Apple described the update as the “biggest software release ever” for the iPad and a “major update” for the iPhone. It has focused on improving productivity and upgrading the functionality of the camera app. There are also smaller changes across the operating system.
On the iPad, the Dock has been changed to allow quick access to recently used apps and documents. You can drag and drop files between apps, take notes using Apple Pencil from the lock screen and use the Pencil in more places across iOS. Apple’s also developed a new Files app that lets you organise the files on your device and in your cloud storage.
The Camera app has been overhauled with new features focused on portrait photography. Portrait mode supports optical image stabilization, True Tone flash colours for better lighting and HDR. On the upcoming iPhone X, it will include a selection of AI-powered lighting filters that let you shoot professional-quality portraits without leaving the app.
While these changes will be popular, the real highlight of iOS 11 is arguably Apple’s new ARKit platform. Cementing the company’s commitment to the future of technology, it’s the first time Apple’s offered a native augmented reality experience. Overnight, it will be able to claim the largest AR platform. “Hundreds of millions” of iPhone users will be given access to immersive augmented experiences.
At launch, a handful of apps will be available. These will include design products, shopping services and augmented reality games designed to introduce you to the concept of AR. The experiences overlay virtual objects on your real-life surroundings, matching physical attributes such as lighting, surface alignment and scale to create a realistic effect.
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The launch of ARKit is important because all of the “big three” tech firms now offer a form of AR tech. Google’s working on ARCore, Microsoft’s preparing to release Windows Mixed Reality and Apple has ARKit.
With the technology now integrated into all three major ecosystems, consumer interest and adoption is likely to grow. The concept’s being pitched as the next big thing in tech but most end users are still unfamiliar with it. Today, millions of iPhone users will try it for the first time, significantly expanding its potential audience.
Alongside the big features, iOS 11 also has a healthy selection of improvements, tweaks and app revisions. Siri’s gained “more natural” voices and additional personal experiences, Apple Pay offers peer-to-peer payments and the App Store has had its most significant redesign in years. Elsewhere, Apple has expanded “Do Not Disturb” to include a new “driving mode” which silences notifications while on the move.
iOS 11 is available to download now on compatible devices. On the iPhone side, the update supports all handsets from the iPhone 7 Plus down to the aging iPhone 5s. Most iPads are supported, including the iPad Pro family, iPad Air and the iPad Mini excluding the original version.