7 of the Best iOS 11 Features You’ll Actually Use

Sep 21, 2017 - 37 Comments

Best iOS 11 features

iOS 11 includes many new features and a variety of subtle changes, but we’re going to highlight some of the best features available in iOS 11 for iPhone and iPad that you will actually use.

From the ability to scan documents with your camera, improving the Control Center, to less distracted driving, better file handling, the new one-handed keyboard, automatically ditching dusty apps, and a wealth of improvements to the iPad multitasking capabilities, read on to learn more.

Obviously you’ll need to get the iOS 11 update in order to gain access to these features, so if you haven’t done that yet you’d want to do so before trying them out. Or perhaps you’re on the fence about updating, and maybe these new features will sway you to update your iPhone or iPad. In any case, let’s get to it!

1: Document Scanning in Notes

You can now scan documents directly into Notes app by using the iPhone or iPad camera, without any additional software.

Scan documents in iOS Notes app

The feature is very easy to use, simply launch the Notes app and create a new note or go to an existing note, then click the little + button and choose “Document Scanner” and point the camera at the document you wish to scan. Crop it, adjust the color as needed, and save. The document is now scanned and stored in the Notes app.

Document scanner apps have always been some of the more useful third party apps available on iPhone and iPad, and now that same capability is built right into iOS.

2: Control Center is Customizable

Control Center has been redesigned, and best of all it’s now customizable. The appearance change may take a little getting used to, but most importantly you can now choose what you want in Control Center, and what you don’t.

Control Center in iOS 11

  • Go to “Settings” and then to “Control Center” to customize what is available in Control Center of iOS 11

Control Center has always been useful as it offers quick access to many features and settings toggles, but now Control Center is better than ever.

3: Offload Unused Apps

How many of us have handfuls of unused apps sitting around taking up space on our iPhone and iPad? Now iOS 11 has a neat housekeeping feature that you can enable which will automatically delete those unused apps to help prevent storage getting too low.

  • Open “Settings” and go to ‘iTunes & App Store’ and turn on “Offload Unused Apps”

Offload unused apps in iOS 11

4: One Handed iPhone Keyboard

Larger screen iPhone models are great for increased screen real estate and viewability of information, but a trade off for many users is that typing requires two hands on the bigger screen devices. But now iPhone in iOS 11 has a One Handed Keyboard mode, which shifts the keyboard keys over to the left or right portion of the screen, putting the keys easily in reach of a single thumb.

One handed keyboard on iPhone for iOS 11

  • Open Settings > Keyboards > One Handed Keyboard > Choose “Left” or “Right”

Also if you have Emoji enabled or another keyboard enabled, tapping the Globe/Emoji button on the keyboard gives you quick access to the One Handed Keyboards.

If you miss the days of one-handed texting on 3.5″ iPhone screens, you’ll likely really enjoy this feature.

iPad doesn’t have one-handed keyboard mode, but it does have some other interesting keyboard features like the ability to flick down on a key to access numbers and other special characters.

5: Files App

The Files app offers file access and a file system of sorts for iPhone and iPad, giving you easy access to iCloud Drive and files stored in apps on iOS and elsewhere in iCloud.

Files app in iOS 11

You’ll also have all the familiar file system actions available in Files app, including drag and drop support on the iPad (with a tap and hold), the ability to copy and delete files, create new folders, sort by date, name or file size, tag support, and more.

It’s much more rudimentary and simplified than Finder on the Mac so don’t expect that level of features, but nonetheless Files app on iOS is a great start to having improved file access on iPhone and iPad.

6: Do Not Disturb While Driving on iPhone

The iPhone has gained a new variation of the excellent Do Not Disturb feature which detects when a user is driving a car and then places the device automatically into a Do Not Disturb While Driving mode.

  • Open “Settings” > “Do Not Disturb” > Look for “Do Not Disturb While Driving” > tap to Activate then choose “Automatically”

Do Not Disturb while driving

This prevents notifications and alerts from coming in and distracting you while you are driving a car. You can even set custom automatic replies when the feature is enabled, letting contacts know you are driving and will get back to them when it’s safe to.

Do Not Disturb While Driving is a great feature which has the potential of reducing distracted driving and other traffic issues, so let’s hope everyone uses for the sake of safer roadways!

Oh and by the way, you can add a Do Not Disturb While Driving toggle into Control Center on iPhone if you want quick access to the feature.

7: iPad Multitasking Improvements

iOS 11 is really most notable on iPad, where the new Dock, app switcher, drag and drop capabilities, and multitasking capabilities make a huge impact on iPad workflow.

iPad Dock and multitasking in iOS 11

There is much to explore with the iPad multitasking changes, and the new additions of the improved Dock, App switcher, along with the ability to Drag and Drop between apps, all work great with other iPad multitasking capabilities like Split View, Slide Over, and Picture in Picture video.

