Thoughts on iOS 11

With iOS 11 Public Beta being released today, I could easily sum up my thoughts on the new iOS by saying I think it’s one of the most significant releases ever. Not for any particular whiz-bang feature, but for the attention to detail and all of the small features that people can use every day.

Instead of going through each feature, I’d like to pull out a few of my favorites and talk about them.

If you are an iPad user, iOS 11 will be huge for you. There are so many significant changes that makes using an iPad more enjoyable and productive. I especially like the new Multitasking and QuickType.

When I work on my iPad I’m typically using a writing app and a web browser to reference topics I’m writing about. Being able to have them both open and have the ability to simply drag and drop information from one app to the other saves me an incredible amount of time.

There are two types of Multitasking windows in iOS 11: Slide Over and Split View. Slide Over windows sit on top of the currently open app and allows you to monitor things like Messages, while you continue to work on a project. You can change the Slide Over app by dragging another app out of the dock and dropping it on top of the first one. Both apps are active when using Slide Over.

The other type of Multitasking window is Split View. We’ve all seen this one before—each app has a certain amount of screen real estate and you can easily switch apps. This is the view I use the most because I can drag and drop information to my document as I find it.

QuickType makes it easier to add numbers, symbols and punctuation to your document. With a simple flick of your finger on the keyboard, you can add some of the most commonly used symbols. For instance, the letter Q on the keyboard is also number 1, so if you want to type that number, you just flick down on the Q key and you type 1. No need to touch the Shift key at all.

You don’t have to press down before flicking, just flick. It takes a little getting used to, but once you do, you’ll use it a lot.

There are so many other great iPad features like the Dock and Drag and Drop, I could write all day about them, but I want to move on to a few other features I like in this release.

I love a new feature in FaceTime that I’m sure a lot of people are going to use. Most of us have been on a FaceTime call when you want to capture a moment. Typically, I’ll just take a screenshot. With the new FaceTime, you can take a photo using the other person’s camera and save it to your photo library. Both people on the call are notified that a picture has been taken, and there is a setting to turn the feature off if you want.

Wi-Fi password sharing is another one of these cool features that will be used a lot. Who hasn’t had people come over to your house and want access to your Wi-Fi network. You have to either give them the password, or type it in for them. With this new feature, when one of your contacts tries to access your network, it will alert you and you can securely send the password to their device. No need to reveal the password or type it in. Brilliant.

Search in Mail has been improved too, but what impressed me more was threaded messages in Mail now works great. Trying to read a thread in previous versions was a pain, but now the messages in threads make sense. The most current message in the thread is open and readable, while the rest are collapsed and gray. You can just tap on any message to expand it, so it’s very easy to know where you’re at in the thread.

Siri gains a new interface and voice, and Apple promises it will offer a more personal experience based on your personal usage of the device. I really hope that will happen, but I still have a lot of problems with Siri.

For example, a friend was flying into Newark airport yesterday, so I asked Siri what the weather was like in Newark. It responded that she didn’t have my work address.

I asked Siri when the next Formula One race was on and this is the response I got.

So, I changed the question a little to help it understand and got this.

So, Apple doesn’t like Formula One. That doesn’t exactly help me.

As a side note, Siri understood me perfectly when I told it to screw off because she was useless. I’m assuming she gets that a lot and has the answers ready.

Things like this happen quite a bit, which makes me not want to use Siri that often. Why bother if it’s not going to understand what it is I want.

Even I’m surprised I’m saying this, but I love the new App Store. I don’t go to the App Store anymore because it’s just an endless list of games and I’m not a gamer, so it does me no good to go there.

However, the new App Store splits games out into its own section, so I actually get to see new apps I might be interested in. The new Today tab promises to be very useful, showing me a variety of apps that may be of interest. It reminds me of For You in Apple Music and I use that a lot.

App pages can now include tips and tricks, editorial stories and videos, so you get a better idea of what an app can do before you download it. The pages are really well done from what I’ve seen so far.

I really like Apple Maps, but I never used it when I’m taking a trip to new towns, or places I don’t really know well, which kind of defeats the purpose of using Maps in the first place.

Part of the reason for this is that Maps didn’t have lane guidance to tell me exactly which lane I needed to be in to make an exit from the freeway or to take my next turn. In many circumstances, this was fine, but when I go to Los Angeles, I need that lane guidance, so I’d always use Google Maps for those trips.

Now, Maps includes lane guidance and it works really well. It tells you which lane to be in and it also shows you onscreen so you can make sure you are where you need to be.

