iOS 11 Beta

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At WWDC 2017, Ap­ple showed off its new iOS 11 op­er­at­ing sys­tem. It won’t of­fi­cially launch un­til the au­tumn – prob­a­bly Sep­tem­ber – but in the mean­time we’ve been able to put the beta through its paces. Read on for our thoughts.


Ap­ple con­tin­ues its gen­tle evo­lu­tion of the iOS in­ter­face – there’s no rad­i­cal sys­tem-wide re­design like we saw in iOS 7, but a va­ri­ety of tweaks and im­prove­ments.

Lock Screen and No­ti­fi­ca­tions

Lock Screen and No­ti­fi­ca­tions have now been com­bined into one screen – this ought to make it a bit sim­pler and eas­ier to use.

Con­trol Cen­tre

Ap­ple has made sig­nif­i­cant changes to the Con­trol Cen­tre, in­tro­duced in iOS 7 but in re­cent years suf­fer­ing from fea­ture creep. The two-screen for­mat of the iOS 10 Con­trol Cen­tre feels like an un­nec­es­sary pain (there are so few con­trols on the sec­ond screen, and sev­eral of the front-page con­trols are so large, that it could surely have been con­densed into one), and a be­trayal of the sim­ple, quick-set­tings pur­pose of the fea­ture.

In iOS 11 Con­trol Cen­tre gets a new look, for a start. In­stead of a light grey solid pane with con­trols on the top, the en­tire screen blurs out and the in­di­vid­ual el­e­ments sit on top in their own near-black rounded rec­tan­gles. It’s hard to say if this is bet­ter or worse, aes­thet­i­cally, but it’s at least dif­fer­ent. It feels fresh while re­main­ing con­sis­tent with Ap­ple’s post-iOS 7 design lan­guage.

More sig­nif­i­cantly, Con­trol Cen­tre is now a sin­gle-page af­fair, so you’ll no longer try to ad­just the bright­ness slider and ac­ci­den­tally switch to the sec­ond page. This is a good thing.

There are new op­tions in Con­trol Cen­tre, such as a nifty screen record­ing func­tion and a Mo­bile Data on/off tog­gle. And it uses 3D Touch (or long-press, on an iPad or older iPhone) to al­low quick ac­cess to more set­tings and fea­tures. Hard-press the clock/ alarm but­ton, for in­stance, and gives you quick

ac­cess to a timer; force-press­ing the Blue­tooth/Wi-Fi tog­gles box re­veals op­tions for Air­Drop and per­sonal hotspots; and so on.

Fi­nally, and as long re­quested by users, Con­trol Cen­tre is now cus­tomis­able. There’s a page in Set­tings where you get to de­cide what ap­pears there. It fol­lows the same for­mat as the No­ti­fi­ca­tions edit­ing page, with sim­ple red mi­nus icons to re­move el­e­ments and green plus icons to add them.

So much for Con­trol Cen­tre on the iPhone. On the iPad, in­ter­face changes are more pro­nounced, and when you swipe up­wards you’ll bring up not just the Con­trol Cen­tre but the (re­designed) app switcher and

(greatly en­hanced) app dock. (In fact, you need to do a longer swipe up­wards to bring up all of these things. A short swipe up just brings up the dock.)

Dock (iPad only)

This is the first of the changes we’ll be talk­ing about that af­fects iPad only, so apolo­gies to iPhone own­ers for the present. We’ll have more for you shortly.

The app dock has been part of iOS since the launch of the first iPhone, but this is the first time it’s changed sig­nif­i­cantly. The dock is now ac­ces­si­ble from more places, can con­tain more icons (in­clud­ing some smart el­e­ments), and sup­ports drag-and-drop­ping for quick mul­ti­task­ing.

The old dock was just a row of app icons at the bot­tom of the Home screen: the only thing that

dis­tin­guished it from the rest of the in­ter­face was that it was more flex­i­ble in num­ber of icons (any­where from zero to six), and it stayed there when you swiped to later Home screens.

Now it’s ac­ces­si­ble from pretty much any­where; do a short swipe up from the bot­tom of the screen within an app, just as you used to do to bring up Con­trol Cen­tre, and the dock ap­pears in­stead. (On iPhone this still brings up Con­trol Cen­tre; and on iPad, con­tin­u­ing the swipe up­wards will bring up Con­trol Cen­tre and the app switcher as well as the dock, as de­scribed above.) You can then jump to an­other app, or drag-and­drop an app di­rectly on to the screen to open it in split screen with what­ever you’re cur­rently do­ing.

You’ll also no­tice that there’s a ver­ti­cal line part­way along the dock, just as there is on the macOS dock. Apps to the left of the line are the ones you choose to put there, but ones to the right are dy­namic – ei­ther re­cently used, or cur­rently be­ing used on other de­vices you use, thanks to Hand­off.

