It’s iOS 11 day!
With Apple’s Public Beta program, all the iOS 11 reviews feel less exciting than they used to. I’ve been using the iOS 11 beta since a week after WWDC in June. Most of iOS 11’s new features have become second nature in that time-frame, making it difficult to remember iOS 11’s newness for the rest of the population.
Quite frankly, I can’t offer anything more insightful than the plethora of in-depth looks launched on the web today. The obvious place to start is Federico Viticci’s iOS 11 mega-review. ArsTechnica’s review is also very well done, as is The Verge’s review. (I don’t find The Verge’s reviews particularly insightful, but their product photography team does excellent work. No matter the device, you can bet The Verge will have some of the best product photography on the internet. Except for here, of course.)
If you haven’t got your fill of iOS 11 deep dives after reading the above three, then here are some more barebones comments.
My five favourite iOS 11 features, in numerical order:
1. QuickType Keyboard
It might seem weird for the iPad’s new QuickType keyboard to take the number one spot, but the improvement in the iPad’s software keyboard can’t be understated. This is surely a combination of the larger 10.5-inch iPad Pro’s keyboard and QuickType keyboard. But regardless, QuickType makes the larger software keyboard more enjoyable to use than a hardware keyboard.
If you need punctuation or a number, QuickType allows you to simply pull down on a key to input the secondary key character. It’s quick, simple, and painless — much, much, much improved over hitting the secondary character key in the bottom left corner of the keyboard and hunting and pecking for the needed punctuation.
2. Improved Apple Pencil Support
Remember that momentary update where Apple decided the Pencil would not navigate the iPad’s OS but rather be strictly limited to drawing and writing? There was backlash in the community.
Apple learned its lesson and has decided to go in the opposite direction for iOS 11.
Instant Markup features allow you to markup a PDF or screenshot by touching the Pencil to the screen. No extra button presses or swipes. Just pick up the Pencil and get to work. This is especially powerful with iOS 11’s new screenshot features: take a screenshot, use the Pencil to annotate the image, and message/email/send the screenshot wherever you want. Best of all, you don’t need to save the screenshot to your camera roll.
Instant Notes allow you to tap the Pencil to the iPad’s lock screen to bring up a fresh sheet of paper in the Notes app. Jot down your note or idea and be on your way.
Inline Drawings are great for drawing in emails. Text even moves around the text, as though you used code to properly format your text and handwritten segments.
And most importantly, Scan and Sign. This feature is killer and will be fundamental to paperless offices. Using the Notes app, you can scan in a printed document on your desk. After you’ve shredded the physical piece of paper, you can use the Pencil to sign and date the PDF just created. Send it wherever you need from there.
3. Control Center
Customizing Control Center is now possible in iOS 11, although not to the extent I expected. Control Center can now be found in the Settings app and you can manipulate Control Center to match how you use your iPhone. At this point, there aren’t any third-party apps able to take advantage of the updated Control Center, limiting Control Center’s true customizability.
That being said, it’s such a treat to hit the “Alarms” button and not jump into the stopwatch screen instead. It took Apple nearly 10 years to realize people use alarms more often than a stopwatch.
4. Improved Multitasking
This feels like an obvious afterthought after six months of use, but it’s nice to remember the time when iPad users were limited to keeping the smaller split-screen app on the iPad’s right side. Now, you can slide the size of the windows to either side of the iPad, and even use SlideOver apps and Picture-in-Picture videos all at once. Again, it seems obvious now. But we finally have it now.
I throw the iPad’s new Drag and Drop features into this category as well. Apps have to be optimized to take advantage of Drag and Drop in the iOS 11 beta, so the functionality has been relatively limited until today. When Drag and Drop did work, I found it most beneficial to drag long URLs from Safari into text editors or iMessage. But the ability to drag and drop photos and other media will surely be a hit for iPad users.
As a whole, multitasking has been greatly improved in iOS 11. It’s not a revolutionary improvement, mind you. Rather, it’s where the iPad should have been a year or two ago.
5. Live Photo Effects
I love Live Photos. I have since the moment they were launched with the iPhone 6s. Live Photos bring a different kind of story to life, one which I’ve found to be far easier to show off to family and friends.
In iOS 11, Apple has pushed Live Photos further with three new effects: Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure.
Shooting a Live Photo doesn’t change — simply hold the iPhone for a second or two with your composition in mind, snap the photo, and wait another second or two (this ensures the Live Photo doesn’t “fall off” at the end). Once the photo is shot, view it in your camera roll and swipe up on the photo. From here, you can quickly add any of the three effects with ease. I especially like the Loop effect; it’s super easy to export these into a four or five second video.
As a whole, I’d like to see Live Photos become more prevalent beyond the Apple world. It’s still difficult to share Live Photos on this website, for instance, and it’s nearly impossible to view Live Photos on any non-Apple device. Live Photos aren’t the future of photography or anything. But they are a medium which will surely be common enough by now to justify tools and sharing features beyond iOS and macOS.
The iOS 11 Learning Curve
Teaching Jaclyn how to maneuver around iOS 11 has proved iOS’s ever-evolving complexity. Swipe from off the screen right brings in a Slide Over app. Swipe on the screen from the right goes back a page. Swiping up from the bottom brings up the new dock and a tap/hold/move on an app icon opens an app in multitasking. If you want that app to work in split-screen, you have to drag it off the screen to the right or left.
See how this becomes confusing?
It makes a lot of sense after someone demos each maneuver, sure. But Apple’s user base — especially with the iPad — is far less computer-savvy than these internet circles want to believe.
iOS 11 is the most complex update the iPad has ever seen. It has the potential to dramatically improve productivity and efficiency, but it comes at the cost of complexity.
Here’s where I’m starting on iOS 11:
This has been the most exciting update the iPad has received since 2010. In the same manner the iPhone X has poured the foundation for the next 10 years of smartphones, I hope iOS 11 will act as a springboard for Apple’s tablet going forward.
If it only improves from here, this computer is going to be hard to put down.