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iOS 11 Tips for the iPhone

iOS 11 brings new and exciting features to the iPhone. This article presents a collection of iOS 11 tips for the iPhone.

iOS 11 was a major release for the iPad, however, it only offers modest changes for the iPhone. This is actually a good thing. Complicated releases with too many changes are often unstable and buggy. Remember how bad iOS 8 was? Apple is hoping to avoid this, and with iOS 11 they did.

You Should Upgrade to iOS 11

I used to upgrade to the new, major version of iOS the day it was released. After iOS 8, I decided it is best to wait until there are at least a few patches. This precaution was probably unnecessary with iOS 11. It appears to be the most stable initial iOS release since iOS 6.

Beyond stability, Apple fixed a lot of annoying defects in iOS 11. Ever since iOS 9 and the fourth generation Apple TV, AirPlay has been unreliable for me. They finally fixed it with iOS 11. The bulk of the fix was on the Apple TV side. If you use AirPlay, you’ll want to upgrade both your iOS device and Apple TV as soon as possible. tvOS 11 is also a surprisingly stable and solid release.

I recommend upgrading your iPhone to iOS 11 as soon as possible. Even if you don’t need any of the new features, it’s definitely better than iOS 10.

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Use Control Center

Apple made some unfortunate design decisions with Control Center for iOS 10. They complicated user interaction by splitting Control Center into multiple screens. I often used it to turn on AirPlay and play music, and it always annoyed me that I had to swipe to one extra screen.

iOS 11 brings users a completely overhauled Control Center. It’s easy to use and aesthetically appealing. The controls are simplified, however, users can access additional options using 3D Touch. Even if your iPhone doesn’t support 3D Touch, one can long-press a control to access more options.

If you don’t use Control Center already, I recommend using it now. I am aware that some users still go to the Settings app for many tasks that can be accomplished in Control Center. With iOS 11, there’s no good reason not to use Control Center.

Customize Control Center

iOS 11 gives users the ability to customize Control Center. Apple is not big on customization, at least in iOS. This is for a very good reason — performance. They don’t want users to customize their device into something that is slow and drains the battery.

Most smartphone users don’t really care about customization. Even HTC found that only 10% of users actually care about widgets. Apple knows this all too well, as the Mac has offered advanced customization for over a decade, and users simply don’t care about it. Only tech pundits really care about customization, mainly because they can use it to shame Apple. Anyone who has worked in tech and has seen a product requirements document (PRD) will know that it’s all about priorities. Apple felt that other features trumped customization.

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Apple has always added small, incremental steps toward customization in iOS. With iOS 11, users can now customize Control Center, however, there are no third-party controls yet. Tap on Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls to add and rearrange controls. The Apple TV remote is my favorite “new” control. They finally made something great out of that horrible old Remote App.

Use the Apple TV Remote App

The Apple Remote app has been around for over a decade. It’s actually older than Apple TV and was originally used to control iTunes. The Remote App just wasn’t very useful and Apple didn’t seem interested in improving it.

With iOS 11, the Apple TV Remote app has undergone a complete overhaul. iTunes Home Sharing functionality has been stripped away. Instead, the new Remote app is designed to just control Apple TV, and it does this very well. In addition to providing full control of your Apple TV, it allows users to issue Siri requests. It even supports gaming! After about a decade, Apple finally released a decent remote app for Apple TV. I still prefer the Siri Remote, however, if I happen to break it, at least I have a decent replacement.

Make One-Handed Typing Easier

One-handed typing is often necessary when using a smartphone. Over the years, Apple has gone to great lengths to ease one-handed iPhone usage. The Reachability feature, introduced in iOS 8, makes it easy to reach the top of the screen, simply by double-tapping the Home button. It seems obvious, but no other tech company thought of this solution. Apple’s competitors rushed into large smartphones, but never provided a good way to use them with one hand.

Apple continues to make one-handed typing easier by adding one-handed keyboards to iOS 11. Unlike Reachability, I’m sure other smartphones had this capability before Apple introduced it. Nonetheless, the feature makes it much easier to type with one hand, as the smaller keyboard is shifted to either the right or left of the screen.

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Switching to a one-handed keyboard is easy. Simply long-press the keyboard switcher button and select either the right or left aligned one-handed keyboard.

