iOS 11 review: Smarter, better, faster, bolder
Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017 at 9:00 am EDT
Drag and Drop. Files.app. Enhanced intelligence and learning. Peer-to-peer
Apple Pay. A new App Store design. Augmented Reality. Machine Learning. And
more. This year Apple takes iOS to 11 â but how well does it get there?
Ten years ago, Apple shocked the world and shook up the industry by unveiling
not just the iPhone but what would later become known as iOS â the mobile,
multitouch operating system that powered it. iOS combined engaging design,
delightful animations, and intuitive interactions with a real web browser, real
apps, iTunes sync, and a multitasking demo that left the crowd â and a
Starbucks employee on the other end of the biggest latte order in history â
Since then, Apple has added third-party apps and innumerable new features, and
both directly and, through inspiring others, made computing accessible to
billions of people.
Taking all that to 11 is an easy line â but not an easy job. Many of us count
on iOS to keep us connected, informed, entertained, on time, in the right
place, and with everything we want and need, every moment of the day and night.
It's what ties us to our friends and families, locally and around the world,
and lets us do our jobs and have our fun. It's become our external memory and
our life accelerator.
To keep iOS moving forward without leaving people behind, to increase
productivity, creativity, efficiency, and convenience without adversely
affecting approachability and inclusivity is an exquisitely tough juggling act.
(I was going to say "balancing" but "juggling" feels apt.) One that involves
staying focused but avoiding tunnel vision, and solving problems in a way that
delivers new and improved features that are truly meaningful and impactful now
and into the future.
To accomplish it, Apple is doubling down on smarts. What started a few years
ago with sequential inference and a proactive interface is now using all the
artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision buzzwords â and
the technologies behind them â to bring more information and more actions to
us, hopefully before we even know we need them.
iPad is also going even more pro. After largely sitting out last year, this
year it's getting its biggest update ever â drag and drop multi-window
interactions reimagined not just for multitouch, but for a level of multitouch
beyond anything Apple's been willing to unleash before. And it's all at the
system level, so iPhone benefits from it as well, if minimally for now.
There are also all sorts of other goodies, like person-to-person Apple Pay, a
one-handed keyboard for iPhone, document scanning in notes, markup for
screenshots and the web, a new Siri voice and intelligence, new Photos filters
that can get "depthy" with it, indoor maps for airports and malls, HomeKit
support for speakers, multi-room capable AirPlay 2, Apple Music social sharing,
a whole new App Store, FaceTime captures, "automagic" setup, and the list goes
on and on and on and on.
How to download and install iOS 11 to your iPhone and iPad
iOS 11 Evolution
iOS 11 is the sum of all the versions and features, additions and deprecations
that have come before it. That's more than a decade of major yearly releases
and quarterly updates. Here's a quick look at the "tentpole" features over the
years and how they compare.
iPhone OS 2 2008 Big Bear App Store, Enterprise
enhancements, iPhone SDK, Microsoft Exchange Contact search, Languages,
Mail enhancements, MobileMe, Parental controls, Quick look enhancements,
iPhone OS 3 2009 Kirkwood Accessories access, Calendar
enhancements, Cut + copy + and paste, Embedded Maps, In app purchase,
Landscape, MMS, Peer-to-peer connectivity, Push notifications (redux),
Spotlight search, Stocks enhancements, Voice Memos Open GL ES 2.0, Video
Recording, Voice Control
iOS 4 2010 Apex Enterprise enhancements, Folders, Game Center,
iAd, iBooks for iPhone, Mail enhancements, Multitasking 720p, FaceTime
iOS 5 2011 Telluride Camera enhancements, Game Center,
iCloud, iMessage, Newsstand, Notification Center, PC free, Photo enhancements,
Reminders, Safari enhancements, Twitter integration 1080p, Siri
iOS 6 2012 Sundance Accessibility enhancements, Apple maps,
Chinese enhancements, Facebook integration, FaceTime over cellular, Mail
enhancements, Passbook, Phone enhancements, Safari enhancements, Shared Photo
Streams, Siri enhancements Panorama mode
iOS 7 2013 Innsbruck Airdrop, Camera enhancements, Control
Center, iOS in the Car, iTunes Radio, iWork for iCloud, Multitasking
enhancements, Notification Center enhancements, Photos enhancements, Safari
enhancements, Siri enhancements 120fps Slow motion, Burst mode, FaceTime
Audio, Open GL ES 3.0, Touch ID
iOS 8 2014 Okemo Continuity, Extensibility, Family Sharing,
Health, HomeKit, iCloud Drive, Interactive Notifications, Messages
enhancements, Photos enhancements, QuickType, Spotlight enhancements
240fps Slow motion, Adaptive UI, Apple Pay
iOS 9 2015 Monarch Siri intelligence, Search (new), Apple Pay
enhancements, Notes (new), Maps (transit), News, Multi-app (iPad) 3D Touch,
Live Photos, 4K video
iOS 10 2016 Whitetail New Lock/Home experience, Siri
enhancements, Intelligence enhancements, Photos enhancements, Maps
enhancements, Music enhancements, News enhancements, Home app, Phone
enhancements, iMessage enhancements Portrait Mode, Camera zoom, AirPods/W1
iOS 11 2017 Tigris Files, Dock, Drag and drop, Apple Pencil
enhancement, ARKit, Person-to-person Apple Pay, App Store redesign, AirPlay 2,
Control Center enhancements, Indoor Maps, Automatic setup, Core ML
Portrait Lighting, Face tracking, HDR 10 / Dolby Vision
For details on those features, please see my previous reviews:
iOS 10 review
iOS 9 review
iOS 8 review
iOS 7 review
iOS 6 review
iOS 5 review
iOS 4 review
iPhone OS 3.0 review
iPhone OS 2.0 review
iOS 11 Compatibility
iOS 11 supports all 64-bit iOS devices. (Yes, the age of 32-bit is official
over.) That means you can download and install iOS 11 on any iPhone or iPad
going back to the fall of 2013.
iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone 7 Plus
iPhone 6s Plus
iPhone 6 Plus
iPad Pro 10.5-inches
iPad Pro 9.7-inches
iPad Pro 12.9-inches
iPad Air 2
iPad mini 4
iPad mini 3
iPad mini 2
iPod touch 6
iOS 11 Design
iOS 7 was a major redesign. The photo-illustrative, metaphorical interfaces of
the past, rich in texture were set aside for more digitally authentic,
physically playful look.
With iOS 10, scuttlebutt designer working on the services apps â Apple Music,
Maps, Home â came up with a bigger, bolder variation, including large titles
and layered card views.
The goal was to better orient people, especially in apps with a lot of content.
Back in the old days of iOS, you could be disoriented and still realize you
were in Messages contacts rather than Find My Friends contacts or Game Center
contacts, for example, simply based on the seeing stitched leather rather than
green felt. Sounds silly, but it could mean the difference between texting a
friend for help and pinging them with a challenge.
