My iOS 17 Wishlist: Every New Feature I Want to See at WWDC
Apple's annual developers conference is today. Hopefully these iPhone features make an appearance.
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.
With iOS 17, iPhone owners could also gain the ability to sideload apps, according to a different Bloomberg report. Sideloading means you can download an app on your iPhone without using Apple's App Store. The potential inclusion is likely meant to ensure compliance with new European regulations due to kick in next year.
Watch this: iOS 17 Features Apple Needs to Add for the iPhone
While I find those rumors fun to ponder, they can also be a distraction from the many other things I think Apple needs to add or improve in iOS. The additions I want range from significant changes, like adding support for the Apple Pencil for Pro Max and Plus models, to smaller, quality-of-life improvements, like adding a volume button to the iPhone's virtual Apple TV remote. We have to wait until WWDC kicks off later today to see what actually unfolds, but here's my iOS 17 wish list.
Bring 'Visual Look Up' to the Camera app
Visual Look Up launched with iOS 15 in 2021 and can recognize objects in your photos such as plants, food, landmarks and pets. In iOS 16, Visual Look Up expanded to let you lift an object out of a photo or PDF by tapping and holding, essentially creating a sticker you can share with others.
But there's a catch. Visual Look Up works only after you take a photo. I hope iOS 17 lets you do the same thing straight from the camera viewfinder. For example, if the camera were open and pointed at flowers, I could tap the Visual Look Up icon to see what kind of flowers they were without taking a photo of them. You can do that with Live Text, and Google Lens does something similar on Android phones. I realize this isn't a radical change, but it would streamline things a bit.
Add a volume button to the iPhone's Apple TV remote
If you own an Apple TV, you've no doubt misplaced the tiny minimalist aluminum remote control at some point. Fortunately, you can use a virtual remote on your iPhone to do nearly everything the physical Siri remote does, except change the volume. Apple, please add a volume button to the iPhone's Apple TV remote.
Technically, when you use the Apple TV remote on your iPhone, you can press the physical volume buttons to control the TV volume. But this doesn't work on every TV's audio receiver, such as mine. I'd guess there are many people who, like me, just want the virtual remote on the iPhone's screen to mimic the physical remote's button layout; most importantly including the button for volume.
Bring fitness tracking to the iPhone
If you're an Apple Watch user, you understand the convenience of recording a workout. But if you aren't wearing your watch or don't own one, there isn't a way to record basic exercises like walking, running or cycling without a third-party app. I'd like to see Apple expand the Fitness app so you can record workouts even without a Fitness Plus membership.
Add a pro camera app
It's time for Apple to revisit the iPhone's Camera app. For years, it was the gold standard of simplicity, offering a "see what you get" preview for photos, videos and effects with minimal, easy-to-navigate controls and modes. But as Apple has added more functionality, especially for ProRaw photos and ProRes video recording on iPhone Pro models, the Camera app has started to feel cramped. It tries to remain a one-size-fits-all app at the expense of higher-end features like manual camera controls.
I'd like Apple to make a separate pro camera app, along the lines of how it created a standalone app for classical music. Apple Music Classical tackles the special challenge of categorizing, searching for, and discovering classical music, something the default Apple Music app isn't geared toward. Similarly, the pro camera app could be a place for creative types to access camera controls, settings and features beyond those in the basic camera app. Sony has been quite successful with this sort of approach in its Xperia 1 and 5 series phones, and Samsung has a separate Expert Raw app to complement its main one. Now it's Apple's turn.
Let me customize the Dynamic Island
The Dynamic Island works well. It's like having a shortcut at the top of your screen no matter what you're doing on your iPhone. Glancing at my Uber ride status from my lock screen or in the Dynamic Island just makes sense. But I want more from the Dynamic Island, especially if iPhone 15 rumors are right and non-Pro iPhone models get it too. I'd like to see Apple let people customize their own Dynamic Island in a curated way.