Auto Answer Calls

If you actually use your iPhone as a phone, there’s a new feature that may simplify your life. iOS 11 introduces the ability to answer calls automatically. This capability is extremely useful if you’re expecting an important call while your hands are occupied. You can even specify that calls are routed only to the speakerphone or bluetooth headset. The feature also allows users to set the duration before a call is answered. After all, you probably don’t want to seem too desperate.

You can configure your preferred call audio routing by tapping Settings > General > Accessibility > Call Audio Routing. Tap on Auto-Answer Calls to set up automatic phone call answering.

3D Touch X Button on Notification to Clear All

If you are inundated with Notifications, it can be a chore to clear them all off. iOS 11 makes this task much easier. Just hold your finger down on the X next to a Notification, and you will see an option to clear them all. This only works on devices supporting 3D Touch.

Hide Notifications on Lock Screen

Lock screen Notifications can compromise privacy. Most people don’t have sensitive information presented as Notifications. By default, the lock screen displays Notification previews, but this can be easily changed. Simply tap on Settings > Notifications > Previews and set it to either When Unlocked or Never.

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Tap Sleep/Wake Button 5 Times for Emergency Call

The iPhone really comes in handy in an emergency. Unfortunately, in some emergency situations, it may not be easy to make a call. The ability to make an emergency call from the lock screen has been available on the iPhone for years. Now, users can simply tap the sleep/wake button five times to make an emergency call.

This feature offers some pretty amazing configuration options. For starters, users can configure it to automatically call emergency contacts. Tap on Settings > Emergency SOS to set up this feature.

Drag Screenshots Directly into Documents

It’s always been easy to take screenshots on the iPhone. Critics claiming that Apple lacks innovation often forget that the iPhone could take screenshots long before other smartphones. Indeed, the ability to take a screenshot simply by pressing a few physical buttons is brand new to other smartphones. Apple has had this for years.

Now Apple has taken a convenient feature and made it even better. When you take a screenshot in iOS 11, a thumbnail is immediately displayed on the left corner of the screen. Press and hold on the thumbnail to display the Share Sheet pop up menu. From there, you can easily add the screenshot to documents, save it to Photos or share it on social media.

Mark Up Images in Documents

A picture is worth a thousands words. A marked up picture may be worth even more. Now, with iOS 11, users can easily add drawings and annotations to emails and photos. In conjunction with the new screenshot features, it is remarkably easy to provide visual information. I was able to take a screenshot of a website, place it in an email and mark it up in less than a minute. This enabled me to help someone who was confused by a website. It would have taken me much longer to explain what to do with words.

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Accessing the markup feature is easy. Just press your finger inside an email message and remove it. You’ll see the standard inline pop-up menu. Next, pick Insert Drawing from the pop-up menu. It’s really that easy. You can also mark up any photo in the Photos app. Just tap Edit and click on the markup button, which looks like the tip of a magic marker.

Add Backgrounds to Notes

As previously mentioned, customization is not a top priority for Apple. They get to it eventually, but their efforts are focused on useful and substantial features. iOS 11 allows for increased customization of Notes. Users can now change backgrounds, making it easier to write, edit and read certain documents. You can access this feature from Settings > Notes.

Update Your Wallpaper

As great as the iPhone is, people get bored with it. In fact, people get so bored, they sometimes go for another brand of smartphone, because it is different. They often come back to the iPhone because they learned, the hard way, that different isn’t necessarily better.

I have to admit, that grid of icons is stale. I actually moved them off my first Home screen and put them all in one folder. I swept them under the rug. I just use Spotlight to launch any app that isn’t already on my Dock.

If you’re getting sick of your iPhone, it may be time to update your wallpaper. iOS 11 includes a few new, stunning wallpapers. If these aren’t appealing, just look for one of the many sites that offer free, high-resolution iPhone backgrounds. Go to Settings > Wallpaper to change your iPhone’s Home Screen and Lock Screen backgrounds.

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Shut Down iPhone Without Pressing the Sleep/Wake Button

People often keep their iPhones for a long time. I still have my iPhone 4, and although I have an iPhone 6, I still use the older device as a clock and kitchen timer. Even with the iPhone’s solid construction, moving parts can wear down over time. The Home button on my iPhone 4 is gradually becoming unresponsive. Keep in mind, this phone is over 6 years old.

