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After more than a month and three developer preview versions, Apple finally released the public beta versions of iOS 17, iPadOS 17, macOS Sonoma, and watchOS 10 early this morning. iOS 17 is the new operating system that Apple introduced at WWDC23 Worldwide Developers Conference. It is currently being tested by developers and users, with the official version expected to be released in the fall.
In this article, we will give everyone a quick overview of the noteworthy new features in iOS 17. If you’re interested in trying out the iOS 17 public beta, you can apply for the Apple Beta Software Program on Apple’s official website.
Distinctive and Highly Customizable Call Display
The iOS 17 update continues to place a significant emphasis on revolutionizing traditional communication tools. The age-old static call interface has received a personalized upgrade in this update, much like the iOS 17 wallpaper, providing users with a new way to express themselves.
By creating contact posters, we can now display our customized business cards when others answer our calls. Additionally, we can manually create incoming call posters for others. The new version of the call display takes up the entire screen, making it visually striking.
Creating incoming call posters is as simple as playing with building blocks. In iOS 17, Apple offers three poster templates: ‘Photo,’ ‘Memoji,’ and ‘Letter Pattern’.
The process of customizing the incoming call posters is very similar to the previous method of customizing wallpapers. Each template allows you to infinitely customize via sliders, adjusting the background style and color, text font, color and boldness, as well as the position and size of the image. Paired with Memoji or photos, it ensures that your poster is truly unique. The feature that automatically detects the photo’s foreground has also been retained, enhancing the overall coherence of the system’s design.
After editing, it will be displayed as a large poster in the contacts interface of the address book. At the same time, when you call someone, it will also be displayed on the recipient’s phone.
Additionally, iOS 17 also supports real-time transcription of voicemail into text. However, considering that voicemail is seldom used in China, we won’t delve into it further here.
Comprehensively Upgraded iMessages’ and FaceTime
In recent system updates, Apple has continuously made various changes to the ‘Messages’ app, making iMessage more and more like a mature instant messaging tool, becoming increasingly mainstream in the North American market.
iOS 17 is no exception. Apple has brought a brand-new app page for iMessage, a mini sticker page, improved search, voice-to-text, and other detailed enhancements.
Simpler Vertical Page for iMessage App
After the update, the ‘Messages’ app has consolidated previously horizontally displayed apps, camera, App Store, and other ‘mini-programs’ under the ‘+’ icon, making the overall interface much more streamlined.
When you click on the ‘plus’ icon, you will enter a brand-new vertical layout menu. The new version of the menu categorizes functions by levels: system-related features, such as photos and location, are placed on the main screen with higher priority, while other apps will be presented on a secondary page accessed by swiping up.
Enhanced Search Filters
iOS 17 introduces new search filters, making searches more powerful and precise. Now, you can narrow down your search results by adding filters to accurately locate the content you’re looking for. The filter logic is similar to platforms like Discord, allowing you to use ‘photos,’ ‘links,’ ‘message correspondents,’ and other criteria as filter conditions to find the relevant information more precisely.
Exclusive Interface for Stickers
Next, I’d like to introduce a feature I personally adore – the ‘Sticker Drawer.’ In this update, Apple provides users with a dedicated interface to display custom stickers and positions other sticker apps with equal importance. On the far left, there’s a new function to view sticker usage history, allowing users to easily locate recently used stickers.
More Feature-Rich FaceTime
Much like the traditional voicemail in North America, FaceTime has also added a messaging feature this time. When the user you’re calling doesn’t answer, you can choose to record a video or voice message for them to enjoy later.
Additionally, FaceTime calls have incorporated 3D effects like hearts, balloons, fireworks, laser beams, and rain. These effects surround you in a three-dimensional manner, and they support simple gestures to activate them, such as raising your thumb to launch fireworks. According to Apple, third-party video call apps can also utilize this feature.
A Brand-new Standby Display with All the information at a Glance
The ‘standby’ display is another major feature introduced in iOS 17. Now, you can transform your iPhone into a bedside clock, calendar, digital photo frame, or even a music controller. Simply lock the iPhone screen, connect it to a power source, and place it horizontally, and it will enter the brand-new ‘standby’ display interface.
Similar to the contact ‘posters,’ Apple also offers a wealth of customization options for the ‘standby’ display. You can customize the display under the default three frames, and quickly switch between frames by swiping left or right, or change styles within a frame by swiping up or down. The three frames are
- Widget view
- Digital photo album view
- Time view"
The first one is the widget view. By default, it focuses on time and tasks and is composed of two sections on the left and right. You can freely switch to your desired clock style and widgets, such as calendar, reminders, weather, stocks, etc. It also supports adding other desktop widgets, smart rotation, and suggestions. The result looks like two large widgets side by side. It’s important to note that if you interact with any items in the ‘standby’ mode, you’ll be directly taken to the corresponding app or content
The second is the digital photo album view. It allows you to select the album you want to display and will slowly zoom in and showcase photos from that album in a slideshow. Information like time and location is displayed on the left side of the screen. It’s worth noting that to access your photo album, you need to unlock the iPhone, and starting from iOS 16, this operation can also be done horizontally.
