First look at iOS 11

As most iPhone and iPad users know, Apple released its latest iOS update two days ago (Sept. 19). If the update hasn’t been offered to your device, you can trigger the upgrade by going into Settings/General/Software Update. On my phone and iPad Air, the process when smoothly and relatively quickly.

As with all Apple updates, the changes are more evolutionary, and they are listed on the Apple site. But those descriptions don’t go into much detail, so it’s best to spend some time checking out other online resources and simply poking around on your device once the update is finished. (You can also try wading through the downloadable user guides from Apple.)

I found it interesting that the iPad received features that you won’t see on the iPhone. For example, the new Dock on the iPad can be accessed while an application is open by simply swiping up. It makes task switching just a bit faster and easier. But that feature isn’t on the iPhone, undoubted due to the phone’s smaller screen. The iPad’s new Dock is now expanded to show recently used app, and you can turn this option off in Settings (General/Multitasking & Dock). You can also open a second app in a smaller split screen by sliding it up from the Dock.

It’s useful to look through iOS 11’s Setting screens. I discovered that the Storage screen has been enhanced, with a new color bar showing what’s using up space on the device. It looks like the bar you see on the phone/iPad’s summary screen in a Mac’s iTunes. (I’d love someone to tell me why my iPad’s summary on my Mac has a wildly inaccurate measure of memory used.) The Storage section has what I believe are new tools; for example, the “Offload Unused Apps” option. Since I upgraded both my phone and pad, I’m a bit hazy on what was in iOS 10.

One feature I was looking forward to is the new Files app. I was hoping it would be the iOS equivalent of Finder on OS X — i.e., it would show all data files stored on my phone and pad. Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be the case. By default, it offers two choices: Recents and Browse. Selecting Browse, shows a Locations section with iCloud Drive and Recently Deleted listed. I have Dropbox installed, and it was also listed. But files created or downloaded by apps such as Netflix, Photos (Camera), and others didn’t show up. It seems like Files is simply another tool to push you into iCloud.

Another worthy enhancement for the iPad — but, again, not for the iPhone — is the popup keyboard keys. You no longer need to switch to another keyboard to add numbers to your entry; you can simply swipe down on the appropriate key to add it. Very nice.

The new Control Center for both phones and pads has a whole new look, and you can access it with an app open. Basic settings and music controls are combined on one screen. You can also go into Settings and add or remove options. For example, you can add the Stopwatch to Control Center. On cellular-equipped devices, you can press and hold the Wi-Fi icon and quickly turn off or on a personal hotspot. I give the new Control Center a thumbs up.

Obviously, there are numerous other new features, such as drag-and drop (and depending on your device’s capability). Half the fun of a new version of iOS is discovering what new things you can do. But there’s another aspect to keep in mind. Many third-party apps will be upgraded to support the new OS. I recommend added any available updates before installing iOS 11. And keep an eye out for other new app updates in the weeks ahead.