Do you have any favorite iOS 11 tips or tricks? Share them with us in the comments!


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Tony HUGHES says:

    With IOS 11.1 on my I Phone, I have lost the ability to EDIT my calendar events and appointments. There is now EDIT on the top right of the screen. I can easily edit using the computer but this is not always handy to do this. IOS 10 had the edit.

  2. Ryq says:

    This is a great improvement for DND.

    The weakness of DND is that one has to remember to turn it off. If you turn it off for a movie, a meeting, or a doctor’s appointment, you have to remember to turn it on or could miss calls.

    There needs to be an option to mute the phone for a certain amount of time when needed. Currently, this can only be done for a regular time. The only workaround is to put the phone on mute AND set an alarm to remind you to turn it on again.

    Would IFFT be a solution?

  3. rodken says:

    They should have just added the files app and left everything else alone.
    Thanks for the slower Ipad apple!

  4. GAH says:

    Ok, found the answer to my own question. If you hit the clock icon in the upper right top banner, you’re automatically taken to all your search history. Once there, you have the option to clear individual, past hour or past day searches just the same as in the last iOS.

  5. GAH says:

    Prior to OS11, I was clearing my search history without eliminating visually stacked bookmarks. Now it appears that the history category is completely gone & you have to go into ‘settings’ to clear history, which is a complete deletion of even the visual bookmarks. Bummer… Any suggestions?

  6. DanHubing says:

    Multitasking is limited to the Apps in the Control Center, right?
    In iOS 10 the right side slide, on the iPad, seems to have offered more Apps to use.

    Any idea how to multitask more Apps in iOS 11?

    Thanks, Dan

  7. Brad says:

    I’m really disappointed that there is no option to remove the “annoying” option to either select the left or right keyboard. For me, I know myself I will never use it so why don’t  give me the option to switch it off!!!!!!!!!!

    • Luis says:

      Yes they do provide ways to do that. Tap and hold on the globe (or smiley face) and you will find the option to select the regular keyboard. Alternatively, go to settings>general>keyboard and make sure ‘one handed keyboard’ is set to off instead of right or left

    • Luis says:

      Do note that the procedure I just outlined is only for iphone. The ipad, being a larger device, does not offer the one handed keyboard feature.

  8. Steven Bukosky says:

    I’m hugely disappointed that there is still no backspace control other than the very clunky “roll your fingertip”. Even that, which sometimes works well, does not work all of the time so I’ll say this is my biggest disappointment with 11.0.

  9. Steven Bukosky says:

    Scan in notes is too little too late. I’ve been using Microsoft Lens which scans much nicer and it then goes into Microsoft One Note.

  10. Lubomir says:

    the little + does not appear on my keyboard.instead of some letters

  11. kllrbee says:

    Does anyone know if Low Power Mode can be added to Control Center?

  12. Geeknik says:

    Until Apple builds a desintegrator ray for disposing of idiots who text while driving and and red lights, I will stick to my Moto phone.

  13. Martin says:

    Without an OCR function the document scanner is useless for me. Where is the difference between taking a photo?

    • Steven Bukosky says:

      Ooo, i didn’t think of that. All the more reason that I’m staying with Microsoft Lens and One Note. Adobe has a pretty good scanner app but still not as good as Lens.

  14. no way says:

    Nothing that interests me at all here, and the need to spend additional time syncing updates for apps only makes me uninterested in these updates to iOS and OSX.

    Why do i need a function to ignore my phone while driveing? Simple solution, DON’T ANSWER IT!!!!!!!!

    I have no need for a one handed keyboard, I prefer to keep a firm grip on my phone so I don’t drop it, which is clearly the reason Apple adds this, to increase sales and repairs.

    Any app I don’t use I delete, again I don’t need a function for this and certainly it will delete apps you don’t want it to. Are we such morons we can’t figure to hold any app til the x appears and delete the ones we don’t use?

    Never used or had the need for the control center. Again IMO another waste of resources. I put my frequently used apps in the main screen, problem solved.

    I like many others I know will NOT be doing this update nor the High Sierra update.

    • Ted says:

      I imagine everybody you know hates you, even your parents. You are a miserable person and should move to N. Korea. I suggest you write your own OS for a phone you like. Then you can only include what is important to you, grasshopper.

    • MapSkraps says:

      How weird that you would spend so much time telling the world what you do not need!