Photos in iOS 10 (left) vs. iOS 11 (right).
Large titles, which have now spread to other apps like Mail and Photos, help
solve the same problem â they let you know right up front where you are.
Unlike the heavy textures of the past, however, they shrink down and get out of
your way after you've discovered what you need.
It's all part of the "way-finding" that Apple is focusing on with iOS 11.
Inspired by airport and street signs, iOS 11 wants to show you where you can go.
They're not used â nor recommended â everywhere, especially not where they
would compete with, rather than contrast against, the content. But where they
are used, they work extremely well.
Mostly. There's an initial trade-off in terms of information density. With
titles that big, you don't get as much content at first glance, roughly in the
order of one-list item.
What's more, Instead of just size or color to distinguish informational levels,
Apple is now using and recommending a mix of position, size, weight, and color.
The first iOS 11 betas were too heavy for my liking but the final version is
well balanced. In general, headers are on top, bigger, bolder, and darker and
supporting text is underneath, smaller, thinner, and lighter. It results in
faster wayfinding and much higher legibility, with a better content balance.
The new App Store design looks especially great, with the Today view really
standing out. That's thanks to big, bold cards that mix text, art, and videos
in a way that draws attention without overwhelming the eye. (Only the Updates
tab suffers from bitsy-ness â but what's an overloaded list to do?)
Apple is also improving contrast in other ways. It's filling in button shapes,
for example, increasing the size of fields, making glyphs heavier and thicker,
and filling them in. At least in some apps, like Photos.
Evolution of the Passcode number pad, from iOS 6 (far left), to iOS 7, iOS 10,
to iOS 11 (far right).
It makes for better legibility, especially at the speed of mobile, and is
absolutely the best expression of post-iOS 7 design we've seen yet.
iOS 11 Automatic Setup
Since launch, you've set up Apple Watch by scanning a pattern on its screen
with your iPhone camera. From there, it was just a few short steps before it
was up and running. Now, thanks to iOS 11, you can use that same, simplified
setup method for a new iPhone or iPad as well (and Apple TV with tvOS 11).
I love this. I'm not a fan of QR or pattern code scanning in general. It feels
like outdated technology in an era where things like Apple Pay "just work".
But, using the camera and pattern is a simple way to ensure both devices are in
proximity â in your presence and under your immediate control.
Once the pattern is scanned and your passcode created and entered, peer-to-peer
networking with transfer over things like your settings, iCloud Keychain, and
For years now it's been obvious that the traditional "Setup Buddy" system that
walked you through the installation of a new iPhone or iPad was becoming far
too long far too complicated and far too tedious to use. It had to ask you
about privacy, Hey Siri, Touch ID and Apple Pay, and a list that went on and on.
And it wasn't clear how to fix it without hurting disclosure and
Automatic Setup is that fix. You still have to do some setup, including
services that want access to your location or require on-device security. But
it's so much faster and better than the old way that I can't ever imagine going
For people like me, who have to set up multiple devices multiple times a year,
because they have to write reviews like this, it's a godsend. Even for people
who only set up one or two new devices every year or two, though, it's a major
leap forward in speed and convenience.
iOS 11 Notification and Control Centers
Notification Center and Control Center have changed multiple times over the
last few years. So much so that, compared to the other interface layers,
they've always seemed more like works-in-progress. iOS 11 is no exception, with
significant changes to both in order to provide a more discoverable, more
Notification Center has essentially been replaced with iOS 11's Lock screen.
Pull down from the top of the screen (top center on iPhone X) and, like a cover
sheet, you get the Lock screen interface with all notifications visible. They
stay that way too, unless and until you act on them or choose to tap-to-clear
them. (And you can 3D-Touch-to-clear all.)
(On Lock screen, they'll appear cleared if there haven't been any new ones
since the last time you used your phone. Swipe up, though, and they'll all come
back. That persistence should appease people who disliked everything being
blown away every time they unlocked.)
From the cover sheet, you can swipe left to access the Camera and right to see
Siri suggestions. These shortcuts are now identical regardless of whether you
started on the Lock screen or accessed the pull-down from any other app on your
Evolution of Notification Center, from iOS 6 (far left), to iOS 7, iOS 10, to
iOS 11 (far right).
It works. Mostly. Being able to pull down Lock screen makes some spatial sense,
though the true Lock screen fades more than pulls down. Reconciling all the
animations might help there. It still confuses me sometimes as far as the
security state of my device (Lock screen vs. glanceable information screen) but
I think the consistency makes for a decent trade-off.
Swiping into Camera from Notification Center, the way you've been able to do
from Lock screen for years, is handy. But it really highlights its
just-as-longstanding inability to let you swipe back out of it. (It collides,
and loses to, the Camera's use of the gesture for switching between photo and
The contradictions here, and in many other areas of iOS, have no easy answers.
Some don't even have clear better or worse options: They're judgment calls.
Overall, Apple's made those calls well. But enough of them exist now â
especially with iPhone X, that I'd love to see Apple tear it all down, start
with a clean slate, and come up with a new spatiality and gesture navigation
system that's as coherent as possible within, between, and across apps and
devices. (Easy for me to say, I know.)
Evolution of Control Center, from iOS 7 (left), to iOS 10, to iOS 11 (right).
Control Center has gotten an even bigger change. Swipe up from the bottom (or
the top right of iPhone X), and you get a single screen again: No more
half-height, multi-pane layout to swipe back and forth through. I'm guessing
enough people failed to realize there were multiple panes that Apple had to
call a mulligan and go back to a unified sheet.
To fit everything in, Control Center now fills the entire screen on iPhone. (On
iPad, it fills the right side of the new App Switcher.) And the controls
themselvesâ¦ they're everywhere.
While other elements of iOS have gotten bigger and less informationally dense,
Control Center is the opposite. It's denser than ever. You can even customize
it now in Settings > Control Center so you can have more and different
controls. And that includes items from almost everyone's wishlists.
Top of mine is the built-in screen recorder. Previously you had to plug into a
Mac and use QuickTime to grab video from your iPhone or iPad. Now, once you add
it in Settings, all you have to do is invoke Control Center, tap the record
button, go to what you want to record and, when you're done, tap the red banner
to end and save the video.
Apple TV Remote, Low Power Mode, Voice Memos, Guided Access, Magnifier â the
options are varied and truly useful. About the only thing still missing is
third-party app support. (And the ability to reassign default apps, which would
likely be needed to make it truly useful.)
3D Touch (or long press on devices without 3D Touch) on a button or control and
it pops you into even deeper options, too. For example, the entire Now Playing
and Home panes are now contained within the pop action of its audio controls
and Home icon.
Discoverability is always a concern with that type of interface, but enough is
surfaced that most people should find the rest, at least given time.
