From Visual Look Up to Safari Private Tabs: Hidden iOS 17 Features Make My iPhone Much Better

You can use your iPhone to easily decode the laundry symbols on your clothing tags -- and that's just one of the hidden features you'll find on iOS 17.

Nelson Aguilar
Nelson Aguilar is an LA-based tech how-to writer and graduate of UCLA. With more than a decade of experience, he covers Apple and Google and writes on iPhone and Android features, privacy and security settings and more.
Nelson Aguilar
5 min read
iOS 17 logo and various app images and screenshots

There's more to iOS 17 than meets the eye.

Tharon Green/CNET

I've been using iOS 17 since it was released last September, bringing several big new features to the iPhone, like contact posters, live voicemail and StandBy mode. But I'm still finding useful and interesting features that make using my iPhone a little better.

Like every mobile software release, iOS 17 has hidden features and settings that can be just as useful as the better known and popular features -- and ones you might end up using every single day on your iPhone too.

Read more: What to Know About Apple's iOS 17.2.1 iPhone Update

If you want to take a deep dive into what your iPhone has to offer, read on to check out seven hidden features I discovered while using iOS 17. For more, check out all the new features on iOS 17.2 and what you need to know before you preorder Apple's Vision Pro mixed reality headset.

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About

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Use Visual Look Up to figure out laundry codes

You grab a shirt and look at the tag. It's filled with symbols that are supposed to help you figure out how to wash this specific article of clothing -- maybe it can only be washed in cold water, or it might require a dry cleaning. Unfortunately, you might not know how to read these laundry symbols. But your iPhone can.

With iOS 17, you can now use the Visual Look Up feature, which can identify words and objects in your photos, to decipher what these laundry codes say. All you have to do is take a clear photo of your laundry symbols, go into the Photos app, find the image of the laundry symbols, swipe up and tap on Look Up Laundry Care. The results will show you what each of the recognized laundry symbols mean.

Scanning laundry codes on iOS 17

Each laundry symbol has a link to a suggested website where you can learn more about what it means.

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Automatically delete verification codes sent to you via text or email

Every time you sign in to an application that uses two-factor authentication, or 2FA, you'll first need to get a text message or email verification code sent to you. You might have hundreds of these verification codes littered in your text messages or email, and though you can delete these codes one by one, there's now an easier way to clean house, thanks to iOS 17.

In Settings > Passwords > Password Options, you can now toggle on a new Clean Up Automatically setting so that verification codes in the Messages and Mail applications are automatically deleted after being used with the autofill feature that appears at the top of your keyboard.

Verification code settings in iOS 17

The text message or email with the verification will disappear shortly after you use autofill.

Screenshots by Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Lock your private tabs in Safari

Private Browsing in Safari allows you to surf the web without your details, like browsing history and cookies, being saved. However, if you have tabs open in Private Browsing, these tabs don't automatically go away when you're done with your private browsing sessions. Instead, they live in Safari unless you close them, which means that if anyone gets access to your phone, they could potentially see what you've been browsing in private.

Thanks to iOS 17 though, you can now place a lock on the Private Browsing section of Safari. In the Settings app, go to Safari, scroll down and toggle on Require Face ID to Unlock Private Browsing. Now, when you go to Safari, you must use Face ID or type in your passcode to access Private Browsing in Safari.

Face ID feature in Safari

You can unlock Private Browsing in Safari with Face ID, Touch ID or your device passcode.

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Use Apple Maps offline to navigate

You might be surprised to learn this, but you've never been able to use Apple Maps offline. Instead, you'd have to be connected to the internet, which is useless if you need to find your way back home when you're out in the wilderness or in an area with no connection. In iOS 17, you can finally download an offline map to grab directions even when you don't have service.

In Maps, tap your profile photo in the top right of the navigation window and go into Offline Maps. Depending on where you drive most, you may see a suggested map to download, along with the size of the map, in case you don't have much storage. You can also just hit Download New Map, type a city, manually adjust the map if needed and download it to your iPhone. 

Apple Maps offline map setting

Updates to the map are downloaded automatically.

Screenshots by Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Crop your photos using the zoom feature in Photos

Cropping a screenshot or picture in the Photos app is a relatively easy process, but Apple has made it even easier with iOS 17. 

Now, when you're viewing a photo and you zoom in on it, a new Crop button will appear in the top-right. This will automatically take you into edit mode and allow you to then adjust the crop even more, or you can simply hit Done to finish the crop. You must act quick though, as the crop button appears for only a few seconds after you zoom in to a photo.

New zoom crop feature in Photos on iOS 17

You can further adjust the crop before hitting Done.

Screenshots by Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Use Crossfade for smoother transitions in Music app

If you're in charge of playing music at a friend's party or in the car, you now have the option to use a cross-fade effect between songs in Apple Music on iOS 17.

In the Settings app, go to Music and toggle on Crossfade. Once the setting is enabled, you can choose how long you want the cross-fade to be: Choose between one second and 12 seconds, in second intervals. If you choose five seconds, for example, the next song in the playlist/album will begin to slowly play in the background five seconds before the current song ends.

The crossfade feature in the Music settings on iOS 17

The default crossfade is four seconds long.

Screenshots by Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Interact with certain widgets on your home screen

The widgets that live on your home screen are no longer there just for looks. Apple has brought interactive widgets to the iPhone, allowing you to control applications from your home screen, much like you would from the control center.

For now, the number of interactive widgets is limited, but if you want to add one to your home screen, press down on an empty space on your home screen to enter edit mode, tap the plus sign in the top right, and scroll through the list of widgets. A few interactive widgets available include Podcast, Home, Notes and Music.

For example, in Music you can play or pause music, while in Home, you can turn any connected devices off and on, such as a smart light bulb or a thermostat.

The Music and Home widgets on iOS 17

In the Home widget, you can turn connected accessories on and off.

Screenshots by Nelson Aguilar/CNET

For more, check out the best iPhone deals in 2024 and how you can give your iPhone a physical keyboard.

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