iOS 17's Best New Features: StandBy Mode, Custom Message Stickers
Apple's iOS 17 is now available to download, and it brings major quality-of-life improvements to your iPhone.
Patrick HollandManaging Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
iOS 17 was first revealed in June during Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference. iOS 17 brings changes to how you call, text and glance at information with updates to FaceTime, Messages and the phone app. There's a new StandBy mode, which turns your iPhone's lock screen into a mini hub similar to the Amazon Echo Show.
Last year's software update, iOS 16, introduced the ability to edit or "unsend" messages you send via iMessage; Apple Pay Later; a major overhaul to the lock screen; revamped notifications; and Live Activities. These additions didn't all come out at once and were actually scattered over the course of smaller iOS software updates throughout the year.
We can expect the same for iOS 17, but many of its best features are now available after making the update.
Last year we got customizable lock screens in iOS 16. This year, iOS 17 has a similar change for your iPhone's contact cards, to make them look more eye-catching. Contact Posters are beautiful treatments for contact photos and emoji paired with slick-looking fonts that show up when you get calls and for other services on your phone where you communicate and share.
You can customize your Contact Poster similar to how you personalize your lock screen. Pick a photo, font and color and that's it.
AirDrop gets easier to use
iOS 17 brings an overhaul to AirDrop. You just need to bring your iPhone close to someone else's to share a Contact Poster, photos, videos or kick off a shared activity using Share Play. Of course, being Apple, there's a word for sharing your Contact Poster with someone new: NameDrop. What's nice, is that you can choose what contact info is shared. NameDrop works between iPhones or with an Apple Watch, too. It reminds me of "bumping" a contact in the early days of the iPhone.
Standby turns your iPhone into an Amazon Echo Show
One of the biggest additions in iOS 17 is for when your iPhone isn't in your hand. When your iPhone is on its side while MagSafe charging, you get a new full screen experience with glanceable information. The feature is called Standby and mimics what many smart home devices can do, such as the Amazon Echo Show.
The new screen shows the time, photos, widgets and Live Activities; nearly all of which can be personalized. It's a bit of a cross between the iPhone 14 Pro's always-on display and nightstand mode on the Apple Watch.
Watch this: WWDC 2023: Here Are All the Major iOS 17 Features
When you swipe to the side on the Standby screen, you can look at your favorite photos or moments. iOS 17 will also automatically shuffle images to find the one that takes the best advantage of the screen.
Standby can also show glanceable widgets. For example, you can see the weather, your Apple Home smart controls or your favorite third-party widget. With support for live activities, you can also see the score of sporting events or the status of a food delivery.
One of the more curious features is that Standby can remember your preferred view "setup" for each place you charge via MagSafe.
The new Journal app
iOS 17 brings a new Apple app called Journal that creates personalized suggestions to inspire writing. These suggestions are curated from information on your iPhone, like photos, location, music and workouts.
Journal gives you the option to select a moment, like "morning visit, Ocean Beach," and start writing. You can also schedule notifications to remind you to write and get new prompts. You can flag important moments so that you can reflect on them later.
Another new talent iOS 17 has involves your voicemail. When someone calls you and leaves a message, you'll see a live transcription in real time as they speak. The new service is called Live Voicemail and it kind of feels like the days of answering machines, when my dad would screen a call. For Live Voicemail, you'll see the voicemail right on your screen so you can decide whether to step out and take the call. The feature is powered by your iPhone's neural engine in order to preserve your privacy. Live Voicemail seems identical to Call Screen on Google Pixel phones which isn't a bad thing.
iOS 17 will let you record a video message in FaceTime. It's a heavily requested feature that will ensure you can document and share important moments, even if someone misses your call.
Messages Check In
Apple is expanding and simplifying its location sharing via Messages. The new feature, called Check In, is for letting a loved one know you made it to your destination safely. Whether you're walking home after dark or going for an early morning run, you can start a Check In with a family member or friend and as soon as you arrive home, it will automatically let your friend know. But if something unexpected happens, it can recognize that you're not near your destination and check in with you. If you don't respond, Check In can automatically share your current location, the route you took, your iPhone's battery level and cell service status; all of which is end-to-end encrypted.
Messages get a handful of fixes and additions
The tried-and-true Messages app gets a handful of updates, including a visual overhaul of your iMessage apps which will no longer live above your keyboard and instead be accessible via a plus sign on the bottom left.
Searching through your Messages becomes a lot easier on iOS 17 with the addition of filters. When you start a search in the Messages app, you will be able to add terms to narrow the results.
Another welcome addition is transcription for audio messages. If you're someone who has friends or family members who send you audio messages, you'll be able to read a transcription of the recording right in the Messages app.
There's also a new "catch up arrow" in Messages. It sits in the top right of your conversation and lets you jump to the first message you haven't read. This could be a killer feature for managing group chats. Apple also made inline replies faster. In iOS 17, you'll be able to just swipe to reply on any message bubble.
Apple fixes 'ducking' autocorrect
Autocorrect will become more intelligent and can fix more grammatical mistakes. Reverting words back to what you typed is easier. And apparently, autocorrect will learn and let you use curse words. Duck, yeah!
iMessage stickers get a new drawer to bring all the stickers you've used into one place. And now emoji are stickers. You can peel and stick an emoji sticker to a message bubble, rotate and resize it. Last year in iOS 16, Apple introduced the ability to lift a subject from the background of a photo as part of Visual Lookup. With iOS 17, you can turn a photo's subject into a sticker in Messages.
The Stickers drawer also has a Live Stickers tab that lets you create a Sticker animation (aka a GIF) from a Live Photo. Stickers can be accessed system wide in things like Tapback, Markup and third-party apps; basically anywhere you can access emoji.
Watch this: Apple Reveals iOS 17
But wait, there are more iOS 17 features
As is typical with WWDC, there are a lot more additions and improvements to iOS 17 than Apple showed during the keynote. Some notable highlights include:
Triggering Siri by just saying, "Siri" instead of "Hey, Siri"
Download offline maps in the Maps app
New profiles for Safari and your passwords
Auto retrieval of one-time verification codes from the Mail app
Interactive widgets (which was featured in-depth during the iPadOS portion)
iOS 17 is now available to download from the Settings app on any compatible iPhone, including the iPhone XS, XR and newer, along with the 2020 iPhone SE.