Over the last year at SevenTablets, I’ve learned a lot more about what it takes to make our pocket supercomputers work than I did in my undergraduate app development class. Every mobile app in existence has its own, dedicated team of developers, determined to keep up with iOS, Android and hardware changes at a moment’s notice. Due to how quickly technology evolves, those changes can be massive. And, in the freshly announced iOS 11, they are.

Apple iOS 11 Beta

Ever since 2007, I’ve dedicated my technology budget to Apple (and Adobe). Apple is a company I dote on at every opportunity, just like a fanatical grandmother at her grandson’s tee ball game. By default, I’m a daily Mac OS and iOS user. Unlike the majority of the SevenTablets crew, I cringe every time I’m forced to lay eyes on an Android or PC. But, I’m also a graphic designer and harsh critic of user interfaces, so I jumped at the opportunity to test drive the iOS 11 Public Beta.

Here’s what I learned about the platform in the first 24 hours.

iOS 11 Beta Installation

Installing the beta version of this update was a bit more intimidating than I anticipated. Apple recommends backing up your device to iTunes (something I haven’t done in years thanks to iCloud) and archiving said backup to ensure nothing happens to it. Extreme, but I forged on.

First Impressions

When ‘flat’ design started taking over a couple years ago, I was on the fence. Windows 10 was released on July 29th, 2015, and I thought the rectangle-riddled design was heinous. Apple picked up the flat-look, too, but without the puzzle-piece styling. Eventually, I got used to it. I even came to prefer smooth web gradients over embossed icons. But, with the release of iOS 11, Apple took the trend one step further by creating a Tetris-inspired Control Center. I grit my teeth every time I look at it. Stacked styling doesn’t bode well for my obsession with symmetry, but I do enjoy the ultra-wide ‘brightness’ and ‘volume’ sliders.

Based on the new Control Center styling, it feels as though you should be able to move the icons to the places you prefer, just like actual apps, but that doesn’t appear to be an option. Perhaps that kind of customizability would be swaying to Android. You can, however, add, remove and rearrange Control Center shortcuts on the bottom row (where the calculator, flashlight and camera are) by going to Settings, then ‘Control Center.’

Aside from the Control Center, the redesigned locked screen and bolder fonts were the only significant changes I noticed right away.

You Get What You Sign Up For

With beta software, there are always bugs. That’s actually the point… So, I expected to encounter a few hiccups. The first one I noticed happened when I entered my Apple ID password. The keyboard skipped, skipped, skipped a beat before letting me proceed.

After half an hour, my iPhone started to feel warm. At 3:32 pm, Facebook took a nosedive. Attempting to send photos to my mom through the Messages app? Not gonna happen! Jumping into the actual camera roll bypassed this issue, so still no major roadblocks.

Notable Changes in iOS 11

Obviously, iOS 11 is a big update for Apple. While most of it feels familiar (like iOS 10), there are some fantastic improvements. Here are a few of my favorites so far…

Screenshot Enhancements

After taking a screenshot of the new iOS, I noticed something incredible. With iOS 11, you can draw on your screenshots before sending or saving them (this is not a new concept for Android phones). Naturally, I wrote ‘I’m cooler than you.’ and sent the image to my equally Apple-obsessed friend. He responded with the eye-roll emoji then proceeded to inform me that he could download the beta if he wanted to.

Right. (Note: The beta is open to anyone who wants it, though some people have had issues downloading the latest release. You can join the Beta Program here.)

One-handed Keyboard

I’ve heard countless people complain about the size of the iPhone Plus, simply because it’s too hard to type on the over-sized keyboard. With iOS 11, you can activate a smaller keyboard for both left handed and right handed users. To do so, visit the keyboard and hold down the globe (aka the emoji) key. This pulls up a menu with the left, right and normal keyboard options.

Upon selecting the left or the right keyboard icons, the keyboard will shrink and shift toward the selected side. The altered keyboard size is more similar to that of the iPhone 5, making it much easier to reach when typing with one hand. To return to the normal keyboard, simply select the white arrow to the side of the keys.

New and Improved Siri

Siri has been with us since 2011, but she hasn’t changed much since her release. With iOS 11, Siri becomes the virtual assistant she should be. Her voice sounds significantly more human and conversational, and she seems to respond to inquiries much better. When I complimented her updated voice, she replied with “Well, Lacey, over time, we intelligent agents mature and our voices change. It’s perfectly natural.” Before you know it she’ll be behaving like Sonny, for better or worse.

Files App

For the last few years, I’ve struggled with viewing and attaching files from iCloud on my iPhone. The resolution to this issue has finally been resolved. iOS 11’s new ‘files’ app contains all the folders that live on my iCloud. It’s like a piece of the Mac OS has been added to the iPhone–and it’s a dream come true. Within the files app, you can view and markup documents (just like screenshots), share files with AirDrop, send them through messages and email, open them in notes and Twitter, copy them to Instagram and so much more.

The App Drawer for Messages

Apple unveiled apps within messages during the last big software release. I really didn’t use it, or find it very valuable. The new iteration is much more functional, as it provides easier access to Giphy and stickers, and allows you to share music from iTunes, restaurant recommendations from Yelp, and pay your friends through Apple Pay and Venmo. You can also customize your drawer by removing the apps you don’t use and adding more from the Apple App Store for iMessage.

Do Not Disturb for Driving

Shortly after downloading iOS 11, I was asked if I wanted to set up ‘Do Not Disturb’ for driving. I opted in. While driving, the iPhone automatically mutes notifications from text messages, emails, calls and apps. If you do need to check for notifications (best done if you’re the passenger), you simply unlock your phone and select ‘I’m Not Driving’ to view anything that may be waiting for you. Ultimately, this setting is not prohibitive, but it does help you forget about your iPhone while you’re going down the road.

iOS 11 Isn’t Perfect

Though iOS 11 offers several great enhancements, it also features some things I don’t like. The new, bolder fonts feel bulky. The folder app is highly functional, but it doesn’t look like it belongs on a mobile device. Personally, I think iOS 11’s aesthetics took a hit, but I’m hoping, once the bugs are worked out, its outstanding functionality will make up for its lackluster looks.

The Future of iOS 11

iOS 11 is set to be released in the fall, so there’s still plenty of time for Apple’s developers to fix bugs and enhance its design. I’m excited to explore new features, like the peer-to-peer payments mentioned before, the memories feature in Photos and Siri’s translation function.

Overall, I would consider the first 24 hours with iOS 11 a positive experience. Now I just need to experience its more expansive features on my iPad Pro!

Are You Prepared for iOS 11?

Large software updates always present a challenge for existing mobile apps and the developers who maintain them. If your company has an app that needs to be updated to suit iOS 11, you need a mobile developer you can trust. The team at SevenTablets has the experience needed to keep your mobile app working flawlessly on both Android and Apple devices. Conveniently headquartered in Dallas, Texas, SevenTablets provides mobile development in Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Chicago and the great United States. Get in touch with the SevenTablets team today.

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Lacey Williams-McGhee

Lacey Williams-McGhee

Marketing Director at SevenTablets
Lacey Williams is a marketing and design professional living in the great state of Texas. When she's not working hard at the SevenTablets headquarters or designing products for her side gig, she can be found exploring new restaurants, hanging out with her husband and walking her golden retriever.

Lacey earned a B.A. from Baylor University. Sic'em!
Lacey Williams-McGhee