Review: Apple iOS 11

Yesterday, iOS 11 hit the streets and it’s a safe bet that within a couple of weeks, something like 80% of iPhones will have it installed. Frankly, if you’re on the fence about installing iOS 11, you shouldn’t be. I installed it on my iPhone 7 Plus seconds after it became available to the public and after the install I found it to be smooth and fluid in every aspect. But there are a number of things that stood out to me:

  • The Control Center can be customized: Control Center which you get to by swiping up from the bottom of the screen is now a single screen affair rather than the three screens in the past. But you can now customize what appears there in the Settings app. That way it is truly useful to you.
  • The Camera app works better: Apple has made a bunch of changes to the Camera app. Portrait mode now supports  flash and image stabilization. That will make that feature way more useful. Live Photos gets three new effects: loop, bounce and long exposure. Memories which auto generates albums works smarter, which means it might actually be useful because it wasn’t before.
  • Siri is more useful: First off, Siri sounds less robotic and way more natural. Second, it can translate languages. English to Mandarin, Spanish, French, German, or Italian are supported at present. Though I had to change my iPhone 7 Plus from Canadian English to US English to make that work. But once I did, it worked fine.
  • You can now browse the filesystem of an iOS device…. Sort of: Apple for whatever reason was dead set against introducing any sort of file management in iOS. But now iOS 11 has Files which allows you to browse and access files on your iOS device. But not everything. I guess Apple fully doesn’t trust users yet. You should also note that Files hooks into third-party storage services like Google Drive, Box and Dropbox.
  • Messages works better: Messages in iOS 10 sucked as the interface was a bit of a disaster. In iOS 11 it lets you easily scroll through your apps on the bottom of the screen. That’s a big improvement.
  • Multitasking looks different: When you switch apps, it now looks card like. That’s more cosmetic than anything else, but it is worth mentioning. \
  • Text is sharper: Apple clearly tweaked how text looks on my iPhone 7 Plus as it is sharper and clearer. You’re going to notice this the second you install iOS 11.
  • Notifications work differently: The biggest change is going to be how notifications work. In short,  the Notification Center of iOS 10 has been replaced with a screen that looks visually just like your lock screen. If you’re on the lock screen, you swipe up to see notifications. On any one notification, swipe left-to-right to open it directly. Or swipe right-to-left to “view” or “clear” it. If you’ve unlocked your phone. This will take some getting used to and I am not sure if this change was for the better.
  • Taking screenshots is more useful: iOS 11 makes taking screenshots useful. You now get editing tools via a new mini app. This is useful for people like me who use screenshots to do “how to’s” for people.
  • The SOS feature makes it way to iOS: Something that I enabled on my Series 2 Apple Watch was the SOS feature. On the Apple Watch you press and hold the side button and it will reach out to your iPhone to dial emergency services as well as a contact that you specify. That feature is now on iOS. Press the sleep/wake button 5 times and your iPhone will do the same thing. It’s a handy feature for peace of mind.
  • The iPad gets a bunch of unique changes: iOS 11 delivers some unique changes for iPad users. The dock which is a staple on macOS makes an appearance. It replaces the bottom row of shortcuts that you’re used to on the home screen. The big difference now is that you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen in any app to make the dock reappear. That lets you easily jump between your shortcuts and running apps. A longer swipe brings up windows showing off all of your apps, along with the Control Center on the right side of the screen. The virtual keyboard has been redesigned to make it easier to type on. Finally, Apple Pencil support will make using the stylus feel more natural. All of this makes the iPad more like a fully fledged computer than a tablet.

One thing that I didn’t get a chance to test is augmented reality or “AR” as I didn’t have apps that supported that feature. But apps are starting to appear and it should be interesting to see how that feature is used.

So, here’s the bottom line with iOS 11. You’re going to upgrade to it if you have an iOS device. That’s a given seeing as roughly 80% of iOS users run the latest OS from Apple at any given time. But these upgrades are worth it. Though I am not yet sold on how notifications work. If you’re hesitant, you might want to wait until the first update comes out in a couple of weeks or so. But I wouldn’t be as there’s more than enough here to dive right in now.

 

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