupid idea to lock the touch screen - the display is still distracting while attempting to operate it, the input option hardly matters.

            I'll double check next time I go somewhere, but from memory it has a magnifying glass "search" icon but it just brings up previously typed locations, a microphone icon that activates Siri to attempt to find the location. I'm pretty sure it doesn't allow for typing on the touch-screen.

      I've seen it confirmed elsewhere that you'll be able to manually disable the lock if you are (or claim to be) a passenger, and I strongly suspect you'll be able to turn the entire feature off in Settings if you want to.

    I wish I had a phone as long as a baguette.

    After all this time, apple keeps bringing out functions Android had for 2-3 years already

    Does anyone use Apple Maps?

    It so bad at release that I've never given it a second chance.

      It still lacks some POIs but it's definitely much better than it was on release. Apple Maps has my street and yet Google Maps doesn't, despite it being here for over a year now.

        Good point! My partner's street got added to Apple Maps in the iOS 10 update, but it's still missing from Google Maps.

      It's come a LONG way. I refused to use it on release and I only started using it in the last 6 months or so when I got a car with Apple CarPlay. Now I'm "forced" to use it, and I haven't had any issues.

      The traffic ETA are usually pretty good, I get route updates (e.g. faster route available after traffic) and there's an (albeit hidden) option to Avoid Tolls like I'd normally use on Google Maps. The biggest missing feature has been lane guidance but that's being added. One feature I do like (and I don't know if Google Maps has it) is that it predicts if I want to go to Home or Work, based on time of day / current location and automatically sets up the route.

      So, yeah, there's still some features missing that Google Maps has (e.g. sync to your Google account, Street View directions) but they're mostly minor. Nowhere near as bad as it used to be.

        One feature I do like (and I don't know if Google Maps has it) is that it predicts if I want to go to Home or Work, based on time of day / current location and automatically sets up the route.

        How do you use this/turn it on/anything? I think this would be pretty good.

        Last edited 06/06/17 3:47 pm

          I don't know! :P

          I just plug my phone in and start the car and it would bring up "Home" automatically if I was leaving from somewhere other than home. Then I drove from my partner's place at 6:30am and it brought up "Work" instead. It seems to learn your frequent locations and adjust accordingly.

          A quick Google suggests this feature was added in iOS 9 as "Siri Suggestions" and it does evolve as you use it more.

          Last edited 06/06/17 5:07 pm

          There's no way to control it that I know of. It seems to guess whether you're going to work based on the time you leave home, the day of the week, and if you have any calendar entries for work. It gives you a time to home if you start driving and you're not at home (or sometimes not - sometimes it picks the next calendar entry?).

          I'm just guessing here. I work rotating shifts and it seems to know when I'm going to work, and it somehow sorts out a pattern. If I'm on holidays though it won't tell me how long it'll take to get to work.

      It's pretty much my go to for navigation these days. The main gripe I have is this weird behaviour of assuming I mean somewhere overseas if I misspell a street name - GMaps will generally correct me happily.

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