Apple released iOS 11 for the iPhone and iPad on Tuesday, September 19. So what are the best new features?
iOS 11 includes very few “major” UI changes for the iPhone. The new operating system is mostly a major overhaul for the iPad — it includes a great new app switcher that doubles as the Control Center, and there are major improvements to multitasking.
But most people downloading iOS 11 today will be using it on the iPhone, so this article focuses on the biggest little things you’ll find on the phone side of the new OS.
iOS 11’s best new and hidden features: Tips and tricks to remember
I’ve been running the iOS 11 public beta for the past few months. Since then I’ve come across plenty of new and hidden features you might not notice.
Most noticeable: The new Control Center
The new Control Center is arguably the biggest new feature in iOS 11 for the iPhone. Still accessible by swiping up from the bottom (unless you get the iPhone X, in which case you’ll be swiping down from the top), the area has many new, customizable buttons.
Long or force touching many of the areas will bring up new menus, giving you more control from directly within Control Center. For example, long-pressing the music player will bring up a larger window dedicated to your iPod. Airplay 2 lets you manage multiple audio devices in your home simultaneously. Long-pressing the connectivity widget in the top left will bring up additional options like Personal Hotspot and AirDrop, plus you’ll see what wifi network you’re connected to.
Some of the new (and optional) buttons include an Apple TV Remote, Voice Memos, Magnifer, Guided Access, and Screen Recording.
A small but major change to Airplane Mode
Speaking of Control Center: Have you ever boarded a flight with Bluetooth headphones? When you turned on Airplane Mode, iPhone would shut off Bluetooth and pause your music, thereby requiring you to turn Bluetooth back on and reconnect to your headphones. Then you would have to hit play again. It was a first world problem, but it was a pain.
Now Airplane Mode does not shut off Bluetooth at all. Your Bluetooth devices will stay connected when you dip into Airplane Mode. It’s a very nice change if you fly with any amount of frequency.
‘What’s your Wifi password?’ ‘Uhhhhh’
We’ve all been there: You’re at a friend’s place and need the wifi password, but your friend can’t remember what it is or where it’s written down. Then you passively aggressively accept the fact that you have to be there without sweet, sweet wifi.
Now that friend can easily share their wifi password from their phone. You, the visitor, can now bring up the network, ask your friend to bring their phone close to yours, and the password will magically transfer over. No more having to type in “[email protected]%[email protected]@!”
The Lock and Notification Screens are now one
Apple has merged your lock and notification screens. When you swipe down, you will now see your lock screen and all of your notifications, plus a persistent iPod widget if music is playing. I’m a big fan of the new iPod widget because it presents an improved look at your currently playing music, and it’s easily available at all times.
Notifications have been split up into two sections: If you’re seeing a notification for the first time, it’ll be separated from your “older” notifications, which are now under an “Earlier Today” header. The older notifications will sometimes be hidden — you’ll have to swipe up to bring them into view.
If you have tiny hands or don’t enjoy the stress of typing with one hand, it’s now possible to turn on a one-handed keyboard for the left or right side of the screen. As you can see in the screenshot above, the keys will get a little thinner and shift to one side of your phone. It’ll remind you of the smaller iPhone days. You can turn this keyboard on by holding the keyboard’s globe button.
Live Photo improvements
A couple years ago Apple introduced “Live Photos,” which kinda turn your pictures into moving portraits straight outta Hogwarts. Now you can trim the Live Photos, make them loop like Boomerangs, and set the Key Photo that’ll appear in your library. Trimming is particularly helpful, as we often end up with part of the Live Photo depicting the camera being lowered.
Do more with your screenshots
Apple seems to be aware that screenshots are a huge part of our digital everyday lives, so they’ve added some handy new features. Now when you take a screenshot it’ll temporarily float at the bottom left of your screen. Swipe it away to save it to Photos, or tap it to bring up a new tool which’ll let you annotate or crop the screenshot.
This makes it easier to point out a particular area of the screenshot you want to snarkily tweet about. Even better: Once you’ve tweeted, messaged, etc.’d the screenshot, iOS 11 asks if you want to trash it or save it to Photos. This should help drastically reduce the number of screenshots that end up in our photo libraries.
The other things
As you jump around iOS 11, you’ll notice lots of other little changes.
A couple examples: There are UI improvements to several of the apps. The App Store, above, has undergone an especially large change. There’s also a Do Not Disturb While Driving mode that you’ll be offered after you complete your first drive in a car. If turned on, iOS will keep your screen dark every time it thinks you’re driving (connected to your car’s bluetooth). No one will use it, but it’s nice that it’s there.
Apple’s new operating system for iPhone and iPad is available as a free download. Go to Settings > General > Software Update to grab it! A big update is also out today for Apple Watch (watchOS 4), and a minor update is out for recent generations of Apple TV (tvOS 11).