Hands-On with the iOS 11 Beta

Posted on June 7, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in iOS with 33 Comments

Hands On with the iOS 11 Beta

Apple announced iOS 11 this week at its annual developer show, and later this month, you’ll be able to install a beta version of the new system on your own devices. Here’s what you can expect.

I’ve installed an early developer version of the Beta on my iPhone 7 Plus and iPad mini 4. Generally speaking, I’ve had good luck with iOS beta releases in the past. But this one has significant performance issues on both devices, which is a first. It’s a lot worse on the iPad, actually, and that device is suddenly quite buggy, and has even rebooted on it own a few times.

But the effort is still worth the trouble, I think. Especially on the iPad, given that this release of iOS, for the first time, offers significant new productivity features that are unique to Apple’s tablets. As I noted in my Apple iPad Pro (2017) Preview, that device will only get truly interesting once iOS 11 is available.

On iPad, iOS 11 offers a new Dock that looks like the version on macOS but actually has little in common with it. You can pin more apps to this new Dock than before, which I like. But it also displays your three most-recently-accessed apps in a new area on the right. I don’t like that, I don’t see any way to turn it off.

It also supports drag and drop, which I’ve not used in any apps yet. But the system for moving app icons around the screen now uses this new method, so it’s now more seamless than the app “wiggling” mode we dealt with previously.

The Files app is present and accounted for on both devices—it’s not iPad-only as Apple implied during its WWDC keynote—but is currently a barren place. I’m looking forward to hooking up the cloud services I really use, but right now that is not possible.

The enhanced multitasking features in iOS 11 are, of course, among the most interesting enhancements that Apple is adding in this release. But these features are not available on iPhone for the most part, and I actually turn off multitasking features on the iPad mini because I just use this device for content consumption (reading, videos, and so on). I will look at that stuff when I get the iPad Pro.

As you may know, Apple is making a big deal out of its redesigned Store app, and for good reason: This app is now quite attractive and welcoming, especially on the iPad, where the bigger screen allows for more interesting layouts.

This app represents a step forward in what is now clearly a new direction for Apple’s apps. By which I mean, it shares its UI with previous apps like Apple News and Apple Music, and some other apps. And I expect the firm to continue updating its other apps over time to match. In some ways, this is like the creeping updates to Fluent that we see in Windows 10.

The new Control Center will take some getting used to. On iPhone, it works as before, in the sense that you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access this interface. On iPad, you sometimes have to swipe up at least twice, however. The first swipe will display the new Dock if you’re viewing an app. And the second swipe will display Control Center. (Or the third or fourth. It’s actually pretty hard to trigger for some reason.)

On iPhone, the Control Center offers a vaguely Windows phone-like UI of tile-like controls, some of which—screen brightness and volume, for example—work like sliders. Because it’s a sea of mostly icons sans text, however, you really have to know your way around this thing to use it effectively.

On iPad, the new Control Center is laid out differently for no good reason. And it also offers on-screen access to your most-recently-used apps in thumbnail form. This will later factor into the new iOS 11 multitasking functionality, but I’m pretty much ignoring it for now. (And I use Control Center on my phone a lot more than I do on the iPad anyway.)

On both device types, the new Control Center is now customizable: You can add and remove shortcuts through an interface in Settings.

As you may know, I currently use Google Chrome across all the devices and PCs I use, but there are some new Safari features that might put a stop to this on iOS. For example, like all browsers not named Chrome, Safari has long supported a nice Reader View that strips away the ads and other nonsense in web articles. But in iOS 11, you can now enable a new feature called Automatic Reader View that always opens articles in Reader View. This can be universal—for all web articles—or by site.

Finally, I’ll just point out that Swift Playgrounds, which is only on the iPad, is even more amazing now, and it is packed with learning content. This is a great way to learn about coding, for the young and old alike. Just top-notch.

Obviously, there are many other new features in iOS 11, and possibly hundreds of tiny little additions to discover and experience. But that’s the big stuff I’ve seen so far. Hopefully (and presumably) the performance and reliability will improve before the public beta.


Tagged with , ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (33)

33 responses to “Hands-On with the iOS 11 Beta”

  1. scribz

    Thanks for the quick view. I'm looking forward to hearing more when you get your iPad Pro. One of the most important things for me to even consider a move to an iPad again is whether Safari can finally download files (I assume to the new File app). Is that possible now?

    • Daekar

      In reply to scribz:

      Wait... Safari can't download files? Really? How in the...

      You know, every time I think I've seen the last thing that makes Apple's popularity inexplicable, something else pops up.

      • Darmok N Jalad

        In reply to Daekar:

        When I click on something that can be downloaded in Safari on iOS 10, it asks me what I want to do with it, including opening it in OneDrive. I just saved a zip file to iCloud and then checked to find that it was indeed there. When saving to iCloud, you can chose what folder. Considering the way iCloud works, that's where I'd want to save it so I can get to it from another machine.

        • scribz

          In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

          Yes, but I was and am looking for true independence and my iPad replacing the need to have a Mac. If my brother sends me a 5GB video and I want to download it on my system, I can't. And that's just the simple stuff.

      • skborders

        In reply to Daekar:
        You can download files like pdfs, epubs, word docs etc. It just asks you where to open it.

        • SvenJ

          In reply to skborders: Not especially different than other mobile OSs have been, Android didn't ship with a file manager, though you could get them. But then, apps could have full run of your device, which was another issue. WP didn't have a file manager for a long time but was perfectly capable of downloading a giant file, which you had no app to open, and couldn't find to delete it.

