Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

It’s been ten years since Apple introduced its first mobile operating system to the world with the original iPhone, and in that time we’ve watched Apple’s touch-based OS grow from its roots as an advanced mobile phone and iPod operating system into an entire ecosystem of third-party apps, cloud services, and spin-off operating systems for wearable devices and set-top boxes.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

While this fall’s release of iOS 11 doesn’t provide some of the flashy new improvements that past iOS versions have, it does add some nice quality of life improvements for iPhone users, and — probably most fittingly for the tenth anniversary of the operating system — matures the iPad into a whole new realm.

Downloading & Installing

As usual, iOS 11 is a free update for all supported iOS device models and is also the default version of iOS that comes installed on the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.

The most straightforward way to install iOS 11 is as an over-the-air update — at some point you should see an update notification on your iPhone letting you know it’s available, but if you’re in a hurry, you can check for it manually by going into the iOS Settings app and choosing Software Update from the General section. To install the iOS 11 update over the air, your device will need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network and should be plugged into a power source or have at least 50 percent remaining battery life.

Alternatively, iOS 11 can still be installed via iTunes from your Mac or PC by plugging your device in to your computer and selecting the Check for Updates option found on the Device Summary page in iTunes. This will download the iOS 11 package to your Mac or PC and then install it onto your device automatically. In some cases, iTunes may have already discovered the update by itself, in which case you will see an Update button rather than a Check for Updates button.

The usual caveats and warnings apply here as with any iOS update: the installation may or may not preserve all of your existing data, and may even result in the wiping of your device’s data under certain conditions. It’s always a good idea to make a full backup of your device before beginning. You can back up to iCloud or iTunes, and in fact it doesn’t hurt to do both. Also, if you’ve synced music or other media content onto your device via iTunes, make sure that all of this content is still in your iTunes library — these do not form part of the backups made by iTunes as Apple reasonably expects that you should be able to re-sync this information from your iTunes library following a full restore. You can check the status of backups on your computer before beginning by visiting the Devices section in your iTunes Preferences, or your iCloud backup by going into the iOS Settings app and selecting iCloud, Backup.

Supported Devices

iOS 11 continues to support most of the same devices as iOS 10; all of the same iPad models are supported, going back to the 2013 iPad Air and iPad mini 2, as well as the sixth-generation iPod touch. iOS 10.3 is the end of the road for users of the 2012 iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c users, however.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

So to install iOS 11, you’ll need at least an iPhone 5s, iPad Air, iPad mini 2, or the sixth-generation iPod touch. As usual, not all features will be available on older devices, however.

Regional Differences

Most of the same regional limitations still apply in iOS 11 for features like Siri, Maps, and of course the iTunes Store, although Apple continues to expand worldwide support for these features behind the scenes. As usual, Apple has updated its Feature Availability page for iOS 11, highlighting the countries with support for specific features.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

There aren’t a lot of changes here, as iOS 11 doesn’t really add any new region-specific features, although availability of some services has expanded normally over the past year. For example Apple recently rolled out the TV app to more countries — a change that happened to coincide with the release of iOS 11 (and tvOS 11).

System-wide Changes

iOS 11 offers fewer system-wide user interface changes than its predecessor, however Apple has made some interesting refinements to the user experience. Most notably among these is the new Control Center.

Control Center

iOS 11 introduces the most significant change to the iOS Control Center since it debuted back in iOS 7. Although Apple tweaked the Control Center into a three-pane view with last year’s release of iOS 10, placing music controls onto their own second panel and adding a third for HomeKit users, iOS 11 discards this design entirely, in favor of a full-screen Control Center that places all of the controls on a single screen, with expanded controls accessed via 3D Touch or long press gestures.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

With this change, the Control Center also gains an unprecedented level of customizability. In iOS 11 you can now remove or replace the traditional utility buttons — Flashlight, Clock, Calculator, and Camera — as well as choosing from any of 13 additional Control Center utilities.

