You may have heard that iOS 17 isn’t as revolutionary as some recent updates to Apple’s iPhone software. While it’s true that this version mainly focuses on necessary enhancements rather than a complete overhaul, it’s important not to underestimate the significance of iOS 17. These incremental changes, although small on their own, collectively contribute to an improved overall iPhone experience.
Apple has dedicated considerable attention to enhancing communication apps such as Phone, FaceTime, and Messages. iOS 17 also introduces system-wide improvements that simplify everyday tasks on your iPhone. Additionally, the update includes tweaks to existing apps that users will likely appreciate right away.
A lengthy iOS 17 beta program during the summer gave us an early look at the operating system, allowing Apple to fine-tune an update primarily focused on refining existing features. The final result is iOS 17, now available for download on compatible iPhones and pre-installed on the iPhone 15 models arriving on September 22.
The question of whether to update to iOS 17 isn’t a matter of “if” — eventually, most iPhone users adopt Apple’s latest mobile software — but whether you should do it immediately. Users have been using iOS 17 for several months across various iPhones, starting with the developer beta in June, and they intend to address this question in this iOS 17 review.
iOS 17 Compatibility:
With the arrival of iOS 17, only three devices lose compatibility with Apple software updates: the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, which won’t receive updates beyond iOS 16.
To run iOS 17, you’ll need an iPhone XR or a more recent model. This includes iPhones released since the fall of 2018, including the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max. Here’s a guide on how to download and install iOS 17 on your current iPhone.
It’s worth noting that the discontinuation of software support for the iPhone X marks a notable moment. This device ushered in a new era of phone design for Apple, though the company typically offers about five years of software updates for iPhones, making it a respectable run for these models.
iOS 17 Review: Communication Features:
iOS 17 brings noteworthy changes to the apps used for communication, namely Phone, FaceTime, and Messages.
The most prominent addition in the iOS 17 Phone app is the Live Voicemail feature. It allows you to screen calls from unknown numbers and determine if urgent calls from known contacts require immediate attention. Live Voicemail transcribes voicemails in real-time on your iPhone’s screen, a feature familiar to users of recent Pixel phones. Callers will hear a robotic voice prompting them to leave a message. While Live Voicemail is a useful addition, it may require your phone to be unlocked during incoming calls for optimal performance.
Another feature in the Phone app is the ability to create Contact Posters, essentially on-screen business cards with personalization options. These posters appear on your lock screen when you receive calls from contacts who use iOS 17.
FaceTime receives new features in iOS 17, including video effects triggered by hand gestures when using the front camera on iPhone 12 or later models. Additionally, voicemail is introduced when a call goes unanswered, allowing you to leave a video message for the recipient.
In iOS 17, Messages stands out with several changes. iMessage apps are now accessed through a Plus button next to the text field, streamlining the interface. The Check In feature lets you share your estimated time of arrival with others and can automatically alert them if you experience delays. It’s a practical addition for safety and convenience. Other improvements include simplified message replies, an option to jump back to the first unread message, transcriptions for audio messages, and advanced search capabilities for past texts.
Stickers are also enhanced in iOS 17, with a Sticker drawer for easy access to stored stickers. Emoji stickers can be used on documents, and stickers can be attached as tapbacks to messages. Additionally, Live Photos can now be turned into animated stickers, preserving their motion.
Overall, iOS 17 may not bring groundbreaking changes, but its refinements in communication features and apps contribute to a more streamlined and user-friendly iPhone experience.
iOS 17 Review: StandBy Mode
With iOS 17, your iPhone takes on a new role during charging through the introduction of StandBy Mode. This feature enables your iPhone to function as a smart screen when you charge it in landscape mode. StandBy Mode is activated automatically when your phone is charging, whether it’s wired or wireless, and positioned horizontally. In this mode, you’ll see a clock displaying the time, but it offers much more customization.
