iOS 11 was unveiled by Apple at WWDC 2017 in June, with big improvements over its iOS 10 predecessor. Here, we bring you everything we know so far about iOS 11, including its release date and new features.
Apple also used WWDC 2017 to unveil macOS 10.13 High Sierra, watchOS 4, new MacBook Pro models, new iMac models, a new iMac Pro, new iPad Pro models and an all new speaker called the HomePod. It was a busy keynote, that's for sure. You can recap the whole thing here.
When is iOS 11 coming out?
iOS 11 is available in beta for developers now, and as of 26 June the public beta is also available for anyone enrolled in the public beta programme to download and install. You can find out how to get the beta for your iPhone or iPad here.
So far, Apple's confirmation for the final iOS 11 release date is simply "Fall" (or Autumn for us here across the pond).
Both betas will be steadily updated for testing, allowing developers and early adopters to trial the software before it’s made available to the general public.
Updating to the final public version of iOS 11 will be straightforward and free; downloading and installing one of the beta versions will be a little more difficult, and setting up a developer account costs $99 per year. For information on both processes, see How to install iOS 11.
What new features does iOS 11 have?
Apple's WWDC 2017 saw a huge number of new features unveiled for iOS 11, it was hard to keep up! Here, we've got a summary of each of the biggest. Many are exclusively for the iPad, but we'll talk about the features coming to iPad, iPhone and iPod first.
Redesigned App Store
One of the biggest iOS 11 updates is the redesigned App Store. Launching the app will first take you to the new Today tab, which is designed to help with app discovery. You'll see new Collections, a Daily List centred around a particular theme, and even tutorials that show you how to do particular things in new apps.
A second new tab is called Games, and is a dedicated place to discover both new and popular games, as well as in-app purchases for games 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 within the Games tab too.
Apps also gets its own, similarly designed tab for the rest of the content available on the App Store.
Control Centre, Lock Screen and Notifications
Lock Screen and Notifications have now been combined into one screen, but more excitingly Control Centre has been redesigned and is finally more customisable.
It now packs all of the features into one page, and has new sliders. It also has 3D Touch to allow quick access to more settings and features, which looks like it's going to make life a lot easier.
New Messages features
iOS 11's Messages app has been updated with several new features including a new app drawer, which contains stickers, the new Apple Pay peer-to-peer feature that lets you pay contacts via iMessage, and lots more.
Apple Pay's new feature still uses the TouchID fingerprint sensor, and money recieved 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 that'll automatically synchronise all of your conversations across all of your iOS and macOS devices.
Apple has added a new QuickType keyboard too, which on iPhone will mean you can use the device easier one-handedly. It will move the keys closer to your thumb for one-handed typing.
Siri has a new, more natural 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 imrpove 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.
For developers, SiriKit is coming to bring its capabilities into more apps.
Additionally, although Apple didn't talk about it during the keynote, it looks like you'll be able to type to Siri rather than always being forced to speak out loud.
New Camera features
The camera software also has lots 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 app.
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.
The camera is also getting a QR scanner built-in.
Live Photo Effects
You can now chose just 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 malls are coming soon, and we're also about to get information about your speed, and lane navigation.
iOS 11 will bring Do Not Disturb While Driving, too. When activated, it'll send people trying to get in touch with you a note to say that you'll see the message when you arrive at your destination.
AirPlay 2 & Apple Music improvements
A new AirPlay protocol brings lots of new features for speakers including multi-room support, and there's an AirPlay 2 audio DPI for develpers.
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 introduce its library to other apps such as Nike+ Run Club and Shazam.
Apple has also redesigned the Podcast app.
Which iOS 11 features are exclusive to the iPad?
We mentioned earlier that there are also lots of features coming in iOS 11 that will be exclusive to iPad users. These features are all quite simple and focus on productivity, but they're key to making the iPad a more powerful and useful device. It feels like Apple is slowly but surely creating a tablet that can take on a laptop, and with this update and its new iPad features it's certainly getting there.
The new Dock in iOS 11 for iPad means that you'll be able to access your favourite and most frequently used apps or files quickly and easily from any screen. In addition to the Dock, a new App Switcher design is going to make life easier when you want to quickly change apps or open new ones.
Plus, system-wide Drag and Drop means you can move pretty much anything between any app for much quicker and easier ways of working. An image, for example, can be dragged and dropped directly into an email. This sounds very simple, but was a tedious process before so is a much-welcomed addition.
A new Files app
As per the rumours, iOS 11 features a new app called Files. Like the multi-tasking features, it's designed to make life easier for power users.
Files will keep all of your documents in one easy-to-use 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.
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 & iPads can get iOS 11?
The devices that'll be able to update to iOS 11 are:
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone 6
- iPhone 6 Plus
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 5s
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2nd Gen)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch
- iPad Pro 10.5-inch
- iPad Pro 9.7-inch
- iPad Air 2
- iPad Air
- iPad 5th Generation
- iPad 4th gen
- iPad mini 4
- iPad mini 3
- iPad mini 2
- iPod Touch 6th gen
We look at this in more depth in a separate article: Can my iPhone and iPad run the new version of iOS?
