iOS 11 is here: Top 6 new features you need to know from WWDC

Siri in iOS 11 has learned to sound like an actual human—and that’s just the beginning when it comes to the new mobile operating system for iPhones and iPads.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and friends gave us a full overview of iOS 11 during Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference keynote on Monday. New features include sweeping new upgrades to Siri, a redesigned Control Center and App Store, and a brand-new Apple Pay feature that lets you send or receive money to your contacts via iMessage.

In addition, developers can now create apps that tap into your iOS device’s potential to create augmented reality experiences via the new ARKit. Plus, there are new productivity features for the iPad, including drag-and-drop capability and a more robust dock. 

Following a series of developer and public betas, Apple will make iOS 11 available to everyone as a free upgrade later this fall. You’ll be able to install it on your iPhone 5s and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, the latest iPad (5th generation, 2017), iPad mini 2 and later, and iPod touch 6th generation. In the meantime, here are the best iOS 11 features and updates showcased during today’s event that we can’t wait to get our hands on.

Siri’s new voice

The first new thing you’ll notice about Siri in iOS 11 is her more-natural sounding voice. However, she also looks a little different: Apple has given its voice assistant a new visual interface that surfaces multiple results for your requests, as well as followup questions. In addition, Siri can now translate phrases for you, from English to Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. This feature is in beta and will add more languages in the months to come.

Siri has also become more predictive across different iOS apps. For example, if you search for “Iceland” in Safari, Siri will surface Iceland-related articles in the News app and bring up QuickType suggestions in Icelandic. Or, if you get a text message asking for money, Siri will suggest iMessage’s Apple Pay integration with the exact amount that’s been requested. Apple has also expanded SiriKit support to include more robust integrations with third-party services. You can now use Siri to add to your Evernote or pull up a QR code in WeChat, among other things.

Improvements to Messages

In iOS 10, Apple introduced iMessage apps, but the experience of discovering and using them felt a little cluttered. In iOS 11, Apple has redesigned the iMessage App Drawer so that it’s easier for you to find new apps, navigate between apps, and access your go-to’s. Another new feature for Messages is iCloud syncing, so that all your conversations will transfer automatically whenever you sign in to a new iOS device. Even though they’re available on the cloud, your messages will still be protected with end-to-end encryption.

Pay your friends with Apple Pay 

You can use Apple Pay at certain brick-and-mortar stores (Apple says 50 percent of U.S. retailers will support Apple Pay by the end of the year), online web stores via Safari, and in certain iPhone apps. With iOS 11, you’ll be able to use Apple Pay to send or receive money from your contacts via Messages, thanks to a new iMessage app which essentially turns Apple Pay into your new Venmo or Square Cash alternative. All the money that you receive will be collected in your Wallet app in the form of a Cash card. You can use these funds to complete other Apple Pay transactions, or you can transfer that cash over to your bank account. Apple Pay’s peer-to-peer transactions will be available in iOS 11 and watchOS 4.

Maps takes it inside

Apple continues to improve the native Maps app in iOS 11. For the first time, you’ll be able to use Maps to navigate your way around indoor spaces. Maps in iOS 11 introduces indoor mapping so you can get detailed floor plans of certain malls and major airports, down to individual vendors on each floor. When you’re using Maps for driving navigation, you will now see the speed limit as well as lane guidance so you don’t have to switch lanes last minute or risk missing your exit.

Another driving-related feature introduced at WWDC is iOS 11’s “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode. Your iPhone will use Bluetooth (if connected to CarPlay or any other in-vehicle Bluetooth system) or motion sensors to figure out if you’re driving, and will automatically prevent all notifications from surfacing and causing a distraction. You can override this mode, however, or setup an automatic response to let people who text you know you’re on the road and that you’ll get back to them as soon as you arrive at your destination.

Augmented Reality features

Tim Cook has spent all year talking about how excited he is for augmented reality, so it’s no surprise that Apple used this year’s WWDC keynote to show off what they’ve been working on in this emerging area. Along iOS 11, Apple unveiled ARKit, a new developer platform for creating iOS apps that tap into augmented reality. Apps built with ARKit will be able to use computer vision to identify surfaces and add 3D objects. These objects create dynamic shadows that are rendered in real-time.

iPad productivity features

Apple also unveiled new iOS 11 features designed exclusively for iPad. There’s a new app dock that looks a lot like the one in macOS—you can tap on any of these apps and drag them over to the right side of the screen to open them as a Slide Over. As always, you can lock Slide Over into Split View to use both apps simultaneously. The cool thing now is that you can drag-and-drop between the two apps in Split View, which makes it easier to transfer files, images, text, and URLs.

Apple also launched Files, a new iOS app intended to make the iPad experience more like a traditional Mac. Pretty self-explanatory, Files displays your documents stored in iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, and other file-storage apps.

A few more things…

  • Control Center has been redesigned so that it’s only one panel, and it incorporates 3D Touch to access more specific controls.
  • Another redesign: The App Store now mirrors the look-and-feel of Apple Music, with a new Today tab for featured games and apps.
  • HomeKit got a new Speakers category, plus AirPlay 2 support for controlling multi-room audio in your house.
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