iOS 11 is more than just one louder.
The legendary Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnell once said that when you need that extra push over the cliff, you turn the amps up to 11.
At Apple’s annual developer conference in San Jose, the covers were taken off iOS 11 for the first time. And while the announcement was certainly not a surprise, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system will be packed with “new experiences and hundreds of features.”
As you might expect from a keynote that stretched well past two hours, iOS 11 was allocated a fair amount of stage time. The mobile OS—due to arrive on compatible iPhones and iPads in the fall—was touted as the world’s most advanced operating system, with a number of intriguing upgrades that provided attendees with a glimpse of Apple’s future priorities.
Apple Pay, Apple Maps and Photos will all benefit from the increased graphic capabilities of iOS 11, but it is the new features that drew the most applause from the Apple developer community. Augmented reality, an increase in Siri’s machine learning abilities and a totally redesigned App Store will all be part of iOS 11, but the most useful addition could well be the introduction of a Do Not Disturb While Driving mode.
With that in mind, lets take a quick look at some features that will ship with iOS 11.
Back in February of this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with The Independent that he was bullish about augmented as opposed to virtual reality. The latter closes the world out, he said, whereas augmented reality can (in theory) improve what is happening at that time.
“I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining,” Cook said. “I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone, it’s not a product per se, it’s a core technology.”
At WWDC 2017, we got a taste of how excited Cook is about augmented reality.
For starters, Apple is launching a new platform for developers to create high-quality AR experiences for both the iPhone and iPad.
ARKit will tap into the built-in capabilities of the hardware so that developers will be able to build virtual content such as interactive games on top of real-world objects. The success of Pokemon Go has proved that people have an appetite for interaction with virtual objects on a screen and ARKit is a natural fit in terms of what we want to do with our smartphones.
“With iOS 11, we’re delivering the biggest AR platform in the world, and it’s available today for developers to begin building AR experiences using ARKit for hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users,” said Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi, during the keynote.
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A New And Improved Siri
Irrespective of the fact that Siri is going to be the baked-in expert musicologist for the HomePod, Apple’s personal assistant will be upgraded in iOS 11.
Siri can now speak 21 languages and is available in 36 countries, but the upgraded SiriKit in iOS 11 will not only give her a more natural sounding voice but also give developers the opportunity to access a male version. In addition, Siri will be able to translate English words or phrases into Chinese, French, German, Italian or Spanish.
The personal assistant is also about to get a little more involved in daily life.
Siri will use on-device learning to provide personal experiences and suggestions based on somebody’s use of Safari, News, Mail and Messages etc. As an added bonus, developers who have integrated Siri into their apps will now get support for more categories, including to-do-lists or reminders, banking and apps that use QR codes.
Device owners will now be able to pay friends and family and receive payments with person-to-person transfers. Apple said that iOS 11 will allow people to send money or get paid in Messages or even tell Siri to pay a contact using the credit or debit cards stored in Apple Wallet.
Money will be stored in an Apple Pay Cash account. People can then use this money to make purchases via Apple Pay in stores or even transfer it to their existing bank account. This feature will be rolled out with iOS 11 later this year.
One caveat … it appears you can only send money via iMessages to friends or family who own an Apple device.
Do Not Disturb While Driving
Last, but by no means least, is a much-requested iOS 11 upgrade to CarPlay.
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents, with a significant number of incidents or fatalities attributed to smartphone use behind the wheel. With that in mind, iOS 11 will include a do-not-disturb mode that people can turn on when they are driving.
Once the feature is turned on, an iPhone will be able to detect when somebody might be in control of a car and automatically mute app notifications. Any passengers that have iPhones can set up the mode to allow notifications to a non-driver.
People will also be able to set up an auto reply that will tell contacts that they are driving and will respond when they arrive at their destination. In the event of an emergency, the mode can be tuned for what Apple referred to as “special contacts.”
“It’s all about keeping your eyes on the road,” said Federighi, during the keynote. “When you are driving you don’t need to be responding to these kind of messages. We think this is going to be a real important step in safety in the car.”
iOS 11 Raises The Bar
On stage in San Jose, Tim Cook said that WWDC 2017 would be the biggest and best ever, citing the fact that the Apple developer community is now 16 million strong.
For the 5,300 developers that got to see iOS 11 unveiled in the flesh in California, Cook’s assertion is probably not too far from the truth. Apple’s mobile OS may be the second most popular in the world behind Android, but it is probably fair to say that these new additions raise the bar in terms of what can be achieved on a smartphone or tablet.
Developers who want to dive straight in to the hundreds of new features in iOS 11 can do so here. A public beta will be available to iOS users at the end of June.