Apple has previewed iOS 11, which it describes as a major update to the world’s most advanced mobile operating system. The latest iPhone and iPad OS, announced at WWDC17, piqued the interest of app developers with its augmented reality SDK, which will allow developers to build apps that let users place virtual content on top of real-world scenes.
Another exciting aspect of iOS 11 is CoreML, which gives developers on-device machine learning capabilities so they can make apps that will predict, learn and become more intelligent.
Apple claims that iOS 11 is the biggest software release ever for iPad, with powerful multitasking features, the Files app and more ways to use Apple Pencil – but the most interesting UI update is a macOS-style Dock, which once again brings Apple's desktop and mobile operating systems closer to parity.
Of most interest to app developers will be Apple's new platform for developers to help them bring high-quality AR experiences to iPhone and iPad using the built-in camera, processors, and motion sensors in iOS devices.
According to Apple, ARKit enables developers to tap into the latest computer vision technologies to build detailed and compelling virtual content on top of real-world scenes for interactive gaming, immersive shopping experiences, industrial design and more.
Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, says: "With iOS 11, we're delivering the biggest AR platform in the world, and it's available today for developers to begin building AR experiences using ARKit for hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users."
iOS and macOS: nearing consolidation?
With the release of iOS 11, once again Apple's mobile and desktop operating systems are becoming closer to consolidation. New UI features for iPad are designed to makes multitasking more powerful but look suspiciously like features already found on macOS.
A new customisable Dock provides quick access to frequently used apps and documents from any screen, just like the macOS Dock, and a redesigned app switcher makes it easier to move between pairs of active apps – cmd+Tab, anyone?
In addition, the new Files app keeps everything in one place, whether files are stored locally, in iCloud Drive or across other providers like Box, Dropbox and more. Yes, in other words, just like Finder on macOS. Files even includes drag and drop capabilities like your laptop.
Other iOS 11 features
- New camera and photo features, including Loop and Bounce effects in Live Photos and long exposure shots
- Do Not Disturb detects when you are driving
- App Store for iMessage
- Redesigned Control Center with increased customisation
- One-handed keyboard mode for iPhone, which moves the keyboard closer to your thumb, and a new Quick Keyboard on iPad
- Updates to various native apps and services, including Siri, Apple Music and Messages
iOS 11 is available as a developer preview now and will be a free software update for iPhone and iPad later this year.
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