How the iOS 17 update will change your iPhone

Apple has revealed a raft of upgrades and new features coming to your iPhone soon.

This autumn – likely September, going by previous launches – Apple will release its next major software update for iPhones, iOS 17.  

During its June 5 keynote presentation at WWDC 2023 (its Worldwide Developers Conference) the Cupertino, California-based firm revealed the first details of what you can except from the update. 

Apple’s futuristic Vision Pro VR headset may have taken the spotlight, but your iPhone is in line for a significant overhaul in just a few months time.

Six iPhones all showing different iOS 17 featuresCredit: Apple
From Contact Posters and Stickers to StandBy and Journal, we take you through all the key iOS 17 updates

From updates for the Phone, FaceTime and Messages apps, to improvements to AirDrop and the introduction of a new Journal app and StandBy mode – we’ve pulled together all the information Apple revealed during its two-hour-plus presentation.

If you don’t fancy waiting until September to try out these new features, a public iOS 17 beta will be available in July, but we wouldn’t recommend installing this.

As it’s a beta, there’s likely to be several bugs, and some apps and functions may not work correctly, as Apple continues to develop the new software. 

It’s a much safer bet to wait for the official iOS 17 release, as it will be a far more stable version of the software.

1. Phone

Contact Posters and Live Voicemail

Three different examples of Contact Posters in iOS 17Credit: Apple
You can customise your own Contact Poster to suit your style

Contact Posters

First up, Apple introduced Contact Posters, allowing you to select an image of yourself that appears on the phone display of friends or family members when you call them. These posters take over the whole screen, giving the person receiving the call a clear view of who is trying to get hold of them. 

You can customise your poster further by adding typography (and setting the font, size and colour), providing a more personalised representation of yourself. 

Apple says Contact Posters will work across third party apps as well, which means they should show up if you decide to use apps such as WhatsApp of Facebook Messenger to call instead. 

Live Voicemail

Ever sent a call to voicemail and wished you could know what message the person was leaving without having to wait for the recording to end to play it back? If so, you’ll be pleased with the introduction of Live Voicemail, which provides a live transcript of the person’s message on the screen of your iPhone. 

You can even opt to pick up the phone and speak to the person leaving the message if it’s important, or if that unknown number that’s called is actually an old friend and not just another spam call. 

2. FaceTime

Leave a video message if the person doesn’t pick up

Apple says this is one of the most requested features, the ability to leave someone a video message if they can’t answer your FaceTime call. 

It’s a simple feature, yet one which allows you to share a particular moment that may be happening live, or just to leave a message for that person to brighten up their day. You can also opt to leave a voice message, rather than a video message, if you prefer. 

If the person receiving your message has an Apple Watch, they’ll be able to play your message on their wrist as well. 

3. Messages

Make sure loved ones get home safe, and express yourself in new ways

Let others know you've arrived home safely with Check InCredit: Apple
Let others know you’ve arrived home safely with Check In

Check In

A new feature in the Messages app, Check In allows you to let a friend of family member automatically know when you’re home. 

Step through your front door, and your iPhone will automatically know you’re home and send an alert to your chosen contact to let them know you’ve arrived. 

However, if something unexpected happens en route, your iPhone will check-in with you. If you’ve popped to a shop, you can let your phone know you’re OK and still on course to reach your destination. 

If you don’t respond to the check-in, your iPhone will automatically share useful info with your chosen contact, including location and your phone’s battery life. 

All the information shared in Check In is end-to-end encrypted, which means no one other than yourself and your chosen contact can see it, not even Apple. 

A wealth of new sticker options will be available to you in iOS 17Credit: Apple
A wealth of new sticker options will be available to you in iOS 17

Stickers

You may already be familiar with stickers in Messages. If not, they’re similar to emoji, but can be sent in messages and customised, and there’s a whole library of different packs you can download to suit your style. 

You will be able to create your own stickers from your photos. Tap and hold on an object in a picture and your iPhone will be able to pull it out of the image to make a sticker. You can then add an effect to it (shiny, puffy, comic, outline) to give it more depth, and if it’s been taken from a Live Photo (where you iPhone captures a few seconds of movement during the photo capture process), you’ll also have the option to animate the sticker. 

