Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11 | iLounge Article


Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

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Some the lesser-discussed new features in iOS 11 are some nice improvements to HomeKit automation rules that will make the platform considerably more useful for serious HomeKit users.


Automation rules that turn on lights and other accessories can now include a “Turn Off” setting that will automatically turn off the affected accessories after a specified number of minutes. So, for example, you could have a rule that turns on a light when motion is detected, but automatically turns it off after five minutes. Time ranges can be set between 1 and 60 minutes after the rule is first triggered, and will of course reset each time the rule is re-triggered. This will be particularly useful for motion sensors that don’t already have “no motion detected” triggers built in, but we can see it also being handy for home comfort devices like fans and air conditioners. The “Turn Off” option is found on the last screen shown when setting up a HomeKit rule, and will only be shown if the rule includes at least one accessory that is being turned on.

Timer-based rules are a new core feature of HomeKit and therefore require a Home Hub — an iPad or Apple TV — that’s also running iOS 11 or tvOS 11. If you haven’t upgraded your Apple TV or iPad to tvOS/iOS 11, the “Turn Off” option will be grayed out with a note to that effect. For now, timers are a feature unique to the Apple Home app, although we’re fairly confident at least some third-party HomeKit apps will eventually offer this option as well.

Sunrise/Sunset Times

You can now customize your “Sunrise” and “Sunset” settings to trigger rules based on a certain amount of time before or after. The Home app also allows you to specify time ranges as rule conditions — a feature already available in the HomeKit core but not in the iOS Home app — for which you can either set specific times or simply choose “During the day” or “At night” to base the time windows on sunrise and sunset times.

When selecting a pre-defined time or time window (such as “Sunrise” or “Only at night”), you can tap the “i” icon at the right to specify the amount of time before or after sunrise and sunset that you want the trigger or condition to apply.

Multi-Person Location Triggers

One of the biggest limitations of HomeKit’s location triggers has been that they’re only applicable to one person — the primary HomeKit user. Rules that turn off the lights and turn down the heat when leaving are very handy for folks who live alone, but chances are that most people don’t want to leave their spouse, kids, or roommates in a dark and cold house just because they happen to be heading out.

Fortunately, iOS 11 finally addresses this by changing location rules to apply to “people” leaving or arriving, as opposed to just the primary user. For example, a HomeKit “arriving home” rule can be set up to trigger each time any family member arrives or only when the first person arrives home, and similarly a “leaving home” rule can fire off when any family member leaves home, or only if the last person is leaving.

You can also specify which HomeKit users are included for each rule, and for obvious reasons you’ll only be able to include those users with whom you’ve invited to share your HomeKit access. While you can still share HomeKit access with users with older versions of iOS, they will need to be running iOS 11 on at least one of their devices to be included in location rules.

Note that multi-person location triggers are currently limited to determining whether people are at home or not; you will still be able to set up rules to trigger based on any location that you happen to arrive at or leave from, but you’ll only be able to include other users when the location is set to “Home.”

Occupancy Conditions

Similarly, you can now set “occupancy” conditions in HomeKit rules to only trigger actions when people are either home or away. A new “People” option now appears when setting rule conditions, allowing you to only run the rule if you’re home, not home, if anybody is home, or nobody is home. Unlike location triggers it’s not possible to choose which HomeKit users are included in the “somebody is home” and “nobody is home” groups.


While the Apple Music app remains mostly the same, iOS 11 includes the new social features of Apple Music that we discussed in our iTunes 12.7 feature article.

The For You screen in the Music app will include albums that your friends are listening to, along with a list of suggested people to follow. Tapping on your picture in the top-right corner will allow you to view and edit your own profile, including who can follow your activity, which of your playlists are being shared, and whether or not your listening history is also shared.

Storage Optimization

iOS 11 introduces some storage optimization features similar to what Apple brought to macOS Sierra last year. The iPhone Storage screen found under General in the iOS Settings app now provides a visual graph of what’s taking up space on your iPhone, along with recommendations for things you can do to reduce your storage footprint, such as offloading unused apps or removing large attachments that are hanging around in Messages.

The Offload Unused Apps feature is particularly noteworthy, as it provides the ability to automatically remove apps that you don’t frequently use to free up space on your device while still retaining the data for those apps. The app icons will remain on your home screen, so they will appear as if they are still on your device, however a small iCloud download icon will appear beside the name. You can open an offloaded app simply by tapping on the icon as you normally would, although you’ll need to have an internet connection so that it can be redownloaded from iCloud, and depending on the size of the app and the speed of your internet connection, it may take a few minutes to do so.

