David Price rounds up everything we know about Apple’s upcoming mobile operating system
Over the following pages we sift through all the rumours and historical evidence pointing to the likely iOS 11 release date, as well as its new features and system requirements.
So, what can we expect to see from Apple’s 11th major update of iOS? We’ve scoured the internet for the most interesting rumours regarding iOS 11, which you can find below. We’ll be updating this article whenever new information emerges, so make sure you check back regularly for more news and rumours relating to the iOS 11 update.
iOS 11 will almost certainly be unveiled in June 2017 at WWDC, an annual event where Apple invites developers from across the world to take part in iOS development workshops while showcasing its annual software update. (WWDC is in theory an event for the benefit of
software partner companies, although in practice it is aimed at least as much and probably more at the world’s media and users watching at home.) Apple will then release a developer beta version of the software for testing by its software partners.
We would imagine that, as with iOS 9 and iOS 10, a public beta will be made available alongside the private developer beta. This will allow early adopters to trial the software before it’s made available to the general public.
Both betas will be updated over the following months and come closer to the finished public version of iOS 11, which be released in September 2017 alongside new iPhones: the 7s and/or 8. (We’ve heard one prediction that Apple will call its next iPhone the ‘iPhone X’, but that remains a left-field rumour at this point.)
Updating to the final public version of iOS 11 will be straightforward and free; downloading and installing one of the beta versions will be a little more difficult, and setting up a developer account costs $99 per year.
A new iOS life cycle
Some while ago, our colleague Dan Moren over at Macworld US speculated that iOS 9 would be the start of a new iOS life cycle at Apple. Moren felt that because the iPhone has matured over the years, it’s no longer necessary to keep adding major new features on a yearly basis for the purpose of generating interest.
“The platform and the smartphone market as a whole have both evolved considerably,” Moren wrote. “To me, the goal now seems one
of sustainability: keeping the iPhone and its users updated and happy, possibly with a steady stream of smaller updates rather than a single major tent pole release every summer.”
Moren used iOS 9.3 as evidence – historically, Apple prefers to save its more interesting updates for numerical updates which, up until now, happened once every 12 months. The release of the iOS 9.3 beta so late in the iOS 9 life cycle was a weird move from Apple, especially as it included genuinely significant new features like Night Shift mode (pictured), Touch ID protection for Notes and a number of new 3D Touch shortcuts, which would usually be considered major additions to iOS.
So iOS 11 might not be the blockbuster release we’re currently expecting: it’s possible that Apple will drip feed new features and interfaces tweaks in point updates throughout the year. We’re not totally convinced by this – iOS 10, after all, had a raft of major new features – but it’s a possibility.
A ‘purge’ of older apps
One thing to be wary of, as speculated first by 9to5Mac, is that the next update of iOS might drop support for older 32-bit apps. On iOS 10.3 beta 1, users tapping on 32-bit apps now are faced with a warning that ‘This app will not work with future versions of iOS’. It’s clear that Apple intends for developers to improve performance of these apps or risk having them cut from the App Store. Sometimes the warnings go further, warning users that the app may slow down your iDevice.
Developers must, since 2015, submit apps with 64-bit support. These legacy 32-bit apps could be cut from iOS 11 if developers don’t improve their performance on newer devices.
Fortune thinks this move could see what it calls a “purge” of tens of thousands of old apps.
Which iPhones and iPads will be able to get iOS 11?
We reckon the iPad 4, iPad mini 2 and iPhone 5 will all miss out on iOS 11 compatibility, but we won’t know for sure until the unveiling at WWDC 2017.
Until we have confirmation, we predict that the following devices will be able to run iOS 11:
iPad Air 1, Air 2, 9.7in Pro, 12.9in Pro iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4 iPhone 5c, 5s, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus iPod touch (sixth generation)
At this early stage we’ve only heard a couple of rumours of new features to expect in iOS 11.
Finger-detecting dynamic keyboard Apple has been granted a patent covering dynamic keyboard positioning on touchscreens, whereby the individual keys are placed in response to the detected position of the user’s fingertips.
United States Patent 9,489,086 (shown below), entitled Finger hover detection for improved typing, describes a concept whereby typing “is improved by dynamically and automatically positioning the desired home-row keys of an on-screen keyboard below the user’s fingers while their fingers are hovering above the surface, thus reducing the need for the user to look at the on-screen keyboard while typing”.
