Today, Apple revealed iOS 11 at its Worldwide Developers Conference. Apple always introduces iOS updates before new iPhones, and usually they’re full of tantalizing hints about the future of the world’s most popular phone. So what did we learn about iOS 11? And what can fans of their current iPhones expect when the new operating system drops in the fall?
Unsurprisingly, Siri was the focus of this year’s event. You now have the option to give Siri a male voice and there’s a translation tool in beta that will let Siri listen to snippets of language and translate them to another. Siri is now the “face” of Apple’s initiative to have your phone learn more about how you use it over time and adjust itself to better suit how you use your phone, and developers will have access to this data to improve their apps as well. Longterm, the goal is for Siri to learn everything about you, from your taste in photos to what you might be interested in based on your browsing habits, to learning your vocabulary. Maybe we can finally get Siri to curse like Samuel L. Jackson in a Tarantino movie? That’d be !@#$%^& awesome! nice.
The other big focus was augmented reality, or AR. Apple has been talking about AR for a while, but iOS 11 is the first practical demonstration of what the company wants to do with it. Apple didn’t dig too deep into its plans, but the technology it showed — allowing users to add a virtual cup to a photo and move it around; LEGO builds done in real time — was impressive. Most impressive is that you just need the phone, not any custom glasses, markers, or other fiddly accessories. In Apple fashion, it “just works.” And since ARKit will be available to developers and is designed to work on current iPhones, that more or less automatically makes Apple the market leader in AR.
Apple wants to ensure it’s as easy to upgrade as possible. An ongoing theme, from text messaging to app preferences, is that upgrading to the 8 would be simple, right down to synchronizing your texts instead of storing them on the phone. It’s fairly clear Apple expects some discomfort when the iPhone 8 is revealed, and they’re hoping to minimize the pain. That said, the backups will be useful for those sticking with the 7.
Also overhauled is the camera app, which now has better compression (i.e. prettier photos in smaller space on your phone), and depth-sensing tools for developers, adding fuel to the claims that the iPhone 8’s second camera will be used to enhance images and make them look more professional. They’ve also upgraded the Memories feature with machine learning to spot different “kinds” of memories, and added a long exposure feature, so your photographs can become that much artier.
Navigation will have a major overhaul too: Apple is adding maps for major public spaces like malls and airports, which will allow you to get your bearings more easily. It will also have some new car features that will essentially convert your iPhone into a glorified GPS to keep your car on the road when you drive, which is more or less Apple hoping you’ll use your iPhone while driving instead of the software your car manufacturer installed in the dash.