iOS 11 Feature Focus: Control Center

Posted on September 26, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in iOS with 16 Comments

iOS 11 Feature Focus: Control Center

In iOS 11, Apple has completely revamped Control Center into a full-screen and customizable experience.

The basics, of course, are the same: Control Center provides quick access to frequently-needed system tools like Airplane Mode, Rotation lock, display brightness, volume, and so on. And yet, in a way, everything has changed.

For starters, Control Center is now a full-screen experience. In previous iOS versions, this interface was a panel that appeared at the bottom of the display. And you could swipe to the right to access additional controls for media playback and home control.

On an iPad or iPad Pro, Control Center joins the App Switcher as part of a new full-screen display. But it works similarly to Control Center on an iPhone.

On an iPhone, you still access Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the display. (And you dismiss it by swiping down or by pressing the Home button.) You can also display Control Center on an iPad or iPad Pro by swiping up from the bottom of the display if you are currently on the Home screen. But if you are in an app, you will need to swipe up from the bottom of the display twice: The first swipe displays the Dock and the second displays the App Switcher/Control Center screen.

(The iPhone X, which lacks a Home button, also adds a layer of complexity to Control Center. With that device, you have to swipe down from the top right corner of the display to access Control Center. Makes sense.)

The various controls on the Control Center work much as they did before. And on devices with 3D Touch support, you can press and hold on many controls to display a quick action menu. For example, if you press and hold on Brightness, a full-screen Brightness display appears, providing more control. Flashlight and Volume work similarly.

One of the best changes here is that Control Center can now be customized: If you navigate to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls, you will see toggles for various controls that can sit at the bottom of this display, including a number—like Apple TV Remote, Do Not Disturb While Driving, Magnifier, and many, many more—that are not displayed in Control Center by default.

This is nice because you can personalize Control Center so that the controls you want/need are always available. And you can determine their on-screen position. (Though these customizations only pertain to the icons at the bottom of Control Center.)

Initially, I was a bit taken back by the visual changes here, but I’ve come to really appreciate the design and feel that Control Center in iOS 11 is vastly superior to that in previous versions. The customization features, too, are quite nice.

But as I noted in iOS 11 Arrives Today … And it is a Mess, Apple’s mobile OS is suffering from some creeping complexity, and the inconsistent way you access this interface across different device types could be confusing to some.


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Comments (16)

16 responses to “iOS 11 Feature Focus: Control Center”

  1. Stokkolm

    Paul, you don't have to swipe up twice from within an app to launch the app switcher/control center on iPad. You can long swipe once, you just have to swipe a lot further than you normally would.

  2. MerlinE.

    I wish there where a way to enter the Bluetooth or WiFi Settings through the control center.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to MerlinE.:

      Agreed. A long-press or a force-touch on the Bluetooth or Wi-Fi icon should open those respective settings. This is one of those things that Android gets right.

    • gartenspartan

      In reply to MerlinE.:

      I'm surprised Paul didn't bring this up. It's a big negative to this control center change that you can't turn off the wifi and bluetooth radios anymore. The security and battery life concerns for leaving these radios active makes this a baffling decision. I hope there is enough outcry to allow 3D touch to add that functionality back in.

  3. glenn8878

    Everything is an evolution. Nothing to worry about.

  4. jwpear

    Thankfully, on non-3D Touch devices, you can long-press to display the quick action menu.

  5. RobertJasiek

    As long as Files does not work (it does not work at all on my iPad because I am affected by the bug(s)), I should not worry about GUI trivialities. Next, iTunes is still the same unusable bloatware and security violation under Windows as ever. That said, I do have an opinion about the control center GUI.

    The customisation is a failure. I would want a deactivate all button but, as usual under iOS, there is none. I want to deactivate more items of the control center but this is impossible. For me, this amounts to there not being any customisation.

    One cannot really deactivate WLAN or bluetooth in the control center. You have to go to settings instead. This GUI lie in the control center is a terrible mistake. It ought to offer complete deactivation as the or another option. There is no excuse because it is also a security issue. In particular, when in a plane during liftoff or landing, you are supposed to deactivate wireless communication entirely. The security issue becomes one of plane operation.

    I preferred the previous brightness slider because it could be found easily at minimum brightness without seeing anything outdoors, when the login screen is open and one needs to enter the password. Now, the initially much smaller brightness control is much harder to find.

    The control center continues the mistake of somewhat darkening the rest of the display while setting the brightness so that it is impossible to see the actual effect of the new brightness level. Trial and error is needed: set a new level, quit the control center, view the effect, go back to the control center, readjust the brightness and try again. So stupid! This is a typical example of how "easily" usable iOS is (not). Apple is proud of simplicity but why does it not offer simplicity? Seeing the new brightness while setting it is (I mean: would be) simple.

    I am not the first to make this comment: Apple does not apply its own design guidelines.

    • rbgaynor

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      "In particular, when in a plane during liftoff or landing, you are supposed to deactivate wireless communication entirely."

      The airplane mode button does completely turn off both Bluetooth and WiFI. Your flight is safe.

      The Bluetooth and WiFi controls have three states, on (background color in icon), not discoverable (no background color in icon), and off (no background color in icon and line through icon).

  6. PincasX

    "But if you are in an app, you will need to swipe up from the bottom of the display twice: The first swipe displays the Dock and the second displays the App Switcher/Control Center screen."

    If you stop swiping up once the dock shows up then you would have to swipe up again. If you just continue the single swipe you will go past the dock and into control center. So, no need to double swipe.

  7. Chris_Kez

    As I think about the Control Center overhaul; the introduction of this complex new multi-tasking system; the addition of Force Touch; the development of an Extensibility framework; etc., it really leaves me scratching my head about Springboard, the application that manages the Home Screen. Besides simple folders and little notification counters it has remained largely untouched for a decade. It's baffling to me that users still cannot resize icons or at least place them arbitrarily. Maybe I want a screen that has only one icon in the top right corner. These kinds of options would be just as unobtrusive to average users as other complexities like Force Touch, long-touch or multi-touch gestures.

    Despite their huge market cap, Apple seems to have very limited bandwidth. They seem to have relatively small teams with narrow focus, only making incremental changes to this area or that. I can only hope that they will soon turn that focus towards enhancing the Home Screen experience and move beyond what Paul calls the "whack a mole" paradigm.

  8. Darekmeridian

    Didn't I read this article on The Verge?

  9. SeattleMike

    it's important to point out that even if you turn off Bluetooth or Wi-Fi on the Control Center, it doesn't actually turn off those radios. It only disconnects what it's currently connected to. You still have to go into Settings to actually turn the radios off. Which is misleading on Apple's part and a security risk.

  10. JimP


    You should mention that turning off Blutooth or WiFi in Control Center doesn't actually turn off Blutooth or WiFi. You have to go into Settings to do this.

  11. lenorin

    iOS 11 control center is pretty cool. Some apps like Torngat are doing wonderful job stopping third-party apps from getting revoked or crashed.