Apple announced the new iPhone X, iPhone 8, Apple TV 4K and Apple Watch Series 4 on Tuesday during their recent September 12 Special Event.
Even though the hardware announced was impressive, most of it won't be available for a while. However, macOS Sierra, iOS 11, tvOS 11 and watchOS 4 is available now as full GM releases to developers and will be available to the public from tomorrow, 19 September 2017. GM (Golden Master) is Apple's version of of Windows RTM (Release To Manufacturing) which essentially means it's the same as the public release that will be out in a few days time.
We installed the the GM releases of macOS Sierra, iOS 11, tvOS 11 and watchOS 4 on a 2012 Mac Mini, iPhone 7 Plus, iPad Air, Apple TV 4 and Apple Watch Series 2 to test out some of the new features introduced. We looked at features that we considered as useful to us and spent less time testing features that we know we’d probably never use. Updates were done as over-the-air updates on the devices.
The first thing we tried on iOS 11 was the new iPad dock. Dragging apps to the dock resulted in the dock icon size getting increasingly smaller, especially in landscape mode. It's not so small that you can't use the apps properly but it still takes some getting used to. The new drag-and-drop feature works fine but it's something that we'll have to force ourselves to use to try to learn to maximise the potential of the iPad's new multi-tasking features.
One feature on the iPad and iPhone that we know we'll be using regularly is document scanning: a new addition to the Notes app that we absolutely love.
A document needs to be placed on a flat surface that has sufficient room around the document to ensure that the scanner find the edges of the document without interference. The app then finds the edges of the document and takes the photo without having any user input. Even if the document is at an angle, the scanner corrects the angle and crops the photo automatically. The image can be still enhanced thereafter if needed and then shared as a photo or even a PDF if needed. We were impressed by the quality of scans and even thought they aren’t anywhere as good as a dedicated flatbed scanner, the results are still sufficient for general use.
iOS 11 on the iPhone was a lot more subtle than the iPad. The new control center is a welcome change: all the important settings and shortcuts in one place. Battery life was not as good as before. However, a clean install resolved this issue. Our experience over the years has always shown that a clean install, be it on Android, iOS, macOS, Windows etc will yield the best results in battery life and performance.
The App Store has been completely redesigned. It's less cluttered with a clean design that focusses more on the content with a lot less text. We still have to learn all the ins and outs of the new App Store but it’s already growing on us.
Screenshots can now be taken and annotated in one go: for example on the iPhone, pushing the Power and the Home buttons together takes a screenshot and shows a thumbnail of the screenot on the lower left-corner.
Selecting the thumbnail launches the new screenshot editor where you can scribble notes onto it, make selections, crop etc.
macOS 10.12 High Sierra
There's very little new features that's immediately visible on High Sierra but the new Apple File System (AFS) promises huge performance benefits moving forward. Instantaneous file duplication is one such benefit.
Photos, Notes, Finder, Safari all get improvements. Safari has a built-in ad blocker that we found very useful. Besides the new AFS, other new technologies included in High Sierra is support for external GPUs, Augmented Reality support and HEVC (H.265) support (iOS 11and macOS High Sierra). High Efficiency Video Coding essentially means up to 40% smaller videos with the level of quality as before. We found this particularly useful especially for 4K recordings on our iPhone that tend to eat up space and an incredible rate. The Camera app allows you to choose which format you wish to record in to preserve compatibility. If all your devices are upgraded to iOS 11/High Sierra, then HEVC will work across all of those devices. 4K (30 FPS) records at 170MB a minute in H.265 and 350MB a minute in H.264.
watchOS 4 is compatible with all versions of Apple Watch. Notable features include new faces (the new Siri Face is our favorite), a better Fitness app, integration with gym equipment and a better heart rate monitoring (irregular heart beat notifications), The Siri Face takes various data inputs and displays it according to your location, current time etc. Say for example you haven’t closed your move ring due to you being in the classroom the whole day, then you will get a notification in the evening to walk a certain amount of minutes. I was busy on a course today so my move ring and exercise ring was still some way off from being closed so a 35 minute walk was suggested.
One other improvement we will definitely use is the ability to send more than one music playlist to Apple Watch. Previously, you could send music as one big list with no way to separate for example, music for jogging/workouts from music for easy listening. Now, individual playlists can get transferred to Apple Watch for an experience similar to an iPod.
tvOS received very little improvements this time around. Two features worthy of mention is automatic switching between Light and Dark modes and automatic syncing of the Apple TV’s home screen between multiple Apple TVs linked to the same Apple ID.
Apple have as usual, introduced many updates across all of their software platforms. Some can be used with immediate effect eg. HEVC recording, document scanning etc and others will show their true potential over the next few months eg. Augmented Reality and external GPU support.
As per our normal advice, backup critical data before upgrading and if battery life, stability, performance etc is vital for your day to activities, then we suggest you wait for the first point release before updating. This means that in the case of iOS 11 for example, wait for version 11.1 to be released before updating. This update will iron out the majority of the issues that will be part of tomorrow’s release and give you a far better overall experience.
Check Apple.com for all the new features included in macOS High Sierra, iOS 11, tvOS 11, watchOS 4 and if your device/s are compatible.
What’s your favorite macOS High Sierra, iOS 11, tvOS 11 and watchOS 4 feature?