You can personalize StandBy Mode to display various widgets, including weather updates, upcoming appointments, to-do lists, or even a rotating slideshow of your stored photos. The level of customization is quite extensive, allowing you to modify the clock’s gradient color, choose from different clock styles, and control settings related to notifications and Night Mode.
For the most effective use of StandBy Mode, you’ll need an iPhone with an always-on display, such as the Pro versions of the iPhone 14 and iPhone 15. However, for non-Pro iPhones, StandBy Mode has a limitation—it goes to sleep after 20 seconds of inactivity. This limitation may reduce the utility of StandBy Mode unless you have a device with an always-on display.
It’s important to note that you don’t necessarily need a specialized charging stand to enjoy StandBy Mode; simply propping up your phone horizontally can activate the feature. Nevertheless, for optimal convenience and performance, a MagSafe-compatible charging stand that facilitates horizontal positioning is recommended.
iOS 17 Review: System Updates
As is customary with iOS updates, iOS 17 introduces several system-wide changes aimed at simplifying existing tasks and introducing new capabilities. Here are some of the notable ones:
In iOS 17, AirDrop, Apple’s wireless file transfer technology, gains a new feature that simplifies sharing with other iPhone users. When your iPhone is in close proximity to another iOS 17-powered device, you can initiate AirDrop transfers without navigating through the share menu. For example, if you choose to share a photo, you can simply position your phone next to the recipient’s device. A visual indicator will appear on your screen, and you’ll be prompted to confirm the AirDrop transfer. If the recipient accepts, the file is transmitted.
This feature may require some adjustment, as users may initially resort to the traditional share menu. Nevertheless, it offers a more convenient way to share content, and with time, it should become more familiar. AirDrop’s proximity sharing also introduces NameDrop, which enables you to share contact information with individuals not already in your contacts by bringing your phone in close proximity to theirs.
iOS 17 introduces interactive widgets that allow you to interact with widgets without opening the associated app. For instance, if you have a widget displaying a list of reminders, you can mark tasks as completed directly within the widget without launching the Reminders app. This functionality is particularly useful for managing tasks.
Interactivity extends to widgets related to playback control in Music, Podcasts, News, and Books, as well as a Safari widget that provides quick access to your reading list. These interactive widgets work on the lock screen, home screen, and within StandBy mode.
While this addition is welcomed, it’s hoped that more widgets will gain interactivity as third-party app developers adopt these capabilities with the release of iOS 17.
iOS 17 enhances Siri with new features, such as the ability to summon Siri during phone or FaceTime calls and make consecutive requests. For example, you can set an alarm and then ask Siri to remind you to complete a task when the alarm goes off.
One significant change in iOS 17 is that you can now activate Siri by simply saying “Siri” instead of the traditional “Hey Siri.” This change has its pros and cons—while it saves time with a single wake word, it may take some adjustment, especially for those accustomed to saying “Hey Siri.”
iOS 17 introduces improvements to Visual Lookup, allowing you to create Live Stickers from images and even select multiple objects within a photo for further editing. Visual Lookup can now identify different symbols and provide relevant information, such as interpreting indicator lights on a car’s dashboard or offering cleaning instructions for specific items.
Additionally, Visual Lookup extends to videos, enabling you to look up information in paused video frames. This feature simplifies the process of accessing additional information, enhancing the overall user experience.
Apple has improved the language model used by the iOS 17 keyboard to reduce autocorrect-related errors. While this feature should improve over time, some users may still encounter occasional autocorrect issues.
Another noticeable keyboard enhancement involves predictive text, which now appears inline in apps like Messages. This allows you to complete words or phrases with a single tap on the space bar, potentially saving time while typing.
iOS 17 Review: App Updates
Every iOS update brings new features to existing apps, and iOS 17 is no exception. Here are significant changes coming to the built-in apps on your iPhone:
In iOS 17, Safari focuses on enhancing your privacy. Private browsing now locks automatically when you exit Safari. To unlock it, you’ll need to tap the Unlock button and use Face ID.
