iOS 11, First Look

Apple dropped the much-anticipated iOS 11 on September 19, 2017. As is my custom, I downloaded the new OS on to my iPad as soon as it became available.

There were several features which impressed me about the OS update, and some of which I remain skeptical. If you want to skip reading 1 scroll down to see a demonstration video of iOS 11 in action. Otherwise, let’s take a stroll through the good and not so good of iOS 11.

The Good

Drag and Drop

The thought of drag and drop support on the iPad was not something which had me jumping for joy when iOS 11 was first announced. I’d been doing “copy and paste” ever since the feature first appeared in iOS and didn’t see much need to stop. Then I used it.

While it’s only available in applications which have been updated to support the feature, drag and drop support in iOS is wonderful. When combined with applications which are designed from the ground up to facilitate drag and drop, such as the excellent iOS 11 only app, “The Shelf,” it leaves me wondering how I’d ever lived without drag and drop in iOS.

The Dock

I wasn’t sure what to think of a dock appearing in iOS. It’s a staple in MacOS, certainly, but I couldn’t see it working in iOS. It turns out I was wrong. My only problem with the dock is overcoming muscle memory. I keep trying to swipe to the page on which my favorite apps used to reside!

I enjoy being able to bring up my favorite apps from anywhere. I am also ecstatic I can put a huge number of apps into the dock, it saves me having to re-evaluate which apps reside in that space every six months or so. Swiping up to reveal the dock works well, like the reverse of dragging a mouse cursor to the bottom of the screen when auto-hide is enabled in MacOS 2. There are some hiccups with applications that hide panels at the bottom of the screen, causing the app feature to be enabled instead of the dock when I’m not paying attention, but that’s also an issue of muscle memory.

Screen Recording

This feature was touted as a way for gamers to share their game-playing videos with social media, but I’m using screen recording to demonstrate app features without having to hook up my iPad to the Mac. The video embedded below is my first attempt with the feature, and the results are quite nice indeed! To activate a screen recording, long-press the record button in the Control Center.

Pencil Support

The quick notes feature, allowing a Pencil tap at the lock screen to open a new note for editing, is amazing. Also cool is the ability to annotate a PDF anywhere in iOS. That’s a killer feature.

The Not So Good

Notes

I want to like Apple Notes, and the app is very close, but I can’t make myself use it for my every day note-taking and annotating.

First, there is no way to change the width of ink in the app 3. I’ve wondered why this is, and yesterday I discovered the reason. When I zoomed in on a PDF to write I noticed, unlike Notability and many other notes apps in the store, the ink became blurry. It turns out the ink displayed in Apple’s annotation system is bitmapped. This means it loses resolution when zoomed in. Apps like Notability used vector ink, which never loses resolution. Vector ink can be scaled, widened, and narrowed over and over and it will always look amazing. If Apple would switch to vector drawing for their ink it would go a long way to moving notes into my “every day apps.”

Document Scanning

Document scanning has been added to the iOS 11 Notes app, but doesn’t quite hit the mark. It handles the scan well-enough, but when the scan is dropped into a note it becomes less functional than scanning in an App like Scanner Pro and using Notability to annotate.

First, Apple’s implementation doesn’t run optical character recognition on scans, leaving scanned documents as static images. I expect this feature is already in the works.

Second, the “auto annotate” feature present on PDF’s throughout iOS 11 doesn’t work with scanned documents. This is because scans are not treated as PDF’s prior to user intervention to treat them as such. I had to hunt to figure out how to mark up a scan. This was unintuitive.

Multi-tasking

iOS 11 is touted as a multi-tasking powerhouse, and for the most part it is. In general it works great, but the usage leaves a bit to be desired.

The best case scenario for multi-tasking is to have the apps a user wishes to display both reside in the dock – either by pinning them in the space or having a desired app being one of the three most recently used applications. As long as this is what users are trying to do, all is well.

Problems arise when users wants to multi-task with an application which is not either already open or in the dock. In this case the springboard has to be brought up, the desired app opened, and then a second application needs to be opened for multi-tasking 4. In practice, it’s not much different from how I made sure the app with which I wanted to multi-task showed up first in the old slide over list of days gone by. In those days I’d open the app, switch back to my main application, and then activate the multi-tasking pane. In experience, however, it feels clunky. Add this to being unable to activate individual apps for multi-tasking from the spaces overlay and it feels the feature is not quite done. I’d love a search feature to make activating a second app easier.

On the other hand, iOS 11 can use both apps at the same time, even when one app is in “window” mode. This is a huge improvement in iOS multi-tasking and I have to give props to Apple for seeing it implemented.

The Control Center

When I first saw the Control Center I thought it looked like the type of remote control which drove Steve Jobs crazy. The reality is not that bad, but there are still some issues which need to be resolved.

The vertical sliders for volume and screen brightness don’t feel as though they have as much control as the old vertical implementation. I don’t feel I can make as subtle tweaks to screen brightness, in particular, as I used to make in earlier versions of iOS.

Toggles for things like wifi and bluetooth still exist in the Control Center, but they don’t work as they did previously. According to The Verge, toggling these buttons in the Control Center does not cause these services to shut down. This seems to be a way for iOS to prevent disconnections from an Apple Watch or Pencil, for example, but it also leaves people open to potential attacks. Setting up functionality this way is bad form on Apple’s part, and I hope it’s rectified in the first security patch.

The Control Center is also prone to clutter. If I were to activate every “Hey this looks cool” feature I can access, the layout would become unwieldy. Of course, this has been my same issue with widgets ever since they were added into iOS. I don’t like clutter in my UI’s.

The App Store

To say I dislike the new App Store layout would be too kind. I hate it. There is far too much white space, leaving my eyes scanning the screen for information. The lack of lines or shading only increases my level of confusion. Layout choices also seem odd, such as placing the “App Categories” in a position where users have to scroll to locate the list. I’ll live with it, but yuck.

Conclusion

While there are a number of features which are “not so good,” I do have to add “as I hoped” to that designation. Each of the features is functional, and in general work well. But they do require some refinement to reach their potential. With the exception of the new App Store 5, I find iOS 11 to be a fine update. And I look forward to exploring how I can use the new features in my daily workflow.


  1. Which I never recommend, reading is your friend. 
  2. And I always have auto-hide enabled. 
  3. Or anywhere else Pencil annotation is possible. 
  4. As long as that application is in the dock. 
  5. Just, yuck

6 Thoughts

  1. Interesting reflections. Multitasking is better…but still annoying in my opinion. I’ve completely come round to control centre for some reason but the strange “this doesn’t turn it off” thing is…er strange. I also like the editorial side of the new App Store and the auto laying video previews (even though I hate auto play videos on the web).
    Still can’t wait to see what comes next. I really want to play with some ARKit stuff

    1. I’ll have to explore the editorial side of the app store more. Right now I’m having a hard time getting beyond the aesthetic.

Comments are closed.