We wouldn’t be surprised if the concept appears in the system-wide keyboard (albeit presumably as an option) in a future update of iOS, although it appears to be targeted at tablets only. This wouldn’t be the first iOS feature to be restricted to
iPad use, of course: the most famous example is probably the split-screen viewing modes added to the iPad with the launch of iOS 9.
While the granted patent was published in November 2016, this is in effect a ratification of Apple’s acquisition of the patent when it bought Typesoft Technologies back in September 2014; Typesoft’s Dryft virtual keyboard uses a similar principle in an effort to enable touchscreen touchtyping, as shown in the following video:
Finally, and aptly if we’ve got this right, there appears to be a typo in the introduction specifically where the patent is talking about making typos.
“While there have been numerous proposals for disambiguating error-prone user input,” reads the last sentence of the introduction, “many such proposals rely heavily on linguistic context and are unable to resolve interchangeable alternatives (e.g., where a user strikes ambiguously between keys T and ‘o’ followed by ‘n’ leaving uncertainty whether “in” or “on” was intended).” (Surely that’s meant to be ‘i’ and ‘o’, rather than T and ‘o’? Although we are happy to be corrected.)
Siri was a figure of fun in the early days (it used to have a fair bit of trouble with British accents), but it gets better and more useful with every passing year. And the word is that Apple wants to make it sound more human, too.
That’s what the company is up to in a secret operation “in an unmarked office at 90 Hills Road, Cambridge”, according to Business Insider and the “multiple sources” it says corroborate the account.
“Those working inside are aiming to make Siri talk more naturally, according to a source that knows a number of Apple’s Cambridge employees,” reports the site.
Part of the reasoning here is that a large proportion of the site’s current staff were previously employed by the voice recognition startup VocalIQ, which Apple acquired in 2015.
At the moment Siri is comparatively limited in terms of artificial intelligence, an area of development that Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others have focused on in recent months; it’s believed that VocalIQ’s tech – which doesn’t appear to have been added to Siri yet – represents Apple’s great hope for this burgeoning field.
It was widely expected that iOS 10 would feature a new viewing mode called Dark Mode, with black
backgrounds designed to easier on the eyes when viewing at night. In fact, Apple announced exactly that, but for tvOS instead, and we’re still waiting for iOS’s Dark Mode. We’re pretty sure it’ll turn up in iOS 11, if it hasn’t been added in an iOS 10 point update before then.
In fact, it’s been discovered that Dark Mode already exists in iOS 10, and was there as early as iOS 10 beta 1 released back in June - it just hasn’t been unlocked yet. We’re unsure why Apple bothered to add the feature if it didn’t plan to enable it in the near future, but it may be that beta testing exposed issues with the feature that dissuaded the company from turning it on just yet.
Slide to unlock
Does that sound familiar? It should, because it was the way we unlocked iPhones and iPads in iOS 9 and every previous version of iOS and iPhone OS.
In its most recent incarnation, it looked a bit like the one on page 38.
In iOS 10 Apple got rid of slide to unlock, changing the interface so you just press the Home button (simultaneously triggering the Touch ID fingerprint scanner on reasonably up to date iDevices, so it made more sense, on the whole). But some people aren’t happy about this development, and a petition has been formed to ask for slide to unlock to be brought back.
Will Apple give in to popular pressure (well, relatively popular pressure – there are just 1,549 signatories at time of writing, although we’ve heard this sentiment quite widely) and bring back slide to unlock? We don’t think so. Apple fans have had issues with interfaces before, most controversially with iOS 7, but most of us got used to the new look in time.
Multi-user FaceTime calls
According to a report via The Verifier, Apple is said to be introducing a feature long requested by iOS users in iOS 11: the ability to have conference calls via FaceTime video in a similar way to services like Skype. The report doesn’t stop there either, adding that Apple is considering making the FaceTime app more of a social experience by adding filters similar to apps like Snapchat and MSQRD that have had huge success off the back of the filters.
It’s worth noting that Apple snapped up Faceshift in late 2015, a company whose technology can capture a user’s facial expressions and transform the face into a 3D avatar in real-time. Could this technology be integral in Apple’s planned overhaul
in iOS 11? We can only wait and see. It’s also worth noting that The Verifier, despite the name, has a non-existent track record with Apple rumours and thus, should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Contact availability status
A patent that has recently been granted shows that Apple is considering a new feature that would enable iPhone users to view at a glance whether their contacts are available for a conversation, and where they are.
