OS 11 is officially available. It's coming to every iPhone and iPad made in the past few years, and chances are, you're going to upgrade. When you install it on your iPhone, you'll find that some things are very different than what you're used to, but the core of how you get around and experience the OS will be the same. For example: the Control Center is wildly different and notifications have changed slightly, but you still have that comfortable (and comforting) grid of apps on the home screen. A lot is new, but not so much that you can't recognize it.
Here are 10 things you should definitely go play around with after you upgrade, along with some opinions about each of them.
Customize the Control Center
The first thing you're going to want to dig into on iOS 11 is the all-new Control Center. It's completely redesigned so that it sits on a single screen instead of on two or three swiping panels. It’s a little weird at first, with a wacky array of buttons and widgets. Some of them are simple button toggles, others are panels that you can force touch to expand for even more options.
Force touching the flashlight brings up a slider that lets you change its intensity. Force touching the networking panel brings up all your wireless radios and (praise be) a button to toggle your hot spot. One nice note: if you turn on airplane mode and then turn Bluetooth on again, that toggle "sticks." So the next time you turn on airplane mode, your Bluetooth headphones won't disconnect. Nice.
For the first time, Apple is providing a settings pane where you can customize which buttons do and don't appear in Control Center, and you can reorder them as well. Apple is still not letting third-party developers put anything in here, but maybe next year it will.
In the meantime, there are a few panels that I'm really impressed with. There's quick access to the Apple TV remote; if you have Control Center turned on for your lock screen, it might actually be more convenient than the real remote. I also think that the screen recording feature is super neat. It records a quick movie of whatever you're doing on-screen. It seems like a feature custom-designed for reviewers and tech support, but it actually lets you do clever things like record gameplay or quickly grab a video clip.
I'm still mystified as to why Apple doesn't put quick access to a Wi-Fi network selection screen somewhere in there, though. You still have to hunt through settings to change your Wi-Fi network or select a new one. I am glad to see that it's easier to switch Bluetooth devices directly in Control Center, but I find the location (under the music widget) a little unintuitive.
Learn how notifications work
Apple and I have a very serious disagreement about notifications. I want them to be a place where I can quickly triage a ton of things. I want to get an overview of my day and take action on the stuff I care about while swiping away the stuff I don't. I like to manage my notifications, and once they're properly curated I get a ton of utility out of a notification pane. I can see what emails matter, I can respond to texts directly, I can dismiss stuff I don't care about. I basically don't even need the home screen.
Except doing all of that on iOS 11 feels like wading through chest-high mud.
Apple's philosophy is that I'm trying way too hard. Notifications are flying in so fast and at such volume that it's not worth trying to live your life in that screen. Instead, you should just let them flow by, pay attention to one or two that you care about, and ignore the rest. If you really care, you can hit a little X button to clear them all out at the end of the day.
Apple has made a few concessions to my way of thinking since the first betas of iOS 11 came out. You can swipe away notifications now, and there's also that X button at the very top that you can force press to clear all. But Apple still adamantly refuses to borrow a bunch of the notification innovations Android brought, such as grouping notifications from a single app together and putting higher-priority notifications at the top. I also find that managing notification settings requires way too much bouncing around within the Settings app.
But the most fascinating thing about notifications on iOS 11 is that the shade you pull down from the top is the same thing as your lock screen. They look and operate exactly the same: down to swipe over to your camera and to your widget screen. It's one fewer conceptual "Zone" to have to think about, and once you get used to it you'll wonder why it wasn't always that way. Especially with the iPhone X, your phone is basically always going to be unlocked when it's in your hand, so it makes sense that the "lock screen" and the "notification screen" are collapsed into one unit.