Surprising absolutely no one, Apple unveiled iOS 17 today at its annual developer conference. This is the latest version of its phone-oriented mobile operating system, and it will be out sometime this fall as usual. Expect the first developer preview to come out in the next few hours, followed by a public beta release next month.
iOS 17 comes with a lot of little improvements, even though nothing really stands out as a be-all-end-all feature. Still, a lot of the additions do have the potential to be very useful, and in true Apple style many new features seamlessly work together across devices.
For starters, there’s Live Voicemail, which means you don’t have to pick up when a number you don’t recognize is calling – the phone will do that for you and will display live scrolling text of what the person calling is saying, so you can easily decide if it’s worth talking to them. Calls identified as spam by carriers won’t appear as Live Voicemail and will instead be instantly declined. The transcription is handled entirely on-device.
Then we have the new customizable call screen, which Apple calls Contact Posters. You can change how they appear and choose beautiful treatments for photos or Memoji, adding “eye-catching typography” and font colors. These work in third-party apps as well, and they’re also used when you want to share contact details with someone through a new feature called NameDrop – it’s as easy as tapping your phones together (or an iPhone and an Apple Watch) and the contact cards are swapped. Also related to sharing, SharePlay can now share a simultaneous music/video stream on two devices. It would also allow you to stream music to playback head units via their owner’s iPhone.
FaceTime now supports leaving audio and video messages, for when you’re calling someone and they aren’t available. FaceTime calls also get Video Reactions: hearts, balloons, fireworks, laser beams, rain, and more. These are activated with simple gestures and will be supported in third-party apps too. Perhaps the biggest FaceTime-related news is that you can make and take calls on your Apple TV – or start a call on your iPhone and then hand it off to Apple TV.
The Journal app is new in iOS 17, and it is, like the name implies, all about journaling, which “has been shown to improve wellbeing” if you “reflect and practice gratitude” through it, Apple says. Suggestions for what to journal are curated from your recent activity, including photos, people, places, and workouts, making it easy to start an entry.
The keyboard gets new AI-enhanced autocorrect, inline predictions, and a new speech recognition model. All of these are naturally meant to improve the typing experience. iMessage has improved searching abilities with filters, a swipe-to-reply function, the ability to transcribe voice messages, support for real-time location updating in-app, improved emoji stickers and Live Stickers with subjects lifted from photos.
Check In is a new safety feature that takes over the chore of check-in with family members when you are traveling. It works like this: once you’ve initiated a Check In, a friend or family member will be automatically notified when you’ve arrived at your destination. If you’re not making progress toward the destination, the selected contact will get your device’s location, battery level, and cell service status.
StandBy is what Apple calls its new fullscreen experience that pops up when you want to use your iPhone on a nightstand or, say, in your kitchen or on a desk in landscape mode. It shows beautiful clocks, favorite photos or widgets, including Smart Stacks, which surface the right widgets at the right time. There’s also support for Live Activities, Siri, incoming calls, and larger notifications, to aid in usability when viewed at a distance.
There’s no more need to say “Hey Siri” to invoke Apple’s voice assistant, which a) still exists and b) somehow tragically remains unenhanced by recent developments in large language models. In iOS 17, the assistant’s callsign is just “Siri”. There’s also support for back-to-back commands, something Google Assistant has had for years, but look, Siri is trying to catch up now.
Apple Maps gets support for offline maps, which is one of those “wait, this wasn’t already baked in?!” features. And no, it wasn’t. But now it is.
Finally, Safari adds greater protection for Private Browsing, the Health app has a new set of mental health features, and Apple Music introduces Collaborative Playlists which you can enjoy with your friends.