The 2017 WWDC keynote was packed full of new features and announcements. Along with the release of a new 10.7″ iPad Pro (that replaces the 9.7″), there was a special focus on iPad improvements in iOS 11.
I’ve spent a few hours test driving the first iOS 11 beta on an iPad Air 2 and wanted to share some thoughts on a few features (some of which are clearly not quite finished). Unsurprisingly, it’s quite buggy and exceedingly slow at times. Again, it’s a beta, and the first one at that, so expect it to be rough around the edges.
iOS 11 includes built-in screen recording functionality, a game changer for anyone who creates iOS screencasts. It can also capture microphone audio and even works with an external mic that’s connected using the Lightning to USB 3 camera adapter.
This is one of those features that, until now, required a Mac. With iOS 11, it’s now possible to create a screencast from start to finish using an iOS device.
The new keyboard was a little disorientating when I first started to use it, but I’m already in love with it. In particular, I can now enter some passwords without needing to cycle through the keyboard layouts, something that’s especially tedious when you’re dealing with a mixture of cases, numerals, and symbols.
I love Notes, but one of its drawbacks has been the extremely limited Share Sheet action. In iOS 11, you can finally search for the note you want to add content to, rather than just pick from a list. If you’re creating a new note, you can specify which folder to create it in.
Documentation scanning in Notes is a great feature. I’ll likely stick with Scanbot so I can continue organizing documents in iCloud Drive, but I can see this being one of the most important features of Notes.
The new Files app is a regression in how Apple wants users to interact with files in iOS, and I couldn’t be happier. Rather than continue to push their own vision of what iOS file management should be like, Apple appears to have relented. Tags are also a feature of Files. While I’ve never really been one to use them in the Finder, it’s a feature that I feel is going to be much better suited to iOS.
What really surprised me about Files is its upcoming support for third-party services like Dropbox. I had expected it to only support iCloud but Apple seems to be open-minded about how it wants users to interact with it. This is a smart move as services are incentivized to use it, while Apple can ensure a consistent experience. I’m excited for what developers are going to be able to do here and to see what functionality it’ll offer in the future.
Files also makes use of an upcoming iCloud sharing feature that seems to work in the same way as notes are shared. You can share a link to a file and the receiving person can view it either on the web or in Files too. I haven’t tested it much but it does seem functional.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Files matures over the coming months. One hope I have is for external storage devices—Files seems to be ideal for this. I did test a USB drive using the Lightning to USB camera adapter, though nothing happened.
I use widgets regularly, and the changes to Notification Center feel far too clunky. The old layout had plenty of room for improvement but these changes feel like a huge step back. The iPad’s two-column layout for widgets in landscape also appears to have gone, at least on the 9.7″. One column on the iPad always felt like a waste of screen real estate.
The Dock and multitasking
The iPad is getting a Mac-like dock in iOS 11, replacing the traditional row that could hold up to six apps or folders. It can hold many more apps, and can be invoked within any app, so no need to go back to the home screen to switch apps.
The new dock is also a fundamental part of the changes to how multitasking works, though it doesn’t seem to have made that big an improvement. Currently, only apps located in the dock can be used in multitasking. For instance, if you have Safari open and want to place Mail next to it but don’t the app in the dock, you can’t—Mail must be in the dock.
Using it is remarkable and I especially like the new “Spaces” layout. It’s now possible to keep app pairings together, so you can easily return to spaces that contain apps you regularly use.
Overall this is still a very early version and it looks promising, but it’s definitely a work in progress. If they can improve the way apps can be used for multitasking, it’ll be a welcome improvement, especially for 12.9″ iPad Pro users.
The Podcasts app has been revamped and feels very much like Apple Music. I particularly like the organization of shows and episodes, and a new “Best of the Podcast” is included when looking through a show’s episode list.
I take a lot of screenshots, so my Photos app is often littered with them. The new flow for screenshots means I can immediately annotate and send the screenshots to where they need to go. It even works with multiple screenshots. Once done, iOS prompts you to either save the screenshot or simply delete it.
iOS 11 introduces some new automation options that allow for more flexibility. Sunrise and Sunset schedules can be adjusted so actions take place a certain time before or after. For instance, lights can be turned on 15 minutes before sunset.
I’m also happy to see that location-based automations now work with multiple people, not just one person. This provides more flexibility so actions can be created when no-one is at home, not just the administrator.
Here are some useful links if you want to know more about what’s new in iOS 11.