Hands on: iOS 11 brings brilliant new features (especially for iPad)

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iOS 11 on iPad
New features in iOS 11 make the iPad a multitasking beast.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

iOS 11 brings brilliant new features and enough design tweaks to make everything feel fresh. The first developer beta landed this week, and we’re loving what we see – especially when it comes to the great new options for iPad users.

See for yourself in our iOS 11 hands-on video.

New features in iOS 11

iOS 11 general design tweaks

First, the lock screen is a little different. New animations play when you raise your device to wake, and you can swipe up to bring back any notifications you already dismissed. Plus you can now use slide to unlock again if you’re not using a passcode (in case that’s something you missed from iOS 9).

Once you unlock the phone, you’ll notice iOS 11 brings more subtle design and animation tweaks. There’s a circular calculator app, new icons for the iTunes Store and App Store, and bolder fonts in some of Apple’s own apps, like Mail and Messages. (This redesign brings them more in line with the current look of Apple’s Music app.)

You’ll see a slightly updated animation when opening and closing apps or using the app switcher in iOS 11, too. There’s also a major new video player design: It’s laid out much more clearly and doesn’t hide any of your videos. The notification screen also brings back a clear image of your iOS wallpaper, as opposed to being overlaid upon whichever screen you’re currently on.

Messages updates in iOS 11

Within Messages, you’ll see a new sticker drawer design and some new text effects (if you’re someone who actually uses them). The coolest and most useful update for Messages is the newfound capability to send payments to friends and family using Apple Pay. (The money comes through on an Apple Pay card for you to use online or to withdraw from a bank account of your choice). Also, all of your iMessages will now be stored in the cloud to save room on your device and improve syncing across your Apple devices.

The stock keyboard gets a slight update, adding the ability to enable a one-handed keyboard you can align to the left or right side of the screen, depending on which hand you’re holding your device in.

The Camera and Photos apps now allow you to choose different animation styles for your Live Photos. You can choose bounce, long exposure or loop to better suit the picture you’ve taken. You can also choose a key image from any given Live Photo instead of letting the phone choose one for you. Something I can’t show you at the moment is the updated Portrait Mode for the iPhone 7 Plus, as I haven’t got mine on me. However, Portrait Mode now lets you take pictures in low light, with that nice depth effect as well as HDR.

The new Control Center and Siri in iOS 11

iOS 11 beta
Control centre is now a remote control for your life.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple completely redesigned the Control Center for iOS 11. You’ll see new animations when you toggle your Wi-Fi on and off and, more importantly, it’s completely customizable. You can add and remove whichever features you want from the Control Center.

Siri gets a slightly updated look, too, keeping in line with iOS 11’s bolder and cleaner style. You can also type to ask Siri questions, similar to how the Google app works. Siri’s male and female voices sound a lot more lifelike now, and less like a load of spoken words edited together. Siri can also translate to different languages to help break down any barriers you may come across (although that’s a U.S.-only feature at the moment).

App Store, Files and AirPlay 2

The redesigned App Store looks more like the Music and News apps now. A new Today tab, as well as separate Games and Apps tabs, make everything easier to digest and discover. The App Store also benefits from nice autoplaying video previews.

The iCloud drive app gets replaced with Files, a file-management app that brings a more traditional file system to iOS devices. With it, you can view files both on iCloud Drive and on the device itself. More importantly, you can move files about from folder to folder, which makes managing images and documents far easier.

The new AirPlay 2 works with HomeKit, so you can control multiroom playback of audio on certain speakers (such as those made by Bose and, of course, Apple’s own Beats lineup).

About that missing iOS 11 dark mode …

iOS 11 Beta
Okay, so it’s not quite dark mode, but it’s pretty close.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

A lot of people felt a little frustrated that there iOS 11 didn’t bring dark mode to the party. However, a little workaround will give you something pretty similar. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility, then go to Accessibility Shortcut. You’ll find a new Smart invert colors option, which inverts the iOS colors from white to black just as it used to, only now it doesn’t affect images or videos you’re viewing. While it’s not a true dark mode, it’s pretty darn close.

iOS 11 brings big changes for iPad

iPad owners will see the biggest changes when they upgrade to iOS 11. For Apple’s tablets, the new mobile OS brings a radical update that adds many Mac-like features. With iOS 11, Apple makes a much stronger argument for the iPad as a PC replacement.

A new dock at the bottom lets you choose a number of apps for easy access (along with the last three you’ve opened, which is very similar to CarPlay). The iOS 11 iPad dock is always visible when on the Home screen and is accessible within apps by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.

On top of that, you can easily enter Split View from the Dock. Or you can leave a second window on top of an app you’ve already got open. This feels like true multitasking. While using Split View, you can drag and drop pictures and text from one app to another. The iPad’s on-screen keyboard gains a quick-type feature that lets you access secondary keys by dragging up or down on the keys. If you’re typing a lot, this can save you tons of time.

Overall, I really like the way Apple is moving iOS closer to macOS. The changes in iOS 11 will definitely push me to start using my iPad for more work-related tasks.

Beware, iOS 11 is still in beta

iOS 11 Beta
While the new features are great, the first developer beta has a few bugs to work out.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

As mentioned, iOS 11 is brand-spanking new and the only version currently available is for developers. If you’ve got an Apple developer account and plan on installing it, keep in mind that — like all beta software – it can be pretty unstable. You’ll definitely encounter a few bugs.

If you can’t wait till the general release this fall, your best bet is to sign up for the Apple Beta Software Program now. The first public beta should land next month, and it should be more stable than this first developer beta.

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One response to “Hands on: iOS 11 brings brilliant new features (especially for iPad)”

  1. lmitc117 says:

    Can someone test if the new files app accepts USB thumb drives through the lightning to USB 3 camera adapter.

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