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iOS 11 Unveiled: Siri Improvements, Apple Pay In iMessage, SDK Updates

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Apple kicked off WWDC just hours ago, and it has finally taken the wraps off iOS 11. Everyone has been so hyper-focused on the iPhone 8 that iOS 11 has gotten much less attention this year than previous iOS versions have gotten from the rumor mill in past years. iOS 11 is bringing quite a few updates, including machine learning and translation capabilities for Siri, several updates to iMessage, improvements to the Camera and Photos apps and much more.

iOS 11 brings lots of updates to iMessage

iMessage is getting a pretty big overhaul in iOS 11. For example, messages will now sync to iCloud so that users with multiple Apple devices will be able to see their messages across devices. Messages will also work with macOS, and they have end-to-end encryption for better digital privacy and security. Apple has also redesigned the app drawer for iMessage so that users will more easily be able to reach the Sticker Packs and various iMessage apps within the interface.

And as had been expected, Apple Pay will be integrated with iMessage in iOS 11 so that users can send payments via the app. The Touch ID fingerprint sensor can be used to authenticate payments in the Apple Pay iMessage app, and payments that are received through iMessage will go onto the user’s Apple Pay Cash Card.

Machine learning and translation added to Siri

Siri is also getting some significant improvements aimed at making the voices sound more natural. Apple management showed off some of the machine learning features in SiriKit. Both the male and female versions of the voice will get the machine learning-based updates. Siri is becoming more proactive in iOS 11 by offering suggests based on context, just like on watchOS 4.

iOS 11 is adding an “intelligence” feature, which will enable Siri to suggest things like a particular news article that the user could find to be interesting. Apple’s digital assistant will be able to learn what topics are pertinent to the user and/ or may interest them. Management described the feature as “on-device learning,” which enables Siri to take what it learns on one particular device and then sync it across the user’s other devices.

The feature is aimed at making Siri become better and better at predicting what the user wants or needs at a particular time and by using context in making suggestions. For example, Siri may suggest that the user create a calendar event from something they looked at on Safari.

Apple is also adding translation capabilities to Siri, enabling users to ask it how to say something in another language. The translation beta will offer support for translations of English into Spanish, German, French, Italian and Chinese, although the company plans to add more languages at a later time.

Siri is also getting a new male voice that uses deep learning to sound more natural than previous voices and even be able to discern context based on the user’s tone of voice when making requests.

Other updates in iOS 11

iOS 11 is also bringing improvements for the Camera and Photos apps, such as improved photos taken in low light. The Camera app will also offer improved compression for photos and videos so that storage space can be optimized even at the time they are taken. Dual-lens iPhone models will support the new Depth API in iOS 11. The Photos app is getting a new Memories feature, which utilizes machine learning to group photos by types of memories such as birthday parties. iOS 11 will also enhance Live Photos, enabling users to take different stills from inside them.

Control Center has also been redesigned, as have the lock screen and Notification Center. iOS 11 is also bringing floor plans for shopping malls and airports to Apple Maps. Maps is also getting lane guidance and speed limits, and the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature mutes the iPhone while the user is driving to reduce distractions.

iOS 11 is also bringing multi-room support for speakers with AirPlay 2 and a new MusicKit software development kit for Apple Music. The company is also shortening review times for apps submitted in the App Store, and it is planning to redesign the App Store and allow developers to offer the option of phased releases for their apps.

iOS 11 will also bring augmented reality, something else we’ve been hearing will come to Apple products for quite some time. Apple is adding ARKit to let users experience augmented reality through a camera n iOS.

iOS 11 beta 1 is available for download from here on compatible iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices. Those who are registered with the company’s Developer Program can download it now, and those who are enrolled in the Apple Beta Software Program should get access to it soon. The final version of iOS 11 should drop for the masses sometime this fall, probably toward the middle of September.

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