The iOS 11 release date is next week, Tuesday, September 19, and it’s going to be a big update for your current iPhone and iPad.
Apple’s new software update gives your smartphone a refresh, even if you don’t upgrade to iPhone X or iPhone 8. It feels new thanks to several iOS 11 features.
What’s it like? Is it worth the downloading right away? Is it bug-free enough to download on day one?
We’ve added our thoughts on every major iOS 11 feature.
iOS 11 release date
iOS 11 launches on Tuesday, September 19, one week after the iPhone 8 and iPhone X launch event. It’s coming out of beta after a four-month test phase.
You could’ve gotten it early. Developers enrolled in Apple’s developer program could download iOS 11 beta, which came out in early June.
The public could test it out, too, as Apple launched the iOS 11 public beta on June 26, 2017, and it worked on both the iPhone and iPad.
Your best bet now is to wait for the official release date, which is Tuesday. iOS 11 launches three days before the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus come out.
New iOS 11 features exclusive to iPhone X
iOS 11 includes several iPhone X-exclusive features you won’t be able to find on the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus or anything older, in fact.
Apple is combining emoji with animations, and it takes advantage of the iPhone X’s 3D face-scanning TrueDepth camera array. The result is Animoji. It tracks the muscles in your face to animate the emoji. All of you Messaging text messages will benefit (or suffer, depending on your view of expressive emoji).
Face ID and home-button-replacing gesture swiping will also be an iPhone X-only feature. Face ID replaces Touch ID as a biometric sensor, and it’s going to take time for people to learn how iOS 11 replaces the home button on the new flagship Apple phone.
Portrait Lighting, an iPhone X and iPhone 8-exclusive feature, is an option Apple added to its existing background-blurring Portrait Mode photos. It uses the dual-lens depth-sensing camera and machine learning to pull off lighting conditions: Contour Light, Natural Light, Stage Light, Stage Light Mono, and Studio Light.
How iOS 11 changes your current iPhone and iPad
iOS is an especially big upgrade for the iPad, which can be considered a laptop replacement (for some people) thanks to revamped iOS multitasking. Both the iPad and iPhone get a much-needed Control Center reorganization, too.
Apple Pay will support peer-to-peer money transfer and there are new camera modes, Siri is smarter, and iOS 11 (finally) thrusts Apple to the forefront of augmented reality innovation with ARKit.
Here the highlights of iOS 11 beta and how it’ll change your existing iPhone and iPad.
iOS 11 dock makes iPad multitasking easy
The new iPad Pro 10.5 and iPad Pro 12.9 are becoming laptop replacements for many people, and iOS 11 makes that a reality thanks to improved multitasking.
iOS 11 includes a dock just like a Mac computer, and it follows you from app-to-app along the bottom. It’s hidden, but you can always swipe up to access it.
The bottom app dock also shows up in the multitasking menu, which is now laid out in a grid. It’s easier to jump between apps now, just like on any MacBook.
TechRadar’s take: This is the most important iOS 11 change if you own a newer iPad. We found that the new dock and multitasking grid menu felt less like a siloed app switcher and more like a multi-window-friendly computer. That’s important for the growing number of people who use the iPad Pro as a laptop-replacement.
Drag and drop comes to the iPad
Drag and Drop also debuts on iOS 11, and instantly launches apps into split-screen mode when you drag them to the side of the screen.
You can also transport items across a halved screen: text, photos, hyperlinks, files, etc. This – not the iMac Pro – is Apple’s answer to a touchscreen computer.
iOS 11 makes the iPad feel closer to a laptop than merely a super-sized iPhone, and it’s something that no Android tablet, not even the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S3, offers today.
Drag and Drop for iPhone may be a possibility in the future, but as of iOS 11 public beta, it’s currently disabled. There’s hope for the future, though.
TechRadar’s take: This removes several unnecessary steps when using an iPad for productivity purposes. In our testing, we were relieved to no longer be forced to copy and then paste simple text and photos between a split-screen menu. It’s all right there. For the last two years we thought you should be able to drag and drop. Now you can.
iOS 11 features hint at iPhone 8 AR
iOS 11 gives Apple the largest AR platform in the world – overnight, thanks to so many iPhones and iPads out there. It’s an instant boon for augmented reality fans and developers alike.
That’s why the developer-focused Apple ARKit is a big deal for everyone, not just app makers. It hints at the biggest features to come from the iPhone 8 three months from now. Get ready for a futuristic life in augmented reality.