I'm not sure Control Center has gotten to its final, elegantly functional
destination yet. But I like the way it's going.
iOS 11 Drag and drop
The biggest feature not introduced last year was drag and drop interactivity,
especially for iPad. It was rumored, it was longed for, but not matter how
often people said it was coming, it never quite arrived.
This isn't the Mac drag-and-drop with a touch layer grafted on top of it. Apple
didn't graft any old code or behavior here. This is drag and drop born for
multitouch. A lot of multitouch.
It's another example of Apple's long-stated belief that the Mac should be the
Mac and iOS should be iOS or, perhaps better stated, legacy and preconception
should never hold back the future.
For a long time, Apple has been incredibly conservative, and sometimes almost
mystical about how it used multitouch. Instead of using the multitouch field to
enable tricks like hover states, Apple used it to detect which fingers were
being used and reject incidental contact. Instead of creating complex,
multi-finger and multi-directional gesture traced like incantations across the
screen, Apple has stuck to the few, really intuitive ones that move quickly and
cleanly across cardinal directions or best reflected direct manipulation.
With drag and drop, though, Apple is starting to let loose.
Previously, as my colleague Serenity Caldwell has pointed out numerous times,
uploading images from Photos to iMore through the CMS was arduous to the point
of being unusable. Now, it's arguably better and certainly more tactile and fun
than on Mac. Functionality that didn't work on iOS before, like dragging to
move elements on a web page, all "just work" now.
The technology is built in at the system level, so drag and drop works on both
iPhone and iPad, although iPhone implements far, far less of it right now. On
iPad, you get everything Apple's got.
Touch an element â it could be an image, an icon, a text selection, whatever
â and it begins to float. Keep touching it and you can drag it around the
screen and drop it anywhere else that will take it. That includes other parts
of the app and even entirely different apps.
Tap other elements with other fingers and they'll be added to the drop stack.
Walk your fingers so one touches before the other releases, and you can switch
how you're holding the stack.
Start using your other hand and â holy wow! â you can four-finger pinch or
swipe to change apps, or hit the Home button and pick another app, or use the
split view app switcher, orâ¦ you get the idea. But there's more: Tap inside
an app to start a new email or new note or bring up a folder or uploader orâ¦
I could just keep going.
It's Apple unlocking the full-on multi-finger multitouch, and it's glorious.
Complex, sometimes requiring two hands and an iPad set down on a table? Yes.
You can even use drag-and-drop multi-select to make rearranging Home screen
icons a lot less tedious. Put them into jiggly mode, grab one icon, tap to add
others, and then move them where you want them.
Mostly, you can drag and drop almost anything you can touch. Words or snippets
of highlighted text. Pictures. Objects. Locations. Links. If it's data and can
be packaged for dragging, it'll drag. There's enough "hinting" in the
interaction model that you should be able to discover what's draggable quickly,
and enough joy in the process that you should experiment and find all sorts of
incredibly convenient use cases as time goes on.
Multitouch aside, there is another major difference between macOS and iOS drag
and drop: the security model.
On iOS, only metadata â for example, the type of content you're dragging â
is shared with an app you're dragging over. No actual data is handed over
unless or until you actually drop it.
That's annoyed some who want to do things like preview changes on drag. It's
annoyed them so much so, some have gone as far as to call the feature "drag and
secure paste" instead of "drag and drop". Security and privacy are Apple's
priority's, though. First, last, and always.
So, yeah, you can't preview a color change on drag but you also can't
accidentally hand over a private photo or personal info to a dodgy app you just
downloaded â or, you know, Facebook â as you're dragging over it to get to
Files or Mail. Maybe a future version will offer secure previewing as well.
Until then, though, I think Apple made the right choice.
iOS 11 Dock and multi-windowing
Despite my intermittent pleading, iPad still hasn't been given its own iPadOS
interface layer the way Apple Watch and Apple TV were given watchOS and tvOS.
That leaves iPad, despite its more expansive display, with essentially the same
interface layer as iPhone. Though not entirely.
Two years ago, with iOS 9, Apple gave iPad multi-window multitasking. Now, with
iOS 11, Apple's giving iPad better tools for using those windows.
It starts with a new Dock implementation. Instead of being anchored to the
bottom of the display it's inset now, with rounded edges and a style that makes
it look like it's floating. Functionally, it's just as unfettered. Dynamic now,
the Dock will expand and contract to fit whatever apps you want to stick on it
at any given time. It'll also present you with suggested apps and Continuity
apps on the right.
If it's not already visible, you can drag the Dock up from the bottom of the
display with a simple swipe. (It's usurped the gesture from Control Center on
iPad just as Home has on iPhone X.)
You can still tap icons on the Dock to launch apps but, now, you can also touch
and hold an icon, drag it up, and drop into a new-style Slide Over, which also
floats more than docks, and also has rounded corners. (UIKit can animate corner
radius now â celebrate!) You can even swipe the Slide Over from side to side
depending on how you want to work.
Flick down, counterintuitively, on the top of a Slide Over and it turns into a
full-on Split View. You can even stack an additional Slide Over on top of a
Split View interface. It works great, especially with devices that support 4GB
of RAM, like the new iPad Pro models: The primary app in Split View will stay
active along with the Slide Over interface, and even a Picture-in-Picture
video, if you have one running.
When the Dock is visible, a second swipe up takes you into the new App Switcher
interface. It replaces the old iOS multitasking interface with a more powerful
version, providing the aforementioned Control Center icons top left, along with
an iPad-style version of Spaces from macOS. There, you can not only find your
recent events apps, but your recent Split View pairings, and quickly pop back
to not only what you were doing â but how you were doing it.
(On iPhone, you still double-click Home to invoke the fast app switcher or, on
iPhone X, swipe up from the bottom and pause. The 3D Touch firm swipe from the
left edge is currently not enabled but, rumor has it, will return to iPhone 6s,
iPhone 7, and iPhone 8 with iOS 11.1.)
You can't pin any pairings but the system does a great job persisting the ones
you use most. Notes and Safari, for example, is almost always center tap for
me. (It's the one I'm using right now, after all.)
It's not perfect yet: If an app isn't in the permanent or recent section of the
Dock, there's no easy way to pull it up into Slide Over or Split View. (You can
try using Spotlight in Notification Center to bring it up, but it stopped
working for me in later betas.)
It can also take a lot of manual dexterity â and both hands â to get all
the multi-finger multitouch gestures working just right, and more than a little
time and repetition before it starts to become natural.
Then, the complexity of the mechanics fade and it starts to feel like you're
dealing windows onto the screen just like you'd deal cards onto a table.
It's so cool it makes the Split View introduced in macOS a couple of years ago
â and neglected ever since â feel absolutely primitive by comparison.
iOS 11 Files
I've been asking for a Files.app almost every year since iOS 4 made it obvious
that per-app silos created as many problems as they solved.
