iOS 10, the latest and greatest version of iOS to date, was released to the public in September 2016, and will continue to be updated throughout 2017 - in fact, a major update dropped fairly recently.
But while iOS 10.3 introduces interesting features like Find my AirPods and a new file system, we're looking ahead to iOS 11. When will iOS 11 be released? What new features will it gain? We hope to answer these questions, and more, in our iOS 11 rumour roundup below. Read next: iOS 10 tips
iOS concept illustration by Yasser Farahi
When will iOS 11 be released?
Apple's most recent full-version update of iOS, iOS 10, was released to the public in September 2016 having been previewed at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference that June, and released to developers following that event. If Apple follows its custom, you can expect it to showcase its plans for the new iOS in June WWDC 2017, and then release the beta to developers. You can then expect the company to release iOS 11 in September.
WWDC is an annual event where Apple invites developers from across the world to take part in iOS development workshops while showcasing its annual software update. (WWDC is in theory an event for the benefit of software partner companies, although in practice it is aimed at least as much and probably more at the world's media and users watching at home.)
On 16 February 2017 Apple officially announced the dates of WWDC 2017. It will be held from 5-9 June, at the McEnery Convention Centre in San Jose, California. (In the past WWDC has traditionally been held in San Francisco, so this is something of a departure.) Expect iOS 11 to be announced on the first night of that event. Here's how to get tickets to WWDC 2017.
Apple will then release a developer beta version of the software for testing by its software partners.
We would imagine that, as with iOS 9 and iOS 10, a public beta will be made available alongside the private developer beta. This will allow early adopters to trial the software before it's made available to the general public.
Both betas will be steadily updated over the following months and come closer and closer to the finished public version of iOS 11, which be released in September 2017 alongside new iPhones: the iPhone 7s and/or iPhone 8. (We've heard one prediction that Apple will call its next iPhone the 'iPhone X', but that remains a leftfield rumour at this point.)
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 a new version of iOS.
Which iPhones and iPads will be able to get iOS 11?
We reckon the iPad 4, iPad mini 2 and iPhone 5 will all miss out on iOS 11 compatibility, but we won't know for sure until the unveiling at WWDC 2017.
The following devices are able to install and run iOS 10:
- iPad 4, iPad Air 1, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch
- iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4
- iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus (the latter two not listed below, of course, because they hadn't come out by this point)
- iPod touch (sixth generation)
We therefore predict that the following devices will be able to run iOS 11:
- iPad Air 1, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad Pro 12.9-inch
- iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4
- iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus
- iPod touch (sixth generation)
We look at this in more depth in a separate article: Can my iPhone and iPad run the new version of iOS?
iOS 11: The tenth-anniversary iOS or a minor update?
In 2017 the iPhone turned 10 years old and fans have high hopes that the tenth anniversary iPhone - and accompanying iOS - will have new features worthy of the occasion. Read next: New macOS 2017 release date rumours
However, there may be no excitement around the new operating system, and this may not matter. Some while ago, our colleague Dan Moren over at Macworld US speculated that because the iPhone has matured over the years, it's no longer necessary to keep adding major new features on a yearly basis for the purpose of generating interest.
He was referring to iOS 9 when he wrote: "The platform and the smartphone market as a whole have both evolved considerably," Moren wrote. "To me, the goal now seems one of sustainability: keeping the iPhone and its users updated and happy, possibly with a steady stream of smaller updates rather than a single major tentpole release every summer."
Moren used iOS 9.3 as evidence - historically, Apple prefers to save its more interesting updates for numerical updates which, up until now, happened once every 12 months. The release of the iOS 9.3 beta so late in the iOS 9 life-cycle was a weird move from Apple, especially as it included genuinely significant new features like Night Shift mode, Touch ID protection for Notes and a number of new 3D Touch shortcuts, which would usually be considered major additions to iOS.
So iOS 11 might not be the blockbuster release: it's possible that Apple will drip-feed new features and interfaces tweaks in point updates throughout the year. We're not totally convinced by this - iOS 10, after all, had a raft of major new features - but it's a possibility.
