Apple has finally revealed iOS 17 at WWDC 2023, and the latest update to the software on your iPhone brings some great features to the fold.
There's a lot to get excited about here, from updates to Messages and Facetime to a new app for journaling and glanceable information while your iPhone charges.
It may not be the most ambitious iOS update ever, but iOS 17 has plenty of new features that will be coming to your smartphone in the fall.
iOS 17: New features
iOS 17: The Phone app just got prettier!
“With iOS 17, we’ve made iPhone more personal and intuitive by deeply considering the features we all rely on every day,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “Phone, FaceTime, and Messages are central to how we communicate, and this release is packed with updates we think our users are going to love."
iOS 17 brings Contact Posters to the Phone app, which allows you to customize your contact photos so they look similar to the wallpaper on your Lock Screen. This means that incoming calls look better than ever before with customizable fonts and colors. Contact Posters will also be available in all third-party calling apps.
iOS 17: Live Voicemail
iOS 17 also brings Live Voicemail to the iPhone. This means you can see a real-time transcript as someone leaves a voicemail, with the ability to pick up the phone while they are in the process of doing so. The Phone app will also instantly decline spam calls. Apple has made sure to focus on the privacy aspect of Live Voicemail, so the Neural Engine on your iPhone is handled on-device and is completely private.
iOS 17: Improvements to Messages
FaceTime has also got some voicemail love, with the ability to leave audio and video messages when someone doesn't pick up your call. You can also leave reactions in the app, such as hearts, balloons, fireworks, laser beams, rain, and more.
iOS 17: Live Stickers & More
Messages has an all-new sticker experience that allows you to create Live Stickers. Live Stickers bring your stickers to life with effects and other cool editing options.
The new updates to Messages include a better menu for iMessage apps, more powerful search with additional search filters, a catch-up arrow to see exactly where you last left a conversation, and the ability to share your location with real time updates right in the conversation.
Messages also introduces a new safety feature called Check In, adding the ability to check if a family member or friend is home safely and check on their journey home. Check In shows useful information like the device’s location, battery level, and cell service status. Any information shared is end-to-end encrypted.
iOS 17: NameDrop and better AirDrop
iOS 17 brings more functionality to AirDrop on your iOS device, and it's called NameDrop. NameDrop allows you to easily share contact information by bringing your iPhone close to another person's device - this also works with Apple Watch. You can use the same gesture for SharePlay to watch movies, listen to music, or play a game easier than ever before.
iOS 17: Autocorrect and Dictation just got more intelligent
Updates to Autocorrect with what Apple are calling "a transformer language model" improves the experience and accuracy of typing on your iPhone. You'll now receive predictive text recommendations as you type making text entry faster than ever. Dictation also has more accuracy thanks to a new speech recognition model
iOS 17: StandBy makes your iPhone charging stand awesome
With the dawn of the always-on display-equipped iPhone 14 Pro, the lock screen has become something more useful than ever. It's a useful feature that shows you information like the time and shows you small widgets for extra info – and now Apple wants to make it more helpful with what's being called StandBy
StandBy gives users a fully customizable full-screen experience when your iPhone is charging and on its side. Perfect as a nightstand, you can personalize StandBy with a range of clock styles and photos.
You'll also be able to navigate Smart Stacks of information, which will help make your iPhone even more handy on your desk. Live Activities, Siri, incoming calls, and notifications shine in this mode and take full advantage of the iPhone 14 Pro's Always-On-Display. This is quite possibly the coolest iOS 17 feature.
Journal helps your mental health
Apple also announced a new app called Journal. If you've ever used Day One on iOS, this is essentially the first-party equivalent, allowing you to document your life and check in with how you're feeling in your daily life.
You'll be given Suggestions for when you don't know what to write about, and they will be intelligently curated from recent activity. Suggestions API will be available to developers so third-party applications can be integrated seamlessly into Journal.
iOS 17: Everything else
- Safari adds greater protection for Private Browsing, both from trackers as a user browses, and from people who might have access to a user’s device. Advanced tracking and fingerprinting protections go even further to help prevent websites from tracking or identifying a user’s device. Private Browsing now locks when not in use, allowing a user to keep tabs open even when stepping away from the device.
- For easier and more secure password and passkeys sharing, users can share passwords with a group of trusted contacts. Everyone in the group can add and edit passwords to keep them up to date. Since sharing is through iCloud Keychain, it’s end-to-end encrypted.
- The Health app offers new mental health features. Users can log their daily moods and momentary emotions; see what might be contributing to their state of mind; and easily access depression and anxiety assessments often used in clinics, plus resources available in their region. Additionally, increasing the distance the device is viewed from can help children lower their risk of myopia and gives adult users the opportunity to reduce digital eyestrain. Screen Distance in Screen Time uses the TrueDepth camera to encourage users to move their device farther away after holding it closer than 12 inches from their face for an extended period of time.
- Maps adds offline maps, so users can download a specific area and access turn-by-turn navigation, see their estimated time of arrival, find places in Maps, and more while offline. Maps also makes it easier than ever to discover thousands of trails in parks across the United States, and supports electric vehicle drivers with real-time charging availability information.
