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Apple A-Z » Apple Software

iOS 17

iOS 17

Apple is expected to reveal iOS 17 during WWDC in June 2023. Operating system changes rarely leak out ahead of the annual event, but existing apps and features will likely get some useful updates.

● Side loading
● Third-party app stores
● WebKit no longer a requirement for browsers
● Possible iMessage redesign
● TBA at WWDC 2023

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The secretive nature of Apple and its software team means that leaks about operating systems rarely happen. It isn't clear what Apple will introduce with iOS 17, but some much-needed features and updates could be coming.

A look back at the features introduced with iOS 16 could provide some hints as to what will be coming in iOS 17. Apple generally spends a few years refining new features, so customization and user controls could continue to be a focus.

Regulation from the United States and European Union could also influence a lot of features in the new release. However, even if certain features are required by 2024, Apple may hold off on announcing them until later.

iOS 17 feature predictions based on regulations

Apple and other tech companies have been targeted by multiple pieces of legislation that go into effect over the next year. These will affect everything from what charger a device can use to how customers get apps on products.

Apple won't have to comply with many of the regulations until 2024. And even then, these laws may be repealed or changed before going into effect.

Side loading

Side loading lets users download apps or software outside Apple's App Store. That means getting things that generally wouldn't be allowed, like emulators or "Fortnite."

Delta is a popular Gameboy emulator that isn't available in the App Store Delta is a popular Gameboy emulator that isn't available in the App Store

If you want to know exactly how Apple feels about side loading, the company has been vocal about it before. It stated side loading would "cripple the privacy and security protections that have made iPhone so secure, and expose users to serious security risks."

These statements and concerns have fallen on deaf ears, as the EU has proclaimed that the App Store is anti-competitive and must allow third-party alternatives to the App Store and side loading.

It seems this Digital Markets Act will stick, and Apple must comply by 2024 or face heavy fines.

Apple could announce side loading as a specific feature of iOS 17 with a clever marketing name attached to it. The Mac has always allowed users to install apps from outside the App Store, and a tool called Gatekeeper warns users of risks and checks for problems.

Side loading might not be the terrible nightmare Apple might try to make it seem, but it will increase potential attack vectors. For example, it would be simple for an advertisement to explain how to side load a malicious app to unknowing users.

However, we expect Apple will take a somewhat novel approach by enabling side loading but requiring compliance with their developer guidelines. Even if users can install apps from outside sources, that doesn't mean Apple must necessarily allow anything and everything to run.

We'll have to wait and see how Apple tackles this complex issue in June.

Third-party app stores

If side loading is installing apps from outside the official App Store, third-party app stores are the marketplace for such apps. On operating systems like Android, users can install third-party app stores that catalog various apps.

Setapp has its own distribution platform on Mac, but not iPhone Setapp has its own distribution platform on Mac but not on iPhone

Like any tool, this isn't necessarily a bad move. If Apple is required to allow third-party app stores, then Apple must compete. Also, there's the fact that most regular users will never even bother.

While jailbreaking app stores and emulator tools are common, they likely won't be the primary target for such a feature. Instead, companies like Setapp could include their own app market for iPhone and iPad, something the company already does on Mac.

As with side loading, Apple might be able to comply with EU law while still maintaining control. Likely, these third-party stores will need to be approved by Apple and adhere to a set of rules.

Regardless of EU law, if the software runs on iPhone, there's an incredibly high chance that Apple will require payment. Developers will still pay something to have their software on iPhone, even if it isn't the full 30% of today.

WebKit requirement drop

Another part of the EU's Digital Markets Act focuses on Safari and WebKit. Apple currently requires any third-party browser to use its proprietary WebKit engine, turning these browsers effectively into glorified Safari skins.

Web browsers on iOS must use WebKit Web browsers on iOS must use WebKit

Code leaks from browsers like Firefox show that third-party browsers are already working on bringing their engines to iOS. That would mean Chromium and Gecko could finally run on iPhone and iPad.

These browsing engines are currently only available on Mac. So, users that want to go all-in on Google Chrome or Arc have always encountered a wall when it comes to iOS and iPadOS.

Like the other updates, Apple doesn't have to comply until 2024, so it doesn't necessarily have to announce anything during WWDC in June.

Default apps

Apple could finally allow users to select default apps across the system rather than just a few. Today, the only apps that can have a default setting are the web browser and email.

Change default apps like Music to Spotify Change default apps like Music to Spotify

This functionality could extend to other areas such as Contacts, Calendars, Apple Music, Calculator, Photos, and more. This would enable greater user customization and control across iOS.

