With the release of the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus devices from Apple, also comes a slightly less heralded event – the release of a new version of the iOS operating system that run the iPhones. iOS 11 is very similar to previous versions of the operating system, but there are some new and important details that could change how you interact with your phone. As this update is coming to almost all of the iPhone models released in the last 4 years (iPhone 6, 6s, 7, and now 8 and their Plus counterparts) chances are good your iPhone is going to get this update. If you are interested in seeing how it will impact your phone, read on!
There are quite a few changes to the iOS layout, look and feel, but I’ll try to cover what I feel are the most pertinent ones here in this recap, or at least the ones you’ll probably notice the most. As always, feel free to leave additional questions in the comment section if you want to know more or want detail on something I didn’t cover here.
Lock screen & notifications are now combined
Previously, the native iOS notification screen was a swipe down from the top motion in pretty much any app or home screen. While how iOS handles notification is still a mess (that’s another story), the location of the notifications has been combined with the lock screen (since your notifications were going to show there too anyway) and so now when you swipe down from the top of your display, you get – the lock screen. This makes sense in a weird kind of way, and rather than have 2 different locations for your notifications, you now have just the one. The moral of this story is – make sure you have a lock screen wallpaper you like, because you will be looking at it a lot more now.
The App Store gets a major UI make over
The App Store doesn’t look anything like it used to, and quite frankly, that’s a good thing. I’ve been frustrated for years with the cramped and way too busy look of the App Store, and Jony Ive has heard my prayers. Okay, so….I don’t use iOS for anything other than my work phone really so it didn’t bother me that much – but a refresh of the App Store UI was long overdue. Things are laid out in more of a magazine style, and its a lot easier to see and find things now. Its also just visually more appealing and this is coming from someone who uses Android on a regular basis. There are tabs now at the bottom of the App Store main interface, that will lead you to Today – Games – Apps – Updates – Search – and each of those catagories are then sorted vertically with larger art and easier to find install/update buttons.
Now, it will likely take longer to find something if you are just scrolling through the different categories with this new style. But this bigger more user friendly style I think is a big improvement over the old App Store UI, and one that iOS users in general will enjoy. Incidentially, the Setting app also gets this new UI update, with a larger profile header near the top, which displays your Apple ID and your iCloud account. While the overall Settings app is still a horrid mess (compared to Android again, but perhaps Apple users are used to it), this refresh is a step in the right direction.
Files (at long last)
This may be the super nerdy Android geek in me, but iOS now has a file manager, and a native one to boot! A file manager (in the case of iOS, a new app literally named “Files”) allows you to access the storage locations on your phones internal storage. This is particuarly handy when you are looking for things that have been downloaded to your device or photos and videos you have taken that are stored on your phone and you want to back them up or move them somewhere else. It used to be you plugged your iPhone into your computer, and then had to fire up the old iTunes or Photos app on the computer and then try to figure out where the heck everything was. Now you can at least try to figure out where the heck everything is right from your mobile device.
This is even more of a boon to power users, as the ability to self manage the files on any devices (PC, tablet, or mobile phone) is one of the tools of the trade when troubleshooting something. I can’t count how many times I have used the file manager on my various Android devices when searching for a particular item, or checking to see if a file I thought was deleted was actually gone from my phone. And one of the benefits of the synchronicity across all the devices in the Apple ecosytems if I can open the Files app on my iPhone, and within a few clicks see the screenshots I have on the desktop of my Macbook Pro. And then move them to my phone or vice versa. Its quick, easy, and seamless. That’s pretty damn neat.
AR (augmented reality) apps are now a thing
So I won’t spend a ton of time on this, since its really more of a throw in at this point, but AR apps are going to coming at us all fast an furious in the coming months, and years. The building of Apple’s developer ARKit means that now people writing the code for apps can take advantage of the camera sensors on existing iPhones (as well as the extra hardware on the newest iPhones) to do neat and interesting things while you are looking through the viewfinder on your camera app. You know, like putting dinosaurs on your co-workers desks and dropping poop emojis onto your friends faces.
At first blush, these are the most childish uses for augmented reality (and it really is childish) but its the first steps into a much larger world of information available to us. Some of the apps already released (aside from the aforementioned dinosaur apps) include an AR ruler to measure dimensions in any enclosed space as well as apps to see how all different kinds of objects would look in the real world (such a potential furniture purchases in your home or a new Tesla in your driveway) – and these are just the beginning. We are on the cusp of an AR app explosion, and the fact that even folks with an almost 3 year old iPhone 6s (like myself) can explore these types of apps is incredible.
Those are just a few of the things new in iOS 11 that I think most people are going to really like. Now its not all peaches and gravy; battery life has been a bit of a concern during my initial testing with iOS 11, but that could also be the new OS settling in or just an excited reviewer using the phone more than usual. And the resigned Control Center is an absolute disaster – in place of a control panel with toggles that slides over to the music player controls panel – you now get……well, this montrosity:
Not only is it ugly as sin, I honestly don’t even know what some of these toggles are supposed to do at first glance. Its really really bad. Whoever it was on Apple’s design team thought this was a good idea needs to be fired, and probably publically flogged. It’s available as of the time of this writing to everyonem so sadly all you iPhone users will be subjected to this horrible new Control Center now. But all joking aside, these are relatively minor quibbles on what is truly a significant overhaul of the Apple phone operating system. And for once, I can honestly say I think its for the better.