Apple has released the first public beta of iOS 11 less than a month since the grand unveiling at this year’s WWDC 2017.
Highlights include person-to-person payments using Apple Pay, a new design for the Control Center and a completely overhauled App Store. But it was iOS 11 on iPad that received the most significant updates, showing once again Apple is keen to turn the iPad into a genuine alternative to a laptop.
As with all iOS releases, registered developers have been trialling the software since WWDC to iron out any initial bugs before each iteration is sent for testing by consumers. Apple is keen to stress that the software is not the final version and improvements will be made before the full release roll-out. As a result, Apple will not be held responsible if downloading the beta interferes with your handset (although all steps are taken to avoid this) and you donwload the software at your own risk.
How to get the iOS 11 public beta
To download the iOS 11 public beta, you need to be part of the Apple beta program.
The Apple Beta Software Program is open to anyone with an Apple ID who accepts the Apple Beta Software Program Agreement during the sign-up process. If you’ve ever downloaded an app or music track, you’ll have an Apple ID. If you don’t have an Apple ID, you can create one via the App Store. The program is free to join.
Once you have signed up, click here to access the iOS 11 public betadownload files. Make sure you have backed up your files before continuining with the download. A list of supported devices is in the infobox below.
- iOS 11 release dates
- Developers can download the iOS 11 beta now. The public beta will open at the end of June and the final release will come in September
- iOS 11 supported devices
- iPhone 5S, 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, SE, 7, and 7 Plus; iPad Air and Air 2; the iPad Mini 2, 3, and 4; 5th-gen iPad, all iPad Pros; 6th-gen iPod Touch
- Devices not supported
- iPhone 5, iPhone 5C and 4th-gen iPad (or earlier) not compatible due to lack of 64-bit support
Here are bests bits from the iOS 11 beta so far:
1. The iPad is becoming even more like a Mac
Alongside the new 10.5-inch and 12.5-inch iPad Pros, Apple demonstrated several new enhancements to iOS 11 on iPad. The most significant of these is the new dock, which is similar in appearance to the dock on macOS High Sierra.
You can dock more apps now and it serves as an advanced app switcher, as well. For example, if you drag an icon from the dock onto the screen, you can place it side-by-side with the app that’s already on-screen. Where previously the dock was only accessible from the home screen, now you can bring it up wherever you are just by dragging your finger up from the bottom edge of the screen.
There’s also a new app switching view, pictured above. It integrates the Control Center and presents recent applications in a grid with the dock at the bottom.
Key to these changes is the introduction of drag-and-drop support. This allows users to drag and drop elements from one app to another. For example, if you have the Notes app and Safari open at the same time, you could select text and images from a web page and then drag it across into a note.
The drag-and-drop facility is important to another new iOS 11 feature: the Files app.
Up to now, iOS never had a file manager in the traditional sense. Files belonged to specific applications, so you had to choose to open them in another app to move them around. The iCloud Drive app was an attempt to correct this, but the Files app is more powerful.
It combines all the files storage locally on your iPad with the files stored in the cloud. And it doesn’t just support iCloud, it integrates with popular cloud storage providers like Dropbox and Box as well.
2. Siri is everywhere
Keen to show Apple can do AI as well as Google (we remain unconvinced), iOS 11 showcases several improvements to Apple’s digital assistant.
Apple has improved the voice of Siri, making it more natural. It can now say words in different ways. Apple used the example of three versions of the word “sunny”. This should, in theory, allow Siri to use the right intonation based on the context of what it is saying. That’s the theory, anyway.
Everything you do with Siri is now synced across all devices, all with end-to-end encryption. This means if you ask a question on your phone, Siri’s answer will be available on your Mac or iPad at the same time. Siri’s also learned a new trick: translation. It can translate common languages into English, and vice versa, and even supports Chinese translation.
Finally, it’s learning more about what you do. For example, if you’re viewing web pages about Iceland, Apple News might start showing articles about Iceland. If that sounds like the kind of tracking Apple’s keen to avoid, you’d be right, but Apple says everything is encrypted and it’s not tracking you to try to sell you stuff.
3. Apple Pay is about to get even more useful
Apple Pay has quickly become one of the best features of iOS and it’s getting better in iOS 11 because Apple’s added the ability to send money to individuals.
Built into the Messages app, payments are authenticated using Touch ID and can then be transferred to your bank account. It’s a small but significant addition which could prove very popular.
4. Lots of apps and features have been redesigned
Apple has tweaked the look and feel of iOS 11 in numerous ways.
The Control Center is now on just one screen and allows you to use 3D Touch on specific elements, such as the music controls, to reveal more detailed controls. It’s not clear how this would work on devices that don’t support 3D Touch, though.
The App Store redesign takes cues from the the Music and News apps. It’s now split into a few key tabs: Today, Games, Apps and Updates.
The Today tab will be updated daily with different content, such as an App of the Day, tips on how to get the most out of popular apps and other app news. You can keep scrolling down to see the featured apps from previous days.
5. Your phone won’t bug you when you’re driving
Apple’s added a ‘Do Not Disturb while Driving’ mode to iOS 11. It stops notifications and if someone sends you a message while driving, iOS 11 will automatically send a message back saying you can’t respond. The mode will activate automatically based on your movement and whether you’re connected to a car stereo.
Maps now includes indoor maps for a large number of international airports, as well as maps for popular malls in the US.
6. Music gets big upgrades
Not satisfied with the launch of HomePod, the Siri-enabled wireless speaker, Apple introduced several upgrades to its music ecosystem in iOS 11.
Speakers have been added to HomeKit, allowing people to control compatible wireless speakers from the Home app. Bear in mind, however, HomeKit requires extra hardware to work, so don’t expect your existing speakers to work with the Home app. Apple’s also launched the new AirPlay 2 protocol, which adds support for collaborative party playlists.
The Music app now shows music your friends are listening to and developers have greater access to Apple Music through a new MusicKit API. Shazam, for example, is using the API to add music it identifies to your library, while fitness apps can use the API to control your music from within their apps.
7. Augmented reality is Apple’s next big thing
Arguably the biggest addition is the new ARKit API, which allows developers to add augmented reality features to their apps.
Apple demonstrated adding virtual objects to a desk on stage, showing how its system could identify surfaces and place objects with the correct scale. For example, a coffee cup on a desk would be the correct size for the desk.
Apple is working with partners already and hinted that IKEA is already working on how it could use these AR features.