“Wow, it’s so…oh my God!”
“Yeah, True Level, bitch.”
“Everything’s crooked! Reality is poison! I wanna go back!”
–Morty and Rick, Rick and Morty
While it’s not the Mid-Autumn Festival, iOS 11 released earlier today, bringing with it a host of powerful new features to Apple’s mobile operating system platform. This year, I’ve been running with iOS 11 on my iPhone since late August as a result of requiring the operating system for compatibility testing at work, and back in June, I tested iOS 11 with my iPad. While an impressive operating system, iOS 11 also rendered my iPad incapable of publishing WordPress posts, so I reverted to iOS 10 to ensure that I could quickly publish my Kimi no na wa talk on short order if needed. However, in the time that’s passed, Apple has refined and polished iOS 11 significantly – it’s as responsive as iOS 10, and all of my apps are operational this time around. The differences between iOS 10 and iOS 11 on an iPhone are largely under-the-hood: there’s a new Control Centre that offers customisation, and a new file system app, but beyond this, iOS 11 remains quite similar to iOS 10. Having spent a half-hour exploring iOS 11 on an iPad, the differences become much more pronounced. Multi-tasking is much more powerful, and after mastering the new gestures to being up the Control Centre, I am given an immediate overview of all open apps. The beta did not allow apps to be closed with a swipe, but the release version returns this feature. It’s easier to place apps side-by-side, and there’s a powerful new drag-and-drop feature that allows me to pull image and text from one app and place them into another. The new dock makes the iPad feel more like Mac OS X than ever before, giving my iPad Air 2 a rejuvenated feel to it.
- The most noticeable change on the iPad’s home screen between iOS 10 and iOS 11 is the presence of a Mac OS X-like dock. Fresh after installation, I have no previously used apps here, and while simple, the inclusion of an option to immediately return to my three most recent apps was one of my favourite features of iOS 11 when I tested it in the beta, allowing me to access very quickly recent apps without needing to open a folder.
- I admit that opening Wi-Fi and Bluetooth will take some getting used to now that it’s been moved to the right from the bottom, but the new Control Centre has a distinctly iOS feel to it now, compared to the more Android-like multi-tasking interface seen in earlier incarnations of iOS. One feature noticeably absent from iOS 11 is the fact that I cannot hold down on the Wi-Fi icon and select a network to connect to (or do the same for BlueTooth).
- The dock can be accessed from any app, making it possible to now jump to one’s favourite apps or more recently used app much more quickly than previously possible. The changes to Safari, the default browser in iOS, are subtle: corners of the URL bar are now rounded, in keeping with Apple’s latest themes, which are inspired by magazines. I’ve never been too big of a fan of this format, but the theme feel a lot more unified now in iOS 11, since the App Store also makes use of the layout, and the larger text size does make things pop a little more.
- Once I mastered the gestures for multi-tasking, I was able to read about and watch GochiUsa simultaneously without any difficulties. Familiar and novel at the same time, iOS 11’s improvements are most noticeable on an iPad: only the iPad Air and later will be able to upgrade to iOS 11. With iOS 11, however, Apple drops support for 32-bit apps. While they’ve been phasing this out and have encouraged developers to submit 64-bit builds since iOS 9, iOS 11 marks a point where there’s a hard cutoff. Users with 32-bit apps will find that they no longer open.
- This is Apple’s file system on iOS 11: it’s modelled after Mac OS X’s Finder, and while it does not provide access to an iOS device’s local file system, it is quite functional, working with iCloud. I foresee storing some of my documents here in the future to make use of the system, even if I’ve previously been not so big with iCloud. It typifies Apple’s tendency to only provide features once they’re fully fledged, and once added, iOS users find the features immensely useful. This prompts the choice of the page quote, which comes from Rick and Morty‘s third season: once one experiences something of a high standard, it’s hard to go back.
Other features added with iOS 11 include an improved file system, which has allowed me to free up upwards of 4 GB of space on my 16 GB iPhone 6 (this is something I was most pleased with), a new image compression format that allows images taken from the camera to take up a little less space, and upgraded Siri, which feels more powerful than it has previously. The keybaord on the iPad has been improved so one no longer has to hit another button to access some numbers and symbols, which could be useful for conversations and writing passages that are rich with symbols and numbers. On the developer side, I’ve also got access to Xcode 9, which adds the long awaited Swift refactoring capability and an upgraded error system that makes it easier to find and correct errors in code. AR Kit and Core ML are exciting new additions, as well, and while I don’t foresee a use for these APIs in the near future, there is no doubt that these powerful new libraries could allow developers to make apps of a much greater utility and immersion than before. This year, the upgrade paths for both Xcode 9 and iOS 11 proved remarkably smooth: I still vividly recall the year where a botched update forced me to restore my iPad. On the other hand, things this time around were as simple as hitting the “Update” button and entering a password. I’m curious to see how I’ll make use of the new features in iOS 11, especially for the iPad, in the days upcoming. One thing is certain, though: iOS 11 is a very welcome update, and explaining the title of this post, “True Level” is sourced from the latest episode of Rick and Morty. In this context, something that is “True Level” is sublime, and of an incredible quality, rather than referring to a hypothetical surface where every possible point is perpendicular to the plumb line.