What is Apple ARKit on iOS 11 exactly? Developers will be able to place virtual objects into the real world using your iPhone or iPad and its camera.
It’s like a really advanced version of Pokemon Go, but with many more possibilities.
In fact, Pokemon was one of several AR demos Apple showed off. But we were even more impressed with what Peter Jackson’s studio Wingnut AR demoed.
Its complex AR showcase involved a battle between an outpost and spaceships, and it all happens on an otherwise peaceful, empty living room table.
Speaking of tablets, Ikea is reportedly a launch partner for the iOS 11 AR feature, letting you place imaginary furniture in rooms down to the millimeter.
Apple just created a new playground for millions of existing devices and put the Microsoft Hololens and Google Tango on notice.
TechRadar’s take: Don’t expect a whiz-bang augmented reality experience if you download the iOS 11 beta right now. These are developer tools meant to craft an AR future for the iPhone and iPad. That said, we’re very hopeful for Apple’s big AR push given how many iOS devices there are out there.
iOS 11 puts Apple Pencil to the test
Apple Pencil is a great little tool for the iPad Pro series, but our one complaint in our iPad Pro 9.7 review was that you can’t use it everywhere you’d like to in apps.
That all changes with iOS 11. Instant Markup lets you draw on PDFs and photos and Instant Notes lets you jot things down ASAP – right from the lock screen.
All of your Instant Notes on the lock screen are saved in Notes, so don’t worry. And drawing on Notes near existing text cleverly now moves the text out of the way.
Document Scanner in Notes defeats the need to painstakingly scan important documents that you need to sign.
It scans, crops edges, removes tilt and glare and lets you fill in the blanks or sign away with an Apple Pencil.
TechRadar’s take: This is another significant update for the iPad Pro series. We’re not saying the Apple Pencil was useless, but the scenarios for it were very limited (hello, artists). Now, iOS 11 makes it a productivity tool and it goes hand-in-hand with the wizardry of Apple’s document scan.
New iPad keyboard shortcuts
Apple is making a big productivity push with the iPad Pro 10.5-inch, and iOS 11 is doing its part with tweaked keyboard shortcuts.
It combines letter keys with numbers, symbols and punctuation marks (currently found on the second keyboard layer), letting you access them with a new flicking gesture.
Flicking these secondary numbers and symbols downward is easier than having to switch back and forth between the two layers. We kind of wish it were coming to the iPhone 7 Plus, too.
TechRadar’s take: This is one of the smallest iOS 11 changes, but also one of the most important. Not having to flip back and forth between keyboard layers saves you a step, which results in about half a second of saved time. Add them up over the course of the day, and you’ve got more time on your hands and a less stressful means of typing out a real email that’s longer than one line. We really like this new iOS 11 feature.
Apple Files opens up your many clouds
Apple is debuting a new Files app in iOS 11 that lets you sort through all of your files. Your can browse, search and organize them all in one place.
Apple Files not only has recent files from your iPad, but on other iOS devices, in iCloud Drive and from other services, including Box, Google Drive and Dropbox.
It’s just one more way Apple is trying to make the iPad Pro a de facto computer for people who don’t need a MacBook 2017 or iMac Pro.
TechRadar’s take: This move, like announcing the Apple Pencil two years ago, goes against what we expected from the company. However, it’s a welcome change with iOS 11. You may not use files right away, but as you rely on the new remote document and photo repository more and more, it’ll become essential to your device.
iMessages won’t take up your storage anymore
iOS 11 is making iMessages even better than it already is with seamless iCloud syncing across your iPhone, iPad and Mac.
That means two things. First, when you delete a conversation bubble on an iPad, it’ll also disappear on your iPhone and MacBook Pro. Great.
Second, it frees up all of your iMessage storage, a real problem for rabid texters who have been with Apple since iMessage first launched.
Whether or not you know it, iMessages take up a bunch of space in your iPhone and iPad. It’s all of that ‘Other’ storage in yellow if you ever look in iTunes.
Soon, with iOS 11, you’ll be able to back up all of your iMessages to iCloud as they get archived to Apple’s secure internet servers. That’s a big relief.
TechRadar’s take: The fact that iOS 11 syncs iMessages between devices via iCloud may be a bigger change than all of the cosmetic, sticker-filled additions we got with iOS 10. Why? Because even though it’s a great texting app, especially since you can message people on a Mac and iPad (something that’s not easy to do natively on Android), messages can get out of order or remain on your other devices once you delete them. The fact that it frees up a lot of storage from the yellow ‘Other’ mystery bar is a bonus.
