Another year, another new version of iOS. At the recently concluded Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC ’17), Apple showcased the first beta of iOS 11 – the latest iteration of the platform. The first impressions of the platform have been mostly positive, with many experts hailing iOS 11 as the ‘biggest update ever‘. With the latest iOS 10 adoption figures worldwide pushing towards the 87% mark, there is ample evidence of users being more than interested in updating their iDevices to the newest version of the iOS platform. The second developer beta was released yesterday, and in today’s discussion, we will scan through the most interesting new features of iOS 11:
Upgraded Messages app
The built-in Messages application has received a couple of handy new features in the latest iteration of the iOS platform. There is an all-new app drawer, which can be swiped by users to share stuff (games or songs or emoticons or stickers) with their contacts. All the messages in iCloud gets auto-synced across all paired iPhones and Mac systems. People can now easily share files from Apple Music through Messages – and enjoy together.
Lock Screen and Notification Center
The two have become one and the same in iOS 11. After upgrading their devices, users will no longer see a separate Notifications Center. Instead, they can simply pull down the lock screen itself to check out all the notifications (including the ones that were missed earlier). This, according to early testers, would add to the convenience factor of iPhone owners – since notifications are now neatly organized and accessible at a single place. Swiping sideways displays the ‘Today’ view.
ARKit for iOS
This one is big news for iOS app developers and final users alike. At this year’s WWDC, Pokemon Go was used as a demo to showcase ARKit – the new software development kit that allows app and game makers to integrate cutting-edge augmented reality features in their software. In essence, the ARKit tool will help developers enrich the environment by placing virtual objects in the real-world – with the help of the native camera of iPhone/iPad. Support for augmented reality is probably going to be the single biggest new feature in this year’s iPhone 8.
Note: One of the launch partners of AR in iOS 11 will be Ikea.
Smarter, better Siri
Every recent iOS update seems to make improvements in Siri – and iOS 11 is set to push the envelope further. Apple’s mobile digital assistant will now speak in a more natural, human-like voice (male or female voice can be chosen), and will have the capability to translate queries made in English – into French, Chinese, Italian, German and Spanish. The artificial intelligence (AI) support for Siri has been enhanced, with the assistant now being able to offer interesting facts and tidbits about the songs played from Apple Music. Depending on the precise location of a user, search results and news are suggested to him/her (suggestions are also based on the interests of users). More refined ‘on-device learning’ will also help Siri in predicting the names of things (cities, films, etc.) that a person is going to type on the phone. The security standards of Siri have also been bumped up, with all conversations between users and the assistant being encrypted.
New filters for Photos
If you decide to get the new iPhone 8, you’ll have that much less reason to carry your DSLR camera everywhere. Multiple pro-level filters have been included in the revamped Photos app of iOS 11 – skin tones have been made more natural, and users also have the option of applying special filters for classic effects.
For the fan of photography, the fun does not end with the new Photos filter. iOS 11 will be coming with a revolutionary ‘Live Photos’ feature – to let people create fun ‘bounces’ and ‘loops’ with the pictures they take. The ‘long exposure’ feature helps in snapping photos with unmatched effects and tones. With the latest version of iOS, Apple has certainly raised its game as far as photography with smartphones is concerned.
Note: In iOS 11, Photos will be stored in the .HEIF format, while videos will be created in the .HEVC format. The new compression image/video compression standards will cut down on the space required to store these files – without compromising on the quality in any way.
Changes in Control Center
The Control Center in the iOS 11 platform has become more customizable than ever before. Users can now do a lot of things – right from adding Home controls and voice memos, to managing playlists and changing the volume – directly from the Control Center. 3D Touch, which debuted on iPhone 6S a couple of years back, is now available in the Control Center, making user actions faster and more responsive. The focus is clearly on giving iPhone-owners a ‘more personal experience’.
Apple Pay comes to Messages
Imagine being able to send or receive money from another person from inside the Messages app (no third-party apps involved). The upcoming version of iOS will bring precisely that functionality to the hands of users – by integrating Apple Pay inside Messages. With the help of this peer-to-peer payments feature, people will be able to request for, or receive from others, payments in a completely secure manner. The transferred amount gets stored in Apple Pay Cash and can be used to make other payments online (or in mobile applications) and even sent to bank accounts. This new feature might well place a challenge for established players like Vemmo.
Note: To start things off, both Apple Pay Cash and peer-to-peer payments will be available only to US users.