Another interesting feature in Maps is called Light Guidance. Basically, you tell Maps where you want to go and then zoom out to get an overview of your trip. This allows you to monitor your trip for accidents or faster routes as Maps finds them without having as many spoken prompts. This is handy if you are taking a familiar trip and don’t need the prompts, but still want to monitor the road activity.

There are so many great things about iOS 11 that every user is going to love. Like I said in the beginning, this isn’t about a few whiz-bang features that you’ll use for the first week and then forget about—iOS 11 brings more ease of use and efficiency to our everyday lives. For a device like the iPhone that we use so much, you couldn’t ask for anything more from Apple.

  • John Kordyback

    My spidey sense tells me that iOS 11 will have the biggest beta installs in history. I also think the second generation iPad Pros will sell like hot cakes.

  • Jony0

    Lots of great stuff indeed, looking forward to the multitasking, expanded control centre, dock and drag & drop. QuickType will make typing our Postal Codes up here so much faster and any alphanumeric password like the ones preset in many modems and routers. To that effect, I certainly expect Caps Lock will stay on after a flick, why wouldn’t it.

    « I don’t go to the App Store anymore because it’s just an endless list of games and I’m not a gamer, so it does me no good to go there. »

    Same here. I’ve been wishing for years that Games be a whole separate section, nothing wrong with games but it is not a category of apps and they clutter the top lists. As a developer, a game is an app, but as a consumer, a game is a game, with its own set of categories as well. I think this will also encourage other users to come back and check more often because we won’t have to trudge around the games anymore.

  • E K

    I am interested in how the WiFi sharing works. Does it only work with iOS + AirPorts? and can you limit who can grant the password?

    • Herding_sheep

      Not quite sure you can limit who can grant passwords. Sounds like it works like Airdrop. If a user is in your contacts, you can share the password of the Wifi you are currently connected to. Once they receive that password, are they then able to share it with other users? Good question. I’m not sure.

  • Same for me with Newark, but if I specified “Newark, New Jersey” then it worked like a charm. I bet typing into Siri, which you can do in iOS 11, would do fine, too, since it doesn’t have to figure out the exact word in the accent and all. (Typing handy in some but not all situations.)

    All the AIs have some idiosyncrasies with having to specify a bit more to get the result wanted. I don’t find it to be just a Siri issue, and I don’t know how long it will take to have better AI to figure out what we’re thinking in our heads when we say a word like “Newark” that could be “New York” or “new work.”

    • Jony0

      You can also type in Siri in iOS 10 although you have to say something just to get a typing box in the first place. Once you have some text, it behaves just like any other typing box, along with the same keyboard, popup menu and even the occasional correcting blue dashed underline with suggestion(s) when you tap it.

      Correctly interpreting a word like “Newark” alone is not an AI issue but a speech-to-text one. Of course if you add other words or context to it, like saying “Newark New Jersey” then it is indeed up to the AI to figure out “Newark” rather than “New York”.

      Unfortunately many humans still have difficulty trying to figure out what other humans are thinking in their heads so I have little expectations of this from AI anytime soon.

      • That last paragraph is so spot on, it makes me sad.

  • Tom_P

    For SIRI, I just want to be able to communicate to her without the operative words, “Hey SIRI” every damn times. Maybe set the time for her to stop listening, like after 1 or 2 minutes? Just yesterday, my wife told her to call her friend and then she said quickly after, “makes it speaker phone.” SIRI should just be able to do that but she can’t. What a fail for an assistant.

    • rick gregory

      That’s a context problem and is absolutely one I’d like to see solved. However you want Hey Siri to be the activation phrase or you’ll get all kinds of random Siri activations near any enabled device. But yeah, you should be able to use a followup within, oh, 10-15 seconds (that’s a LONG pause… try it).

    • Tom_P

      Also, isn’t ARKit the most exciting aspect of iOS 11? I think this will open many many possibilities if Apple doesn’t take the foot off, like Siri. This, contextually aware Siri and AI will be the first step to the future, and it seems it’s beginning to fall into place. the time Apple’s listening to us too. I hope they know how crucial Siri is to their platform. I have high hope of her.

  • Kip Beatty

    Nail on the head about the subtle improvements. WiFi password sharing is exactly the kind of improvement that makes using tech so much easier and enjoyable, but won’t end up on the stage at a keynote. iOS 11 is full of these kinds of things.

  • Does Lane Guidance work with CarPlay? Or will we need an update in our cars for that to work?

    • if your car currently does CarPlay you wouldn’t need an update, the car just serves as an external touch-display for your phone, which is where the lane guidance screens come from.