Apple CEO Tim Cook just officially announced iOS 11 onstage at WWDC 2017. The next major update to the operating system running on millions of iPhones and iPads will improve on the “core technologies” that power the OS and also introduce numerous new user-facing features. Chief among them are new, improved productivity solutions for iPad, but other enhancements are coming to Messages, Apple Pay, and other apps. iOS 11 will be released this fall — presumably alongside new iPhone 8 and iPhone 7S smartphones. A public beta will be available later in June.
The first new iOS 11 feature demonstrated by Craig Federighi was a super convenient one: synchronized conversations across iCloud, iOS, and macOS. Messages is moving to iCloud, essentially. If you erase a message on your iPhone or iPad, that will now be reflected on your Mac as well. Previously, you’d often have to deal with notifications twice or delete old conversations again. Your conversations will be stored on iCloud, which will make them easier to retrieve on your future Apple devices but might also open potential privacy and government snooping concerns.
Apple Pay takes on Venmo
Apple Pay is also expanding to include person-to-person payments, positioning Apple to take on Venmo and Square Cash. iOS 11 will introduce a Apple Pay Cash Card, where users will store their received funds from peer-to-peer transactions. This money can be transferred to your personal bank account.
Apple has made improvements to Siri that make the assistant’s voice sound more natural when responding to users. Additionally, Siri will now be able to perform translations from English to Chinese, French, German, Italian, or Spanish.
Siri is also getting smarter about suggestions. It accomplishes this through what Federighi described as “on-device learning.” On-device learning is synced across your other Apple devices but "kept completely private, readable only by you and your devices." Apple says on-device learning lets Siri give suggestions “based on personal usage of Safari, News, Mail, Messages and more. For example, as Siri learns topics or places a user is interested in while browsing Safari, they will be suggested when typing in Mail, Messages and other apps.”
Camera app gets new tricks
iOS 11 lets users take Portrait Mode images with optical image stabilization, with a flash, or in HDR. New Loop and Bounce effects can be applied to Live Photos, and Apple is using a High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF) to shrink the amount of storage that photos take up on your iPhone.
In iOS 11, Apple has completely redesigned Control Center, which is the panel that users can swipe up to access frequent and important settings or change songs when listening to music.
A new dock and drag and drop for iPad
The iPad is getting some special attention with iOS 11. Apple is making the iPad’s dock similar to the Mac’s by letting users add many more apps to it.
A new drag-and-drop feature lets you quickly move info or media from one split-screen app into the one beside it. Yes, that’s pretty basic stuff — but it shows exactly why Apple needed to make these iPad improvements in the first place. They were overdue. Drag and drop can also be used with apps on your home screen or dock.
Also, iOS 11 can now preserve app pairings for iPad when you’re switching between apps. It’s basically the equivalent of the Mac’s Spaces feature — but now on iPad. This means you can keep two apps you commonly use together when switching to another app, and easily return to them without having to set up the split-screen view again.
Apple will bring traditional file management — or at least something resembling it — to the iPad with iOS 11. A new Files app, leaked earlier on Monday morning, will give users a simple view of files on their device and also those stored with cloud services including iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, and more.
Indoor maps for shopping malls and airports
Apple Maps is introducing indoor maps for airports and shopping centers in select cities.
Mall layouts will be available for the following cities: Boston, Chicago, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose, Tokyo, and Washington, DC.
Apple has indoor maps for well over 20 major airports as well, including both US and international locations.
Speed limits, lane guidance, and Do Not Disturb While Driving
iOS 11 also adds new improvements to Maps when you’re behind the wheel of a car. Lane guidance and speed limits should help you navigate unfamiliar highways.
More important is a new safety measure: Do Not Disturb While Driving will get rid of potential distractions when your eyes should be focused on the road. Text messages won’t be shown by default, though senders have the option of replying with “urgent” in cases when you really need to see something.
Apple Music, AirPlay 2, HomeKit 2, and multi-room audio
Sonos has some huge competition on the way. Apple’s Craig Federighi said on stage that iOS 11 will introduce support for multi-room audio between iPhones, iPads, and a slew of third-party speakers.
Plus, Apple Music is adding a much needed social element, which will show you what friends are currently listening to on the service. Like Spotify, you’ve got the option of listening privately if you don’t want to let others in on your guilty pleasures.
A redesigned App Store
The App Store is getting its biggest makeover ever in iOS 11. There’s a new “Today” tab that will surface notable releases, and Apple is finally giving the games section its own dedicated tab. There’s a much bigger editorial aspect to the store now, too, as users will find how-tos, “making of” stories, and other content that pertains to select apps. Other refinements include the ability for developers to directly list in-app purchases in the App Store — rather than making users hunt for them in the app.
Apple is building augmented reality directly into the core of iOS, giving developers the tools they need to convincingly blend digital entertainment with the real world.
Here’s the fun slide of other features coming to iOS 11 that didn’t get stage time. Standouts include screen recording, a one-handed keyboard, FaceTime Live Photos, password autofill in apps, and more.
iOS 10, unveiled at last year’s WWDC, focused on a major update to the Messages app, and also included redesigned Maps, Photos, Apple Music, and News apps. A new Home app for controlling HomeKit-compatible smart home gadgets was introduced, and Apple began its work to open Siri to software developers as part of iOS 10, as well.
What devices will support iOS 11?
According to Apple, iOS 11 will be available for iPhone 5s and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, iPad fifth generation, iPad mini 2 and later, and iPod touch sixth generation. Some features — like person-to-person Apple Pay — require newer hardware.