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iOS 17 features list: your next iPhone update is already here

Jan 19, 2024

Apple's iOS 17 has a features list that's a mile long, and in order to explain it all properly, we’ve created a handy guide that dives into the various release dates, betas, compatibility and the expected changes. Our iOS 17 features list comes from actual testing of the beta software, which is now free for anyone to download.

Granted, iOS 17 isn't a huge overhaul of the existing software. Apple has been gradually updating its iPhone operating system for years, and iOS 17 follows a similar trend with solid, quality-of-life improvements. The new system will also include bug fixes and security patches to keep your iPhone running smoothly.

The new iOS 17 features and changes Apple will be making over the next few weeks are pretty exciting, and there's a lot to unpack. Here's what you need to know about iOS 17 given our brief time testing the beta and researching Apple's release notes.

It's been a long time since the phone app has gotten any major upgrades, but that's changing with iOS 17. Apple has introduced customizable Contact Posters which you can curate on a per-contact basis. It's sort of like having your own customized lock screen for each of your contacts.

The Contact Posters will appear whenever a person calls you, and you can customize the look of it with your own photo, different fonts, colors, and more. You can also customize your own Contact Poster and even throw a Memoji in the mix for a more playful appearance. In addition to the stock phone app, Apple says the feature will also work with third-party calling apps.

If the person calling you is leaving a voicemail, you can watch it get transcribed in real-time and choose to answer the call if the subject is important to you. Any call identified as spam by carriers won't appear in Live Voicemail, while all transcriptions from real people that pass the human test are handled locally on your device using Apple's Neural Engine. It's very reminiscent of Google Pixel's Call Sceen feature and a welcome change among the top iOS 17 features.

A feature many FaceTime users have wanted for a long time is the ability to leave a video message if the person they call doesn't answer. That's finally coming to iOS 17, in addition to audio messages.

FaceTime is also getting upgraded with new Reactions, which are special effects that’ll play in front and behind you during video calls. Reactions include things like hearts, balloons, fireworks, laser beams, and more. They’ll be supported in FaceTime as well as third-party video calling apps, and they can be triggered with simple gestures like two thumbs up.

iOS 17 is going to change Apple's Messages app in a bunch of small, but meaningful ways. One of the most noticeable is its cleaner look when you’re inside a message thread; all of your iMessage apps now live behind a "+" button above the keyboard, which declutters the UI and makes it feel far less overwhelming.

Stickers are going to play a bigger part of iOS 17 messages. All of your stickers – from live stickers to emoji to Memoji to custom sticker packs – will live in a single drawer. You can drag and drop them onto any iMessage, you can create your own stickers from your photo gallery, and your entire sticker library will sync with other devices signed into your iCloud account. Apple will be treating them like emoji, which means you can also use them in third-party apps from the App Store.

Group chats will feature a new shortcut arrow sending you to the first unread message in a thread on iOS 17. This will allow you to catch up on a quick-flowing conversation by jumping to where you left off and reading things in chronological order instead of seeing a story's punch line or photo reveal as you scroll up. A simple, but satisfying change.

New search filters can help you narrow down the message you’re looking for, and audio messages are now automatically transcribed so you can read them. In addition, Apple is adding a quick and easy way to share your location with someone or request to see theirs with a new button in the "+" menu.

A new safety feature called Check In will be a part of iOS 17, allowing you to keep tabs on loved ones and ensure they arrive at their destinations safely.

When someone initiates a Check In with you, they’ll be notified when you reach your destination. They’ll be given an ETA based on where you currently are and will be notified if you run late.

If you do happen to run late and don't respond to a special notification, your iPhone's signal strength, battery life, and other information will be shared with the other person. The feature is completely encrypted from end to end, according to Apple.

In iOS 17, you can finally interact directly with the widgets on your home screen. This means you could check off things from your to-do list, skip a track in a third-party music player, or control smart home equipment all without having to open the apps themselves. It's a small feature, but one that’ll come in handy for a lot of people.

Apple is giving AirDrop two notable updates in iOS 17. The first makes sharing content between iPhones even faster: you can now bring the devices together after selecting the photos or files you want to transfer and selecting "AirDrop" from the share menu.