The basic Control Center layout is now organized into individual floating controls or control “platters.” At the very top two large square panes provide a set of controls for communication features and music playback, below which are buttons for orientation lock, Do Not Disturb, and AirPlay mirroring, along with two sliders for screen brightness and volume. Additional controls within each of these areas, where available, can be accessed by a 3D Touch gesture. For example, the wireless controls platter provides direct access to buttons for Airplane Mode, cellular data, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, however a 3D Touch or long-press gesture will expand it to also show controls for AirDrop and Personal Hotspot.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

Note that Apple has also changed the function of the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth buttons in Control Center — tapping these no longer turns OFF the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth radios, but instead merely disconnects or re-establishes your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections. For instance, tapping the Wi-Fi button in Control Center will disconnect you from your current Wi-Fi network and disable the auto-join setting in the process, but it will not actually turn Wi-Fi off; you now have to visit the iOS Settings app directly if you want to turn the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth radios off completely. Note, however, that the Control Center can be used to turn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth back ON if they’ve previously been switched off in Settings.

Basic playback controls can be accessed directly from the music platter in a similar way, with a 3D Touch gesture used to expand it to provide a view similar to the music panel from the iOS 10 Control Center, with sliders for volume and scrubbing and a button for selecting other audio destinations. The Night Shift toggle is similarly available by pressing on the now-vertical brightness slider and a True Tone display toggle has been added here for devices that support it. The addition of a volume slider on the main Control Center screen is also a nice touch here, providing more direct access to volume adjustment without having to swipe over to the music pane. We imagine this will be particularly handy for those who have chosen to set their hardware volume buttons to control ringers and alerts rather than system audio volume.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

While the new basic layout is a nice touch, the most interesting part about the new Control Center is the ability to add and rearrange additional buttons in the lower section. Although the top part is immutable, everything below the AirPlay Mirroring button can now be customized, allowing you to not only choose whether the standard controls for Flashlight, Clock, Calculator, and Camera are shown, but what order they’re shown in, as well as adding up to 14 additional buttons, ranging from basic built-in features such as Alarm, Stopwatch, and Timer, to actual tie-ins to other iOS apps such as Notes, Home, and Voice Memos.

Thirteen of these buttons mostly represent new Control Center features, while the fourteenth button, Home, basically replaces the third iOS 10 Control Center pane for HomeKit users. A single tap on Home button simply opens the Home app, while a 3D Touch gesture brings up a platter of favorite accessories and/or scenes, much like what could be seen in the third pane in iOS 10. Apple has also applied some color-coding to the icons for these buttons in the Control Center Customization screen — blue for accessibility features, orange for basic utilities like Clock, Calculator, and Home, and red for recording features. The icons in the actual Control Center screen remain monochromatic, however.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

Most of the new tools in the Control Center are rather self-explanatory, although it’s worth noting that Flashlight now gains an extra intensity setting (four versus the previous three) which can be accessed from a slider that appears when 3D Touch or long-pressing on the Flashlight button. The Clock control has been replaced by separate Alarm, Stopwatch, and Timer controls. Although Alarm and Stopwatch just provide shortcuts into the appropriate sections of the Clock app, you can 3D Touch or long press on on the Timer button to bring up a slider to start a timer with a length interval of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, or 45 minutes, or 1 or 2 hours.

The new Apple TV Remote control is also interesting, as Apple has baked a version of the Apple TV Remote app right into iOS 11 — it works regardless of whether the separate Apple TV Remote app is installed on your device or not.

The option to prevent access to the Control Center from the lock screen has also been removed from the Control Center settings, but can still be found alongside the other lock screen restrictions in the Touch ID & Passcode section of the Settings app.

Lock Screen & Notification Center

Apple has also melded the Notification Center and Lock Screen, so swiping down from the top of your screen presents you with your Lock Screen — without actually locking your device. New notifications are shown here in the same way that you would see them on the acutal Lock Screen, and you can now swipe upward to see any older notifications below.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

This same swipe-up gesture is also used when your device is locked, effectively replacing the old separate pull-down Notification Center view. Swiping right from the Lock Screen still brings up the Today View. We think it’s actually a nice step toward a cleaner and more integrated user interface.

Much like locking down the Notification Center in prior iOS versions, you can still prevent access to older notifications when your iPhone is locked by toggling off the Recent Notifications option in the Touch ID & Passcode section of the Settings app.

