I finally broke down and loaded the iOS 11 first beta on my new 12.9″ iPad Pro this weekend. Unfortunately, with this being the first version of the beta, doing so has pretty much rendered this device useless other than for testing the new OS. Several apps are crashing, and there are plenty of rough edges, just as you would expect for a beta release at this juncture. However, one thing I have noticed is that Multitasking is actually pretty polished, even in this initial release. Multitasking has triggered a few crashes, but it is stable for the most part, and the scrolling, gestures, and motions are all fluid and work well.
Now, please bear in mind that this is not a review of iOS 11. We aren’t allowed to review the beta, and for good reason. The bugs are being worked out. Features may be added, changed, or subtracted. As such, this article is simply an overview of the Multitasking features as they currently stand.
The gateway to Multitasking on the iPad Pro in iOS 11 is the Dock.
A simple swipe upwards from the bottom of the screen brings it up for use within other apps. From here, you can open up other apps for Multitasking. Just drag an app icon up from the Dock to put it on the screen.
If you let go of the app on the screen, it will open in Slide Over mode. You can also drag it to the far right and dock it there. The cool thing here is that apps used in Slide Over mode aren’t exclusively anchored to the right side like the used to be. They can be moved to either the right or left side of the screen.
However, I did notice that they can only be HIDDEN from view on the right. Once hidden on the right side of the screen, they act just like we were used to in iOS 9 and 10 and can be slid in or out as needed.
You may recognize the thin rectangular line at the top of the Slide Over panel. However, where that used to open the old (and terrible) Multitasking App Selector, it now just allows you to grab the panel and either move it to the right or left, or to dock it on the right side. Docking and undocking is done by pulling down on the panel using the line. Pulling down on a docked all will do the opposite and put it back in Slide Over mode.
Now, once an app is docked on the right, you have a little more freedom in what you can do with it. As you can see below, you can now set the docked app to take up 3/4 of the screen, giving just a little bit of extra flexibility.
Another difference between iOS 11 and previous versions is in how sliding apps off the right side of the screen works. If you side a docked app off the right side of the screen, it is removed from the equation. You will have to drag it back on the screen from the Dock to re-open it for Multitasking. In contrast, an app in a floating Slide Over panel will remain and can be pull back onto the page by swiping in from the right edge of the screen.
Apple covered Multitasking in detail during the WWDC Keynote, but what they didn’t tell us is just how far you can stretch it in iOS 11.
As you can see here, I have four separate apps open in this shot. The primary app is the largest on the left, I have an app docked on the right, another open in a Slide Over panel on the left, and then a video open in a floating window. While some may think this is of limited usefulness, the ability to have a third full app open is great news for me. I do the majority of my writing on an iPad Pro, so being able to have WordPress open, with Safari docked on the right, and then an app like Twitter in a Slide Over panel that can be pulled in when I need it is a solid upgrade. I appreciate the fact that Apple continues to add capability to match the increased processing power of the iPad Pros.
The last major component of iOS 11 Multitasking is the new App Switcher.
Apple made a big deal about its new Spaces-like feature that remembers app pairings and states during the keynote. You can see an example above with the pairing of Safari and Twitter. The new App Switcher is a big functional improvement, and is very handy for the most part, especially since it is now combined with the new and improved Control Center.
One small complaint that I hope Apple will address in the future is that if you open an app that is paired with another one in the App Switcher, even if its from the Home Screen or Spotlight, it will re-open with the other app as a pair. For example, if you wanted to close out of the Safari and Twitter pair above and then open Twitter in full screen to do something, and then go back, you can’t. You would have to close Twitter out of Multitasking, hit the Home button, re-open Twitter to get it open full screen, and then put everything back like you had it after you’re done.
This little bit of extra freedom to open apps that are paired up independently from a Home Screen or Spotlight would allow for more permanent pairings that could be pinned in the App Switcher for future use. This is not a criticism of the beta, mind you. This is how the new App Switcher is designed. This new feature just doesn’t go quite as far as it could. Maybe this additional functionality will come in a later version of iOS.
There are three ways to open the new App Switcher. You can double-tap the Home Button, as always. You can still do a four-finger swipe up on a Home Screen, as well. Last, you can do a single finger swipe up from below the Dock to open the App Switcher. This will work on any Home Screen, where the Dock normally lives, or any time the Dock is accessed from within an app with an upward swipe.
Much has changed with how Multitasking works in iOS 11. All of the original UI for Slide Over, Multitasking, and the Multitasking App Selector from iOS 9 and 10 are completely gone. A few bits and pieces have been preserved, but in many cases, the operation and gestures behind them are different than before. However, despite all the changes, the new methods tend to make more sense, and as such, are easy to pick up quickly and remember.
As you can see, there is a LOT of power in these new Multitasking features, despite the rough edges of the such an early beta. They will only get better and more stable as we get closer to release. Until then, I would heartily recommend the majority of users stay away from using this beta. While Multitasking and drag and drop already work fairly well, many apps don’t, and there is no guarantee that they will until the final release of iOS 11. If you can’t stand it, at least wait until the Public Beta unless you have the luxury of a second iPad to run a beta on without losing your normal device capabilities. If I didn’t have a second device right now, I would already be back on iOS 10 myself.
What do you think of Multitasking in iOS 11? Are you excited? Not impressed? Waiting to get a closer look? Let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, to on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.