MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — You don't have to buy a new iPhone or iPad to get new features. On Tuesday, Apple updates its iOS mobile operating software, bringing a new sheen and look to older devices, most notably, the advent of augmented reality,.
Before we tell you more, some quick housekeeping. To qualify for the update, you'll need a recent iPhone: the SE, 5S, 6, 6S and 6S Plus, 7 or 7 Plus. The new iPhones that go on sale next Friday, the 8 and 8 Plus, will have iOS11 pre-loaded.
The software will work on most current iPads and the iPod Touch. Check Apple's website to see if your model is compatible.
How to download iOS 11
Downloads will be available Tuesday, usually by mid-morning. To add the software to a pre-existing unit, go to Settings > General > Software Update. The iOS 11 update should appear in there. Plan to plug your phone into power for the update, and for the download to take quite some time — as much as 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your connection.
As always, back up your phone before you add the software, because things could go wrong. Users have complained in the past in the initial days after downloading a new OS. For best results, and to give Apple time to fix issues, you might want to wait a few days before downloading.
New iOS 11 features of note:
— Augmented reality. Millions of people turned Pokémon Go into a hit last year, tapping the app that morphed animation into the physical world. Now, get ready for what analysts say could be as many as 10,000 new AR apps, with the launch of iOS 11, from the likes of IKEA, the Food Network and myriad game developers.
The idea is you'll be able to mix your reality — throwing animation into real life — such as Snapchat's dancing hot dog.
— Control Center update. It's been redesigned, allowing you to change settings for the tools you care about most. The familiar feature that is available by swiping up from the bottom of the screen currently has Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb, flashlight, camera and other popular features. In the new iOS, you can add things like Voice Memos or home automation tools.
— Apple Pay for friends. Riffing off the popular Venmo app, where millions of students split pizza bills and rent notices via the peer-to-peer app, Apple is bringing the same technology to its text message network, Messages. The advantage over Venmo: no app to install, and Apple already has your banking information on file. (Update: this feature won't be available this week, but instead is now listed by Apple as "coming this fall.")
— Do Not Disturb. To help curb distracted driving, Apple's new feature lets you turn off notifications and other disturbances while you drive. Remember, first you have to agree to turn it on.
— New filters and compression for photos. Always running out of room to take new pictures on your phone? iOS11 introduces a new system that effectively makes the file size of your photo smaller, but retains the quality, enabling you to take more photos. Apple also has new filters to jazz up your image.
— A new, expandable keyboard. Apple says the keyboard will let you "select one-handed typing, and the keys will instantly move closer to your thumb."
— A smarter Siri. Yes, we hear this every year. Last year, we were told that app developers would add Siri to their apps, but that didn't catch on. This year, the personal digital assistant will be more expressive and be able to translate phrases in other languages.
Beyond the iPhone: the iPad
The iPad also gets a major upgrade with iOS 11, which Apple hype calls the "biggest software release ever."
The update is aimed at making the tablet more of a computer replacement, with a Files app for keeping track of where data is on your machine, multitasking features and a Dock at the bottom of the screen for opening and switching through apps.