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iOS 11’s new Control Center will freak you out, but give it a chance

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iOS 11 Control Center
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Apple is making iOS 11 available to the world today, and there’s a change that will generate an inevitable surprise reaction from most iPhone users. While the vast majority of UI changes are on the iPad side in iOS 11, the Control Center has been overhauled and is very different. At first glance it looks rather ugly, but there’s some good and bad changes hidden within.

Good improvements

Let’s start with the good things. You can now customize what quick shortcuts you’ll see in the Control Center. You can add things like alarms, low power mode, Wallet, and various accessibility controls. It makes the Control Center a lot more useful than before, even if you can’t add all of the things you might want to see there. It’s also far easier to control music now, and you don’t have to swipe between panels to access controls.

Airplane mode is a lot more intelligent now. If you’re using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth then it doesn’t disable those when you activate the toggle. That’s particularly useful if you’re using Bluetooth headphones on a plane or onboard Wi-Fi. You can also toggle the cellular radio independently if you really want to.

The old iOS 10 Control Center

Bad changes

Now let’s move onto the bad. Even after months of using the new Control Center, I still find myself staring at my screen for a few seconds and searching for things like the flashlight. The buttons all look very alike, and there’s not enough strong visual cues to differentiate them. This is something you’ll notice more on top of apps or with certain wallpapers, and the iOS 10 Control Center (above) handled this better thanks to the strong blur effect in the background.

Another slight change is that Night Shift looks like it has vanished from Control Center. It hasn’t, but Apple has hidden in under the screen brightness slider. You’ll need to use 3D Touch on the brightness slider to enable or disable the night mode, and it feels unnecessary to press and hold on the display to find what should be a quick toggle.

Apple’s use of 3D Touch in the new Control Center is confusing elsewhere, too. 3D Touch suffers from discoverability issues across iOS and watchOS, as you’re never really sure what options you’re going to get when you press and hold on a display. You can’t use 3D Touch on the alarms shortcut or the low power mode shortcut in the Control Center, but you can use 3D Touch with Wallet, flashlight, and many other options.

Overall, the new Control Center is an improvement that you’ll ultimately get used to. It feels a little unfinished, though. It took weeks after my initial shock to get accustomed to iOS 11’s Control Center. It’s not perfect, and could do with a better design and some usability changes, but it’s like taking the trash out: it looks a little nasty but you get over it and deal with it.