What are the rumoured new features of iOS 11?
At this early stage we've only heard a couple of rumours of new features to expect in iOS 11. You can expect to hear about a whole lot more following the WWDC announcements in June.
Below we outline some of the expected new features.
According to reports we can expect a more 'natural-sounding' Siri in iOS 11. You can also expect Siri to become 'more intelligent'. Read next: Siri troubleshooting tips
It has to be said that although it has improved over time, Siri is in need of some attention. Apple's digital assistant was a figure of fun in the early days (it used to have a fair bit of trouble with British accents), but it gets better and more useful with every passing year. And the word is that Apple wants to make it sound more human, too.
That's what the company is up to in a secret operation "in an unmarked office at 90 Hills Road, Cambridge", according to Business Insider and the "multiple sources" it says corroborate the account.
(The secret Apple office is apparently next door to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. We've been there. Protip: it's nice.)
"Those working inside are aiming to make Siri talk more naturally, according to a source that knows a number of Apple's Cambridge employees," reports the site.
Part of the reasoning here is that a large proportion of the site's current staff were previously employed by the voice recognition startup VocalIQ, which Apple acquired in 2015.
Apple also bought machine learning startup Turi in August 2016, and AI is an important developing area for Apple. Speaking last August Apple's CEO Tim Cook said: "Look at the core technologies that make up the smartphone today and look at the ones that will be dominant in smartphones of the future - like AI."
At the moment Siri is comparatively limited in terms of artificial intelligence, an area of development that Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others have focused on in recent months; it's believed that VocalIQ's tech - which doesn't appear to have been added to Siri yet - represents Apple's great hope for this burgeoning field.
Also related to Siri, some reports have claimed that Apple is developing an Amazon Echo-like Siri Speaker, which will add Siri functionality to a separate device.
However, Apple has "no apparent interest" in doing this, according a report in Time that cites discussions with unnamed Apple executives.
Beyond sounding more natural in iOS 11, The Verifier claims that Siri will become much more intelligent in Apple's next mobile operating system. Per the site, Siri will gain more power not only on iOS, but also on macOS, although the flagship feature at this time is allegedly iMessage and iCloud integration.
Siri's iMessage integration is said to work in a similar way to Google Assistant within Google Allo, offering context-based replies to incoming messages, helping to save users some time. It could also offer suggestions for places to eat if you're discussing dinner, for example.
The iCloud integration is a little different, and if true, more impressive. The iCloud integration is said to allow Siri to identify all devices linked to an Apple ID, and offer actions and responses across macOS and iOS devices. It'd offer more than iMessage replies: it would learn the users habits across the various devices, and suggest shortcuts/actions based upon that.
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.
New Snapchat-like video app
There have been claims that Apple will introduce a new Snapchat-like Video app. A Bloomberg report in August 2016 claimed that Apple has been developing a video sharing and editing application. The new video sharing app will allow users to record video, apply filters and drawings to the media and send it to contacts or via existing social networks such as Twitter, according to Bloomberg.
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.
We expect to see new emoji as well.
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.
Another Bloomberg report claims that Apple is using drones to capture and update it's map information. Apparently it will send out drones to check up on road names and the like.
Apple is also working to improve indoor mapping.
Updated TV and Music apps
A new TV app could work with Apple Music to allow subscribers to stream the new 'television programmes' it is making. Read more about Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke here.
Alternatively the new shows could be streamed as part of the Music app, but that could be confusing for users.
Handoff for media
One often requested feature that will hopefully come to iOS 11 is Handoff for music, tv shows, and music.
A new app switcher within the split-view feature would be welcome. Currently it is hard to find the specific app you’re looking for in this view.
We also hope to see some new Apple Pencil features, such as the ability to annotate in Mail and Safari.
One thing to be wary of, as speculated first by 9to5Mac, is that the next update of iOS will drop support for older 32bit-only apps.