- AirTag can be shared with up to five other people, allowing friends and family to keep track of an item in Find My. Everyone in a group will be able to see an item’s location, play a sound, and use Precision Finding to help pinpoint the location of a shared AirTag when nearby. This also works with all other Find My network accessories.
- Apple Music introduces Collaborative Playlists that make listening to music with friends easier than ever before, and SharePlay in the car allows all passengers to easily contribute to what’s playing.3 Listeners can control the music from their own devices, even if they don’t have an Apple Music subscription.
- Sharing content using AirPlay is even easier with on-device intelligence now learning a user’s preferences. AirPlay will also work with supported televisions in hotels, allowing users to easily enjoy their favorite content on the TV when traveling. Built with a foundation of privacy and security, this capability will be available before the end of the year in select hotels, starting with brands from IHG Hotels & Resorts.
- AirPods receive powerful new features, including Adaptive Audio, Personalized Volume, and Conversation Awareness, that redefine the personal audio experience. Plus, improvements to Automatic Switching and call controls make AirPods even easier to use.
- The Home app adds the ability for users to view up to 30 days of activity history across door locks, garage doors, alarm systems, and contact sensors. Additionally, two popular HomeKit lock features — tap to unlock and PIN codes — are now available for Matter-compatible locks, providing even more ways to connect the home.
- Reminders features a grocery list that automatically groups added items into categories to make shopping easier. Users can change how the items are grouped and the list remembers their preferences.
- Visual Look Up is now available in paused video frames. Now users can identify food, storefronts, signs, and symbols, and lift individual subjects from photos and videos.
- Siri can be activated by simply saying “Siri.” Once activated, users can issue multiple commands in succession without needing to reactivate the assistant.
- In Photos, the People album uses on-device machine learning to recognize more photos of a user’s favorite people, as well as cats and dogs.
- Privacy updates include the expansion of Communication Safety beyond Messages to help keep kids safe when sending and receiving content via AirDrop, Contact Posters, a FaceTime message, and when using the Photos picker to choose content to send. It also expands to cover video content in addition to still images. A new feature, Sensitive Content Warning, helps adult users avoid seeing unwanted nude images and videos. As with Communication Safety, all image and video processing for Sensitive Content Warning occurs on-device, so Apple does not get access to the content.
- Accessibility updates include Assistive Access, a customizable interface that helps users with cognitive disabilities use iPhone with greater ease and independence; Live Speech, which gives nonspeaking users the option to type and have their words spoken in person, or on phone and FaceTime calls; Personal Voice, which gives users at risk of speech loss the option to create a voice that sounds like theirs; and Point and Speak, which helps users who are blind or have low vision read text on physical objects by pointing.
Which iPhones will get iOS 17?
iOS 17 will be available on all of Apple's current best iPhones, including the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro, as well as the upcoming iPhone 15. Apple has dropped support for iPhones with the A11 Bionic chip, such as the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X.
When will iOS 17 be available?
The iOS 17 developer beta is available today, with a Public Beta coming next month. The official release of iOS 17 is likely to be in September alongside the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro, although Apple has given a vague release date of "Fall 2023".
How can I get iOS 17?
iOS 17's public release will arrive through Apple's usual software update channel. That means it will be available to download on your iPhone in the Settings app under the General heading in the Software Update section.
Apple says the iOS 17 Public Beta will be available next month, so you'll be able to start testing the software in July. When the Public Beta does release, here's how to install it:
- Make a backup of your iPhone
- Head to Apple’s public beta website
- Sign in to your Apple ID
- Tap iOS, swipe down, and tap enroll your iOS device
- Swipe down and tap Download Profile
- Tap Allow to download the profile
- Open Settings and tap Profile Downloaded at the top
- Tap Install
- Read the consent agreement, then tap Install again
- Your iPhone will prompt you to restart
- After your device reboots, head to Software Update in Settings and Install the iOS 17 public beta
iOS 17 a minor but important evolution for iOS
While Apple ran through the iOS 17 slides at WWDC 2023 to focus on the shinier new products like the incredible Vision Pro headset, there was still loads to look forward to.
iOS 17 feels like a minor step in the journey of the iPhone, but features like Journal and mental health tracking in the Health app could prove to be some of the most important iOS updates in years.
With the Public Beta just a month away, we'll be playing with StandBy and new stickers in iMessage sooner rather than later.
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John-Anthony Disotto is the How To Editor of iMore, ensuring you can get the most from your Apple products and helping fix things when your technology isn’t behaving itself.
Living in Scotland, where he worked for Apple as a technician focused on iOS and iPhone repairs at the Genius Bar, John-Anthony has used the Apple ecosystem for over a decade and prides himself in his ability to complete his Apple Watch activity rings.
John-Anthony has previously worked in editorial for collectable TCG websites and graduated from The University of Strathclyde where he won the Scottish Student Journalism Award for Website of the Year as Editor-in-Chief of his university paper. He is also an avid film geek, having previously written film reviews and received the Edinburgh International Film Festival Student Critics award in 2019.
John-Anthony also loves to tinker with other non-Apple technology and enjoys playing around with game emulation and Linux on his Steam Deck.
In his spare time, John-Anthony can be found watching any sport under the sun from football to darts, taking the term “Lego house” far too literally as he runs out of space to display any more plastic bricks, or chilling on the couch with his French Bulldog, Kermit.