App switcher (iPad only)

This is less ex­cit­ing, but the Con­trol Cen­tre screen we’ve men­tioned in the two sec­tions above also con­tains the app switcher, which shows screen­shots of the cur­rently open apps you’ve used most re­cently. In iOS 10 this is ac­cessed by dou­ble-press­ing the Home but­ton, and dis­plays the screens in a swip­pable stack; here, they’re laid out more sim­ply in two flat rows. Swipe to the right to see ear­lier apps.

In most re­spects this is func­tion­ally the same as the old app switcher, but we think it’s handy hav­ing

it all gath­ered on the same screen as the Con­trol Cen­tre and dock. There is, how­ever, one change here which strikes us as mildly in­con­ve­nient: in­stead of just swip­ing up­wards on one of the screens to close that app, as you do in iOS 10, you now have to press and hold a screen un­til lit­tle X icons ap­pear, and then tap that icon.

Note that if you swipe up on an un­locked iPad, the Con­trol Cen­tre will be in its usual po­si­tion on the right, but the dock and app switcher el­e­ments will be absent.

Re­designed App Store

Ap­ple has re­designed the App Store quite ex­ten­sively. Launch­ing the app now takes you to a To­day tab, which is de­signed to help with app dis­cov­ery (one of the App Store’s his­tor­i­cally great­est prob­lems). You’ll see new

Col­lec­tions, a Daily List cen­tred around a par­tic­u­lar theme, and tu­to­ri­als that show you how to do par­tic­u­lar things in new apps.

There are now ded­i­cated tabs for Games and (non-game) Apps, places for you to dis­cover both new and pop­u­lar of­fer­ings, as well as in-app pur­chases for apps you may al­ready own which are avail­able to view and down­load right there within the App Store. You’ll see pre­views, tips and game­play videos too.

The Search tab re­mains; Ap­ple didn’t say what work if any has been done to im­prove the qual­ity and pro­tec­tion against spam of an App Store search, which is mildly wor­ry­ing. App Store search in iOS 10 and ear­lier is rife with prob­lems, and feels at least five years be­hind the stan­dards of web search en­gines.

New fea­tures

A huge num­ber of new fea­tures have been un­veiled for iOS 11; here are the high­lights.

New Mes­sages fea­tures

iOS 11’s Mes­sages app has been up­dated with sev­eral new fea­tures in­clud­ing a new ‘app drawer’, which con­tains stick­ers, and a new peer-to-peer ver­sion of Ap­ple Pay which lets you pay con­tacts via iMes­sage. That could be a game-changer; Ap­ple Pay has al­ready made big strides in cor­po­rate adop­tion but this can take it into the realm of every­day life (and may make set­tling up restau­rant debts a dod­dle).

Ap­ple Pay’s new fea­ture still uses the TouchID fin­ger­print sen­sor, and money re­ceived will go into your Ap­ple Pay Cash Card, which you can use for

fur­ther Ap­ple Pay pay­ments or to trans­fer money back into your bank ac­count.

There’s also new Mes­sages in iCloud: a fea­ture that will au­to­mat­i­cally syn­chro­nise your con­ver­sa­tions across all of your iOS and macOS de­vices.

Fi­nally, Ap­ple has added a new Quick­Type key­board which on iPhone will mean you can use the de­vice eas­ier with one hand. It will move the keys closer to your thumb for one-handed typ­ing.

Siri im­prove­ments

Siri has a new, sup­pos­edly more nat­u­ral-sound­ing male and fe­male voice, as well as a new vis­ual in­ter­face.

Ap­ple also added new fea­tures to Siri in­clud­ing the abil­ity to trans­late what you say into Ger­man, French, Ital­ian, Chi­nese or Span­ish, with fur­ther lan­guages be­ing added soon. It also works bet­ter with Ap­ple Mu­sic to help sug­gest songs you might like.

Siri is also be­com­ing more in­tel­li­gent in iOS 11. It will now use on-de­vice learn­ing to dis­cover more about you, and there­fore im­prove sug­ges­tions when you’re in par­tic­u­lar apps. For ex­am­ple, if you’re look­ing at a par­tic­u­lar place or topic in Sa­fari, Siri can sug­gest re­lated words and items in Mail, Mes­sages and other apps. Ad­di­tion­ally, al­though Ap­ple didn’t talk about it dur­ing the key­note, you’ll be able to

type queries into Siri rather than al­ways be­ing forced to speak them out loud.

New Cam­era fea­tures

The cam­era soft­ware has seen a lot of im­prove­ments, in­clud­ing im­proved im­age qual­ity. Por­trait Mode in the iPhone 7 Plus can be taken with Op­ti­cal Im­age Sta­bil­i­sa­tion, True Tone flash and HDR, for ex­am­ple.

