iOS 11, the latest update to Apple’s mobile operating system, is available to install on compatible iPads and iPhones now, for free. But is it a good idea to make the upgrade from iOS 10? In this article we compare the interface and features of iOS 10 and iOS 11 to help you decide.
After making the update you won’t notice a radical system-wide redesign: nothing like the aesthetic upheaval we got with iOS 7. Most of iOS 11’s furniture remains the same as in iOS 10. But you will discover some tweaks once you delve a little deeper.
Lock Screen is easier to access
This is probably the change you’ll notice first.
In iOS 10 the Lock Screen (showing very recent notifications that have come in since you last unlocked the device), and notifications (which shows older notifications that you’ve seen but haven’t chosen to dismiss) are two separate screens; the Lock Screen shows first of all when you use Lift To Wake, while the notifications screen has to be consciously swiped down from the top of the screen.
In iOS 11 the two have been combined into a single feature, although it’s still split across two screens. From anywhere in the OS you can swipe down to bring up the Lock Screen and recent notifications, instead of the general notifications screen as before; from there, you can then swipe up to bring up older notifications.
The Control Centre (accessed by swiping up from anywhere in the OS – except for the Lock Screen, as explained above!) has been redesigned.
In iOS 10 it stretched across two screens, with most of the controls on the main Control Centre but music playback controls accessed by swiping left; this could cause mis-swipes when trying to lower the brightness setting (although this seems to have been improved in recent point upgrades). iOS 11 now packs all of the Control Centre features into one page, which is a great improvement.
(You can use 3D Touch on the toggles shown above to access further settings options. Hard-pressing the brightness slider, for instance, gives you access to the Night Shift and True Tone toggles, while doing so on the torch gives you fine control over how brightly it shines.)
The Control Centre is also customisable in iOS 11, something that’s long been requested by users: there’s a page in Settings where you get to decide what appears there, with simple red minus icons to remove elements and green plus icons to add them.
Dock (iPad only)
The new Dock in iOS 11 for iPad means you’ll be able to access your favourite apps and files easily from any screen. The dock is now accessible from more places, can contain more icons (including some smart elements), and supports drag-and-dropping for quick multitasking.
The old dock was just a row of app icons at the bottom of the Home screen: the only thing that distinguished it from the rest of the interface was that it was more flexible in number of icons (anywhere from zero to six), and it stayed there when you swiped to later Home screens.
Now it’s accessible from pretty much anywhere; do a short swipe up from the bottom of the screen within an app, just as you used to do to bring up Control Centre, and the dock appears instead. (On iPhone this still brings up Control Centre; and on iPad, continuing the swipe upwards will bring up Control Centre and the app switcher as well as the dock, as described above.) You can then jump to another app, or drag-and-drop an app directly on to the screen to open it in splitscreen with whatever you’re currently doing.
Drag and drop
There is a certain absurdity to Apple selling something that’s been available on desktops for decades, but the system-wide and inter-app drag and drop in iOS 11 are really useful. An image, for example, can be dragged directly from Photos into an email. This sounds simple, but can be a tedious process in iOS 10.
App switcher (iPad only)
On the iPad, the Control Centre screen also contains the app switcher, which shows screenshots of the currently open apps you’ve used most recently. (On iPhone, Control Centre and the app switcher are two separate screens, the latter accessed by double-pressing the Home button.)
In iOS 10 this is accessed by double-pressing the Home button, and displays the screens in a swipeable stack; here, they’re laid out more simply in two flat rows. Swipe to the right to see earlier apps.
In most respects this is functionally the same as the old app switcher, but we think it’s handy having it all gathered on the same screen as the Control Centre and dock.
In early builds of iOS 11, closing apps from this screen was mildly inconvenient: you had to press and hold a screen until little X icons appeared, then tap that icon. We’re happy to report that Apple has gone back to simpler iOS 10 method of just swiping upwards on one of the screens to close that app.
Redesigned App Store
Apple has redesigned the App Store quite extensively.
Launching the app takes you to a Today tab that helps with app discovery (one of the App Store’s biggest problems). You’ll see new Collections, a Daily List centred around a theme, and helpful tutorials for new apps.
This strikes us as an improvement on the less intuitive tab structure in iOS 10’s App Store.
The first three tabs are currently Featured, Categories and Top Charts, which all sound somewhat similar and a bit vague; it makes sense to have quick jumps to games and non-game apps, while combining the discovery sections into a single (but nicely redesigned) section.
iOS 11 includes a wide range of new features; here are some of the highlights.
The Messages app gets several new features in iOS 11, including a new ‘app drawer’, which contains stickers, and the ability to pay your contacts using a new service called Apple Pay Cash. That could be a game-changer; Apple Pay has already widely adopted in business but this can take it into the realm of everyday life.
There’s also new Messages in iCloud: a feature that will automatically synchronise your conversations across all of your iOS and macOS devices.
Finally, Apple has added a new QuickType keyboard 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. Read more: How to use Messages on iPhone
Siri has a new, supposedly more natural-sounding male and female voice, as well as a new visual interface.
Apple has 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 has also become more intelligent in iOS 11. It now uses on-device learning to discover more about you, and therefore improve 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.
The Camera app gets a lot of improvements in iOS 11, including improved image quality. Portrait Mode in the iPhone 7 Plus (and 8 Plus and X) 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 twin-lens cameras to add more depth information to their apps.
Apple has also added a new technology called High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF) that reduces the file size of your iPhone photos.
Finally, the camera has gained a built-in QR scanner. QR codes have never really taken off in this country the way they were expected to, but this is still a nice (and overdue) development. iOS 10 users who have any interest in QR codes up to now have had to download one of the many free code scanner apps.
Live Photo Effects
You can now choose precisely 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.
iOS 11 sees the launch of a new feature called Do Not Disturb While Driving. As the name suggests, this stops notifications from distracting you while Maps is guiding you through a car journey: anyone who tries to get in touch with you will get a note saying you’ll see the message when you arrive at your destination.
Files (iPad only)
iOS 11 features a new app called Files, which is designed to make life easier for power users.
Files keeps all your documents in one easy-to-find place. You can 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 makes multitasking much quicker, and brings the iPad Pro closer to its aim of replacing the laptop.
Improved Apple Pencil support (iPad only)
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 are compatible?
To install iOS 10, you needed to have an iPhone 5 or later, an iPad 4 or later, an iPad mini 2 or later, or an iPod touch (sixth generation).
iOS 11 is a bit more demanding. To install that, you’ll need an iPhone 5s or later, an iPad Air 1 or later, an iPad mini 2 or later, or an iPod touch (sixth generation).
Read more: Which iPhones & iPads are compatible with iOS 11?
Ready to update? Here’s how to upgrade your iPhone or iPad to the new version of iOS
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