Apple Pay payments to friends
Apple Pay is expanding to include person-to-person payment features when you upgrade to iOS 11. It’s exactly what Venmo and PayPal do right now, but via an app-free solution.
Apple Pay payments use Touch ID for authentication and iMessages to send payments between friends or other contacts who owe you money.
With so many contactless payment options on iOS right now, including Gmail and Facebook, there’s no reason to avoid paying back your friends.
TechRadar’s take: This is Apple’s me-too attempt to expand Apple Pay into a Venmo rival, and it’s overall a good thing. Whether or not most users will get a lot of use out of it remains to be seen. It’s hard to drive awareness to this new iOS 11 feature, even if it can be handy in everyday life with friends.
Welcome to the new App Store
We didn’t get an iTunes refresh at WWDC 2017, but iOS 11 is giving us a brand new App Store on the iPhone and iPad.
The Today tab leads things off by refreshing its app picks daily and telling stories behind the top apps. The format feels very much like what Apple did in Music last year.
Don’t worry, every app will still have a product page, but iOS 11 is putting a lot of focus on the new ‘Games’ and ‘Apps’ tabs to spotlight the best in those areas.
Apple says the new App Store on your mobile devices is ‘designed for discovery’ and is a way to make app downloading exciting again, like it was nine years ago.
TechRadar take: We’ve looked around the new App Store on iOS 11 and like what we see for the most part. The updates tab isn’t as streamlined due to more white space among menus and larger text that spans more lines than before, but everywhere else there is of benefit. It’s about time things changed for this app.
iOS 11 for better lossless audio
It’s not confirmed, but it’s been hinted that iOS 11 could support lossless audio, all thanks to the new Files app.
Adding FLAC lossless audio support to iPhones and iPads would finally give us a way to listen to uncompressed songs without having to convert everything to Apple’s ALAC standard.
It’s a small, but meaningful change for Apple’s formerly music-driven portable audio player and for its future with AirPlay 2 and the Apple HomePod.
TechRadar’s take: We haven’t been able to experience this iOS 11 feature just yet, but it’s a promising change for audio lovers. We’re also excited by the prospect of iOS 11 allowing us to control multiple speakers individually or all at the same time – even if they’re from different manufacturers.
Siri is smarter and sounds different
Siri is getting a more natural-sounding voice with the iOS 11 update, and you’re able to pick between female and male voice options.
To make Siri sound like an AI from the future, Apple gave it a way to say the same word with different tones. It’s not always the same robot-like pronunciation.
Siri is boosting its contextual learning, too, going as far as surfacing different word suggestions after you read a specific news story in Apple News or Safari.
Did you just read some news about Iceland and are starting to type in a word like Reykjavik? Let Siri finish up that forthcoming typo of yours.
Siri is on 375 million devices, and is in more languages and more countries than any other personal assistant. So Apple is taking advantage of that with iOS 11.
It uses deep learning for quick translations like we haven’t seen before. Want to order an authentic dish in Chinese? Just have Siri say it for you.
TechRadar’s tech: The iOS 11 beta proves that Siri isn’t just smarter, but sounds more human in this version of the operating system. Whether or not it can answer more contextual questions (understanding ‘it’ and ‘they’ when asking a second question based off the first) like Google Assistant can remains to be seen in the final version.
iOS 11 revamps Control Center
iOS 11 gives Control Center a complete overhaul with an all-in-one look to put quick controls at your fingertips – without having to swipe between menus.
Everything is combined now: system controls, app shortcuts and music controls. Just pull up from the bottom of the screen and there they are.
It’s a lot different than before, so the design will force you to get used to the new arrangement (you’ll probably hate it on day one, love it on day two). Of course, it’ll be easier and faster once it becomes second nature.
You’ll also be able to disable Control Center in apps. This is helpful for games where swiping up may be a means to control on-screen characters or maps.
TechRadar’s take: Don’t let Control Center’s unrefined, button-filled looks fool you. It’s a great new addition to the iOS 11 feature list. We’ve been asking for custom shortcuts in this menu since it first launched, and now we finally have them (at least for a lot of first-party apps and settings).
It still doesn’t have a fast way to connect to new Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals – you’ll need to go to the settings app for that. But everything else is a step in the right direction compared to the multi-pane Control Center from years past.
Lock screen and notification center are now one
Lock screen notifications and notification center are joining forces in iOS 11, and that makes it easier to see which older alerts you’ve missed.
Swiping up on the normal lock screen will display notifications from earlier in the day, essentially giving you access to notification center from the lock screen.