Your iPhone won’t last forever, but if you minimize the use of moving parts, it can last a long time. With iOS 11, users can now shut down their iPhone directly from the Settings menu. This prevents some wear and tear on the sleep/wake button. Simply tap on Settings > General > Shut Down and then slide the on-screen slider to power down your device.

Although you can go for years without shutting down your iPhone (due to its industry-leading stability), there’s a good reason why you should. Charging your iPhone when it is powered down will minimize stress on the battery. This will keep your battery lasting longer. Your iPhone will also charge faster. If you need to keep your iPhone for years, I strongly recommend turning it off while charging.

Manage Files on Your iPhone

The lack of central file management was always a major annoyance in iOS. Apple obstinately held on to an avant-garde and ambitious notion that file management should be abstract. This only made it more difficult to use the iPhone. With iOS 11, the iPhone embraces the Mac’s Finder app, with some obvious restrictions. You can finally browse for files using the centralized Files app. It provides access to user-generated app data files on your device. Users still can’t get into system files, which is probably for the best. Even most desktop operating systems hide critical system files from the average user.

You can launch the Files app from its icon. I recommend adding it to your Dock, because you will probably use it a lot. In addition to files on your iPhone, the Files app is compatible with Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive and other cloud-based file storage services. These services appear on the left side of the screen if they are installed.

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The Files app isn’t perfect. For example, I can’t actually browse local files on my iPhone. I have apps that have local files, but the Files app can’t access them. In fact, I don’t even see the “Files on my iPhone” category on the left side of the screen. This is because Files only works with specific apps. It still isn’t as useful as Finder on macOS. I can only really access iCloud, which I could do before.

File management for iCloud has improved dramatically. Prior to iOS 11, I would completely lose the chronology of video files uploaded to iCloud on the same day, because it sorted them by date and then name. Now, when I sort by date, it sorts by date and time. The Files app also makes it easy to select multiple files. Just hold your finger down on a file and tap others to add it to the selection. You can just drag all of those files into a supporting app.

Free Up Space on your iPhone

Some contend that Apple is trying to make massive profits from selling storage space. Whether you buy a higher capacity iPhone or more iCloud space, Apple gains from power users and hoarders alike. With a new, more efficient file system, HVEC and other optimizations, Apple has actually gone to great lengths to conserve storage space. iOS 11 offers some innovative new features to help save space. They’re investing money to develop technologies that actually hurt their bottom line in the short run. This is not altruistic. They profit from brand loyalty. It’s refreshing to see a company looking at the big picture instead of just the next quarter.

iOS 11 offers a completely revamped interface for managing storage space. Tap on Settings > General > iPhone Storage to view the main screen. There’s a new feature enabling users to offload unused apps. This will preserve app data, but delete the app from your device. If you choose to re-install the app, your data will be restored.

You can also select individual apps and offload them, while preserving app data. Individual apps also offer new ways to reduce storage space. The new storage management features are essential for the iPhone user on a budget.

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While you’re busy freeing up space on your iPhone, it’s a good opportunity to get rid of all those old 32 bit apps that are now incompatible. They’re just taking up space and you can always reinstall them if the developer ever creates a 64 bit version. Tap on Settings > General > About > Applications to view incompatible apps.

Move Messages to iCloud

Apple has taken another step to save storage space on your device. With iOS 11, iPhone users can now use iCloud to store iMessages. Not only does this save storage space, but it also performs a cascading delete. When you delete a message on one device, it is deleted on all of your devices that use the same iCloud account. You can access this feature from the Settings > Messages screen.

Switch Image and Video Formats

iOS 11 introduces new formats for storing photos and videos — HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format) and HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding). Both formats save a lot of space on your iPhone, especially if you record a lot of 4K video. The only problem with these formats is that they are not compatible with all devices. It’s not a huge problem, as users can easily convert images or switch to more compatible formats. You can adjust these settings by tapping Settings > Camera > Formats. Not all iPhones offer these settings. My iPhone 6 only works with the older formats and does not offer the Formats settings.