The other involves long-distance shares over AirDrop. Devices normally have to stay within a specific range for AirDrop to work, but with iOS 17, Apple will extend that range by a significant margin by relying on the internet to help with the transfer if your two devices separate from one another. This should help a lot if you’re in a hurry and need to send someone a large file.

A variation of AirDrop, NameDrop (genius name, by the way) lets you share your contact information with another iPhone user simply by bringing the two devices together. Your Contact Poster will appear on the other person's device, and you can select the phone numbers and email addresses they can see. It also works between iPhone and Apple Watch.

Rest in peace, NFC-equipped business cards.

There's a brand new app debuting in iOS 17 called Journal. It's designed to help you reflect on your daily life and practice gratitude, which is the mission of a lot of third-party journaling apps as well.

In Apple's Journal app, your iPhone's machine learning will offer personalized suggestions for new entries based on what you did that day. It’ll look through your photos, places you visit, workouts recorded, and more and notify you when it thinks you should jot it all down. You can also manually record anything you want, and it all remains completely encrypted.

Apple will open Journal to developers with a new Journaling Suggestions API, allowing them to integrate journaling suggestions to their apps.

If you’ve ever wanted to use your iPhone as a clock for your nightstand, StandBy in iOS 17 is the feature for you – as long as you plan to keep your phone horizontal (in landscape).

StandBy is a new full-screen experience for the iPhone that kind of works like a smart display. It can show you the time, a calendar, widgets, your photos, and more while your iPhone charges and is placed in landscape orientation. You can personalize it to your liking, and it works across iPhones (although you’ll need an iPhone 14 Pro if you want the display to remain always-on).

Live Activities are also supported, as is Siri. Overall, it's one of the more fun features in iOS 17 to toy around with, and it might make for the perfect bedside companion. We just wish it also worked the in vertical (portrait) orientation.

Oh, hey, speaking of Siri, Apple is tweaking how you can summon the voice assistant in iOS 17. Instead of having to say "Hey Siri" every time, you can simply say "Siri." You’ll need to enable the feature in the Settings app, but it's there if you want to further reduce the time it takes to ask the assistant something.

Apple also includes the ability to quickly issue multiple commands to Siri in succession without having to say "Hey Siri" or "Siri" again. These iOS 17 features are things Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant have been capable of for some time.

Autocorrect on iPhones has been mocked for years, and iOS 17 is bringing some much-needed improvements to it.

For starters, it's getting a lot smarter. Apple says it will remember words you regularly type that you don't want automatically corrected (a famous example being a certain explicit word that rhymes with "duck").

The system powering autocorrect is also being upgraded with a new transformer language model, which will greatly improve the speed and accuracy of each word you type out. There are also in-line predictive text recommendations, as well as a brand new design for autocorrections.

The Music app in iOS 17 is getting a few neat UI adjustments, including a refreshed Now Playing screen which blends video artwork with the player itself. Apple Music users will also be treated to new SharePlay features with CarPlay that let you join the jam session in the car by sharing your music with the driver's iPhone.

Meanwhile, AirPods have gotten a pretty big upgrade as part of iOS 17. For AirPods Pro (2nd-generation), Apple is adding a new Adaptive Audio mode which dynamically blends transparency and active noise cancellation to silence annoying sounds (e.g. loud trucks, vacuums) while keeping everything else at a reasonable volume.

There's also Personalized Volume which uses machine learning to fine-tune the volume of your headphones over time depending on your preferences and location. Conversation Awareness is also arriving in iOS 17, allowing you to begin speaking to someone nearby and have both music and background noise automatically lowered.

Apple is also improving the device-switching ability of AirPods. You can also pinch AirPods to mute or unmute yourself during a call.

In iOS 17, Apple is adding new tools to help monitor your mental health.

This includes new visuals with sliders that let you dial in your mood to express how you’re feeling throughout the day. The results of those sliders is then recorded in the Health app and synced with a chart, allowing you to track your feelings during the week and help you understand how your daily moods might be affected by certain activities, time spent in daylight, exercise, and more.

Apple is also working to combat myopia – or nearsightedness – in adults and children alike with iOS 17. A new Screen Distance feature will alert you if you’ve been staring at your iPhone's screen for long periods at a close distance. It’ll then prompt you to back it up so as not to damage your eyesight. The feature works by relying on your iPhone's TrueDepth camera.

