By Lake Lucas
Apple’s iOS 11 will be available to download on most iPhones and iPads starting September 19th. It will also ship on the new iPhone 8 and iPhone X when they are available. A public beta of iOS 11 has been available since June and there are several key new features for enterprise users that are worth surfacing here.
Perhaps the largest change to iOS is the inclusion of a new application called Files. Think of it as Finder for iOS. Since the original launch of iPhone many people have clamored for a true file manager on the platform. Files delivers on that request.
Files is a one-stop location on iOS that allows a user to connect all their cloud storage platforms together like iCloud, Google Drive and One Drive in one central location. Individual files can also be stored in the local device storage but it’s clear that the world and Apple have moved to cloud storage systems. Files allows users to quickly view their data on all storage platforms and move files between the services.
There are some features in the public beta which are missing for third party services but once iOS 11 is released application developers will be able to update their apps to take advantage of the new integrations.
Drag and Drop
It’s hard to discuss the Files application without mention of the new system wide drag and drop feature in iOS 11. Drag and drop has been available on macOS and Windows for years and its inclusion in iOS is a speed and convenience enhancement more than anything else.
With it a user can drag multiple files and folders between directories and services in the Files application. On iPad a user can now drag multiple icons from one home screen to another. Interactions like this used to be limited to one application or one file at a time and were often buried in the share sheet menu.
Drag and drop is also available between applications. If a user is using an iPad and they have two apps in split-view (two applications side-by-side on screen), such as Safari and Mail, they are now able to drag a link from Safari into a Mail message. Links are not the only data types which can be dragged and dropped, it also works for contacts, images, calendar invites, ect. Drag and drop is currently supported by all Apple’s built in apps and will be available to third party developer’s apps when iOS 11 is released to the public.
The Notes app is where many people store a lot of their day-to-day information on their iPhone and iPad. iOS 11 brings several enhancements to the application including basic Excel style table views, enhanced inline drawing capabilities with a finger or Apple Pencil, a document scanner and the ability to tap on a locked iPad Pro lock screen with Apple Pencil to create an instant note without unlocking the device. The net effect of these additions makes Notes a viable and free native application that can take on the likes of Evernote and One Note.
Simplified Device Management
Enterprise clients using an MDM environment will now have a few more management options. Sysadmins can now push updates to locked devices, restrict users from adding their own VPN applications, homescreens and app layouts can now be remotely configured on conference room Apple TVs and most importantly any device can now be added to the Device Enrollment Program.
Businesses will be able to offer links on their websites and within their applications to support and sales chat channels which will open directly in the Messages application on iOS devices. Apple calls the feature Business Chat and it allows businesses to engage iOS users on a platform they already have on their device and are already comfortable with.
Some of the features above will be available out of the box. Others like the device management, Files integration, and Business Chat will require some action by sysadmins and developers. What’s key to the new features success is adoption. It’s clear that if businesses want to remain relevant providing enhancement to their applications keeps their users happy. Apple has created new API integrations to accomplish this and it will be interesting to see what catches on in the coming months.