Owners of any iPhone from the iPhone XR and onwards might find iOS 17 to be that surprising addition to give their phone a new lease on life.
Few people get a new phone every year, meaning we’re left with something just that little bit older. It could be one year or even four years older, and you might be totally fine with that.
However, even as an older of a new phone, you might find every so often you get a new feature here and there that you didn’t expect. Something that changes how you use the phone and gives you that feeling like you own something new again.
Operating system updates can do just that, as phone manufacturers and software engineers work out what to add and how to bring something extra — and maybe even better — to the package.
In the world of the iPhone, the company doing both is Apple, since it’s the company that designs both the hardware and the software, working out how to get the most out of every iPhone it makes. And this year, with the launch of iOS 17, Apple has an OS update worthy of anyone upgrading in the past five years or so.
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What’s to look forward to in iOS 17?
A rather big release, iOS 17 includes a lot, covering message changes, contact changes, AirDrop updates, and more.
For starters, you’ll find additions to Live Voicemail if your telco supports it, including the ability to just send someone to it from a call in plus a transcription as they leave one, while callers can look a lot better.
Apple has already changed the look of your phone if you want, giving you some much needed control, but iOS 17 pushes that even more.
With this release, individual contacts can be set up with Contact Posters, which allow you to spend some time adding photos, colours, and different font styles to make that caller stand out more. Give people you know and who regularly rely on an image, a nicer backdrop, or even one of the 3D Memoji that exists.
AirDrop gets a bit of an update, too, because while the concept is a little bit of wireless magic, Apple’s neato Bluetooth file transfer tech isn’t always super easy for everyone to use.
In iOS 17, you’ll be able to share files to other iPhone users just by bringing a phone together, while contact details will also be shared doing the same iPhone-to-iPhone gesture. Goodbye business cards, hello iPhone bumping.
Apple says it has improved predictive texts, which is nice, though we found that it didn’t always get our gesture typing correct, though some predictions were faster, for sure.
Safari, meanwhile, allows you to jump through various profiles for tab groups much like you might on a Mac, which can streamline how many ridiculous amounts of tabs you might have open on your phone.
And photos gets an update here and there for families with fur-babies, as pets get more support because they are clearly part of your family, too.
Apple Music subscribers will also finally get something Android users have had before: crossfade support.
It’s kind of crazy that iPhone owners were the last to get this, but it’s handy and makes Apple Music that much more seamless, and especially great when you’re listening to an Apple Music station made just for you. Sure, it’s not an AI DJ like with Spotify, but we can live without that for the moment.
What did we like the most?
While there are quite a few features in iOS 17 worth talking about, the one we’ve found made the biggest different was “StandBy”, an Apple take on the smart displays you might have seen from the likes of Amazon and Google.
For those not down with the lingo, a smart display is an optional speaker with a screen built-in that you can use anywhere you want one. Kitchens are a great place for them for checking out recipes or even running your life as a regularly updated digital photo frame, while bedsides have become popular for smart displays, as well, turning them into the modern digital clock.
Apple’s addition of StandBy in iOS 17 is like a smart display in that it offers a screen with some of the smart display features, but it does it on something you already own: your phone.
StandBy’s additions include various clocks, calendars, and even selections of your photos running in a seemingly random viewing, and it only kicks in when your phone is on charge and sitting in landscape mode.
That means you almost definitely have to own one of the MagSafe wireless charge stands to make StandBy useful, but those are fairly plentiful these days, as well.
Testing iOS 17 for the past few weeks, we found StandBy was handy in both the kitchen and the bedside. You can easily flick through the screen choices by swiping up and down and left and right while charged and on standby, with these offering an easier way to control than being forced to dive into settings to test each individually.
While we didn’t spend much time in the photos, having your phone instantly become a clock and calendar when it was on the charge was handy, as was the fact that it would switch to a nice light-sensitive red almost like out of a darkroom when the lights were lower.
It was handy just to roll over and see the clock without needing to sear your eyes on the brightness of the screen, and just gave you that little bit extra.
Is iOS 17 worth upgrading to?
Quite possibly the beat thing about mobile OS upgrades is that they’re free, and so iOS 17 — like any other mobile phone operating system — is also free to upgrade to.
So upgrading to iOS 17 is more of a no-brainer: do it, because it’ll give your phone some extra features.
It’s also fairly important for iPhone owners, because iOS 17 is where the security patches will be, and quite frankly if you need to take your phone into a Genius Bar for support in the next year, the first question Apple’s folks will ask you is whether you’ve upgraded to iOS 17 or not.
The only real question that follows is whether you can.
Can I upgrade my iPhone to iOS 17?
But the good news is that iOS 17 is coming to quite a few phones, though we’re not entirely sure if every feature will come to every supported phone.
The good news is that iOS 17 is coming to a lot of phones, covering pretty much every Apple device dating back to 2018. We’ve reviewed almost every iPhone that iOS 17 is coming to, and they include the:
- iPhone XR
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 Mini
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- iPhone SE (2nd-gen)
- iPhone 13
- iPhone 13 Mini
- iPhone 13 Pro
- iPhone 13 Pro Max
- iPhone 14
- iPhone 14 Plus
- iPhone 14 Pro
- iPhone 14 Pro Max
This year’s iPhone 15 range is also included, covering the regular iPhone 15 and 15 Plus as well as the 15 Pro and Pro Max, and you’ll find iOS 17 installed on these out of the box. It will likely stay that way at least until iOS 18 rolls around next year and Apple updates the phones for what will presumably be the OS in 2024. But owners of the iPhone X, you’ll need to skip this release and future OS updates, it seems.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
Clearly a no-brainer for iPhone owners, iOS 17 is a great update with some cool additions that could change how you use the phone.
Whether you spend time making those individual contact posters pretty or just jam along to gapless crossfading, the additions are helpful and make the phone stand out just that little bit more.
It’s a welcome surprise to see Apple embracing so much of the customisation, and it really helps to make your phone feel like yours. Meanwhile, extra additions like StandBy give your phone an extra use when it’s charging, almost reigniting the old Daydream Android screensaver idea that Google forgot about years ago, giving it a purpose on iPhone using modern chargers.
Overall, iOS 17 is an OS update that just makes sense, and gives your phone so much more than simply a new number and some security additions.