Don't get me wrong: Traditional comp-sci file systems remain confusing and
unapproachable to the mainstream, which is why so many files get dumped onto so
many desktops. That said, by not having a relatively flat, easily searchable
repository, iOS has been creating just as much confusion and anxiety.
All I've ever wanted was an analog to Photos.app and the ImagePicker API. It's
a great model for the mainstream. iOS got DocumentPicker a while ago and now,
finally, it's gotten Files.app as well.
On the surface, Files.app makes it easy to organize and find all the documents
on your iPhone and iPad. The initial hierarchy is flat, but you can create and
nest folders if you really, really want to.
Thanks to drag and drop, it's delightful to move stuff around both inside
Files.app and between apps. Folders are spring-loaded, for example, so you can
easily drag a file from one right into another â or a sub-folder beneath it.
You can toggle between icon view and list view, pin your most important
content, and tag groups of similar content together â by dragging it over the
tag color in the sidebar!
What's coolest and most important about Files.app is that Apple has taken not
just its own silos, but the ones that often complicate traditional file
systems, and attracted them away. What you get is a unified view of not just
the files local to your iPhone or iPad, but of your iCloud Drive, and other
online providers as well, including Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox. So,
you can truly organize and find all your files, all in one place. (Which is
good, because Files.app also replaces the previous iCloud Drive app.)
The default Recents view is, perhaps the quintessential expression of that. All
your latest stuff, all right up front. (You can even get to them from the Home
screen or Dock thanks to 3D Touch shortcuts.)
Nothing is copied, conflated, or jumbled together: Each storage system remains
separate and distinct. But you enjoy the efficiency and simplicity of seeing
and using them all together.
iOS 11 Camera and Photos
Years ago, the cliche was that Nokia had the glass, Apple had the silicon, and
Google had the servers. In other words, a Lumia could capture great images,
Apple could calculate great images, and since Google never knew what hardware
was available on any given device, they'd just suck everything up to the cloud
and make the best they could from it there.
Now, though, Apple is fielding fusion lenses and doing local computational
photography, where machine learning, computer vision, and a lot of smart
programming start to produce images beyond what any one of those processes
could do alone. (And since it's done on-device, you don't have to give up all
your private photos to Apple just to reap the benefits of the processing â
your valuable data stays yours.)
Portrait Mode on iPhone 7 Plus was the first mass-market application of fusion
and computational photography that I'm aware of. On iOS 10, it came with fairly
strict lighting requirements. On iOS 11, though, better optical and
software-based stabilization, and shoots with high dynamic range (HDR), which
dramatically improves low-light and high contrast performance. For extreme
low-light situations, iOS 11 will even let you do Portrait Mode with the LED
Noise is still an issue, but Apple does a lot with the "grain" to mitigate it.
So much so that I often don't notice the noise at all at first â I'm too busy
marveling at the subject. Reflections can also still be problematic, but it's
starting to improve on that as well.
It's more than just faces now too. Last year, you could already capture
flowers, coffee cups (so many, sorry!), and more but you could still tell it
was a face-first feature. Now it feels like it's got wider ambitions.
Officially. For example, grabbing onto a chain link fence and blurring the
background behind it.
Apple has also switched from the ancient JPEG (joint photographic experts
group) format to the new HEIF (high-efficiency image format) in iOS 11. To
capture it and hardware encode/decode HEIF, you'll need a recent device though
â A10 Fusion-powered or later, which means iPhone 7 and iPad Pro (2nd Gen) at
When moving images around, Apple will try to maintain HEIF formatting for
quality reasons but, if you ever try to send a HEIF image to an older device
that doesn't support it, or Apple can't tell if the device you're sending it to
is compatible, the system will automatically convert to JPG first.
Compatibility beats efficiency.
The efficiency in HEIF's name works out to about 50% space-savings over JPG in
your library. It comes at the expense of slightly longer encode times but
nothing in life, and certainly nothing in imaging, is free. For photos on
iPhone, though, the process is already so fast I've never noticed a difference.
What's even cooler about HEIF is that it can store multiple image assets in the
same container. For example: In iOS 10, when you shot on an iPhone 7 Plus in
Portrait mode, the Camera app would spit out two images â one normal, and one
with the depth effect burned in. With HEIF, the depth data for Portrait Mode is
retained but bundled into the same file.
The advantage to that is most apparent in photo editing, where filters can now
apply different effects based on the depth or motion data. Not just on iPhone 7
Plus either. As long as the effect information is bundled into the HEIF, iPad
and Mac can get every bit as "depthy" with it.
So, for example, the new filters in Camera and Photos, can apply different
shades and tones based on the depth data in the photo.
Those filters have been rethought not to duplicate what you typically see on
social networks but what you'd find in more classic photography: Vivid, Vivid
Warm, or Vivid Cool, which play on vibrancy; Dramatic, Dramatic Warm, or
Dramatic Cool, which toy with contrast, and Silvertone which rounds out the
previous Mono and Noir filters with something a little more high-key.
Silvertone is probably my favorite of the new "depthy" bunch.
Apple's also been steadily improving Live Photos as well over the last couple
of years. First and foremost, the quality you get from the 1.5 second before
and after animations are much-improved. So much so that Apple can start to
offer some really cool new effect options.
Namely, Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure.
Loop takes the 3 seconds of Live Photo animation and fades from end back to
beginning, so the video plays over and over and over again, in an endless cycle.
Bounce takes the animation, plays it forward, then plays it back, like a
Long exposure takes the animation and shows all frames at once, so motion blurs
and light stretches out across the frame.
HEIF also works with Live Photos. Instead of a separate JPG and MOV (movie)
file, you now have both the still/key photo and the video bundled into one
file. That means those effects are also non-destructive, and you can go from
bounce to loop and back again any time you like.
In all cases, the effects are intelligent and try to lock position on static
elements so the moving elements become even more dynamic in contrast.
Sure, these types of effects have been available in apps like Instagram and
Snapchat for a while, but they were also stuck in those networks. If I wanted
to make a fun bounce, I had to do it in Instagram and either share it with
everyone or with friends on Instagram.
By adding effects into Live Photos, I can share them outside of my social
networks â including with family and friends that want no part of the
Facebook or Snapchat scenes.
That bounce of my friend and I tapping champagne glasses at my birthday? That
went straight to them over iMessage. Securely. Privately. Not for the world or
for the giant data harvesting companies. Just for us.
Especially when it comes to Faces and sync.
When Apple initially re-deployed facial recognition and tagging last year, the
company said syncing would come later.
Well, later is now. And the reason it took so long is that Apple wanted to
provide the convenience of sync while maintaining the privacy and security of
on-device processing â Apple doesn't want to know who your friends and
connections are, and I'm supremely thankful for that.
So, what Apple's doing is interesting. To enable face detection, you have to
start selecting people you know and then identifying them. At that point, the
on-device machine learning and computer vision takes over and starts to add
more and more pictures of the identified people to the pool.
