Apple’s big 2017 iOS update, iOS 11, serves up some seriously cool new features for our iPhones and iPads. From an all-new super Siri to an improved Control Center and new camera and HomeKit goodies, here are the biggest new features packed inside iOS 11.
Way back in June, Apple revealed some sexy new hardware including a spangly new iPad Pro, Apple’s smart Siri speaker and plenty more besides. However, one of the more exciting launches was our first glimpse of iOS 11, the latest version of Apple’s operating system which makes the iPhone and iPad so enjoyable.
This new version of iOS doesn’t just add a bunch of shiny new features to our Apple devices. As well as fresh functionality, iOS 11 also spit-shines and generally improves some existing Apple apps, to make them even more useful.
Now that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have been released globally, iOS 11 is available for owners of recent tablets and handsets to download and try out for themselves. We’ve already spent a few months with this latest software however, as it was previously available in beta form for anyone who wanted it. We’re definitely enjoying those new bits and general improvements and here’s our pick of the best features stuffed inside iOS 11.
If you want to know more about Apple’s mobile OS, check out our complete guide to iOS.
Read next: What will Apple launch later in 2017?
What are the best new iOS 11 features?
In no particular order, here’s our pick of the best improvements that iOS 11 has made to our iPhones and iPads.
Dock for iPad apps
Apps now sit along the bottom of your iPad’s screen at any given time, in a shiny new dock like MacOS’s. This allows you to drag apps onto the main part of the display, to get multi-tasking in split-screen mode; or simply switch between apps quicker than ever before.
As the number one mobile payment system on mobile phones, it’s time for Apple Pay to grow. Now you can make payments quickly and easily from person to person, which should prove handy when settling bills, tabs and the rest.
Just select the amount you wish to transfer and hit either Pay or Request – it’s all integrated right into the Messages app now, making it super simple to sort out payments with mates. When you get a request for money, your iOS keyboard will show the Apple Pay icon so you can instantly make the payment. No hanging around or fiddly bits – Touch ID securely authenticates your transfer and you’re done. This new Apple Pay system even works using Apple Watch, if you’re flush with Apple gadgetry.
Any money you receive using the new system goes straight to your Apple Pay Cash Card.
Siri updates in iOS 11
The robo voice assistant has had an upgrade for the latest version of iOS. To start, the voice of Siri has adapted through deep learning and he/she sounds more than ever like a real human, with variations in tones even when using the same word over and over.
Follow-up questions and answers are possible too, but will require a tap.
Translation has been added to Siri, so you can say something directly to your phone and the AI will say it back in the native language you need – ideal for travelling far and wide. English, Chinese, French, Italian, German and Spanish will be available at iOS 11’s launch, with more to come.
Siri understands your voice, but also increasingly the context and how you use your device, making it smarter and better at predicting what you need. In iOS 11, Apple’s AI can suggest news topics, help find a meeting place, or save dates in calendars based on what you find on the web.
If you’re looking at Iceland on a website, for instance, Siri will make a note. So when you go to News, the virtual assistant can bring you Iceland-specific news stories, for example. This also applies to whatever you’re typing. For instance, Siri will be able to automatically detect that you’re typing a word not in your native language and will auto predict words in that language. Something we’ve already seen from BlackBerry’s virtual boards.
Camera improvements in iOS 11
What’s that, Apple? An iOS software update that enhances the camera hardware of our iPhones? Yes, please.
With iOS 11, the camera now goes from H.264 video up to HEVC, for double compression to free up more storage space. It’s the same for JPEG images which are now stored using HEIF, again giving double compression for half-sized images. Sharing still works just fine and these compressed pics are compatible with other devices. Check out our full HEIF explainer guide for all you need to know.
Memories in Photos can now spot sporting events, weddings and other specific shenanigans, to categorise snaps even better and make searching for certain shots a doddle. You can also loop and fiddle around with your Live Photos, for a funky final effect.
Head over to our iPhone camera tips and tricks guide for more info.