        • scribz

          In reply to skborders:

          Yes, up to now I could download certain type of files and put them on Dropbox. Or I could download PDF's to iBooks. Limited choices. But no download this file to a directory on the system I'm using (the iPad), which is basic stuff.

  2. Minok

    What is that new antenna icon by the bluetooth and wifi icons? Is this to now be able to selectively turn off the cell antenna?

  3. arikan

    I really liked the design of iOS 11 despite of it's haters reviews. I am super happy with user interface and it's apps. Even if i miss any app through app store i can get them using third party apps like vShare and Cyrus Installer. So that doesn't matter. Finally iOS 11 is going to surpass many other records. Cyrus Installer for iPhone is best to get tweaked apps or premium apps to iOS 11 devices.

  4. alinajetly

    I have found some Steps for add or remove(allow third-party app settings shortcuts) controls in control center in iOS 11

  5. christen8

    iOS 11 have very good UI and its incorporated many awaited features in it. iOS 11 can be customized to next level by Cyrus Installer app. All the tweaked apps and games are available for free on this app. Download Cyrus Installer

  6. Jorge Garcia

    IMO, there's no reason why they couldn't just make a "desktop" mode that could be activated via a slider or button somewhere. It could/should work "almost" like MacOS.

  7. derekaw

    Try taking a screen shot in iOS 11, thats very cool new functionality.

  8. glenn8878

    So is iPhones and iPads less boring?

  9. boots

    "On iPad, the new Control Center is laid out differently for no good reason."

    It's laid out differently because the screen is a different size and shape, and it leaves more room for the app thumbnails. That seems like a good reason to me.

    • mike2k

      In reply to boots:
      So why only use half of the iPhone screen for the control panel and then stuff everything in that space like Tetris? Never understood why they only use half the iPhone screen for the control center.

    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to boots:

      You do not simply place more features on a screen due to the fact you have more space. Excellent UX design is focused on exactly what the user needs at the time they access a function. I am finding Apple's updates to be poor in this regard and I feel the quality of their UX design has been going in this direction for several years now.

      • boots

        In reply to VancouverNinja:

        Why not have more features on the screen if there is room? Why have 3 different gestures for 3 different features when they all fit on the one screen? A tablet and a phone are different types of devices, the different layouts work better with the way each device is held.

  10. Stooks

    Thurrott.com where you get all the good news about Apple and Google and all the bad news about Microsoft?

    My prediction, these new iPad's, iOS 11 and new multitask features will do nothing to stop the sales decline in iPads.

    Mouse/trackpad support on the iPad and touch screen Mac's would have been a game changer.

    • scribz

      In reply to Stooks:

      Mouse + real downloading + doing something about the home screen. I really feel they could have owned the home PC market but time is rapidly running out.

  11. VancouverNinja

    If these screen shots do not convince anyone that Apple is clearly not the same without Steve, nothing ever will. The elements are horribly displayed. I am not criticising actual functionality but rather the fact that Apples design choices are very, very poor. There is no comparison to Windows 10 anymore - Microsoft is providing attractive well designed interfaces across all their devices while Apple continues to lose what made their system unique - a well thought out and attractive user interface. As Apple tries to add all of the functionality of Windows they are simply validating Microsoft's efforts.

  12. Kendo88

    Ironically, complete opposite for me. Works fantastically on my iPad Pro 9.7 but has been a nightmare on my iPhone 7 Plus. Also, shouldn’t need to swipe up twice on iPad to get to control centre. A small swipe up will bring up dock, a bigger swipe will take you in to control centre/mission control

  13. Pbike908

    Kudos to Apple. I always felt that IOS combined with Apple's hardware provides the best tech user experience for the masses -- although not necessarily tops in all features. The addition of a file system is long overdue. If they ever add mouse support they will have a GREAT (although expensive) computer for the masses.

    I have owned IOS in the past, but not currently. I just don't want to pay the premium pricing as I can get by with Windows 10 and Android.

    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to Pbike908:

      iOS is getting messy and confusing. It is not worth a premium price if they are going to keep destroying the user interface. Windows 10 is currently a far easier to look at and use OS than iOS. I think Apple didn't just go down a rabbit hole trying to add these features, it feels like they are falling down it.

  14. Watney

    The "Automatic Reader View" on "All Websites" is fascinating. No Ads. No ad blocker required. Take that Google!

    In the past, Google Apps -- Gmail, Inbox, Sheets, Docs, Slides, Keep -- haven't played nicely with the iPad Pro split screen capabilities. It will be interesting to see if Google adapts their apps to the new features. Google users are forced to turn to 3rd-party apps or look for other services.

    Microsoft apps, on the other hand, are among the best iPad apps. All support split-screen and multitasking nicely.

    Thanks for the review Paul. Looking forward to your hands-on with the new Pro model.

  15. pachi

    They somehow made Notifications even worse than iOS 10. I can't even figure out a way to "load" one from the lockscreen.

    • scribz

      In reply to pachi:

      What's going to be very confusing to a lot of people is you bring down Notifications and you get the lock screen, which isn't a lock screen...

  16. mike2k

    I've never understood why the control center (iPhone) needs to be condensed to just half of the screen. Just fill the screen so you don't have to smash everything into such a small area. They fill the screen with the notifications swipe from the top. This new control center looks terrible

  17. rameshthanikodi

    The UI with the new design language looks terrible. Seriously, for all sh*t Microsoft got for the large oversized headers they used in Windows 8, you'd think Apple would try to learn from the same mistake. Nope.

  18. appvalley

    Download YouTube++ IPA For IOS on iPhone, iPad and iPod. Adds new features to YouTube:Download videos to your deviceBlock AdsPlay video/audio