The 50+ best features in iOS 11

With new apps like Files, a desktop-like Dock and countless smaller tweaks and advances, Apple's new mobile OS offers plenty of enhancements.

Enterprises exploring B2C or B2B bot technologies will find that Apple’s solution lets customers find your business and start conversations from Safari, Maps, Spotlight and Siri using tens of millions of mobile devices.

Your iOS, your Control Center

ios 11 control center IDG

Every iOS user already interacts with Control Center. Swipe up and you can invoke numerous items for quick access. iOS 11 sees significant improvements here, including a redesign that combines everything in one window, brings in a range of new functions, and lets users choose which tools are available in their Control Center (Settings>Control Center).

This customization is limited, however; you can’t add third-party widgets at this time, and you cannot remove certain tools, such as those for Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, AirDrop, Rotation Lock, AirPlay and Music.

Control Center has another handy talent: You get 3D Touch-like interaction even when using a device that doesn’t support 3D Touch. Force-touch the Torch widget and slide your finger to increase brightness, or touch, hold and slide the timer widget to very swiftly set a time, even if you’re using an iPhone SE.

Mightier Maps

Maps continues to improve, with features such as the introduction of new AR-like city flyover views. These use your iOS device’s camera and sensors to track your position and move you around 3D representations of key cities, such as London or New York. To explore these views, search for a major city and look for a Flyover button. Tap this to access the view. (Not every city is supported, so if the city you chose doesn’t have the button, keep trying.)

Maps flyover of NYC Apple

Maps introduces new AR-like city flyover views for some major cities. This is New York City.

It’s an engaging feature that offers more potential as additional cities are added, but Apple has also worked hard to make Maps more effective for getting quickly from point A to point B. iOS 11 offers indoor maps for shopping malls, for instance, as well as airports and transit hubs. It also includes these key items:

  • A Do Not Disturb When Driving feature designed to keep you from getting distracted by incoming Notifications while behind the wheel.
  • A new Lane Guidance feature that shows you the correct highway lane to be in to make the turns you need to stay on course.
  • A speed limit display in Maps, beginning with those posted for U.S. roads.
  • A new “Light Guidance” mode that provides a bird’s-eye view so you can better scout out the journey ahead when using Maps for travel instructions.
  • A new way to access zoom mode: Just double tap a Map and, while keeping your finger pressed into the display, move your finger up and down to zoom in and out.
ios 11 do not disturb while driving IDG

Let’s work (better) together

No one really likes jumping through hoops to make devices work together. iOS 11 makes this a lot easier:

  • Automatic setup: Got a new iOS device? Just hold it near an iOS 11 device (or High Sierra Mac) you already own and are logged into using your Apple ID. Many of your personal settings, preferences and iCloud Keychain passwords will be carried over to your new device, so it is ready to use, fast.
  • Instant Wi-Fi: iOS 11 users can approve others to use their Wi-Fi network by holding the devices close together, authorizing them, and transferring the password automatically. This should help schools and enterprises more easily manage routine Wi-Fi password changes.
  • QR Code scanning: The Camera app will automatically scan and understand QR codes. Point your device at the code, tap to focus, and a notification box will let you respond to that code. This will come in useful for automatic setup of things such as Wi-Fi networks, HomeKit devices, contact cards, website URLs and more.
  • Core NFC: This new iOS 11 framework lets developers create apps that can read NFC tags. It’s a little limited at the moment — it only works one-way, so you can use it to access information about museum exhibits and visitor attractions rather than for more sophisticated payment systems.

The image thing

Apple’s been working hard to improve your images. Last year’s introduction of the bokeh effect in the iPhone 7 Plus was a great example of this, since it basically put a pro-photo portrait camera in your pocket. iOS 11 maintains this tradition:

  • The biggest enhancement is introduction of support for the HEIF photo format. Based on the video-focused HVEC format, HEIF is capable of saving images around half the file size of JPEGs but at much higher quality (up to 16-bit, versus 8-bit).
  • Apple has developed a way to transcode images from HEIF to JPEG on the fly, without performance degradation.
  • If you use an iPhone 7 Plus, Portrait Mode in iOS 11 supports optical image stabilization and HDR, so you can expect much better images in low light.
  • Apple has also added new filters to improve images, including one designed to make skin tones appear more natural.
  • Live Photos gains several improvements. Not only can you now share these live moments with others as GIF files (or as an mp4 on Android), but you get to choose the key image and can apply three new effects: loop, bounce and long exposure. (The latter blurs anything that’s moving within a frame so you can focus on the subject).

Document scanning and Notes

Apple’s Notes app spent years in the wilderness before getting much attention. By the time iOS 10 arrived, Notes had already become a sort of low-budget replacement for Evernote, but it gets much more versatility in iOS 11. Certainly, for business users it has become an excellent tool to keep receipts and other expenses in one place when traveling:

  • You can scan documents from within a Note; just tap the plus sign and choose Scan Documents, then point your device until the document is in focus and highlighted by a yellow tint. You can then keep, share or even sign the scan (the latter on the iPad Pro using an Apple Pencil).
  • Apple has added the capacity to draw inside Notes using the familiar sketch tools interface from the iPad.
  • You can pin notes to the top of your list, more easily search through your notes, and quickly place notes within subject folders.

A few more things

There are many more improvements within iOS 11, including a one-handed keyboard option, person-to-person payments within Messages, the capacity to record and broadcast what’s happening on-screen, and App Offloading, which lets you delete an app you don’t use often while keeping the app data. When you need it, just download the app again to use that data. You’ll also find improved screenshot annotation and significant additions to CareKit and ResearchKit, which provide a platform for health and medical equipment developers.

If this has whetted your appetite enough to try iOS 11 for yourself, you can register to join Apple’s iOS 11 Public Beta program. Otherwise, wait until the final version arrives, when the bugs should have been ironed out.

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