For example, taking a screenshot or photo on iPhone automatically goes to the Photos app. Instead, it could be sent directly to Google Photos if the user is invested in that platform.

Rumored iOS 17 updates

Outside of regulatory battles, Apple is expected to reveal a range of new updates across its operating systems as usual. Some suggested it could be a "maintenance" release, but more recent reports have pointed to a more significant feature release.

Apple rolled out many user-facing changes with iOS 16 that improved device customization and control. The company could improve on those changes in iOS 17, alongside tackling some other low-hanging fruit.

So far, there have only been two rumored features for iOS 17 outside of regulatory changes.

Apple journaling app

Apple could be sherlocking journaling applications like Day One with a first-party journaling app. It would tie information found on the iPhone to dates in the journal for users to write in.

For example, Find My would be able to figure out which friends or family were with you on a given day, then prompt you to write about the event.

Third-party apps can build more complex systems with third-party integrations to compete. But Apple's depth of access to user data while maintaining privacy will be difficult to compete with.

iMessage redesign

An early rumor shared by a somewhat reliable source named Majin Bu on Twitter suggested iMessage would be redesigned in iOS 17. This rumor gained a lot of attention due to the imagery shared alongside the rumor, but those were fabrications.

iMessage could be redesigned for a more modern take on social iMessage could be redesigned for a more modern take on social

The leaker says Apple is working on a "new home" area in the Messages app. Chat rooms, video clips, and AR chat features would also be available.

Apple's recent push for social enhancements across iOS adds credibility to this rumor. While we don't know what such a redesign would look like, Apple's online messaging platform lacks several key features available in other chat services.

Users want more personalized, custom chats. And while the Messages App Store never blew up, its games did well enough. The company could push for more features to compete with Facebook Messenger and WeChat.

Customized Control Center

A reliable source has shared that Apple could redesign its control center for iOS 17. The leaker didn't add any detail or provide any examples, but it is an obvious feature needing attention.

Control Center is long overdue for a redesign Control Center is long overdue for a redesign

Users hope that Apple will give them the ability to add different apps and controls to Control Center. For example, a user could replace the Calculator tool with PCalc or the Camera launcher with Halide.

Very little has changed about Control Center in the decade since its release with iOS 7. Apple updated the design slightly in iOS 11, but it has been untouched since.

Nightstand mode for iPhone, sort of

A rumor suggests that the iPhone could get a new display mode when the screen is locked and the device is placed in landscape mode. It would show widget-like views of smart home controls and other information.

A new viewing mode could come to locked iPhones A new viewing mode could come to locked iPhones

The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max have always-on displays and display the time and a row of Lock Screen widgets by default. The landscape view could be an expanded version of this view with more detailed app data like calendar appointments or weather.

Speculation points to this being a precursor to a dedicated Apple smart home display similar to Google and Amazon products. Or, it could be a sign that the iPhone could get more landscape functionality — perhaps the return of the landscape Home Screen.

Improving past iOS 16

Apple improved customization across iPhone thanks to a new Lock Screen customization tool, Focus Filters, and more. It would be a logical next step to improve these new features in iOS 17.

For example, users want to have more control over their Lock Screen. This could be different widget sizes, more clock display options, or even more rows for widgets.

The Home Screen, Lock Screen, and Apple Watch face can all be tied together using Focus Modes. Apple could improve this experience, as setting it up can be quite a task, even for power users.

Apple introduced iCloud Shared Photo Library in iOS 16, significantly improving how families share photos. However, there are still plenty of much-needed updates for that system.

Right now, face data and albums do not sync across a family. While this could run into some privacy issues, users should have an option for enabling the feature.

Shared iCloud Photo Library still needs work The shared iCloud Photo Library still needs work

Another tentpole feature of iOS 16 was Focus Filters. Some productivity apps have taken advantage of this system, but not many.

Apple needs to lead by example and bring more Focus Filters for system settings or enable more filters. So far, the filters are limited to hiding calendars or contacts in select apps, but not much else.

The Apple Wallet app also saw a range of updates in iOS 16. However, they have been mostly ignored by companies. Customers can track shipments in the Apple Wallet app — if the retailer supports it. 

However, not even Apple has implemented the feature for its own retail stores — yet another example of Apple needing to lead the way with its feature sets.

Apple is expected to announce iOS 17 alongside iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, tvOS 17, and macOS 14 during WWDC 2023 in June. It could be a packed event with an Apple VR headset and Mac Pro announced as well.