  15. Garry Blyth says:

    No decent golf games on the App Store the best one I had was Tiger Woods PGA 12 but now it won’t work on this update and when I’ve tried a lot of the others there nothing but garbage why can’t we have a decent golf game you can’t even get in touch with your train get into updated this is really a bummer .

  16. TonyB says:

    Earlier this week there was an OXD that listed the products that led to D/L of the updates.
    As my pet hate is not being able to see prior to D/L the size, I would appicable models ie. iPhones same, iPads same?
    Be great to only D/L one of each and without using too much data.

  17. Bill maxwell says:

    Always find this site useful. Keep it up

  18. Jay says:

    Some of 11 is useful, others, not so much. SIRI’s voice is not the same, did she ask for a raise and was canned? Why does my WiFi keep turning itself on? This is very annoying as I want it on when I want it on! And my biggest pet peeve, the iPhone 8 STILL looks like a Samsung Galaxy!

    • Stephanie says:

      I noticed my wifi turned on by itself sometimes as well. I thought I had left it on by accident. As for Siri, it automatically changed from English to another language without me doing it manually. There are definitely some glitches which will hopefully be addressed in the next update.

    • Cerebro says:

      Yeah, I’ve also seen my WiFi, randomly, turning itself on when I don’t want it on. That’s about the only complaint I’ve had with iOS 11, thus far. Hopefully, Apple will correct this in the next update.

      • Dun says:

        iOS 11 doesn’t actually switch off wifi or Bluetooth when you kill them from the control center. Yes you heard right, this is not a bug either, this is by design. As a drone operator I kept noticing Bluetooth signal interefence even though i killed the Bluetooth on my phone. Upon further digging I found this lovely little surprise. SO if you actually want to switch off Bluetooth or WiFi you have to go to the settings and toggle it from there. All the control center does is stop current connections, but the radio is still on and actively listening. Apple said that this is because of airpods and airdrop. Thanks apple.

        • Used to love Apple says:

          Thanks! So annoying – but so helpful to know. Might as well just remove Battery from the Control Center, except that Apple doesn’t let you do that. Bad design, Apple.

          • Dun says:

            Just read in the documentation that Bluetooth and WiFi will automatically switch back on at 5am if you used control center toggle. How? What? Why? This is INSANITY!

        • Cerebro says:

          Ah…I see now. I didn’t realize this was, now, by design. I have WiFi “off” in my Control Center. I, then, went into my Settings and noted that it was, still, toggled “on”. Looks like another little quirk I’ll have to get used to, then.

  19. Carol Stein says:

    Once I upgraded to iOS 11 I eagerly went to the new Files app. No files. For some reason I’ve never been able to get my files to iCloud… I tried to back up my iPad Air 2 before the upgrade, but the display kept cycling among 7 minutes, 8 minutes, 10 minutes, and apparently no data was actually stored….

    Yesterday I reopened the Files app several times, still trying to find something… anything. Today I upgraded some apps, including Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. When I opened the Files app again, I searched for a specific Pages file. Pages appeared in the suddenly visible “on my iPad” location! Then Numbers appeared, also. These are app folders, and i’m still missing Notes files and many others, but perhaps eventually I’ll have all my files.

    • Luis says:

      Apparently, new folders for pages, numbers and keynote are created in the “on my ipad” location after updating to ios 11 (though in my case I only got pages so far). However, any documents you had from before updating will not be moved to the new folders; instead, they will stay in their original location in the icloud drive. The new folders under “on my ipad” will therefore remain empty until you create new documents and choose to save them there instead of the icloud drive (new feature in pages, numbers and keynote). Thus, I suggest you look for all your previously created documents in the icloud drive location in their respective app folders.

  20. Louis says:

    Above, you show a screenshot of the Files App. In the Files App, one of the locations (along with all the cloud locations) is On My iPad (at least in your screenshot). I was in the public beta program for iOS 11 and had it on my iPad Pro. When I first downloaded the beta, it had the On My iPad location in Files. Then, mysteriously, On My iPad disappeared from subsequent versions, only leaving the cloud locations. When I tried to upgrade to the production version of iOS 11. I also have a regular iPad that was not in the beta program but that I recently upgraded to iOS 11; and it also does not show an On My iPad location. Does anyone know why that is?

  21. Dennis says:

    All these great new innovative features of Apple. But until this day, Apple seems incapable of adding the feature to iOS for managing groups in Contacts. Unbelievable!

  22. Ian says:

    You probably have had this feature in the US for the past few years but up here in Western Canada they finally got their act together and gave us wifi calling but where they put it is a bit of a head-scratcher. Why not put it where you can not see it rather than putting it in the Cellphone tab.

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