In 2016, with iOS 10, Apple rolled out the iMessage app store for stickers and games. I don't think we need a Dynamic Island app store, but something like the ability to pin a Memoji sticker as a Dynamic Island icon would be great. Admittedly, as creative-minded as I am, I don't have a brilliant example of exactly what I want. I just think the Dynamic Island is another way people could make their iPhone feel more personal. Customization was a big theme with Android this year at Google I/O, with the introduction of AI and cinematic wallpapers. Of course, Apple could view the Dynamic Island like it does Apple Watch faces and want to control how it's changed, instead of letting people go hog wild.
Add Apple Card functionality to other credit cards
If you have an Apple Card, you get to experience one of the best mobile financial experiences on any phone today. Apple's signature credit card lives virtually in the Wallet app. At first glance, it appears like any other Apple Pay card. But when you tap its digital avatar, you see the card's balance, rewards, upcoming payment info, and transactions. I'd like Apple to open that functionality to non-Apple credit cards.
If your Bank of America credit card is in Apple Pay and you have the Bank of America app on your phone, wouldn't it be great to access similar functionality in the Wallet app? Expanding access would be convenient for iPhone owners and could bolster Apple Pay and the iPhone's Wallet as serious financial tools.
Make widgets interactive
Widgets on the lock screen and home screen can do two things: show information (like the weather) and launch the corresponding app when tapped (e.g., the weather app). Widgets haven't changed much since Apple introduced them with iOS 14. It's time for a refresh.
What if you could use the podcast widget like a mini-podcast player, or order your favorite burrito bowl straight from Chipotle's widget? Adding more functionality to widgets could make it easier to multitask on the iPhone.
Add Apple Pencil support
I've been writing iPhone and iOS wish lists for years, and one addition that's made my roundup every time is adding Apple Pencil support to the iPhone, specifically for Pro Max and Plus models. The 6.7-inch screen isn't that much smaller than the 8.3-inch screen on the iPad Mini. But one supports Apple Pencil functionality and the other doesn't.
Also, if iOS 17 did include Pencil support, Apple could make a smaller version of its stylus and call it the Apple Pencil Mini. Maybe it could attach to the back of the iPhone Pro Max or Plus using MagSafe?
Bring the iPad's split-screen view to iPhone Pro Max models
The iPhone Pro Max has been part of Apple's lineup since 2019. The 11 Pro Max has a 6.5-inch screen, while the 12 Pro Max, 13 Pro Max and 14 Pro Max all have a 6.7-inch display. Last year, Apple introduced the iPhone 14 Plus, which also has a 6.7-inch screen. Those large screens feel wasted when it comes to software. Some iOS apps like Mail and Messages can take advantage of the extra space in landscape orientation to show a column of message previews next to the currently opened message. But otherwise, there isn't much else in iOS that's optimized for big iPhone screens.
I'd like Apple to bring some iPadOS features to iOS 17 just for Pro Max and Plus models, especially its split screen multitasking view. It would be wonderful to have Safari open on one side of the phone and launch Messages on the other.
Revisit ease of use vs. security
Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern and Nicole Nguyen ran a series of stories about how a thief who steals your iPhone and knows its passcode can lock you out of the most important parts of your digital life. This crime isn't widespread, but Stern and Nguyen showed that it's more common than you might think.
At the core of the issue is the balance between security and ease of access. The same tools Apple put in place to help people who get locked out of their devices and accounts are being used by savvy criminals to lock people out of their phone and accounts while gaining access to their money and services. There's been a bunch of coverage on the topic in recent months, and it sounds like these tools help far more people than the criminals who take advantage of them.
I don't think there's an easy way for Apple to "fix" the issue, but I hope with iOS 17, the company takes a moment to reconsider the impact these tools can have on people and even offer other security features to foil the thieves behind these crimes, like Apple did with AirTags.
At the end of the day, I'm excited for WWDC this year. And while I do hope there's a fancy, cool AR/VR headset, my heart is holding out for iOS 17 and all its new features.