Affiliate Disclosure
If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Read our ethics policy.

Apple A-Z » Apple Software

iOS 17

iOS 17

Apple introduced iOS 17 during WWDC 2023 with new customization options, changes to Contacts, and NFC features like NameDrop. Personalization and social features continue to be at the forefront of iOS updates.

● Contact Posters and NameDrop
● Live Stickers
● Apple Journal
● New autocorrect
● Just Siri, no "Hey"
● Released September 18, 2023


Get Apple News Directly in Your Inbox


Apple's push for a more custom and social experience on iPhone continues with iOS 17. Everything from interactive widgets to new Contact Posters makes iPhone more personal.

Since Apple's operating systems work as an ecosystem, many of the new features revealed for iOS are also coming to iPadOS 17 and macOS Sonoma. Continuity also plays a larger role in features like widgets on Mac or FaceTime on Apple TV.

Even though Apple flew through the iOS 17 portion of WWDC, plenty of new features exist. So many that some weren't shared until a press release after the keynote.

FaceTime, Contacts, Messages

The social features of iOS 17 focused on Contacts, FaceTime, and Messages. User contacts are easier to share and update, while FaceTime and Messages gain new quality-of-life improvements.

Contacts

Contact Posters allow users to customize their contacts with larger, colorful images and custom text. Posters are used to fill the display during calls.

Contact Posters in iOS 17 Contact Posters in iOS 17

Users can set up their contact cards with a poster and automatically update others when changing their outgoing photo. This feature existed in iOS 16 for standard contact photos but now works with posters.

Apple also introduced a new feature called NameDrop for sharing personal contact information with a new person. Bringing devices close will show an animation of each other's contact poster, name, and number being shared with a button to authorize the share.

NameDrop makes sharing contact info easy NameDrop makes sharing contact info easy

Apple added several new ways to take advantage of the NFC phone to phone tap beyond NameDrop. Users can also bring their phones close to initiate an AirDrop to share photos or to share passes in Apple Wallet.

Phone and FaceTime

Voicemail also got a couple of updates. Users can see live transcriptions of incoming voicemails on the call screening page, so users can decide to answer mid-voicemail.

Apple has also introduced video voicemail for missed FaceTime Calls. Users will have the choice of leaving voice or video messages after a call is missed.

Messages

Apple has introduced new messaging features mostly focused on iMessage. However, there have been some improvements to the overall app experience.

Search filters are now available in Messages, so type a word and tap it to lock in a filter for a name, word, or phrase. This works similarly to search filters in the Photos app.

Stickers can be used across the system Stickers can be used across the system

Group chats have a new feature for when things get busy and challenging to keep up with in the chat. A catch-up button will enable users to return to their last read message.

It's now easier to reply to a message. Rather than long pressing, just swipe to reply.

Check In automatically notifies a friend or family member when arriving at a destination. Or, if you're running late or change direction, it'll let them know too.

iMessage apps have been moved behind a "+" button along with audio messages and photos. Users can organize these sections to prioritize their most-used apps.

Stickers have also been revamped into their own app section in iMessage. All previously purchased sticker packs will appear in this section alongside a new custom stickers app.

Users can create stickers and live stickers from their photos. This feature uses the Lift Subject From Background feature introduced in iOS 16.

StandBy

Nightstand mode from Apple Watch has made its way to iPhone, with a few extra features. Instead of just being a nighttime feature, StandBy is meant to present information and widgets anytime an iPhone is charging in a landscape position.

Dual widget view in StandBy Dual widget view in StandBy

When used with MagSafe, the iPhone will remember the user's preferred widgets. A two-widget view, photo view, clock view, or now playing view is available.

At night, displayed widgets or text will become red. The display will turn off if no attention is noticed, and motion will turn the display back on.

Interactive Widgets

Widgets on the Home Screen can now have interactive components. Start an album from the Music widget or toggle a light off in the Home widget without opening the app.

It isn't clear how far developers will be able to take this new feature. For example, the PCalc developer wants to create a fully interactive calculator widget for the Home Screen, but it may not be possible.