The abstract of the patent reads: “A command is received at an operating system of a first mobile phone for displaying contact information of a remote user having a mobile phone number of a second mobile phone. In response to the
command, a request is transmitted to a remote server from the first mobile phone over a cellular network requesting an operating status of the second mobile phone.
“The operating status of the second mobile phone is received from the remote server over the cellular network. The operating status of the second mobile phone is displayed on a display of the first mobile phone as a part of contact information of the remote user associated with the second mobile phone, where the operating status includes current locality of the second mobile phone.”
Which sounds complicated, but can be further summarised as a system that detects where your friends are, and whether they’re available and the operating status of their iPhone (such as silent or Airplane mode), and presents that information in the Contacts app. If you’re thinking that has the whiff of surveillance about it – well, it does, but only to the same extent as Find My Friends, and it would presumably be optional for both parties.
New features wish list
Here at iPad & iPhone User we put our heads together and thought about some of the features we’d like to see included in iOS 11, from small changes to new ideas. Here are our favourites.
The Control Centre is one of the most underrated features of iOS, enabling easy access to various toggles and controls without having to open the Settings app. The only issue we have is that we
can’t personalise any of the toggles, as we’d like to be able to swap out little-used toggles for shortcuts to apps/settings we frequently use. For example, we very rarely use the Control Centre to access the Calculator app – we’d much prefer easy access to Twitter, for example, or to be able to turn on low-power mode.
While on the topic of the Control Centre, we’d like to be able to quickly access the settings of each of the toggles with a hard press on the newer 3D Touch-equipped iPhones. For example, we’d like to be able to force press the Wi-Fi toggle to quickly access the Wi-Fi menu to connect to a new network.
And the multi-page Control Centre design isn’t working all that well at the moment: when you try to lower the volume but miss the icon by half
a micrometre you end up swiping to the second page by accident.
Cosmetic/aesthetic customisation changes
In EverythingApplePro’s infuriatingly intelligent and well-made video (tinyurl.com/zf8fo7w), it proposes a wide range of changes for iOS 11, among them some radical new options for customising the way iOS looks and the way its interface is organised.
It calls for dynamic animated app icons showing, for example, your current location in the Maps icon and the current weather for Weather; the ability to place icons in any of the free grid slots on the screen rather than having iOS automatically resort it to the free slot nearest the top left of the screen; custom system fonts; and a change to the way Reachability works on larger-screen iPhones, so that it shrinks the interface down to the size of a smaller phone rather than dragging the whole thing down and hiding many of the icons off the bottom.
The P9 is one of a number of Huawei phones to offer a feature called Wi-Fi+ (or Wi-Fi+ 2.0). This encompasses a number of elements, such as the prioritisation of stronger connections, but the one we like best is its ability to automatically turn Wi-Fi on or off depending on your location. It remembers the location of known networks and activates in order to join them, but when you leave the area it turns Wi-Fi off to save battery. Given the iPhones’ recent difficulty competing on battery life with the top-end Android devices, something along these lines would be a fine addition to iOS 11.
Per-app passcode or Touch ID lock
It’s currently possible to lock individual documents in Notes, but not apps – either the entire phone is locked, or all the apps are unlocked. From a data protection and parental control point of view it would be useful to be able to lock individual apps. It is possible to hand an iPhone over to a child and keep them in one app using Guided Access, of course, but this is a bit of a faff and inflexible.
Ability to change video resolution in-app
One of the selling points of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is that they’re able to record in full 4K resolution at 30fps, as well as the standard 1080p at 60- or 30fps. The only issue we have is that there is no easy way to change between the resolutions from within the Camera app, and we have to exit the app, head to Settings > Camera to be able to change it.
Certain situations, such as filming in low light, require a lower frame rate (less frames = more light captured) and changing it manually takes 10- to 15 seconds, which isn’t ideal. We would love a way to quickly change the resolution and frame rate, possibly by tapping an icon in the Camera app.
View Favourites in Contacts app
We’d like to see the ability to view and edit the list of favourites, currently only found in the Phone app. It makes sense to be able to access your favourite contacts from within the Contacts app, and we’re not quite sure why Apple hasn’t yet added this functionality. Sometimes we want easy access to our contacts for other reasons, not just for calling.