When syncing, Apple is only moving over the data you yourself identified. None
of the machine learning or computer vision relationships that were built around
it. Just your "truth". Then, the synced device rebuilds those relationships
In other words, I tag pictures of my mom on my iPhone, it finds other pictures
of my mom on my iPhone to add to her Faces folder on my iPhone. The pictures I
tagged are also synced to my Mac, which then also finds other pictures of my
mom on my Mac to add to her Faces folder on my Mac.
Apple will have to prove that this implementation works well enough that people
who want no part of the massive data harvest that is Google Photos will still
find it useful enough to use, and that'll take a while post-launch to really
Still, privacy is good and options are good, and options for privacy are great.
The video version of HEIF, and the base codec technology, is HEVC (high
efficiency video codec) â an ugly way of saying H.265. Compatibility is
slightly wider for HEVC. Any iOS device with an A9 processor (iPhone 6s and
iPad Pro or later) can encode and decode 8-bit HEVC. Devices with A10 Fusion
(iPhone 7 and iPad Pro 2 or later) can encode and decode 10-bit HEVC, which
translates into HDR (high dynamic range) video.
HEVC offers a 2x improvement in compression over the previous H.264 codec.
Apple will similarly maintain HEVC internally whenever possible but will fall
back to H.264 if you try to share a video to a device that has no support or
there's no way to know if it has support or not.
There's a lot more in Camara and Photos in iOS 11 as well. QR scanning, for
example, will let you quickly capture and act on codes. Memories, which was a
surprise hit with mainstream users last year, is getting several new types,
including: pets, babies, birthdays, sportsball, outdoor activities, driving,
night life, performances, anniversaries, weddings, "over the years" (aka "this
is your life", "early memories" (aka "glory days"), visits, gatherings, and the
one that scares and delights me almost as much as pets â meals.
There's even a stealthy level that fades in when you've got the grid overlay
enabled and you go to take a top-down photo of your food, coffee, everyday
carry, etc. It's a glorious touch that helps the already composition-obsessed
absolutely nail the shot.
iOS 11 iMessage and Apple Pay
iMessage is the most popular app on iOS and, like messaging in general, is
increasingly becoming a platform in its own right. That's why Apple has been
focusing on messaging almost as much as it has photography: It wants people
stuck to iMessage so they remain stuck to iPhone, iPad, and other Apple
devices. Inline stickers, effects, and apps were a big part of that strategy
over the last few years and continue to be refined in iOS 11.
iMessage has a new interface for choosing apps and stickers which I'm still
neither here nor there about. It's better than before but still feels like it
clutters up the messaging experience. I don't know a better way to solve for
the increasingly cluttered messaging experience in general, though. So, I'll
just keep holding to hope that even better is still on the horizon.
There are some new screen effects, including echo which lets you set everything
from a chicken head to poop emoji to knives to eggplants (yes, eggplants)
swirling around the screen. It's as delightful and terrifying as it sounds.
There still aren't any bubble effects for setting a message on fire or freezing
it cold, which I'd love to see. And I still wonder how or even if Apple will
keep up with Snapchat and Instagram who seem to offer ever-more-outlandish
filters weekly if not daily.
When iPhone X launches in November, though, we will have Animoji to entertain
â and spam â our contacts with.
Also on the waiting list is iMessage sync. Apple originally announced the
feature would be coming to iMessage for iOS 11 at WWDC back in June but it was
pulled at some point during the beta process. I'm hoping it returns in iOS 11.1
or some future release because the implementation looked clever:
Previously, each device got its own unique end-to-end encrypted copy of a
message that Apple's servers would attempt to deliver for a week or so and then
abandon forever. It was great for security but not so great for convenience and
consistency. Over time, invariably, some devices would have some messages and
others, especially newer ones, wouldn't.
I was curious how Apple would solve this because the last thing any
privacy-conscious person â or Apple itself â wanted was some unencrypted
web repository sitting online, ripe for the plucking.
With iMessage sync, all messages remained end-to-end encrypted and, for all
intents and purposes, inaccessible to Apple. They were simply collected on the
web, in their encrypted form, so Apple could ensure a consistent delivery and
experience across devices.
Once the feature actually ships, we'll see if any of that has changed and how
well the system holds up to the scrutiny of the infosec community. If Apple is
going to stick by its privacy-first policies, though, it's going to have to
stick with delivering on them as well.
Another iMessage feature that still has to ship is person-to-person Apple Pay.
It wasn't promised for release but for later this fall, so Apple still has some
time left. And I'm really hoping they nail it.
I'm lucky to live in a place that's soaking in Apple Pay. I use everywhere I
go. So much so that when I can't use it it's like a utility has gone off. Like
I've lost power or the internet. I don't carry cash with me anymore and I
barely carry cards. The only exception, of course, has been swapping funds with
friends and family. They don't exactly walk around with contactless payment
terminals around their necks. Most, anywayâ¦
For that, we've had to resort to quick bank machine runs, using PayPal like
it's 2007, or relying on a third-party service and app, which isn't always
available or set up by everyone. All the while hoping Apple would bring
person-to-person payments to Apple Pay. And now they're starting to.
Even though person-to-person Apple Pay is still a short way off, I have had the
chance to try it at a demo last month. And it worked well.
You have to approve it first, so someone can't simply spam you with requests
for cash and hope to trigger an automated response. (Sorry, colleagues who've
tried!). Once it is approved, though, it works intelligently to detect
potential triggers and offer itself when and as needed. For example, if Lory
Gil messages me that my share of beverages is $42, iMessage could ask me if I
want to send it to her right there, right then.
Sending money is also a breeze. You simply tap it out in iMessage or tell Siri,
Apple's intelligent voice assistant, who you want to send money to and how much.
If and when you receive money, it goes into an "Apple Pay Cash" card stored in
Wallet where you can quickly and easily buffer funds until you decide to make
purchases or withdraw to a traditional account.
Being tied to Messages might be inconvenient for people who live in a different
service, like WeChat or WhatsApp. For people already in the Apple ecosystem,
especially those like my friends and family who only ever use iMessage, it'll
be all but effortless. Better still, it's one less service to have to maintain
â and one less security and privacy vector to worry about.
That's because, like everything in iMessage, person-to-person Apple Pay is
end-to-end encrypted and Apple has absolutely no interest in harvesting,
aggregating, and profiting off your transaction data. Who you get money from
and who you send money to is your business, not some massive online social
search company. And, frankly, that's become just as if not more important to me
than the service itself.
Person-to-person Apple Pay will be U.S. only at launch, which is a huge but
expected bummer to people like me who live outside the U.S. Hopefully, it'll
roll-out to more countries and quickly. Apple's scale generally helps push
things out and make them mainstream. Because I want it yesterday.
iOS 11 App Store
Ten years after it was first introduced with iOS 11, the App Store has finally
gotten a complete re-imagining. It's more than a makeover because it's more
than interface deep: It's a complete rethinking not just of how to present apps
for people to browse and search, but how people browse and search for apps.