Notification Settings

Settings for Notifications in iOS 11 have also been reorganized for clarity. A global Show Previews option at the top of the Notification settings allows you to determine whether or not previews are shown for notifications of items such as messages and e-mails, with options to always show previews, always hide previews, or only hide previews when your device is locked. This can also be overridden on an per-app basis with the the Show Previews option that appears at the bottom of each app’s notification settings.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

The notification settings for each app also now includes a global Allow Notifications setting, allowing you to quickly turn off all notifications for a given app with a single toggle, and reorganizes and renames the alert options to make things a bit clearer, such as labelling notification types as “Temporary” and “Persistent.” With the removal of the distinct Notification Center from iOS 11, the former option to “Show in Notification Center” is now Show in History.

Screen Recording

Apple has also added Screen Recording capabilities in iOS 11. Hidden away behind a Control Center button, this new feature lets you make a recording of whatever is happening on your device’s screen.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

Tapping the Screen Recording button will initiate a three-second countdown to give you time to close Control Center, after which the recording begins. The iOS status bar will turn red to note that a recording is in progress. You can stop the recording either by returning to the Control Center and tapping the Screen Recording button again, or by tapping on the blue status bar and responding to a confirmation dialog asking if you want to stop recording. Once you stop, the recording is automatically saved to your Photos app. You can also choose whether you want the microphone to be active during Screen Recording by 3D Touching on the Screen Recording button in Control Center and tapping the “Microphone Audio” button at the bottom to toggle it on.

Do Not Disturb While Driving

While iOS has offered a “Do Not Disturb” feature for quite some time, other than setting a daily schedule, it’s been necessary to turn it on and off manually. With the problem of distracted driving increasing, Apple has expanded the “Do Not Disturb” feature in iOS 11 to allow it to be automatically enabled when your iPhone detects that your in a car.

The new options for Do Not Disturb While Driving can be found at the bottom of the “Do Not Disturb” section of the iOS Settings app. You can choose to have Do Not Disturb While Driving activated based on motion detection, whenever your iPhone is connected to a vehicle’s Bluetooth system, or turn off automatic activation and simply choose to enable it manually when you need it. Which mode is most practical will likely depend on how often you’re a driver versus a passenger; automatic mode only determines that you’re in a moving vehicle, so it’s just as likely to kick in on public transit as it is when you’re driving your car.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

In addition to enabling the standard “Do Not Disturb” mode — silencing incoming notifications and keeping your screen dark — Do Not Disturb While Driving also suppresses your notifiations from your Lock Screen entirely to remove the temptation of checking your iPhone. Further, you can also configure an automatic reply in Messages that will be sent to a specific set of contacts when Do Not Disturb While Driving is enabled to let them know that you can’t immediately respond, although users can still punch a message through simply by texting the word “urgent” in a separate message.

If your iPhone is connected to an in-car Bluetooth or CarPlay system, incoming phone calls will be allowed through normally when Do Not Disturb While Driving is enabled. However if your iPhone is not connected to an appropriate in-car system, incoming calls will be handled in the same manner as when the standard “Do Not Disturb” setting is enabled, taking into account the system-wide “Allow Calls From” and “Repeated Calls” settings as well as any individual contacts with Emergency Bypass enabled to determine which calls will be let through.


You probably already know that you can take a screenshot from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch by pressing down the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons simultaneously, saving an image of whatever is on your device’s screen directly into your photo library. It’s a handy feature, but it can be a bit cumbersome when you’re trying to share a quick screenshot with somebody, or you only wanted to capture part of the screen.

Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 11

Now when you take a screenshot in iOS 11, a small thumbnail of the screenshot appears in the bottom left corner. You can either swipe this away to the left if you want to simply store the screenshot away in your photo library without further action, or you can tap on it to open a window allowing you to crop or annotate the screenshot and even immediately share it using the standard iOS Share Sheet options. Tapping the “Done” button in the top left corner lets you either save the edited screenshot to your photos or discard it — useful if you only wanted to quickly share a screenshot through another app and don’t have a need to keep it around.

A full range of annotation tools are also available here, including the usual markup options as well as text and even signatures. iPad Pro users can also take full advantage of the Apple Pencil here.

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