The iPhone 5s, which launched in 2013, was the first iPhone with a 64bit processor, and after this point developers started to make new apps that supported 64bit processors as well as the 32bit processors in older phones, as well as updating older apps to make them 64bit-compatible. As of summer 2015, Apple required that new apps should support 64bit in order to be approved, but older 32bit-only apps were allowed to remain on the App Store. That's about to change, with the launch of iOS 11.
On iOS 10.3, users tapping on 32bit apps are faced with a warning that 'This app will not work with future versions of iOS'. It's clear that Apple intends for developers to improve performance of these apps or risk having them cut from the App Store. Sometimes the warnings go further, warning users that the app may slow down your iDevice.
Fortune initially predicted this move could see a "purge" of tens of thousands of old apps, and the analyst company Sensor Tower has since gone much further, making a conservative prediction that about 187,000 apps - some 8 percent of the apps on the App Store - will be cut, and the real figure could be considerably higher.
Sensor Tower's figures are based on the number of apps that were launched before the iPhone 5s and which have not been updated since, but since Apple didn't require 64bit support until 2015 it is likely that many more remain 32bit-only.
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!)
iOS 11 new features wishlist
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.
The Control Centre is one of the most underrated features of iOS, enabling easy access to various toggles and controls without having to open the Settings app. The only issue we have is that we can't personalise any of the toggles, as we'd like to be able to swap out little-used toggles for shortcuts to apps/settings we frequently use. For example, we very rarely use the Control Centre to access the Calculator app - we'd much prefer easy access to Twitter, for example, or to be able to turn on low-power mode.
While on the topic of the Control Centre, we'd like to be able to quickly access the settings of each of the toggles with a hard press on the newer 3D Touch-equipped iPhones. For example, we'd like to be able to force press the Wi-Fi toggle to quickly access the Wi-Fi menu to connect to a new network.
And the multi-page Control Centre design isn't working all that well at the moment: when you try to lower the volume but miss the icon by half a micrometre you end up swiping to the second page by accident.
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!
Splitscreen viewing mode on iPhone as well as iPad
There's space for this to work on the Plus models, at least.
iOS 11 leaked images and concept videos
Clearly taking cues from the Apple Watch, the CirqleUI concept arranges app icons around a clock face, with larger icons nearer the centre and icons displayed progressively smaller towards the edges of the face.
(This seems like it wouldn't be a good way to arrange a large number of apps, and iPhones tend to have far more apps than Apple Watches. Indeed, this concept doesn't have any app folders, something most iPhone users depend on to help make sense of their large app libraries.)
Unlike the Apple Watch, this interface runs some apps - or limited versions or some apps - in the central circle: a simplified version of the Weather and Mail apps, or the Now Playing pane, for instance.
To fit the circular theme, the Control Centre has a curved top edge when pulled up from the bottom of the screen. More importantly, it's been updated to add some of the most-requested new features, such as Low Power Mode and WiFi network select. (And the Now Playing info has been restored to the main screen, instead of having to swipe across to the second screen of Control Centre.)
The last new feature we think is worth noting is gestural app search: you can write a crude S on the screen (with your fingertip, presumably, although this would work well with Apple Pencil) and the interface brings up a folder of apps beginning with that letter. Oh, and the iPhone shown in the video has a dynamic always-on Home button miniscreen that shows the time until you wake up the phone.
It's a pretty mad concept, but it's always nice to see new ideas.
What's next? Here's an impressive effort by Ralph Theodory.
Theodory's concept video features many of the functions and upgrades we've been hoping to see in the next version of iOS, from a customisable Control Centre to Dark Mode.
There are some more leftfield inclusions as well, however, including the ability to 3D Touch on a number key in the Phone app as a sort of quick-dial function, fingerprint-protected toggles in the Settings app, and a Smart Sleep Mode for listening to music at bedtime: Siri interrupts every five songs to ask (presumably fairly quietly) if you're still awake, and if you don't reply, it turns off the music. Lovely idea, that last one.
iOS 11 Macworld poll: will you update to iOS 11?
Do you plan to update your iPhone and iPad devices to iOS 11? Have your say in our new poll.