Preserve Camera Settings

The iOS Camera app will always default to Photo whenever you launch the app. This can be obnoxious if you’re recording video. You always have to remember to set it back to Video. iOS 11 allows users to preserve two camera settings — Live Photos and mode (Slo-Mo, Photo, Video, Pano and Square). If you alter these settings, they will persist when you close and re-open the Camera app. Simply tap on Settings > Camera > Preserve Settings to change these settings.

Pick Key Frame for Live Photos

I dislike the Live Photos feature so much that I have turned it off. It’s a storage hog and I don’t see the value of a mashup between a photo and a video. The actual photo you get is picked from a series of frames using an algorithm. As with most of these intelligent technologies, they’re often not that smart. The key photo may not be the one you want.

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With iOS 11, users who haven’t disabled Live Photos can now pick their preferred key photo. Simply tap the Edit button on a Live Photo and use the slider to make your selection. This actually makes the Live Photo feature useful. For example, if someone blinks during a photo, you can just select the key photo that doesn’t have closed eyelids. If your subject moves, you can select a key photo that isn’t blurry.

Protect Your Privacy in FaceTime

iOS 11 introduces the ability to take FaceTime screenshots which exclude the UI frame. Unfortunately, these screenshots can compromise your privacy. Maybe you’re not looking your best when you take a FaceTime call and a “friend” decides to post this online. The good news is that you can prevent people from capturing your image during a FaceTime chat. Simply go to Settings > FaceTime and turn off FaceTime Live Photos.

Enable Experimental Safari Features

While perusing iOS 11 screens, I came across advanced options for Safari. Apple has given customers the ability to toggle experimental features of the WebKit rendering engine. The cutting edge features affect Safari’s browsing capabilities. Some of these features are trivial, while others may improve performance. For instance, you can turn on WebKit’s ability to display web animations or activate WebGPU. A few of these items are turned on by default. If Safari exhibits odd behavior, you might want to turn these off.

These options are not just for developers or techies. A few of them should improve webpage rendering or offer better performance. Remember that these are experimental features. They could compromise Safari’s stability. You can access Safari’s experimental features by tapping on Settings > Safari > Advanced > Experimental Features.

Save Webpages for Offline Viewing

Cellular data is costly. Conserving data is critical because overages can be costly. Furthermore, Internet access is not omnipresent. I usually have problems accessing my cellular network if I am in a remote area. Cellular coverage is often spotty on public transportation.

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Technology companies are finally starting to realize that the ideal world of inexpensive, omnipresent cellular data is still far off. Netflix recently started allowing users to download select programs for offline viewing. iTunes has always provided this functionality. Now, with iOS 11, Apple provides the ability to save webpages for offline use. Simply tap on Settings > Safari and turn on Automatically Save Offline. Now, when you save a web page to your Reading List, it will automatically be saved to your device for offline viewing.

You can also convert any web page into a PDF using Safari. Simply tap on the share button and then tap on Create PDF. This will save the web page for offline viewing. You can also annotate and edit the document.

Record Your iPhone’s Screen

As iOS adds more features, it’s much harder to provide instructions to accomplish a specific task. Screenshots and written instructions are helpful, but they’re also difficult and time-consuming. Fortunately, with iOS 11, Apple provides a great new tool for capturing video footage of your iPhone’s screen.

The Screen Recording app can’t be launched from an icon on the Home screen. Instead, you will need to add it to Control Center. We’ve covered how to customize Control Center previously in this article. Simply add the Screen Recording tool to Control Center. Launch Control Center and tap the Screen Recording button. You have 3 seconds before screen capturing starts. The Screen Recording feature captures both audio and video. Press the Screen Recording button again to stop recording. You can access the video in the Photos app.

Unfortunately, it only took one attempt for me to realize that this feature is flawed. Audio and video are out of sync. If you wish to use this feature for creating instructional videos, you will need to resynchronize the audio track with an editing tool. If you were hoping to use this feature to capture video for offline viewing, this flaw complicates matters. I’m sure Apple will fix these defects soon. This feature is still quite useful for YouTubers and vloggers who create instructional videos. It’s also great if you need to show a friend, family member or colleague how to do something on an iPhone.

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Track Flights on your iPhone

Flight tracking apps help busy travelers stay informed about departures. With iOS 11, Safari offers built-in flight tracking capabilities. Just type the flight number directly into the address bar. You’ll see current information about your flight presented in a concise user interface.