Features that Apple didn't introduce in iOS 11
Below are all of the rumoured features that didn't prove to be true (at least yet!).
It was widely expected that iOS 10 would feature a new viewing mode called Dark Mode, with black backgrounds designed to easier on the eyes when viewing at night. In fact, Apple announced exactly that, but for tvOS instead, and we're still waiting for iOS's Dark Mode.
In fact, it's been discovered that Dark Mode already exists in iOS 10, and was there as early as iOS 10 beta 1 released back in June - it just hasn't been unlocked yet. We're unsure why Apple bothered to add the feature if it didn't plan to enable it in the near future, but it may be that beta testing exposed issues with the feature that dissuaded the company from turning it on just yet.
If you want to know more about Dark Mode - how to activate it on Mac or Apple TV, the chances of it arriving on iPhone and iPad, and some other Settings options in iOS 10 that produce similar effects when viewing an iPhone or iPad screen at night, see How to enable Dark Mode on Mac & Apple TV.
Multi-user FaceTime calls
According to a report via The Verifier, Apple is said to be introducing a feature long requested by iOS users in iOS 11: the ability to make group calls via FaceTime video in a similar way to services like Skype. The report doesn't stop there either, adding that Apple is considering making the FaceTime app more of a social experience by adding filters similar to apps like Snapchat and MSQRD that have had huge success off the back of the filters.
It's worth noting that Apple snapped up Faceshift in late 2015, a company whose technology can capture a user's facial expressions and transform the face into a 3D avatar in real-time. Could this technology be integral in Apple's planned overhaul in iOS 11? We can only wait and see. It's also worth noting that The Verifier, despite the name, has a non-existent track record with Apple rumours and thus, should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Also coming to FaceTime is the ability to screen share, according to reports. Screen sharing will be a useful feature if you are trying to help troubleshoot an iOS device remotely.
Multiple user accounts
This one relates to a so far unconfirmed but widely credited rumour about a future update to tvOS.
It's believed that tvOS 11 will feature account-switching, making it simple for a single Apple TV to store and switch between multiple users' media, app and games libraries, as well as their personal data and settings. This makes perfect sense for the Apple TV, the nearest Apple has come to releasing a family entertainment hub, and a device widely used to serve up kids' games and adults' films alike. And nobody wants the rest of the family looking through their stuff or (less dramatically) seeing other people's streaming recommendations or viewing preferences.
But 9to5Mac goes further and argues that it would be inconsistent for Apple to ship tvOS 11 with this feature and leave iOS out. The iPhone might be overwhelmingly a personal device but many iPads are not; some performing a second duty as child pacifier, others being shared with house guests or used by multiple members of staff in retail. And iOS users have been asking for user accounts for years.
In-camera augmented reality
Rumours suggest that users could point their camera at an object and Apple's software would recognize it. Perhaps this could be useful if you forgot a friend's name as you could theoretically hold up your camera and use face recognition. Or more likely use the camera to identify the name of a flower in your garden.
New Messages features
The Bloomberg report mentioned above also refers to improvements to Apple's social features that are designed to "more effectively connect users with their contacts". Apple wants to offer a means to consolidate communications between users into single panels. For example, two friends could be able to see all text messages, e-mails, and social network interactions between each other in a single window, according to Bloomberg's source.
We'd like to see support for read receipts in group iMessages - a feature available in WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Contact Availability Status
Apple has filed a patent that could be “summarised as a system that detects where your friends are, and whether they're available and the operating status of their iPhone (such as silent or Airplane mode), and presents that information in the Contacts app.
The patent shows that Apple is considering a new feature that would enable iPhone users to view at a glance whether their contacts are available for a conversation, and where they are.
The abstract of the patent reads:
"A command is received at an operating system of a first mobile phone for displaying contact information of a remote user having a mobile phone number of a second mobile phone. In response to the command, a request is transmitted to a remote server from the first mobile phone over a cellular network requesting an operating status of the second mobile phone.
"The operating status of the second mobile phone is received from the remote server over the cellular network. The operating status of the second mobile phone is displayed on a display of the first mobile phone as a part of contact information of the remote user associated with the second mobile phone, where the operating status includes current locality of the second mobile phone."
Which sounds complicated, but can be further summarised as a system that detects where your friends are, and whether they're available and the operating status of their iPhone (such as silent or Airplane mode), and presents that information in the Contacts app. If you're thinking that has the whiff of surveillance about it - well, it does, but only to the same extent as Find My Friends, and it would presumably be optional for both parties.
Handoff for media
One often requested feature that will hopefully come to iOS 11 is Handoff for music, tv shows, and music.
Apple has been granted a patent covering dynamic keyboard positioning on touchscreens, whereby the individual keys are placed in response to the detected position of the user's fingertips.
