Finally, iPad is getting its due. Since Apple introduced its tablet, it’s always been the lesser sibling, sort of like an iPod music player with a big screen. While Apple finally delivered an enterprise class tablet with the iPad Pro, it’s taken until iOS 11 for the iPad to get the software features it needs to stand on its own.
With iOS 11, the iPad gets new features designed specifically for the tablet that serve to make this tablet much more competitive with an ultrabook or with Microsoft’s Surface tablet. But it’s worth noting that the iPhone also got some nice software upgrades as well, some that are pretty significant on their own.
Apple is saying that iOS 11 is a “Monumental Leap” for the iPad. This is especially true for the iPad Pro because iOS 11 provides new functionality for the Apple Pencil, which it certainly needed. The updated mobile OS also provides new access to files and documents that can help make your workflow faster and easier.
One example of this is the drag and drop feature that works on the tablet as it does with most Apple software and with some third party applications. With Apple software you can essentially drag anything and drop it anywhere on the screen of the iPad. Using this in conjunction with the new Files app, and you can consolidate your file storage, whether the files live on the iPad, on a network server somewhere in the cloud.
You can drop those files into the Files app or drag them to other iOS apps, such as your email or into a document. This is made easier by the new multitasking capability that’s available with iOS 11. You can open two apps on the screen much more easily, and switching between apps is now more seamless with the addition of a dock at the bottom of the screen and by a new app switcher that appears when you click the Home button twice quickly.
The dock normally shows your most recently used apps, but you can customize it so that certain apps will always be there. The dock also shows currently open apps on the right side. You can open apps so that they’re running side by side using the dock, and you can use them in split screen.
The multi-tasking ability adds significant flexibility to activities such as content creation where you need access to text and photos at the same time, for example.
The iPhone gets most of the features that the iPad gets, including drag and drop. However you won’t see the multitasking that the iPad has and of course the Apple Pencil won’t work with the iPhone.
So you won’t get the new capabilities for Pencil support that come with the iPad Pro, including Instant Markup and Instant Notes.
Instant Markup lets you use the Apple Pencil to annotate and otherwise markup screen images, including PDF files and photos simply by writing on them. Whatever you write will go with the item you were marking up.
Instant Notes happen when you touch the Apple Pencil to the lock screen, which opens a note screen. You can write notes in the screen, and they’re searchable.
There are some lesser known changes that should make life a little easier for those who have to support iOS devices. For example, you no longer have to maintain a printed recovery key for each device in case the user forgets a password. Instead, Apple has fully implemented two-factor authentication for iOS, which you’ll discover when you first install the new version of iOS.
There’s also a document scanning feature that senses when the camera is photographing a document. In this case it will straighten up the image and remove glare. You can even use the Apple Pencil to fill in blanks and sign the document. This feature alone will make some types of document routing significantly easier.
If you’d rather type than sign, the new on-screen keyboard now has dual function keys which allow you to type the alternate character on the key by just flicking it down. Remember the shift key on your old typewriter? It’s back in this new version.
Improved in this version is the iOS Control Center. This is the feature that you’ve used to do things such as turning Bluetooth or WiFi on or off, enabling rotation lock or changing the screen brightness. Now the Control Center has been redesigned so you can customize it by adding or deleting functions that work best for you.
There’s one glitch, though. Turning Bluetooth or WiFi on or off in the Control Center doesn’t actually turn those off functions. They’re still running, but they won’t accept new connections. If you actually want to turn those functions on or off, you need to do it in the Settings app or you need to enable Airplane Mode in Settings or in the Control Center.
For Apple, the improvements to iOS for the iPad will help make this tablet a more valuable tool for its customers. The iPad has been a slow seller recently, likely because it was hard to see its value when compared with the Plus versions of the iPhone.
Now, with the new features, the new iOS makes the iPad more useful. But it also adds to the iPhone’s functionality.