After Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference last week, everyone was talking about new hardware. The company introduced its new HomePod speaker, a competitor to Amazon’s Echo, and unveiled a new iMac Pro, along with upgraded iMacs and MacBooks.
The company also announced an update to its mobile operating system — the one that powers the millions of iPhones and iPads that have become a common part of everyday life for many people. Apple will roll out iOS 11 this fall, with a host of new features.
What are they? Let’s take a look.
‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’
We all know how dangerous texting, or using your phone in general, while driving can be, but it doesn’t stop people from thinking they can get away with it. Plus, buzzing alerts on your phone are distracting even if you don’t look at them (and sometimes it seems like they never stop). Apple’s next update will include a possible solution to that problem: It will automatically block notifications when your phone thinks you are behind the wheel.
Texts sent via iMessage will also be intercepted. When one arrives, the phone will send an automatic reply saying you are driving and that you’ll respond when you get to your destination. (You can program your phone to let some numbers through the blockade, so loved ones can reach you in a pinch.) When the phone has determined that you’ve stopped driving, your screen will come back to life, and you can catch up on everything you’ve missed.
Customizable Control Center
The Control Center, that panel full of easily-accessed buttons and tools you see when you swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone screen, will also get an overhaul in the new update. Soon all the controls will be located on one colorful, widget-filled page.
Some have complained that the new layout is confusing and cluttered, but it doesn’t have to be: The Control Center will be customizable, so you can add as many (or as few) widgets as you like, including quick access to your camera, calculator or Apple TV.
Additionally, there’s a new toggle for the iPhone’s “Low Power” mode, designed to save battery life while you’re out without a spot to charge your phone. The new Control Center also features quick accessibility settings, including options to magnify your screen, change the brightness, make text display larger (or smaller), enable Do Not Disturb mode, and more. And each setting now makes use of Apple’s “3D Touch” feature, where pressing and holding on an icon brings up additional useful options.
Siri will get to know you. Well.
Siri, Apple’s personal assistant program, will get an overhaul too. The company said the program will soon have “a new, more natural voice” that will be more “expressive” than the robotic lilt it currently has. At the conference last week, some audio of both the male and female voices were played to showcase its more nuanced pronunciations. But the biggest changes for Siri will be under the hood, powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Here is what that means: Apple says Siri will learn so much from you that it will be able to anticipate your needs and make suggestions before you even ask for them.
For example, it will offer news stories based on things it has learned you like. If you’re texting a friend about a film you saw or a place you visited, Siri will auto-type the name of the movie or the place. It will suggest new searches for you in Safari based on articles you’ve read. It will automatically queue up songs you like, suggest songs it thinks you will like or answer trivia questions about songs you play.
Siri is going to know a lot about you.
‘Offload Unused Apps’
iOS 11 will also help save storage on your phone. When your storage runs low, a new optional feature will automatically remove apps you don’t use very often. It is called “Offload Unused Apps” and you can turn it on by going to Settings, then tapping General. The selected apps are removed, and you get back all of the space they were using, which can be especially useful for people who’ll need to make room for more photos, for phone updates, or just to download music or movies for a long flight.
Don’t worry, though. Your phone will keep any data you have associated with the deleted app, which will display as a gray icon after it has been removed. If you ever want to reinstall it, all you have to do is tap the gray icon and everything is back to the way it was.
(Even before iOS 11 is released, users may find themselves receiving warnings about some apps that have not kept pace with Apple’s changes.)
Apple Pay via text message
Apple’s mobile payment system, Apple Pay, will also get a boost with the new update. Using your credit or debit card, you will be able to send money to anyone who also uses iOS11 with just a text message, which can be especially useful for splitting the check at a restaurant, paying someone gas money, or even paying the rent if you’re close with your landlord. You even get an electronic receipt that shows the payment went through.
Receiving money from someone will be just as easy. Once you’ve been paid via text message you can either use Apple Pay to spend that money at stores and online or you can transfer it to your bank account. Think of it as a version of Venmo that is restricted to (or especially for, depending on your perspective) Apple users. If you already use Apple Pay to pay for purchases at participating retailers, the ability to quickly send and receive money from other iPhone users may appeal to you.