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The Top Features You'll Want to Try in iOS 11

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Even if you’re not buying a new iPhone this year, you can still enjoy a hefty dose of “New and Improved!” with Apple’s iOS 11, which provides a host of new capabilities. Hold on tight, there’s a lot to cover, and we have another article coming about the iPad-specific changes in iOS 11.

Getting Started

After you install iOS 11, you’ll notice a few things right off. Dock icons no longer have names, and many Apple apps now have the bold text design Apple brought to the Music and News apps in iOS 10. 

Although the new Automatic Setup feature won’t help you today, when you next get a new iOS device, it can transfer many settings from an older iOS 11 device automatically. Similarly, the new Share Your Wi-Fi feature lets you send your Wi-Fi network’s password to another iOS 11 device that tries to connect.

You may not need a new iPhone or iPad anyway, since iOS 11 can help you recover precious space. Choose Settings > General > iPhone/iPad Storage and you can offload unused apps (while keeping their settings and data), delete old Messages conversations automatically, and see how much space each app consumes. Deleting music from the Music sub-screen (tap Edit) will help too.

 
 

Special Screens

Apple redesigned Control Center, which most people still get to by swiping up from the bottom of the screen (iPad users keep swiping up after the Dock appears, and iPhone X users will have to swipe down from the right-hand top of the screen). It’s back to a single page of icons, and you can access additional options by pressing and holding on any set of controls. Even better, you can add (and remove) controls in Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls

 
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The Lock screen is all you’ll see while in the car by default now, thanks to the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. It blocks notifications and prevents you from using your iPhone while at the wheel, all while auto-replying to people who text you. Calls still come through to your car’s Bluetooth system, and texts from people designated as favorites can break through the texting cone of silence. Passengers can disable Do Not Disturb While Driving easily from a notification on the Lock screen.

 
 

Smaller Changes and App Updates

A few smaller changes that you’ll appreciate include: 

  • Siri sounds more natural, can do translations, and uses on-device learning to understand you better and provide more useful results.
  • On an iPhone, a new Emergency SOS feature will call 911 and notify your emergency contacts of your location after you press the Sleep/Wake button five times quickly and swipe the Emergency SOS button. Tap Settings > Emergency SOS to set this up.
  • The password auto-fill feature now suggests stored login information for many apps right from the QuickType bar above the keyboard—manage this in Settings > Accounts & Passwords > App & Website Passwords.

Many of iOS 11’s built-in apps receive significant changes as well:

  • Camera: New file formats will make your videos and photos take up less space. There are a few new filters, and Camera can finally scan QR codes, which simplify loading Web sites, getting contact info, and connecting to Wi-Fi networks.
  • Photos: You can now edit the video in a Live Photo and apply looping, bouncing, and long exposure effects. Photos can at long last play animated GIFs and has a new Animated smart album to hold them.
  • Files: This major new app replaces the iCloud Drive app. Look in Files for access not just to iCloud Drive, but also to files on your device and in other cloud sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive.
  • Messages: A new app drawer at the bottom of the screen tries to entice you to use iMessage apps. Most are just stickers, but some are useful and Apple provides a new Apple Pay app here that lets you make person-to-person payments.
 
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  • Maps: Apple has added indoor maps of some airports and malls to Maps. Maps also now provides lane guidance on more complicated roads.
  • Notes: The new Instant Notes feature make starting a note as simple as tapping the Lock screen of an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, or the optional Notes button in Control Center. A note can now look like lined paper or graph paper (tap the Share button, then tap Lines & Grids). You can also now scan a document. The idea is that you then sign it with the Apple Pencil and send it on its way. Notes can also now find text in Apple Pencil handwriting. 

iOS11 is compatible with:

iPad

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2nd generation
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro 1st generation
  • 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad Air
  • iPad 5th generation
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPad mini 2
 

iPhone

  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 5s
 

iPod

  • iPod touch 6th generation

Take some time to explore—we’re liking these new features and we think you will too! It’s likely safe to upgrade to iOS 11 now, but check our upgrade advice first. (The same prep procedures for upgrading to iOS 10 applies to iOS 11.)

Stop Unwanted Notifications with Do Not Disturb

If you're not using the wonder that is Do Not Disturb, stop whatever you're doing and read on. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than being woken from a sound sleep by a notification from your iPhone, particularly when it’s something annoying like a robocall. On the Mac, notifications won’t generally wake you up, but they can be distracting when you’re trying to focus. Or, imagine the embarrassment if you get a text message from a snarky buddy while you’re giving a Keynote presentation. Do Not Disturb to the rescue!

In both iOS and macOS, you can engage Do Not Disturb manually at any time. That’s perfect if you want to make sure your iPhone doesn’t make noise in the theater or prevent your Mac from showing notifications while showing your latest work to your boss.

  • In iOS, either go to Settings > Do Not Disturb and toggle the Manual switch, or swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal Control Center and tap the Do Not Disturb button. You can also ask Siri to “Turn on Do Not Disturb.” A crescent moon icon appears in the status bar at the top of the screen when Do Not Disturb is on.

On the Mac, click the Notification Center icon in the top-right corner of the screen, scroll up to reveal the Do Not Disturb controls, and toggle the switch. For a quicker way, Option-click the Notification Center icon. In Sierra, Siri can control Do Not Disturb as well. The Notification Center icon is light gray instead of black when Do No Disturb is on.

You can turn Do Not Disturb off manually (which is a good idea if you’ve disabled it on your iPhone during a doctor’s appointment, for instance). On the Mac, it turns off automatically at midnight.

No one wants to enable Do Not Disturb manually every night. Happily, both iOS and macOS can turn it on automatically on a schedule.

  • In iOS, go to Settings > Do Not Disturb, turn on the Scheduled switch, and tap the From/To times to adjust when it should turn on and off automatically.
  • On the Mac, open System Preferences > Notifications > Do Not Disturb, select the checkbox next to the time fields, and enter from From and To times.

The Mac offers a few welcome options that automatically engage Do Not Disturb when the display is sleeping (usually a no-brainer) and when mirroring the display to a TV or projector (which should prevent notifications during presentations).

In iOS, you can choose which calls can break through Do Not Disturb’s cone of silence. On both platforms, you can allow repeated calls through — if someone wants to get in touch badly enough to try twice in quick succession, it’s probably important.

Nearly everyone should be using Do Not Disturb, so if you haven’t taken advantage of it yet, check it out now, before an errant phone call or iOS notification wakes you in the middle of the night.