Apple has revealed iOS 17, with a host of new features for the iPhone.
The new update includes updates to central apps, including Messages, FaceTime and the Phone app. It also adds a new app, in the form of “Journal”, which Apple says will help people practise gratitude.
The new update also tweaks other parts of the iPhone experience, including the loss of the “Hey” from the “Hey, Siri” phrase required to activate the virtual assistance, and updates AirDrop. Now users will be able to share more information through it – including contact details – and transfers will happen when users go out of contact.
And it adds entirely new ways to use the phone, in the form of a new tool called “StandBy”. When the iPhone is turned on its side while charging, it opens up the new mode, which shows information designed to be seen at a distance, taking on smart displays such as those made by Amazon and Google.
Apple announced the new features at its Worldwide Developers Conference, the annual event in which it shows off the future of its platforms.
iOS 17 will be available to developers immediately, and come in a public beta in July. It will be released in the autumn – it is usually made available at the same time as the new iPhone is released, in September.
Apple began with the introduction of a new tool called “Contact Posters”, which work across Phone, FaceTime and elsewhere. That allows users to design their own images which include their name and a picture, and will show up on other people’s phones when calling them.
Apple has also added transcription to voicemails, so that users can see what a person is saying while they leave a message. The same will happen to voice notes within the Messages app.
Messages received a host of other tweaks. That includes new search filters for finding messages, the option to quickly catch up on busy message threads, new stickers that can be placed on top of messages and a “check in” tool that lets people automatically notify friends when they have successfully made it home.
Autocorrect has also been improved for messaging and everywhere else the keyboard is used, with new tools to spot grammatical mistakes and the option to quickly use predicted words without typing them out. Apple’s software boss Craig Federighi also joked that the keyboard will now learn when you want to type a “ducking word”, fixing a problem where iPhones and iPads would refuse to let people swear.
Perhaps the biggest change is StandBy, which allows the iPhone to turn into a smart device for the home. Turning it on its side shows personalisable information, widgets and more, with the aim of making the screen more useful at a glance.
Apple said the tool is intended for places such as nightstands or kitchen counters, where the phone can be stood during other activities, and that it will learn how people use it.
The feature looks set to rival those smart displays made by Amazon and Google. Apple does not make any smart display for the home, instead focusing on audio in the form of the HomePod and HomePod Mini.
It uses the widgets options that arrived last year and allow apps to show smaller, interactive versions of themselves on the iPhone’s Home Screen. Those widgets also came to the Watch and iPad this year.
Apple also introduced a new app, named Journal, with the aim of allowing people to keep track of their lives and practise gratitude, which it said could improve users’ wellbeing. It will gather information including workouts, photos, location and music, and allow people to see what they were doing on a certain day and write any important information.
iOS 17 will also bring new changes to how AirPods work when they are paired with a device running it. They include better automatic switching and an “Adaptive Audio” feature that varies the amount of noise cancelling depending on what noises can be heard.
Other new additions include offline maps that can be downloaded, the addition of multiple timers, and changes in photos that make it better to identify people. Photos can now recognise cats and dogs and categorise them in the app – an announcement that received one of the biggest cheers of the day.
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