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Apple iOS 11 features make iPads more productive business tools

IT experts are looking forward to the new productivity features of iOS 11 on the iPad and iPad Pro around multitasking, the Apple Pencil and user interface enhancements.

IT experts see the upcoming iOS 11 features as a big boost for iPad productivity in the enterprise.

Apple this week announced new iOS 11 features focused on the iPad and iPad Pro's user interface and multitasking abilities, as well as the Pro device's Apple Pencil stylus. The improvements make iPads better productivity tools, with a more natural interface similar to that of macOS on a MacBook, experts said.

"IOS 11 for iPad really does take a leap forward," said Michael Oh, managing CTO and founder at TSP LLC, an Apple partner and customer based in Boston. "That gap between iPad Pro and MacBook is getting pretty thin now."

Boost in iOS 11 UI

All iPads will now come with an enhanced dock, the bar at the bottom of the screen that shows users' most frequently used applications, similar to that of macOS. It will be bigger than the dock on previous iPads, and it also now uses machine learning to predict which apps users want to access.

That gap between iPad Pro and MacBook is getting pretty thin now.
Michael Ohmanaging CTO and founder at TSP LLC

Additionally, iPad and iPad Pro users can take advantage of a new multitasking feature, which allows users to drag an app out of the dock and show it alongside another open app. If the user accesses a third app and then reverts back to either of the first two apps, the original two will still be side by side. A similar feature exists in iOS 10, but the apps don't stay in place if users switch to a third app, and users can't drag an app out of the dock.

"The productivity and multitasking ... blur the line between macOS and iOS on iPad," said Ira Grossman, CTO of end-user computing at MCPc Inc., an IT consultancy in Cleveland. "You don't have to be tied to a desktop to get your work done."

Apple Pencil gets more dynamic

Apple added new iOS 11 features around the Pencil on the iPad Pro, as well. If a user taps the Pencil on the display, it will open up their most recent Notes item, even from the lock screen. Apple also reduced the stylus' latency to 20 milliseconds, just beating out the Microsoft Surface Pen at 21 milliseconds.

Plus, the Apple Pencil on iOS 11 supports inline drawing in the Mail and Notes apps. This feature allows users to handwrite notes or drawings directly in an email or note on the screen, and the surrounding text moves aside to create space for the markings. Users can also take a picture of a piece of paper or document, and Notes will automatically transform it to a digital document scan or PDF.

"When I work on site at construction sites, the Pencil is very helpful," Oh said. "It's a good way to input notes when you don't have keyboards accessible. It's much more integrated and completes the touch experience."

When the Apple Pencil first came out in November 2015, it was viewed as more of a novelty item, Grossman said.

"Now, they've recognized there is a business need for it," he said.

The Apple Pencil is a good tool for users on the go, but it doesn't measure up to the productivity from a traditional cursor, said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of research firm Moor Insights and Strategy in Austin, Texas.

"Some of the new pen features are good; [the features] remind me a lot of what Microsoft and Google already announced, and I believe [the features] will accelerate pen use," Moorhead said. "For those traditional business creators of spreadsheets, presentations and documents, I still believe most users prefer a pointing device, like a trackpad or mouse."

In addition to boosting the software of the iPad Pro with iOS 11, Apple made some display, camera and processor improvements. It stretched out the display size of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro to 10.5 inches without making the device any bigger by shrinking the bezel.

More business improvements

The new ARKit allows iOS developers to build apps using augmented reality (AR) technology that rely on the device's camera to view real-world environments with the addition of digital elements. Organizations in industries such as manufacturing could take advantage of these types of apps for mobile employees.

Lastly, Apple plans to roll out a new iMessage service called Business Chat. This allows customers to locate a business through Safari, Maps, Spotlight or Siri, then message the organization instantly with any support needs or to complete transactions. Apple integrated Apple Pay into its messaging app, which allows for person-to-person payments.

The resized 10.5-inch iPad Pro starts at $649, and it's available starting next week. Apple iOS 11 will be available as a free upgrade this fall for iPads and iPhones.

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