The third is the time view. Apple has introduced five distinct clock styles: the minimalistic ‘DIGITAL’, the realistic watch face ‘ANALOG’, the ‘WORLD’ which displays world time along with a map, the highly abstract representation of the sun’s position ‘SOLAR’, and the animated cartoon-like ‘FLOAT’. Each style supports custom colors, and information such as alarms and calendar entries will appear in appropriate positions, making it ideal for a desktop clock.
Safari Browser: Multiple Resources with Multifaceted Daily Life
I personally use Safari as my primary browser, and this update to Safari has addressed some of the pain points I experienced in the past. In iOS 16, Apple introduced the ‘Tab Groups’ feature, allowing us to organize tabs according to different types of use cases and synchronize them across devices.
In the latest iOS 17 update, Apple has taken this multi-scenario categorization a step further. The brand-new ‘Profiles’ feature allows you to create multiple profiles for different topics. Moreover, the browsing history, browser extensions, tab groups, cookies, etc., for each profile will be saved separately. This effectively isolates different thematic scenarios, greatly enhancing privacy protection and user experience.
In iOS 17, users no longer need to use different browsers for different use cases. By going to ‘Settings’ -> ‘Safari Browser’ and selecting ‘Create New Profile’, they can utilize the ‘Profiles’ feature to isolate and manage different use scenarios.
For example, if you frequently search for relevant information and materials for work, but also need to access private websites and social media, you can create two distinct profiles for these separate use cases. Moreover, you can set up a profile for each of your social media accounts. In this way, different social media accounts won’t interfere with each other, making it easier for you to access them swiftly. Additionally, the ‘Profiles’ feature also supports synchronization across devices, so you can effortlessly switch between and access various profiles regardless of which device you are using.
Health App: Focusing More on Your Mental Well-being
The Health app introduces a brand-new Thoughts recording feature, which is very user-friendly and intuitive. Now, you can simply swipe to select a multi-dimensional graphic that matches your current or recent mood, ranging from sharp octagrams to soft flowers. You can stop anywhere to describe your current feelings — from very unhappy to very happy.
Being an electronic display product, confronting vision health requires courage. Similar to screen time, the goal of eye health is to reduce the time users spend on the device. In iOS 17, Apple introduced ‘Time Under Sunlight’ and ‘Screen Distance’ to help us focus on eye health.
Through the ambient light sensor of the Apple Watch, the ‘Health’ app will record your ‘Time Under Sunlight’, which essentially means the time you spend outdoors without using a screen. As for ‘Screen Distance’, it can be activated within ‘Screen Usage Time’. It will pop up a ‘Screen Shield’ reminder when you’re close to the screen for an extended period, specifically within 12 inches (30 cm), reminding you to move further back. This helps in reducing the risk of myopia and eye fatigue.
Other System Feature Updates
iOS 17, as an iterative update, brings several nuanced improvements that enhance the day-to-day user experience:
In iOS 17, widgets are no longer just clickable blocks that redirect to apps. Now, you can perform simple tasks by clicking buttons on the widget, such as completing reminders, playing or pausing songs, or switching lights on or off in the ‘Home’ app. Whether on the lock screen, the main screen, or even on the newly introduced ‘standby’ screen, you can interact with the widgets. However, this feature still requires third-party app adaptation. Even if some third-party widgets appear to have interactive buttons, clicking on them will still redirect you to the app itself
Enhanced Sharing with AirDrop
The newly introduced ‘NameDrop’ feature allows you to share your phone number, email, and a pre-set ‘Contact Poster’ by getting close to another person’s phone.
After selecting the content you want to share, approaching another iPhone will automatically initiate the AirDrop sharing process. Similarly, the newly added "SharePlay" allows you to start a conversation with nearby iPhones to share content such as music.
Later this year, AirDrop will support internet transmission. This means that even if you move out of AirDrop’s communication range, the transfer can still continue. This feature requires both parties to have iCloud turned on.
More Powerful Spotlight Search
Spotlight Search has also been upgraded to some extent. Now, when you search, Spotlight Search will intelligently provide some in-app shortcuts, which Apple has named "Top Hit". For example, when you search for "photos", three shortcuts "One Year Ago", "Favorites", and "Recent" will be automatically created, allowing you to click and quickly browse the targeted collection. Similarly, for searches like "messages", there have also been some visual improvements in rich text search filtering.
More Flexible Siri
You can now call out Siri by directly saying "Siri" instead of "Hey, Siri". However, this feature is not yet supported for Chinese voice commands.
Siri now supports issuing multiple consecutive requests.
Current Issues with iOS 17
At present, only the first developer version of iOS 17 has been released, which may have various app compatibility issues. Although the extent of the upgrade is not significant, and there are relatively fewer bugs overall, it is still not recommended for users to immediately upgrade and try iOS 17. Based on tests, iOS 17 currently has the following issues:
- More noticeable heating during charging;
- WhatsApp voice messages cause the app to crash after playback;
- The "Control Center" playback screen sometimes loses its rounded corners;
- Lark voice calls can’t be dialed or answered properly;
- WeChat couldn’t be used with cellular data.
The above is a summary of the notable features in iOS 17 that we’ve come across. Besides the content mentioned, have you discovered any other easily overlooked new features or bugs in the iOS 17 beta? Feel free to share in the comments section.