As the iPhone enters the double-digit age, its mobile operating system advances with it. The brand-new iOS 11 will be released Sept. 19. It won’t be a major overhaul for the iPhone the way iOS 10 was — its purpose is seemingly to make iPads feel more like laptops — but there are a few much-needed improvements iPhone users may be grateful for. Here’s a cheat sheet.
1. There are new message effects for you to use once and then never again.
According to Apple, Messages is the most-used app on iOS. The company introduced message effects at the 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference, allowing you to send your texts with an obnoxious amount of flair.
With iOS 11, users get two more options. The echo effect sends copies of your message flying around your screen like little blue ghosts. Spotlight shines a focus light on your text. Use with emojis for greatest effect.
2. Recording your screen is way easier.
Previously, if you wanted to record what was on your iPhone screen, you either had to plug it into your Mac via USB and fire up QuickTime or grab someone else’s phone and hit record. Now you can record what’s onscreen without any extra hardware. In the Settings app, go to Control Center and edit the toggles to include Screen Capture. If you’re worried that iOS 11 users can screen-record their way around Snapchat’s screenshot alert, you should be.
3. Apple Pay can now be used like Venmo.
Since Venmo became popular, it feels like every company — from Square to Facebook and Snapchat — wants to help you send money phone-to-phone. You can now add Apple to the list. Using Apple Pay, you’ll be able to send money to friends from within the Messages app. The difference between this and Venmo? As seen here, the Messages app doesn’t let you share money without fingerprint authorization. Venmo’s security options can be set to require a fingerprint to enter the app, but not before each transaction.
4. The secret dark mode looks a little better.
The iPhone doesn’t have an official dark mode, but this option can come in handy if you’re using your phone in the dark. Pro users know you can head to Settings, under General, Accessibility, Display Accommodations and Invert Colors, to invert the display’s colors — at least with Classic Invert. Throw on Smart Invert and most of the display’s colors swap except for on-off switches, the battery indicator and the icons on your home screen, among others. It looks more natural and won’t give you a headache at night.
5. It’s harder for non-Apple apps to track your location 24/7.
Some apps like Uber and Waze want the ability to track your location whenever they see fit, even if the app isn’t open on your phone. In general, iOS offers three options for location tracking: “always,” “while using the app” and “never.” In iOS 10 and older, apps like Uber presented users with an ultimatum of “always” or “never” — deny Uber your location and the company blocks off most of the app’s features. With iOS 11, Apple forces apps to provide a “while using the app” option.
Coincidentally enough, in advance of iOS 11’s release, Uber plans to add a “while using” option for iPhone users.
6. A do-not-disturb mode for drivers is coming
Do Not Disturb While Driving is the silent notification mode we all know and love but with an added bonus for frequent drivers. Your phone will detect when you’re behind the wheel and automatically silence your notifications. If you’re texting someone whose phone is in Do Not Disturb While Driving mode and it’s an emergency, you can send a second message that will break through the silence mode and alert them to your text. Use wisely.
7. The best shortcut for app-switching (that you probably didn’t know about) is going away.
IOS 11 brings many great features to your smartphone, but it takes away something very useful for pro iPhone users. Along with pressing the home button twice, those using an iPhone 6S or 7 device could apply a bit of force to the left edge to reveal the same app switcher. Push in on the left edge and, flick, and you’re immediately taken to your previous app.
Sadly, that is gone. For some reason, Apple has removed that convenient little gesture. Perhaps it’s because the sans-home-button iPhone X has an app-switching gesture of its own using the bar at the very bottom of the screen.
8. Live Photos now offer more options.
It was always kind of weird that Apple’s Live Photos weren’t just GIFs or straight-up videos. While you’ll still have to make use of a non-Apple app to make your moving photos into something you can share on Giphy, you can now edit the photo like a video. Using a slider, choose which photo is the main photo and whether you want the moving version to have sound. The magic wand in the top right will make the colors slightly more vibrant.
For what it’s worth, Apple does pay tribute to the GIF format — Live Photos now play within the camera roll.
9. There are new photo filters.
Your regular photos will look better, too. Tap “edit” in the Photos app to bring them up. Sadly, there’s no way to control the intensity of these filters, like you can on Instagram.
10. Control Center is customizable and fits way more toggles.
Apple’s current Control Center can’t be changed based on your preferences: If you never use Flashlight, Clock, Calculator and Camera, the pane is likely much less useful to you. With iOS 11, you’ll be able to choose which shortcuts you want at the bottom. Here are a few of the shortcuts you’ll be able to add to your Control Center panel.
IOS 11 has so many options that they don’t fit in one screenshot. Not pictured here are Magnifier, Notes, Stopwatch, Text Size, Voice Memos and Wallet.
The best part: You can add every single one of these to your Control Center, in case you find yourself using all of them often enough to warrant quick access.
11. Augmented reality is coming to the iPhone in a big way.
This could be the coolest iOS 11 feature yet, if app creators make use of it.
ARKit is Apple’s augmented reality tool. If you’re wondering how augmented reality could be used in apps, the game Pokémon Go — see above — is a good example. With ARKit, as demoed on stage in June, the app would be more aware of your surroundings. As you move, Pikachu stays in place. If the app got really smart, PokéBalls could bounce off real-world furniture and Pikachu could scurry underneath a nearby desk.
With the iPad, your viewing window is even bigger. An entire scene can play out on the table in front of you, without onscreen objects shifting weirdly. The above scene shows a tabletop war with flying ships and foot soldiers, yet as the person holding the iPad moves, the video game characters stay in place.
Well-done AR on iOS could have practical implications that go way beyond video games. Knowing the dimensions of your room, furniture apps can let you picture how that couch will look in your living room and even tell you if there’s space for it to fit.
The coolest example of what AR can do right now might be found in the Maps app. There’s a setting called Flyover that lets you physically navigate a major city like New York or San Francisco as if you’re Godzilla. It’s actually a fascinating way to explore a new area and hints at a future in which we could tour locations — a college halfway across the world, for example, or a potential new neighborhood when considering a move — without leaving home.
Developers have only just started to realize ARKit’s potential. AR may seem frivolous now, but that’s only because there aren’t enough examples of how it can be used. Once app developers make use of augmented reality features in their apps in clever ways, it may prove to be one of the most important additions to Apple’s iPhone software.