Apple is making passwords and AirTags easier to share with others in iOS 17.

With passwords and passkeys, you can share them with a group of trusted contacts. Everyone with access can add and edit passwords to keep them up to date, while the entire system is end-to-end encrypted for maximum security.

Meanwhile, you can share an AirTag with up to five people in iOS 17. Everyone with access can use all of the features associated with an AirTag like pinging it to find it, checking where it is in the Find My app, and more.

In the privacy department, iOS 17 packs an upgrade for Safari that’ll automatically lock your private browsing tabs behind Face ID or Touch ID. This will restrict access to the tabs until you’re authenticated.

Another big new iOS 17 feature is an expansion of Communication Safety. It's already available in Messages where potentially sensitive photos and videos are blurred to protect younger users, and now, that same functionality is expanding to AirDrop, Contact Posters, FaceTime messages, and when choosing images and videos to share with others.

There's also Sensitive Content Warning to help adults avoid seeing unwanted nude images and videos across the system. The content is blurred automatically, with a button in the bottom right-hand corner to let you see it.

There are also many more permissions prompts across iOS 17 to protect your information, such as a new prompt which lets you share certain photos with apps while keeping the rest of your library private.

On the accessibility front, iOS 17 includes Apple's new Assistive Access experience which distills certain apps to a much more basic interface to support those with cognitive disabilities.

There's also Personal Voice, a feature that helps those with speech loss to create a voice model that sounds like them and use Live Speech to communicate.

Point and Speak is also here, letting you point your iPhone at text labels and have them read aloud, making it easier for people with vision disabilities to interact with physical objects.

In iOS 17, you can now download maps in the Maps app for offline use, making it easier to explore areas where your cell service might not be the best. This works with all sorts of navigation methods, whether it be driving, walking, cycling, or riding transit.

Apple also throws in real-time charging station availability for electric vehicles, making it easier to know where to stop to charge your EV on your route.

Hotel rooms are infamous for their limited technologies, but it looks like that’ll be changing when iOS 17 comes to town. That's because Apple will start rolling out the ability to use AirPlay with hotel televisions. All you’ll have to do is scan a QR code on your room's TV. From there, you can cast videos, photos, movies, and TV shows right from your iPhone.

Apple is also making AirPlay smarter by identifying the AirPlay devices you use most often and recommending that you switch over to them when you’re near them. This could be helpful if you have a HomePod in your kitchen you like to play music on every day while you cook dinner; your iPhone could ask you to start AirPlaying music when you walk into the kitchen to help get the party started.

Visual Lookup used to only work in photos to identify things, but with iOS 17, that functionality is expanding to videos as well. You can simply pause any video playing on your iPhone, long-press the object or subject in the frame, and tap the "Look Up" button to discover more information.

The feature also now works when you lift objects out of their photos. Plus, Apple is adding the ability to find recipes for similar dishes to a photo of food you provide.

Apple says every iPhone dating back to the iPhone XS in 2018 will support iOS 17. The full list includes:

iPhone 14

iPhone 14 Plus

iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro Max

iPhone 13

iPhone 13 mini

iPhone 13 Pro

iPhone 13 Pro Max

iPhone 12

iPhone 12 mini

iPhone 12 Pro

iPhone 12 Pro Max

iPhone 11

iPhone 11 Pro

iPhone 11 Pro Max

iPhone XS

iPhone XS Max

iPhone XR

iPhone SE (2nd generation or later)

That means the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and original iPhone X will not receive any major update beyond iOS 16, so if you’re the owner of one of those 2017-era devices and want to get your hands on iOS 17, you’ll need to actually upgrade to a newer iPhone.

The official iOS 17 release date is expected in the middle of September right as the iPhone 15 launches to the world. Apple hasn't provided a firm release date for the final version of its annual software update, but it opened up its iOS 17 beta program to everyone free of charge – not just registered and paying Apple developers, as per usual.

That will save you $100 (the fee Apple developers pay each year), but you may still want to wait a bit. Apple still plans to offer an iOS 17 public beta in July and that version is a little more stable than the iOS 17 developer betas. Most people will wait until September to update their iPhones, meaning early adopters have the next few months to show off the above iOS 17 features.