The release of new iPhones usually heralds the imminent release of the newest version iOS, the operating system that runs the famed smartphone and its tablet cousin the iPad. True to form, after pulling the curtain back on the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X last week, the whiz kids from Cupertino popped the cork on iOS 11 today. It’s now available as an over-the-air download directly on your iOS device, or through iTunes with the device connected via Lightning cable.
First impressions: I’m a stickler for an easy install, and Apple has done a lot over the years to de-complicate the upgrade process. It’s one of the reasons that they have a better OS adoption rate than Android could ever dream of. It’s also why IT guys like me don’t have to spend hours and hours shepherding nervous users through an upgrade. With iOS 11, I’m happy to report that installation is a snap. I was a little doubtful at first, as I had less than a gigabyte of free space left on my 16GB iPhone 6s Plus, but somehow Apple managed to slipstream a 2GB installer into the existing OS without me having to cable sync with iTunes. Downloading was unexpectedly quick, as I expected Apple’s servers to be slammed, but in less than 10 minutes I was good to go. Installation took about another eight minutes, with a couple of reboots, and completed without incident.
The lock screen looked a little different when the phone came back on, with what appeared to be a bolder font and the thin white circles missing from around the number buttons. What really interested me off the bat, though, was how much free space I had recovered with the new OS. Installing iOS 10 and subsequently converting over to the new Apple file system had given me back a couple of gigabytes of space, so I was hoping iOS 11 would do the same. I found a new item under Settings/General screen called “iPhone Storage” that took the place of the old “Storage & iCloud Usage,” and much to my amazement I found that I now had 7GB free! So if you’re on the fence as to whether or not it’s worth it to install iOS 11, that’s more than enough reward for the effort.
As to the OS itself, it seems to run pretty snappy on my 6s Plus. Animations are smooth and fluid when you open and minimize apps, plus the wallpaper seems to retreat a little into the background whenever you return to the home screen. I also noticed a few new background animations included in the Messages app, and a few of the icons–such as Calculator, Maps and Contacts–sport a slight redesign. Swiping up from the bottom reveals a customizable Control Center, which seems to be all the rage, and the buttons there are responsive to 3D Touch if your device supports that feature. Swiping down from the top of the screen, meanwhile, has changed in that it now takes you to the lock screen where you can see your notifications.
Safari seems to be a big improvement too, with pages rendering noticeably faster than in iOS 10. Other than that, I haven’t had much of a chance to do a deep dive with iOS 11 on the iPhone–but for the most part, it has a very similar feel to the previous iteration. If you don’t really care to learn the new features, you won’t have any trouble doing most things the old way.
On the iPad, however, the changes are much more pronounced. For one thing, the Dock has become much more MacOS-like–one of the few times iOS has moved closer to its desktop cousin rather than vice-versa. It now has the capability to hold up to 15 icons, and on the right side it will collect the icons from your three most recently launched apps for easier access. You can also access the Dock while you’re inside an app by swiping up from the bottom of the screen–a real convenience that saves you from having to pop over to the home screen to launch another app. Another swipe from the bottom will also show a tiled view of all your open apps along with Control Center, much like Mission Control in MacOS.
And that’s about it for now! I’m looking forward to playing around with iOS 11 more, along with WatchOS 4 which also got released today. It’s definitely one of those days when it’s good to be a geek.