It starts with the new Today tab. For years Apple has had an amazing team of
editors working on surfacing, curating, organizing, and arranging the best of
the best apps. But their work was constrained to weekly feature blocks. Now
it's open to daily features.
An endless vertical scroll filled with stories, broken up by text, images,
videos, and lists, it's rich beyond rich and instantly forces you to reconsider
everything you thought you knew about the App Store. It almost reminds me of
thumbing through stacks vinyl records, seeing the album art and type fan by.
This isn't a digital shelf anymore. It's a multi-faceted digital experience.
There are features, like "Meet the developer", "Our favorites", "Gaming 101",
"Behind the scenes", "Collection", "How to", "DIY", and "The daily list".
There's also an "App of the day" and "Game of the day". Each gets its own card
in the deck. Tap a card and it springs up excitedly to fill the screen. And,
where previously App Store editors were limited to tiny blurbs, if that, they
now have real space for real prose. It's almost as though Apple has started its
own app blog. (That's fine. Everything's fine. We need the competition!)
It's a jaw-dropping achievement, both in terms of the App Store app itself and
the Today content that fills it. But it's also a jaw-dropping increase in the
scope of the App Store team's workload, text, graphics, and video all. I'm
legit exhausted just thinking about how much consistent effort they're going to
need to put in, day after day, month after month, year after year, to maintain
And I'm curious to find out just how much return the App Store gets on this
incredible investment. Today, after all, is a destination. Destinations are
great, especially when we're bored and simply want to find the next cool thing
to pass our time. But, increasingly, destinations have given way to demand. We
want therefore we search. Boredom is less frequently our problem. Finding what
we want in a sea of potentials, that's our problem.
Luckily, App Store is getting better at that as well. Gone are the days when
searching for "Twetbot" returned no results. Now, it properly returns not only
"Tweetbot", but other apps by the same developer, and other apps around the
same service (Twitter).
There are, at long last, separate tabs for Apps and Games, so popular apps are
no longer buried under the always more massively popular games. That's fine
again for browsing, and I'm super glad Apple's done it. But I think we're
already in an era where most people come to the App Store not from the tabs but
from elsewhere on the internet. They see an app or game on the web or on social
and they tap or click straight to it.
Those app and game pages have been redesigned as well, though the interface
still struggles to cleanly contain all the elements. (And the use of the "more"
(â¢â¢â¢) button for pulling up the Share Sheet still causes me to do a
As Today builds up more content and that content propagates down to the app and
games pages, they should become more visually interesting, engaging, and alive
as well. That'll take some time, though.
Evolution of App Store from launch in 2008 (top) to relaunch in 2017 (bottom).
The App Store can even offload apps and games you haven't launched for a while
to free up space on your iPhone or iPad. No data is deleted or lost, and you
can re-download them at any time. I haven't been able to tell if any of my apps
have been offloaded, so it's either taking its time or working brilliantly.
It's clear the redesign was a labor of intense love from Apple, and that Today
is evidence of the company's extreme commitment to the platform and developers.
And I'm hoping intensely it pays off for all involved.
iOS 11 QuickType Keyboard
Apple's doing a couple cool things with the iOS keyboard this year. The first
is a one-handed keyboard for iPhone. It's not the first time Apple's worked on
solving for wider phones but it's the first time they've been happy enough with
the solution to ship it. And I'm thankful for that. I've been waiting for it
for a while.
There are both left and right-sided versions of the one-handed keyboard. You
access them through the same "globe" button that you use to switch keyboards or
get to emoji. Getting back to the standard keyboard is even easier. You simply
tap the huge arrow on the opposite side.
I wish it were even easier though. I'm guessing edge gestures to invoke and
switch the keyboard to one-handed mode and from side to side â which is how
split keyboard has always worked on iPad â don't scale down as well. Still,
I'd love it if Apple could figure it out since I want to move in and out of
one-handed mode a lot.
The second big change is a new "flick"-style keyboard for iPad. It lets you
enter alternate characters like numbers and symbols by simply flicking down on
It has an almost old-school typewriter feeling to it but I'm still wondering if
flicking down â as opposed to flicking up â was the best choice Apple could
make here. Because the alternate characters are not only rendered at the top of
the main characters but the area I'm writing on is spatially above the keyboard
as well, I still find myself flicking up on occasion. (I have the same problem
with Slide Over apps and pulling down rather than pushing up to dock them into
Split View apps.)
Like autocorrect, flicking is something you have to get used to and learn to
trust, but once you do you can enter mixed text, including passwords and
addresses, faster than ever.
Especially since Siri has been amped up to prompt for even more information
types, including places, movies, recently viewed items, ETAs, and more.
In my experience, it doesn't work all the time, or at least all the times I'd
expect it to, which is slightly frustrating. When it does work its delightfully
iOS 11 Notes
Notes is my Mind Palace. With Sync. I dump everything I'm working on and want
to keep top-of-mind into Notes and it shows up everywhere so I can find and use
it anywhere. I do wish I could switch it from rich text to plain text mode â
because, nerd â but otherwise, it's become one of my most-used apps. And in
iOS 11, it's gotten even better.
Apps have been able to scan and digitize documents for years on iOS, but now
Notes has it built in. It doesn't work on highly complex, highly illustrative
documents, but for forms and text on a page, it's solid.
If you have an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, Notes is now even better integrated.
Instant Notes lets tap the Lock screen with your Pencil and start writing. By
default, it kicks you right into a new note but you can tweak that in Settings
so that you land on the last Instant note you created or the last note you
viewed in the app.
In Notes, you can nudge text aside and start drawing inline, so you can easily
mingle text and handwriting. You can even write in English or Simplified
Chinese (which I can do at approximately a 1-year-old's level!). It can
recognize your scribblings and let you search them as though they were text.
If you don't have an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, you can still benefit from the
new strikethrough and monospacing styles, and from the ability to pin Notes to
the top of the list so really important work â like iOS 11 reviews! â never
gets lost under more recent, if more random, notes.
iOS 11 Screenshots and Markup
Markup started life as a humble extension buried away in Mail. No longer. Now,
it's everywhere. Screenshots started off as a debugging feature kept alive
because Walt Mossberg told Steve Jobs it would be useful for media. Now,
they're front and center and tied right into the new Instant Markup system.
Take a screenshot and, instead of it disappearing away into your photo deck, it
persists at the bottom left of the screen. Tap on it, and it takes you right
into the Markup interface where you can add feedback or, you know, send
everything from snarky comments to naughty annotations. (Who needs InstaSnap,
right? Just markup responsibly, please, people.)