Meanwhile, the usual notification center gesture (swipe down from the top of your iPhone) brings up the new lock screen/notification center menu.
TechRadar’s take: Remember how getting rid of slide to unlock in favor of using the Touch ID button really threw you in last year’s update (and many people disabled the press down means of lock screen entry)? This is on the same level. It takes some time to get used to.
It’s helpful, but we’re used to swiping notifications left or right on the home screen, which now leads to the Today menu or the camera app, even if you’re overtop of a notification. This requires more of a muscle memory retraining than anything else.
New camera modes and photo storage
The iOS 11 camera app debuts new modes that further chip away at the need to always bring a high-end DSLR with you. It’s that advanced.
Apple’s Live Photos take on Instagram’s Loop app with its own Loop and Bounce options. Either play them in a loop or have them rock back and forth endlessly.
Long exposures are going to let you capture still photos with proper motion blur. Think: waterfalls, car traffic tail lights, stars moving across the night sky.
New filters are also coming to iOS 11, with Apple promising that portrait photos will be expressive and skin tones more natural in the end.
It’s also changing the way we store videos and photos with new standards, HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format) and HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec).
The good news here is that these next-generation compression technologies won’t take up nearly as much storage – and you’ll never even notice.
TechRadar’s take: Live Photos have been fun, but they’re never perfect, especially if you have a cool motion photo that ends with you pointing your camera down toward the ground because you thought the moving photo would have stopped recording by then. Now you can trim them and loop them for better effects.
Driving without distraction thanks to iOS 11
You shouldn’t be driving and texting anyway, but Apple is literally driving that point home with a new Do Not Disturb While Driving feature in iOS 11.
It’ll shut off notifications just like Do Not Disturb, but do so automatically if you are behind the wheel. Apple concedes not everyone has Apple CarPlay just yet, which it argues is a safer, hands-free solution.
But this feature allows you to drive safely without it. It will even shoot a text over to those who try to contact you with a message saying that you will get back to them shortly.
What if you’re just a law-abiding passenger? It’s easy to confirm that, so you can continue to ignore the driver by looking at important cat GIFs on your iPhone.
What if you really need to get in contact with someone? You can enter the word “urgent” to break through the Do No Disturb feature.
TechRadar’s take: We have already found this useful driving in our car. It turns on automatically and asks us if we’re the one driving, just in case we’re not. You do have an out as a passenger. We also found there’s an automatic text reply that can optionally be sent to anyone who messages you while you’re driving. Another step-saving iOS 11 improvement.
Apple Maps goes indoors, adds lane assist
One less distraction comes with Maps, which is getter smarter on the road and even indoors as of the iOS 11 update.
Lane assist and speed limits are coming to Apple Maps, which is handy for safe driving in all ways. Maps has come a long way since its disastrous inception.
And while Apple isn’t done improving Apps outdoors, it’s going indoors, too with detailed maps of hundreds of airports and malls around the world.
This is the future: finding out which restaurants are past security at LAX or which stores are on level three of the multi-story mall is possible with iOS 11.
TechRadar’s take: Apple Maps has only become reliable in the last year, and it’s starting to give Google some competition with these new features. It’s playing catch-up with lane assist, but we’re intrigued by the possibilities of indoor mapping in the final iOS 11 version. That’s not really a thing other mapping apps do, and that may still be the case come September.
Your music just got better with iOS 11
Apple is expanding its already leading presence in Smart Home control with new iOS 11 multi-speaker controls and further tweaking the Apple Music design.
This is great news ahead of the Apple HomePod launch.
AirPlay 2 will let you control several speakers throughout your house with a new Apple Home menu. Everything can be in sync on all of your home speakers.
Apple Music is getting equally exciting changes. You’ll be able to amass better playlists by consulting with your friends – without ever having to ask them thanks to shared playlists, albums and stations.
Siri is getting in on music curation, too, with Apple promising that as of iOS 11, its virtual assistant knows sounds you love and can answer band trivia.
TechRadar’s take: Multi-room audio, whether or not you have Apple’s new speaker, is a great addition to iOS 11. it remains to be seen, however, if your existing speaker will be able to upgrade to support Apple’s AirPlay 2 standard. Everything else about the Music app changes we like, especially the ability to curate playlists based on what friends are listening to.
More iOS 11 features to come
The official iOS 11 release date is still months away, but developers are sure to discover new features in between now and then.
You may be able to unearth additional features from the public beta that recently launched. If that happens, let us know and we’ll add it to our iOS 11 guide