Apple Journal

Apple introduced the new Journal app in iOS 17.2. It gathers data throughout the day from a Suggestion API accessible to third-party developers to give users the ability to create entries for everything they do.

Apple offers suggestions based on Apple Music, locations, photos, and contacts you've called or messaged. Users can create entries and back date them for previous days, but the Suggestion API doesn't look back, so backdating is limited to locations, photos, and current suggestions.

Users that have extensive entries in other journaling apps like Day One don't have an easy way to migrate to Apple Journal as of yet. The Suggestions API won't be able to import thousands of entries at once, for example. Until something official is announced, users may be limited to moving entries manually, if they choose to.

The Suggestions API for Apple Journal isn't limited to Apple's app. Third-party apps like Day One can pull suggestions from apps, so users can benefit from suggestions even if they don't use the first-party app.

Everything else

There are so many small updates and tweaks the easiest way to see them all is in a list. Everything from Safari updates to offline Apple Maps is part of the update.

iOS 17 is full of features iOS 17 is full of features
  • Autocorrect is updated with a new transformer language model
  • Share passwords and passkeys with different groups
  • Share AirTags with multiple users
  • Create Apple Music Collaborative Playlists (expected in iOS 17.3)
  • Passengers in driver's contacts can join the CarPlay Apple Music up next via a SharePlay experience
  • Apple Music now supports crossfade
  • Apple Music gets detailed song credits
  • Apple Music Sing on Apple TV gets an upgrade with Continuity Camera, which shows you on the display with fun filters
  • Apple Music Radio show catalog comes to Apple Podcasts with notifications as new episodes come out
  • Gain access to exclusive content on Apple Podcasts by signing into accounts like Apple Music, Apple News+ or New York Times
  • Apple Podcasts gets a new now playing experience, and support for episode art
  • Daily crosswords for Apple News+ subscribers
  • Build a workout or meditation routine in Apple Fitness+
  • Queue Fitness+ workouts and meditations with Stacks
  • Use Audio Focus to control audio levels of music and trainer's voice
  • Apple Books gets improved series views with a toggle for switching between ebooks and audiobooks
  • Temporary codes sent via Mail app show up as a suggestion (similar to Messages)
  • Settings app toggle enables automatic deletion of messages with temporary codes in Mail and Messages after the code is used
  • New Ping My Watch button in Control Center
  • New mental health features in Health with mood logging
  • "Hey" can be removed from Siri wake command with a setting
  • Safari gains Profiles, lock for Private Browsing, and advanced tracking and fingerprinting protections
  • Offline Apple Maps
  • See real-time electric vehicle charging availability in Apple Maps
  • See trail information for thousands of trails and parks across the United States in Apple Maps
  • Apple Home app gets activity log for previous 30 days
  • Reminders gains a grocery sorting feature, new sorting methods
  • Photos is better at recognizing people, now lets users tag their pets
  • Adults can toggle Sensitive Content Warning to help prevent seeing unwanted nude images and videos
  • Take FaceTime calls on Apple TV using Continuity Camera
  • Set up recurring payments like allowances via Apple Cash
  • Use Digital ID stored in Apple Wallet to prove your age at venues or when buying alcohol — requires businesses to have a business iPhone

Pending regulation-based features

These features weren't part of the WWDC keynote but could be quietly included or announced at any point before 2024. Otherwise, Apple faces fines and litigation in the EU.

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."

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."

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

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 didn't announce side loading as a specific feature of iOS 17, but that doesn't mean it isn't coming. The company complies with local laws as required and may lock such features to where it is legislated.

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.

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.

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.

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

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. These third-party stores will likely 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.

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.

iOS 17 release date and compatibility

Apple removed iPhone 8 and iPhone X from the compatibility list for iOS 17. That means iPhone XS and iPhone XR, or newer, are compatible with the update.

iPhone SE second generation or newer is also compatible.

iOS 17 became available on September 18, 2023. It was released just days before the iPhone 15 began shipping to customers.