A new Depth API is be­ing re­leased for de­vel­op­ers, which means they’ll be able to use the iPhone 7 Plus’s cam­era to add more depth in­for­ma­tion to their apps.

Ap­ple has also added a new tech­nol­ogy called High Ef­fi­ciency Im­age File For­mat (HEIF) that re­duces the file size of your iPhone 7 or 7 Plus photos.

Fi­nally, the cam­era is also get­ting a QR scan­ner built-in – this is long over­due, al­beit bad news for the mak­ers of rub­bish free QR reader apps.

Live Photo Ef­fects

You can now choose pre­cisely the frame you want from a Live Photo to make your Key Photo, and there are also new ‘Ef­fects’ avail­able to use with Live Photos.

The new Loops ef­fect will turn your Live Photo into an in­fi­nite video loop; Bounce will play and then re­verse the clip. And a re­ally cool fea­ture means you can com­bine Live Photos to cre­ate a Long Ex­po­sure ef­fect, per­fect for wa­ter­falls or city shots, for ex­am­ple.

In­door Maps and Lane Nav­i­ga­tion

Maps of air­ports and shop­ping cen­tres are com­ing soon, and we’re also about to get in­for­ma­tion about your speed, and lane nav­i­ga­tion.

iOS 11 sees the launch of a new fea­ture called Do Not Dis­turb While Driv­ing, too (you can find out how to use it here). When ac­ti­vated, peo­ple who are try­ing to get in touch with when driv­ing will get a note to say you’ll see the mes­sage when you ar­rive at your des­ti­na­tion. (They can choose to over­ride this, if it’s an emer­gency.)


A new Air­Play pro­to­col brings lots of new fea­tures for speak­ers in­clud­ing mul­ti­room sup­port, and there’s an Air­Play 2 au­dio DPI for de­vel­op­ers. You’ll also now be able to see what your friends have been lis­ten­ing to in Ap­ple Mu­sic thanks to new pub­lic pro­files. Plus,

de­vel­op­ers will get ac­cess to a new Ap­ple Mu­sic API to in­te­grate its li­brary into other apps such as Nike+ Run Club and Shazam.

Im­proved data track­ing

While it may not be as glam­orous as a re­designed App Store or an over­hauled Con­trol Cen­tre, there’s a new ad­di­tion in iOS 11 that will make it much eas­ier to man­age your mo­bile data. Within the Mo­bile Data sec­tion of the Set­tings app, you’ll find a bunch of new op­tions and menus.

We’re not sure if it’s com­pat­i­ble with all car­ri­ers at this time, but we can con­firm that EE cus­tomers in iOS 11 will be able to find out how much data they have used and how much they have left in the Set­tings app.

It doesn’t end there, ei­ther – you can even change your data plan from within the Set­tings app. It pro­vides an eas­ier way to keep an eye on your mo­bile data with­out the need to down­load a third-party app from the App Store.

Files app (iPad only)

As per the ru­mours, iOS 11 fea­tures a new app called Files. Like the mul­ti­task­ing fea­tures, it’s de­signed to make life eas­ier for power users.

Files will keep all of your doc­u­ments in one easy-touse place. You’ll be ale to drag and drop at­tach­ments from Mail or any other app into a par­tic­u­lar folder, or cre­ate fold­ers to help stay or­gan­ised and find what you’re look­ing for faster. It’s go­ing to make mul­ti­task­ing so much quicker, and brings the iPad Pro a lot closer to an al­ter­na­tive to a lap­top.

Ap­ple Pen­cil com­pat­i­bil­ity (iPad only)

For iPad Pro mod­els, the Ap­ple Pen­cil has be­come bet­ter than ever thanks to new in­te­grated sup­port for in­line draw­ing, and a new In­stant Notes fea­ture that lets you open the Notes app di­rectly from the Lock Screen with a sim­ple tap.

Which iPhones and iPads are com­pat­i­ble?

Here’s a list of ev­ery Ap­ple de­vice that sup­ports iOS 11: iPad Air 1, Air 2, 9.7in Pro, 10.5in Pro, 12.9in Pro (2015/17) iPad mini 2, iPad 3, iPad 4 iPhone 5s, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus iPod touch (sixth gen­er­a­tion)


We’re cau­tiously op­ti­mistic about this up­date. The new fea­tures are ap­peal­ing – the new dock and dra­gand-drop in­ter­face tweaks seem par­tic­u­larly use­ful for mul­ti­task­ing, the cam­era changes will be very pop­u­lar and AR seems fun if niche – and, well, it’ll be free.

David Price and Lewis Painter

New op­tions in the Con­trol Cen­tre in­clude a Mo­bile Data on/off tog­gle

You can swipe up from the bot­tom in any app to bring up the Dock

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