CoreML for machine learning
Along with ARKit, CoreML is yet another all-new futuristic tool that iOS 11 would place in the hands of third-party iPhone app developers. The latter will be able to use the CoreML framework to seamlessly integrate advanced machine learning modules in their new applications (thereby making the apps more ‘intelligent’). GameplayKit, Vision and Foundation (for NLP) are all supported by CoreML – and it also saves power and reduces the total amount of memory footprint.
One-handed typing feature
The Quicktype Keyboard will be a really useful addition in the iOS 11 platform. With it, users will be able to type quickly and accurately, by using one hand (there are plenty of times when using both hands for typing is simply not possible). The keys will move nearer to the thumb of the user to enable this one-handed typing, after the Quicktype Keyboard is activated by long-pressing the emoji key on the default keyboard. Who said typing isn’t possible when you are holding a cup of tea in one hand?
Note: The Do Not Disturb feature of iOS 11 is worth a separate mention too. Upgraded iPhones will be able to detect when users are driving – and will let them concentrate by sending automated responses to everyone who might be trying to call or send messages (app notifications will be muted too).
10. Airplay 2
iOS 11 will do its bit towards creating ‘smarter homes’. Airplay 2 has been billed as one of the most interesting new additions in the platform – and just like Sonos, it will be enable multi-room support for home speakers. In other words, Airplay 2 will allow users to play the same music in different rooms of the house simultaneously (on smart, compatible speakers). Through Siri as well as Apple Music, the home audio will be controllable from Apple TV with the help of Airplay 2. Music on multiple speakers can be synced to start together, and volume levels can be adjusted easily. With biggies like Bower & Wilkins and Beats already confirming support for Apple HomeKit, this feature has the potential to become very popular.
11. Redesigned App Store
For the first time ever since its launch, the Apple App Store has been redesigned – with the Cupertino company referring to to the revamped App Store as ‘designed for discovery’. There will be separate, dedicated ‘Apps’ and ‘Games’ tabs, that will showcase the latest and the most popular applications under the two categories respectively (in-app purchases for already installed will also be shown). When the App Store will be first opened, the ‘Today’ tab will come up with lists and collections (updated daily) and informative tutorials. Each new app will have its very own ‘story’ – and applications will have their product pages too.
12. Shared playlists in Apple Music
Apple has paved the way for iPhone-owners to enjoy music with their friends, and discover great new music with the latter’s help. A person can now check out the entire playlists of his/her friends (no prior permissions required) – while stations and albums can also be shared within networks. Siri, as already highlighted above, has enhanced music curation capabilities as well. Discovering new artists and enjoying the best of Apple Music have never been this easy.
13. More powerful Apple Maps
For years, Apple Maps have been (rightly) considered to be not as good as Google Maps – but the Cupertino company is pulling up in a big way. There are significant upgrades in Apple Maps in iOS 11 – with detailed, accurate navigational information available from the ‘Lane Guidance’ section. Yet another high point of the rejigged Apple Maps is the built-in ‘Indoor Maps’ feature. Users can now take a sneak peek inside select shopping malls, major airports and other locations. Information about speed limits can also be read off the new Apple Maps.
14. iPad gets many new features
After iOS 9 had launched split-screen multitasking for iPad, iOS 10 had no iPad-specific features. The latest iteration of the platform, however (and rather expectedly), has a large number of new features and functionalities for the tablet. The ‘Files app’ keeps all the files on your iPad neatly organized – ensuring easy searchability and access. Files stored in iCloud Drive and Dropbox can also be maintained with the Files app. iOS 11 has finally brought in the drag-and-drop functionality to the iPad, while the multitasking feature has been significantly improved. There is a new Dock (mirroring the one present in Mac computers) – and from there, apps can be launched for multitasking. Apple Pencil – launched in 2015 – has also received new features like inline drawing, instant markup and instant notes. Apple does not seem to have any plans of giving up on the iPad line anytime soon.
While the new features of iOS 11 have mostly come in for high praise from software and app developers as well as general Apple enthusiasts, there have been some concern over the decision to discontinue Twitter and Facebook integrations (for third-party applications). The update will be available on iPhone 5S and later, iPad Mini 2 and later, iPad Air, first and second-gen 12.9” iPad Pro (along with its 9.7” and 10.5” variants) and the sixth-generation iPod Touch. Support for iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C (including legacy apps) has been stopped.
2017 marks the ten-year anniversary of the iPhone – and Apple has made sure that this year’s iOS update has enough new features and add-ons to live up to the user-expectations. It will debut on the iPhone 8 this September. Over the course of the next developer and public betas of iOS 11, we will get to know what other features are added (or maybe, removed?) to the platform before its final release.
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