United States Patent 9,489,086, entitled Finger hover detection for improved typing, describes a concept whereby typing "is improved by dynamically and automatically positioning the desired home-row keys of an onscreen keyboard below the user's fingers while their fingers are hovering above the surface, thus reducing the need for the user to look at the onscreen keyboard while typing".
We wouldn't be surprised if the concept appears in the system-wide keyboard (albeit presumably as an option) in a future update of iOS, although it appears to be targeted at tablets only. This wouldn't be the first iOS feature to be restricted to iPad use, of course: the most famous example is probably the split-screen viewing modes added to the iPad with the launch of iOS 9.
While the granted patent was published in November 2016, this is in effect a ratification of Apple's acquisition of the patent when it bought Typesoft Technologies back in September 2014; Typesoft's Dryft virtual keyboard uses a similar principle in an effort to enable touchscreen touch-typing, as shown in the following video:
Finally, and quite aptly if we've got this right, there appears to be a typo in the introduction specifically where the patent is talking about making typos.
"While there have been numerous proposals for disambiguating error-prone user input," reads the last sentence of the introduction, "many such proposals rely heavily on linguistic context and are unable to resolve interchangeable alternatives (e.g., where a user strikes ambiguously between keys T and 'o' followed by 'n' leaving uncertainty whether "in" or "on" was intended)." (Surely that's meant to be 'i' and 'o', rather than T and 'o'? Although we are happy to be corrected
Does that sound familiar? It should, because it was the way we unlocked iPhones and iPads in iOS 9 and every previous version of iOS and iPhone OS. In its most recent incarnation, it looked a bit like the one on the left below:
In iOS 10 Apple got rid of slide to unlock, changing the interface so you just press the Home button (simultaneously triggering the Touch ID fingerprint scanner on reasonably up to date iDevices, so it made more sense, on the whole). But some people aren't happy about this development, and a petition has been formed to ask for slide to unlock to be brought back.
Will Apple give in to popular pressure (well, relatively popular pressure - there are just 1,549 signatories at time of writing, although we've heard this sentiment quite widely) and bring back slide to unlock? We don't think so. Apple fans have had issues with interfaces before, most controversially with iOS 7, but most of us got used to the new look in time.
Cosmetic/aesthetic customisation changes
In this infuriatingly intelligent and well-made video, EverythingApplePro propose a wide range of changes for iOS 11, among them some radical new options for customising the way iOS looks and the way its interface is organised.
They call for dynamic animated app icons, showing for example your current location in the Maps icon and the current weather for Weather; the ability to place icons in any of the free grid slots on the screen rather than having iOS automatically re-sort it to the free slot nearest the top left of the screen; custom system fonts; and a change to the way Reachability works on larger-screen iPhones so that it shrinks the interface down to the size of a smaller phone rather than dragging the whole thing down and hiding many of the icons off the bottom.
The P9 is one of a number of Huawei phones to offer a feature called Wi-Fi+ (or Wi-Fi+ 2.0). This encompasses a number of elements, such as the prioritisation of stronger connections, but the one we like best is its ability to automatically turn Wi-Fi on or off depending on your location. It remembers the location of known networks and activates in order to join them, but when you leave the area it turns Wi-Fi off to save battery.
Given the iPhones' recent difficulty competing on battery life with the top-end Android devices, something along these lines would be a fine addition to iOS 11.
Per-app passcode or Touch ID lock
It's currently possible to lock individual documents in Notes, but not apps - either the entire phone is locked, or all the apps are unlocked. From a data protection and parental control point of view it would be very useful to be able to lock individual apps.
(It is possible to hand an iPhone over to a child and keep them in one app using Guided Access, of course, but this is a bit of a faff and highly inflexible. For older kids it would be nice to be able to let them explore the iOS and just lock off the violent game and the work documents you don't want them to mess with.)
Ability to change video resolution in-app
One of the selling points of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is that they're able to record in full 4K resolution at 30fps, as well as the standard 1080p at 60fps or 30fps. The only issue we have is that there is no easy way to change between the resolutions from within the Camera app, and we have to exit the app, head to Settings > Camera to be able to change it.
Certain situations, such as filming in low light, require a lower frame rate (less frames = more light captured) and changing it manually takes around 10-15 seconds, which isn't ideal. We would love a way to quickly change the resolution and frame rate, possibly by tapping an icon in the Camera app. It's a simple change to make, and would be largely appreciated by those that like to capture video on their iPhones.
While we're on the subject of photography, it would be nice if Apple allowed us to take and store photos in RAW format.
View Favourites in Contacts app
Another fairly simple change we'd like to see made in iOS 11 is the ability to view and edit the list of favourites, currently only found in the Phone app. It makes sense to be able to access your favourite contacts from within the Contacts app, and we're not quite sure why Apple hasn't yet added this functionality. Sometimes we want easy access to our contacts for other reasons, not just for calling!