Another notable addition is profiles. By setting up profiles in Safari’s settings, you can keep your browsing history, cookies, extensions, Tab Groups, and favorites separate for various purposes, such as work and personal use.
iOS 17 also introduces a feature called “Listen to Page,” allowing Siri to read articles aloud, providing a convenient way to consume content when multitasking.
The most significant addition to iOS 17 Maps is the ability to download maps for offline use, now available to iPhone users. Before venturing into areas with weak network signals, you can download maps by selecting the “Download” button. You can adjust the size of the map area you wish to download, but be aware that larger maps will consume more storage space.
iOS 17 Health introduces tools for monitoring mental health, particularly aimed at reducing the risk of myopia. Users can assess their mental well-being by logging their daily mood using a slider and adding details about their emotions and triggers.
The Reminders app in iOS 17 simplifies creating and organizing grocery lists. Users can designate a list as a grocery list, prompting the app to automatically categorize items based on their type.
Apple’s Notes app gains several features in iOS 17, including the ability to view and annotate PDF and presentation scans. The most noteworthy addition is the ability to add hyperlinks between different notes, simplifying navigation between related notes, such as during research tasks.
Other App Updates in iOS 17:
- Find My: You can now invite up to five people to share an AirTag or other Find My network accessories.
- Photos: Recognizes pets’ faces and features a revamped People & Pets section.
- Music: SharePlay allows others in your car to control the music playing.
- Fitness: The Sharing tab is redesigned for easier navigation, and the trophy case has a new look.
- News: Subscribers to Apple News+ gain access to daily crossword puzzles.
iOS 17 Review: Upcoming Features in the Full Release
For those familiar with iOS updates, it’s common knowledge that not all the features Apple teases in previews are available right at the initial release. In iOS 17, several promised enhancements are scheduled for future updates, so you won’t find them when you initially download iOS 17.
One significant feature yet to be introduced is the new Journal app. This app aims to encourage reflective writing by offering photos, location data, and music related to specific events. Apple envisions it as a tool for enhancing mental well-being through practices like gratitude and appreciation. However, without hands-on experience, it’s challenging to assess how effective the Journal app will be. Currently exclusive to iOS, the prospect of typing journal entries on a 6.1- or 6.7-inch screen with an on-screen keyboard raises questions. Nonetheless, the Journal app will provide writing prompts and notifications to assist users in getting started and staying committed to writing.
Another eagerly anticipated feature is the ability for AirDrop to complete larger file transfers, even when the devices are no longer in close proximity. This feature, dependent on both parties being signed into iCloud, is expected to arrive in a later update. Similarly, the Collaborative Playlist feature in the Music app, which enables playlist curation by multiple users, is slated for introduction in a subsequent update.
iOS 17 Review: Final Thoughts
As previously mentioned, upgrading to iOS 17 is not a matter of if, but when. The enticing features and a straightforward update process make it an appealing choice. However, the timing of your update is a key consideration.
During beta testing, iOS 17 did exhibit some bugs, but Apple diligently addressed many of them over the summer. One lingering issue was occasional app crashes when tapping certain home screen widgets.
It’s essential to bear in mind that new bugs may surface after the initial iOS 17 release, which could potentially impact your device’s battery performance. Historically, Apple has promptly addressed such issues with subsequent updates.
My recommendation for upgrading to iOS 17 mirrors the standard approach for major iOS releases: if you seek a seamless experience, consider waiting a few days to observe whether any significant bugs emerge. If not, you can proceed with the update. Alternatively, waiting a bit longer for the first software patch can ensure a smooth transition.
When you do decide to upgrade, you’ll likely appreciate the improvements in iOS 17. While Live Voicemail, StandBy Mode, and Contact Posters are notable features, it’s the smaller enhancements, like auto-sorting grocery lists, linked notes, and improved text message searches, that collectively enhance the user experience and save time throughout the software. In the end, iOS 17 delivers meaningful enhancements to enhance your mobile device experience.