The overlay interface is at the same time super convenient and kind of
annoying. When you want to act on a screenshot immediately, it's right there
ready and waiting for you. When you don't, it's still right there, covering the
screen, and harshening your Feng Shui. At least until you swipe it off-screen
and away or wait a few moments for it to fade. There's no way for the system to
know when you actually want a screenshot immediately, and when you're snapping
away for later use, so it feels like Apple chose the best implementation
If you have an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, you can use Markup even more
precisely and easily â simply touch the tip to a document in Files or Mail
and annotate away.
Giving instant access to screenshots and making Markup ubiquitous has made the
act of capturing, commenting, and sharing visual ideas almost muscle memory for
me already. And that makes it almost invaluable.
iOS 11 Siri
Apple was first-to-market with a mainstream digital assistant but the company's
lack of early focus and acceleration has allowed Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and
others to catch up and, in many people's opinions, race ahead.
Over the course of the last year or so, I've been wondering if Apple wouldn't
benefit greatly from a public-facing VP of Siri Experience who has only one job
â to sidestep everyone and everything else and make sure Siri is the best
damn assistant on the planet, period. Much as Apple does for physical products
like iPhone, and much as Phil Schiller has done since taking up that kind of
roll at App Store. A little while ago, Apple did something pretty close: The
company moved responsibility for Siri over to Craig Federighi's software
Just like it took a while before we saw the App Store pick up speed under
Schiller, it'll probably take a while before Siri picks up speed under
Federigihi, but iOS 11 is already off to a good start.
New features include a more natural voice with machine-learned inflections and
intonations. There's also support for translations from English to Chinese,
Spanish, French, German, or Italian. And, something else I've been hoping for
over the last few years: the ability to type to Siri for when speaking is
inappropriate or impossible. (Though that feature is currently tucked away
Siri will also sync what it's learned about you between devices. It doesn't
keep a profile of you or your relationships on Apple's servers, the way some
other companies do to harvest and monetize your personal information. Instead,
it syncs securely, with end-to-end encryption between your devices. Apple
doesn't have â and still claims not to want â your data.
New SiriKit domains include task managers and bill payment. Apps can use them
to hook into Siri and provide functionality based around a wide range of
intents. Still, only two new domains in a year is disappointing. Especially
when it doesn't include media domains for music and video. I need to talk to
Spotify and Netflix.
Inconsistency remains the biggest frustration. When you ask for something and
it just works eight out of ten times, but the other two times it returns
something incomprehensibly ridiculous, it's jarring. As someone who uses Siri
all day, every day, for everything from controlling my home to dictating my
work, if Apple's server-side Siri team did nothing else but stamp out
aberrations and improve consistency over the course of the next year, I'd be
The Suggestions interface has also been expanded to include text in Safari,
stories from Apple News, and flight status.
There's also a new Siri animation at the bottom of the screen. It's all
futuristic and round, which makes it look a lot like Siri on top of Apple's
upcoming HomePod. Badass.
iOS 11 ARKit
Screens are great. I love screens. But having to have a screen for my wrist, my
pocket, my lap, my desk, and my wall, never mind several of each, gets
expensive. One day I hope to have a simple marble-sized device that I keep on
me â or implanted in me, shudder â and it constantly authenticates my
identity locally and syncs my information with the cloud. Then shows and tells
me everything and anything I want, whenever I want, through the infinite
screens of augmented reality (AR). That might sound like science fiction, but
I'm already seeing a glimpse of that future today, thanks to Apple's ARKit.
Unlike Google, which released a personal screen prototype called Glass and
later a phone-based platform called Tango, and Microsoft which made a full-on
mixed reality visor called HoloLens, Apple decided not to put the augmented
device cart before the platform horse. (I'd guessed as much before WWDC.)
Thanks to the popularity of iPhone and iPad, that instantly gives them not only
hundreds of millions of screens to target, but the deepest pool of developer
talent on the planet to figure out and test the first use-cases.
Apple takes care of a lot of the heavy lifting up front. ARKit handles figuring
out the planes, the lighting, the scaling, and keeping it all as anchored in
time and space as possible. With the True Depth camera on iPhone X, ARKit will
even handle face mapping. (See Rene as poop emoji, above.)
That lets developers create compelling, immersive AR experiences without having
to create all the technology for AR around it. In other words, they get to hit
the AR ground not just running but running like The Flash.
I've had a chance to try out a bunch of ARKit apps in various stages of
development over the course of the last month or two. Some are upfront about
the setup mechanics and tell you to move your iPhone or iPad around while
overlaying the dot grids that map the real-world planes to the digital objects
that will occupy them. Others gamify the experience, telling you to catch or
find something while stealthily scanning as you do. I find both approaches
Many of them do some variation of just what you'd expect right now: Let you
place rendered objects in the environment, be they chairs on your floor,
lipstick on your face, castles on your coffee tables, or starfighters in your
driveway, and then inspect and interact with them for education, commerce, or
just plain fun. Others, which let you do things like opening a door in a real
library to access a fantasy or far-flung-future library, are brain-boggling.
Like with any framework Apple introduces ahead of first-party products and
software, though, it'll take some time for the augmented dust to settle, the
obvious realities to fall away, and the truly transformative experiences to
For now, though, I expect I'll be spending the better part of next year with
AirPods in my ears and an iPhone or iPad in front of my face, ARKit augmenting
my reality beyond anything I can imagine now.
And I can't wait.
iOS 11 Core ML
Machine Learning is basically Tinder for computers: Yes. No. No. No. Yes. Yes.
No. Yes. No. It's how Apple trained the Neural Engine block on the A11 Bionic
chipset for iPhone X, how it taught Photos to recognize mountains without
having to suck up all your personal photos, and how Siri is getting its new,
more naturally inflected voice.
Core ML is how Apple bundled all that up and made it available to developers.
Like ARKit, it means apps can access the power of machine learning without
their coders having to expend the time and effort of building out all the
frameworks all by themselves. It's also been called PDF-like, in that Core ML
can ingest a wide range of different ML models, serving as a common ground.
There's also a Vision application programming interface (API), to apply
Computer Vision, to apps. That likewise lets apps ingest and understand photos
without having to engineer the process themselves. And a Natural Language
Processing API for ingesting and understanding words and phrases. (There's even
GamePlayKit for learned decision trees in games.)
All of this technology accomplishes the same basic thing: It lets Apple handle
the grunt work so developers can concentrate on what makes their apps unique
And that's kind of what ML, CV, and related technologies do for us as well.
I've gotten to try a few Core ML-based apps over the last couple of months as
well. The best ones do a lot of work behind the scenes so that you have less to
do in front of the interface.
For example, let's say you're selling your house and you want to show it off as
best as possible. You may not have done all the research or gotten all the
experience necessary to know which photos do precisely that. But an ML model
sourced from massive amounts of real estate agents might. So, you load up the
dozens of photos you took, the CV framework figures out what they all are, and
the ML model arranges them so the bright, welcoming living room is up front and
the darker, smaller bathroom is buried third from last.
You can tweak from there but you no longer have to start from scratch and do
all the grunt work yourself. The machine has done it for you because it was
trained to do just exactly that for you.