Type Siri Requests

iOS 11 enables users to type Siri requests and edit voice requests. This is convenient if you’re in a noisy environment or have a sensitive request that you’d like to keep private. I’m not thrilled about this feature, as it is just a band-aid for imperfect speech recognition. If you have to type something, you might as well just use Google Search instead of Siri.

Editing Siri requests is enabled by default and is available with every request. Simply tap on Tap to Edit and use the keyboard to edit your request. If you prefer to type Siri requests instead of speaking them, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Siri and turn on Type to Siri. This displays a keyboard instead of a voice prompt when activating Siri.

Siri Translation

Siri continues to improve over time. With iOS 11, Siri can now translate from English to Spanish, French, Mandarin, Italian or German. Siri can even speak the translation for you. You may want to keep your third-party translation app installed. Siri doesn’t offer as many languages as most third-party translation apps. It also can’t translate in both directions.

I’ve had pretty good results with SayHi Translate. It’s an old app, but it still offers superior translation capabilities. For occasional usage, Siri works well enough for most people. Siri’s translation proficiency will expand and improve over time.

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Use Your iPhone as an Alarm Clock

As more people adopt smartphones and tablets, the traditional alarm clock has gradually become obsolete. The Bedtime feature in iOS 11 provides one of the smartest alarm clocks available.

After completing the initial setup process, Bedtime will send you a Notification when it’s time to go to bed. You are awakened gradually by a variety of musical alarms. The alarm can be easily adjusted, retaining your ideal amount of sleep time. You won’t need to do those calculations in your head anymore. Bedtime users can even track sleep time with HealthKit. The Bedtime feature is available within the Clock app.

Put Your iPhone in Dark Mode

Dark mode has been noticeably absent from the iPhone for a few years. Apple TV and the Mac already offer this feature. While iOS 11 doesn’t officially offer dark mode, this feature can be accessed through Accessibility options. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Invert Colors to switch to “dark mode”.

Inverting colors has been possible on iOS for years. The difference is that, with iOS 11, colors are only inverted within iOS UI elements. Unfortunately, Smart Invert doesn’t work as advertised. Images on web pages still look like photo negatives. We can only hope that Apple fixes this issue. Better yet, they should offer a proper dark mode for iOS. For now, Smart Invert is as good as it gets.

Scan Documents on Your iPhone

Most people own a scanner. I have an HP all-in-one printer and scanner. It’s a piece of junk and it’s remarkably frustrating to use. I probably won’t ever need to use it again, thanks to iOS 11. The Notes app now includes a very capable document scanner. Just open Notes, tap the + button on the bottom right, and tap on Scan Documents. Simply point your iPhone’s camera at a document and follow the onscreen instructions. The results are quite impressive.

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The scanned documents actually look better than what most external scanners can produce. This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, a modern iPhone features a 12 megapixel rear camera. The sensors and optics are much better than most all-in-one office machines. The user interface is better than anything you’ll find on one of those old, clunky devices.

Turn on Do Not Disturb While Driving

Apple has been eyeing the automobile for a few years now. The introduction of CarPlay enabled users to access their iPhone without taking their eyes off the road. With iOS 11, Apple introduces Do Not Disturb While Driving, making our roads even safer.

The Do Not Disturb While Driving feature, once activated, automatically figures out if you are driving based on Bluetooth connectivity and motion sensors. Messages and calls can be automatically answered with customizable replies. Urgent messages can bypass the feature. Phone calls will come through if your iPhone is connected to your car’s Bluetooth speakerphone. If you have a teenager, it’s even possible to prevent her or him from turning the feature off. As usual, Apple thought of just about everything and implemented the feature with high quality results.

This is Just The Beginning

Although iOS 11 offers far more features for the iPad, it also improves the iPhone significantly. Keep in mind, this is just the beginning. As iOS 11 updates are released, Apple will introduce more new technology. This is particularly important for those lucky enough to own an iPhone X.

Jony Ive has stated that there is a lot more coming for the iPhone X this year. My guess is that Apple will take advantage of the front facing sensors to add support for hand gestures. This is something their competitor did a few years ago, but it was done quite poorly. Apple may not be the first to implement a particular feature, but they usually wait until it can be done right. Sometimes first is worst. Stay tuned for more exciting new features in iOS 11.

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