As expected, Apple unveiled iOS 11 during today’s WWDC 2017 Keynote, showing off the next-generation of the company’s mobile operating system which features several iterative improvements across the board, combined with some significant new UI changes for iPad users.
Apple SVP Craig Federeghi introduced and demonstrated several of the new features coming in iOS 11, which will be available to registered developers today, a public beta expected in the coming weeks. Messages gains some user interface improvements, including a redesigned App Drawer along with iCloud support for secure synchronization of all of a user’s Messages conversations across all of their iOS and macOS devices. The latter feature also provides the ability to more efficiently optimize space on iOS devices, since Messages can be left in iCloud and removed from individual devices when space is required for other things..
Along with the new Messages features comes Apple Pay support for person-to-person payments. Integrated within Messages, users will be able to send and receive money right in their conversations, authenticating with Touch ID. Received money will be placed onto an “Apple Pay Cash Card” that can be used as an Apple Pay payment source — either for person-to-person transactions or normal merchant transactions — or transferred to a bank account. Apple Pay person-to-person payments will be available across all iOS and watchOS devices, although Federeghi conspicuously omitted any mention of macOS support for the feature.
Siri will gain a number of improvements in iOS 11 as well, including new natural male and female voices built using deep learning. A new visual interface has also been created for Siri that will provide follow-up questions that users can trigger with simple a tap, as well as displaying multiple results. A new Siri Translation feature is also being added, which appears to be initially in beta, but will provide the ability to translate from English to Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, with more languages expected to be added in the future.
Apple will also be expanding SiriKit beyond its current capabilities to allow third-party developers to integrate additional features such as task management, lists, QR codes, and more. More advanced on-device learning will also allow Siri to understand information more contextually, providing integration of data and queries across multiple apps, such as analyzing what you’re looking at in Safari to later offer references in the News app. Siri assistant data will also now synchronize across all iOS devices sharing the same iCloud account.
Camera and Photos features will also gain several improvements in iOS 11, including compression improvements from a switch to High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) as well as a new “HEIF” format for image capture. Both of these technologies should result in a savings of approximately 50% on photo and video storage both on iOS devices and in iCloud, although users will still be able to share using compatible formats. The iPhone 7 Plus will also gain new algorithms providing better low light performance and image quality through the use of the dual-lens camera. In the Photos app, Memories videos will now be viewable in portrait orientation, with the photos and videos dynamically formatted for proper presentation in each orientation. Live Photos also gain some editing enhancements allowing a specific frame of a live photo to be selected as a key photo, and effects such as “loop” and “bounce” to enhance live photos.
Control Center will also see a major redesign in iOS 11, displaying more information on a single screen as floating controls, rather than buttons on a virtual panel, and making more use of 3D Touch gestures to access individual Control Center elements. iOS 11 will also unify the Lock Screen and Notification Center into a single virtual display.
Maps in iOS 11 is expected to gain support for indoor maps for malls and airports in selected cities. Mall maps will initially be available in eleven cities in the U.S., U.K., China, and Japan, while airport terminal maps will initially include 30 major airports worldwide. Maps will include detailed floor plans of malls, with place cards for individual stores, directories, search features, and the ability to browse by floor. Maps will also gain support for speed limits and lane guidance while in navigation mode, and a new ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode will automatically mute all notifications and auto-respond to Messages when iOS 11 detects that an iPhone is in a moving vehicle.
Apple Music will also gain new social features, adding a new “Friends are Listening to” section in the Music app that allows you to see what your friends are listening to, subject to what they choose to share. Individual Apple Music users can share their profiles publicly, or choose to share only selected playlists. A new MusicKit API is also coming to allow third-party apps to integrate into the Music app more tightly.
Apple will also be adding advanced wireless speaker support to HomeKit in the form of a new “AirPlay 2” protocol. Users will be able to configure speakers inside of HomeKit, and multi-room streaming will also now be available in iOS 11, allowing users to play music to multiple speakers directly from the Music app, although it was unclear if the speakers will need to support AirPlay 2 to take advantage of this feature; Federeghi did note that tvOS 11 will add support for AirPlay 2 to the Apple TV, however. The Apple Music app also gains a “Shared Up Next” feature, similar in concept to the “iTunes DJ” feature that was phased out in iTunes 11, that will allow users to contribute to a shared play queue.
The iPad gains some significant new features in iOS 11, including a new, redesigned Dock that can be called up from within apps, similar to the macOS dock, and that users will be able to drag and drop icons out of to open split view multitasking windows. Multitasking has also been improved, with a new exposé-style view that shows open apps while preserving split-screen app pairings. The keyboard gains drag-and-drop style enhancements as well — users will be able to type numbers and symbols by flicking on individual keys, rather than having to go for the shift buttons.
A new “Files” app will also expand the iCloud Drive app to provide a more Finder-esque interface, including support for nested folders, spring-loaded offers, list view, search, tags, recent files, and more. Files will also include plug-in support for other cloud file services such as Dropbox and Box. Drag-and-drop features integrated with the Files app and other iPad apps will allow files and images to be dragged between split apps, and even into spaces in the new multitasking multiple-app view.
Significant markup improvements will also be added in iOS 11, allowing just about any screen to be marked up with the Apple Pencil, including screenshots, which will now automatically appear in a thumbnail view immediately after they’re taken, so that the user can quickly mark them up and re-share them right away. The Apple Pencil is also going to be integrated more tightly into Apple’s Notes app — handwritten text will now be searchable thanks to new machine learning algorithms, and users can make inline drawings in text-based notes. Notes will also gain a built-in document scanner, allowing users to capture and markup physical paper documents right into the Notes app. Markup is also being more tightly integrated into Mail, allowing users to add inline drawings to email messages.
Apple is also making a number of interesting developer improvements in iOS 11, most notably expanding the machine learning algorithms into two new APIs — Vision and Natural Language — to provide third-party developers with access to features such as face detection algorithms. A new Machine Language Model Converter SDK will also allow developers to take their constructions from other modelling languages and easily translate them into iOS. Apple is also introducing a new ARKit core technology for developers which will allow augmented reality apps to be modelled using core iOS APIs, allowing third-party developers to take advantage of some significantly more powerful AR features.