You can also offload individual apps manually, even if you don’t enable the automatic offloading feature. The iPhone Storage screen in settings helpfully provides an indication of when each app was last used, and going into the details of any app will show an “Offload App” button that you can tap to offload that particular app.

One important thing to note is that unlike installing new apps from the App Store, offloaded apps will download over a cellular data connection, regardless of their size, so you’ll definitely want to be careful about redownloading large apps if you’re on a limited data plan.

Automatic Setup

iOS 11 expands on the automatic setup feature that came to the Apple TV with iOS 7, allowing users to easily setup a new iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch using the settings from their current device.

As long as both devices are running iOS 11, when your iPhone detects a new iOS device in proximity, it will present a screen similar to that shown when setting up AirPods, offering you the ability to set up the new device using your current Apple ID, transferring your current settings and thereby bypassing a number of the usual setup screens, such as specifying your Apple ID and password for iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime, iTunes, and so forth, as well as transferring personalized settings such as language, region, your list of Wi-Fi networks and passwords, frequent locations, Siri personalization, and home and health data. For other data you’ll be asked to choose whether you want to restore a backup from iCloud or iTunes or otherwise set it up as a new device.

This feature is especially useful when setting up a second device for your own personal use, such as a new iPad, since it allows the transfer of personalization data and preferences that weren’t easily transferred before without restoring your entire backup from iCloud.

Further, if you choose to restore an iCloud backup on the new device — which usually means you’re switching to a new device — the setup assistant will also prompt you to perform an additional iCloud backup from your current device to ensure that everything is up to date.

Wi-Fi and Personal Hotspot Sharing

Along the same lines as the automated setup feature, iOS 11 also now allows you to easily share your Wi-Fi credentials with other nearby iOS 11 devices. When another device attempts to connect to the same Wi-Fi network that your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is using, you’ll see a prompt providing the option to share your Wi-Fi password with the other device, saving you or the other user the trouble of entering it themselves.

This also works when turning on Personal Hotspot. While all of your devices sharing the same iCloud account automatically gained access to your Personal Hotspot, in iOS 11 you can now more easily make your Personal Hotspot available to your friends and family members without having to worry about entering passwords.

Emergency SOS

Last year, Apple brought a new Emergency SOS feature to watchOS 3, allowing you to initiate a phone call to emergency services (e.g. 911) and notify your emergency contacts simply by pressing and holding the side button for a few seconds.

Apple later brought Emergency SOS to the iPhone in iOS 10.3, however for whatever reason the service was limited to users in India. It wasn’t until the release of iOS 11 that Emergency SOS is now available to all iPhone users. The concept works the same as it does on the Apple Watch — holding down both the sleep/wake and either volume button will display a screen that provides the usual “power off” slider as well as an “Emergency SOS” slider. Continuing to hold the buttons will sound an alarm and begin a three-second countdown before initiating a call to emergency services and notifying your emergency contacts, sharing your location and your Medical ID information from the Health app in the process.

The Emergency SOS feature can also be customized in the Settings app to be triggered with five presses of the sleep/wake button in succession, although this is disabled by default. You can also turn off “Auto Call” if you don’t want a call to emergency services to be placed automatically; in this case, you’ll need to use the Emergency SOS slider to initate the call. Note that when “Auto Call” and “Also works with 5 Clicks” are both enabled, five clicks of the home button in succession immediately starts the three-second countdown to place an emergency services call, while holding down the sleep/wake and volume buttons together will always first display the intermediate screen, with the actual call being placed only if you continue to hold the buttons down for another second or two.

As an added bonus, activating the Emergency SOS screen when the iPhone is locked will also disable Touch ID, requiring you to enter a password to reauthenticate to the iPhone. Apple notes that this is intended to prevent somebody from gaining access to your iPhone with your fingerprint should you become unconscious.


For iPhone (and iPod) users, we’d describe iOS 11 as a more iterative update in terms of user-facing features, especially when compared to last year’s iOS 10 release. For iPad users, however, iOS 11 is a complete game-changer in how Apple’s tablet devices can be used, bringing the user experience much closer to that of a MacBook; it’s astonishing how seemingly minor features like a dock and drag-and-drop can make such a difference in the iPad user experience, but the reality is that they significantly improve how the iPad can be used as a productivity tool.

Even for iPhone users, however, what’s under the hood in iOS 11 is probably more important than what’s on the surface. New Augmented Reality and Machine Learning features that are now available to developers should open the door to a whole new world of app experiences, so chances are good that we have yet to see the full potential of what iOS 11 brings to the table.

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