Yes, I realize we're starting to talk about devices more like pets than like
objects, and yes, Terminator and Matrix have made sure I'm suitably creeped out
by that. Computers have always been about convenience, though. And Machine
Learning is the next leap forward in convenience.
iOS 11 Miscellany
iOS 11 is one of Apple biggest releases to date and that means it's chocked
full of new and updated features. Everyone will have their favorites and the
ones that are most impactful to their own workflows and experiences. Here are
some of the bigger ones.
Apple Music is becoming more social but without any of the baggage that came
with Ping or Connect. You can simply follow people and be followed, see what
friends are listening to, and jam along as you do. I wish App Store would add
this so hard.
Podcasts, which has long been tied to but seldom been in sync with the Music
app, has caught up again with a big, bold, and beautiful redesign all its own.
It looks and works great. Which is good because, thanks to the continued lack
of SiriKit support for media, it remains the only fully integrated option on
iPhone and iPad.
The Maps app is getting indoor mapping for malls and airports. Just a few to
start, because the process is arduous, but more on the way. Lane guidance,
light guidance, and speed limits are also being added to navigation â and to
CarPlay â hurray. And yeah, you can drag and drop from and to Maps. Awesome.
There's a new Do Not Disturb while Driving feature that I think is important,
especially as more jurisdictions pass much-needed distracted driving laws. I'm
not sure DND is the right solution, though. It's so cut off it leads me to
believe many will choose to ignore it. Maybe that it exists is enough. Still,
I'd like to see Apple do what Google did with Android Auto and make an iPhone
version of the CarPlay interface available â minus all the infotainment
integrations, of course â to anyone with a car mount. That might just keep
you safe even if you need to stay connected.
HomeKit can control speakers â interesting, with the coming of Apple's
HomePod â as well as sprinklers and faucets. There are also expanded
triggers, so you can automate better, and easier accessory setup via NFC and QR
Speaking of HomePod, AirPlay 2 will let you do multi-room audio with a shared
Up Next queue. Developers can add support for it to their own services and
devices. It might take a while before we see that support, which means it might
take a while before AirPlay 2 actually manifests in a useful way, but hopefully
not too long.
The News app is more personal, smarter, can show video on its widget, and gives
breaking news more attention. It's still not available outside its tiny handful
of launch countries, though, which is incredibly disappointing. Apple pushed
Apple Music out to 100 countries on day one. I'd love to see even a score or
two more for news some two years later.
Mail has top hits, which I'm also still not sold on. It's convenient when its
engagement engine nails exactly what you're looking for. Trouble is, I'm mostly
looking for stuff like order info and fringe emails that I'm least engaged
with. I'm a dinosaur, but I think I preferred my raw list of results.
Health can now sync your data between devices, and that sync is enabled by
default in iCloud Settings. Lack of sync was one of biggest headaches for users
switching between or upgrading devices, so that's great to see.
Safari now uses Machine Learning to try and prevent web advertisers from
tracking you across multiple sites. It won't mean less ads but it will mean ads
won't be able to gather as much information about you, both for advertisers and
for targeting ads. Google's AMP proxying is also being stripped out when you go
to retrieve a link. Thank goodness.
There's a new Accounts & Passwords section in Settings which, in addition to
serving as a single, unified location to get to your iCloud, Google, Microsoft,
and other services, provides a list of your current iCloud Keychain app and web
passwords. You have to authorize with Touch ID or Passcode to see them, which
There's also some facility now to require Touch ID or Passcode authorization
before you can access iCloud Keychain passwords in apps. It's a good first step
but only iPhone X and Face ID implement it the way I really want it: With
authorization required before every fill. iPhones with Touch ID only required
authorization when you add them to apps, at least for now. I hope Apple comes
around on this and makes it ubiquitous. Convenience is always at war with
security but unless and until security wins this one, I can't hand an older
iPhone to a friend or person in need. And that's unfortunate.
Wi-Fi sharing lets you securely, invisibly pass along your Wi-Fi credentials to
your contacts, so they can get online and you can stop worrying about resetting
everything when that sketchy cousin or acquaintance finally leavesâ¦ It works
something like Automatic Setup where you need to bring the visiting device near
your device to share the credentials. And it's a great feature to have.
There's still no dark mode or ThemeKit for iOS, even with the advent of the
OLED-based iPhone X. Which is sad. There is a new Smart Invert for
Accessibility, though. Instead of simply inverting all colors, which ruins
things like photos, Smart Invert can switch text from white on black to black
on white, but leave photos uninverted. But, there's still no dark mode or
ThemeKit in iOS. At least not this year.
SOS mode lets you call for help or simply disable Touch ID (or the upcoming
Face ID) by clicking the power/side button 5 times in succession. This is the
kind of feature that saves lives and protects data, and I'm thrilled Apple
brought it from Apple Watch to iPhone. (Apple says it will also work by
squeezing both sides of iPhone, but that still just reboots for me.)
AirPod can now have separate actions assigned to the left and right pods,
including Siri, play/pause, next, and previous. So, for example, you could set
Siri activation for the left pod and song skipping for the right. It adds a
small amount of complexity but offers a huge increase in functionality. Well
Core NFC will let developers read from â but not write from â the
near-field communications system on iPhone and iPads. That means some clever
things could be done with tags but no full-fledged Apple Pay-like bidirectional
systems can be built.
And the list goes on and on.
iOS 11 Conclusion
iOS 11 still doesn't have everything â no iCloud multi-user for iPad,
re-assignable default apps, "Read This" accessibility, ThemeKit customizations,
music and many other integrations for SiriKit, Apple TV and CarPlay on-board,
Lock screen complications, and the list goes on and on.
What iOS 11 does have is far greater power without too much additional
complexity and far more convenience without hurting approachability. It focuses
on a few core things across a wide range of apps and services and ultimately
comes together to do exactly what we've come to expect it to do â help us
better manage and accelerate our lives.
Each year, every year, some expect Apple to slow down and shore up the
foundations. Others expect the company to speed up and push the innovation.
This year, we've gotten a good mix of both. At WWDC, Craig Federighi said, in
addition to new and updated feature implementation, Apple gave the software
engineering teams some time to fix what irked them most. I think it shows. And
I think it's a great approach to carry Apple through iOS 11 and into the next
What we get at launch is just the first stage of iOS 11. iPhone 8 will bring
the beta for Portrait Lighting iPhone X will introduce a few additional
features, like Animoji and Face ID. Future versions, including updates later in
the year and into early next year, should improve and round things out further.
For now, what we have is iOS taken to 11. Smarter thanks to machine learning
and computer vision. Better thanks to drag and drop and Files. Faster thanks to
Automatic setup and Instant Notes and Markdown. And Bolder thanks to headlong
dive into augmented reality.
And it's available now.
iOS 11 Review
iOS 11 News Hub
iOS Help Guide
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