Control Center updated and streamlined
Control Center has been redesigned and is now a single page affair, with simple icons that feature animations and on-screen sliders for controlling things like volume levels. 3D Touch also adds more depth to those controls, so you can dive in deeper for more control if you need it.
The lock screen and notification center and now a single entity too, after the iOS 11 update. Just swipe down and you’ll find all of your waiting notifications. Widgets are still a right swipe away on the Today View.
Photos and videos now boast more filters and customisation
Plenty of new filters have been added to the Photos app, so you can get your snaps looking just the way you want them before sharing. Photos can also now be pulled out of videos in the new version of iOS, so you can choose that as the key photo on the front of that video.
Loops can also be added to live photos, as well as reverse playback loops, for a fun finish. Long Exposure is another filter that automatically takes things like moving water and makes them look like they were shot with a long exposure. Very arty.
Maps now more driver and shopper friendly
Detailed floor plans of shopping centers, in the US at least, have now been added to iOS in version 11. You can even browse “malls” by floor, to find exactly the store you need. This also works for airports, ideal for finding a watering hole when your flight is delayed.
Don’t expect any of that to come to the UK any time soon, sadly.
Speed limits have been added to Maps in the new iOS, while lane guidance is now included in navigation. When using Apple Car, you can even have your notifications hidden while driving to keep you focused on the road. You can select to have an auto response sent back to those trying to get in touch. But if it’s an emergency they can break through to you still.
HomeKit improvements and AirPlay 2 multi-room support
Speaker has been added as a new category to HomeKit, allowing you to access your smart speakers via the new AirPlay 2 feature. This delivers multi-room audio playback from within iOS 11, allowing you to beam music to any selected speakers right from the Music app, or using a Siri command.
Best of all, you can share your home playlist with others so they can add their own songs, without disrupting the playing of tunes.
Apple TV can now be used like another speaker in the home, which you can control direct from your iPhone (including via Siri).
Now you can see what friends have been listening to in Apple Music, so you can have a browse of their recent choices and judge them as appropriate. Worried about your mates finding out about your secret love of Barry Manilow? No worries, bud. Profiles can be made public or private, or you can just tell the app to share with friends alone.
Other apps can now access the Music library too – allowing Shazam to automatically add songs that you’ve discovered, for example.
All-new App Store
A new App Store has been launched by Apple for iOS 11, sporting an intro tab called Today. This gives you an overview of what’s latest and greatest, according to Apple editors.
At long last a Games tab has finally been added to the App Store, after nine fricking years. In-app purchases now appear in the App Store too, so you can easily see what’s available and purchase what you need. You can see videos of whatever you’re browsing in action and read developer notes. Finally, reviews are clearly laid out, for a quick idea of whether an app is worth your time.
Apps have got their own tab in the new Store too, which seems a little odd. If you’re in the App Store, surely you’re already looking for apps, right?
Apple’s new SOS feature allows you to contact emergency services with a couple of quick shortcuts, rather than fumbling around in the phone app. Note that this feature appears in iOS 11, so you might need to update an older iPhone to get the SOS tool.
Head to Settings and then Emergency SOS to set this feature up. By default, the iPhone will call for help if you press and hold the power button and either volume button for a total of six seconds. Inside of the settings, you can also make the iPhone call emergency services if the power button is tapped five times quickly. You can deactivate auto call, so the phone will prompt you before placing the call. And you can also link to Apple’s Health app, so the SOS feature gets in touch with your emergency contacts as well.
How can I update my iPhone or iPad to iOS 11 and is it compatible?
By now you’re hopefully sold on how iOS 11 is a very worthy update for your Apple device of choice. Of course, you might still want to know if your iPhone or iPad is actually compatible with the new operating system, or how to actually perform the update.
Check out our iOS 11 update feature to see if your personal handset or tablet is supported, or if it’s time to consider a hardware upgrade. We’ve also provided full instructions on how to download and install iOS 11.