With the iOS 17 update, you’ll also be able to apply stickers in other apps on your iPhone where emoji are already available – so apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and more should benefit from this feature. 

More Messages updates

That’s not all, as iOS 17 offers even more updates for the Messages app, including transcription of voice messages so you don’t have to play the audio recording every time. 

Replying to specific messages in a chat will get easier too, as you’ll be able to swipe the chat bubble you want to respond to, and your message will be linked to that post for the other person to easily see. This feature is already available in other apps, such as WhatsApp, so it’s good to see Apple bring it to Messages. 

If you’re in a busy group chat, it can sometimes be a little overwhelming to return to a flurry of messages. In iOS 17 a new ‘catch-up’ arrow icon will appear in the chat and tapping it will jump you to the first of the new stream of messages, allowing you to read through all the posts you’ve missed without having to scroll up to try and find where you left off. 

4. Keyboard

Smarter typing, and a potty mouth

Apple’s made updates to the iPhone keyboard with iOS 17, with improvements to Autocorrect, making it “more accurate than ever”, with the ability to correct grammar within a sentence (it can go back and switch ‘your’ to ‘you’re’, for example). 

The proof will be in the pudding, but we’ve long experienced frustration at times with the current Autocorrect on iPhone, so we’re looking forward to trying out the improved offering. 

You’ll also get inline text and sentence predictions as well, with iOS 17 able to predict the next word(s) that you may type – a tap of the keyboard accepts the prediction, allowing you to quickly craft messages. It will learn your personalised language the more you type (including swear words), allowing it to fine tune its predictions to your way of communicating.  

Apple also claims it’s improved dictation mode too, making it easier to speak your messages and have them converted into text. 

5. Journal

Apple wants to help you practise gratitude

Preserve your memories with the new Journal app, coming soon to iOS 17Credit: Apple
Preserve your memories with the new Journal app, coming soon to iOS 17

Apple says its new Journal app will help you practise gratitude and preserve memories. In the app you’ll be able to add new entries, which include photos, music, audio recordings, workout results and more, pulled from various other apps on your iPhone. 

This content will then appear alongside your written journal entry. The app will be able to create personalised suggestions for moments to inspire your journaling and prompt you to make an entry, while it’ll also offer up more generic writing prompts too, if you’re looking for some additional inspiration. 

There’s the option to lock your journal, to prevent others from viewing it, and any back-up to iCloud is end-to-end encrypted, which means not even Apple can read it. 

Apple says the Journal app is “coming in an update later this year”, so it may not be available on the initial iOS 17 release date. 

6. StandBy

A ‘glanceable’ experience for your iPhone

StandBy is another new addition to the iOS 17 update, allowing you to turn your iPhone effectively into a mini smart display. 

When enabled, StandBy will turn your iPhone’s screen into a landscape, glanceable display with a range of different information that can be displayed. 

If you set it up on your night stand, you can opt to have a minimalist clock face which has a lower power mode and red hue when the lights go off so not to disturb you, while those who opt for a desk setup can have key information such as their calendar, events and weather displayed. 

Turn your iPhone into a mini smart display with StandByCredit: Apple
Turn your iPhone into a mini smart display with StandBy

You can also opt to turn it into a small digital photo frame, and have it cycle through some of your favourite photographs, or perhaps you want easy access to music controls or a live activity, such as the progress of your food delivery, or the latest score in a sports game. 

Apple showed StandBy in action during its presentation, and every time the iPhone was docked on a charging stand, allowing it to face you, rather than lying flat on the surface. The stand used in the promotional photos and videos is the Twelve South Forté for MagSafe Charger, which will set you back £49.95.  

There are cheaper versions available, including MagSafe stands from Mous (£39.99) and Belkin (£27.98 at Amazon). The iPhone 12, 13 and 14 series are compatible with MagSafe; if you have an older model you’ll need to find a different stand if you want to achieve this effect. 

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7. More iOS 17 features

Updates for Siri, Maps and Photos

Siri

If you’ve used Apple’s voice assistant so far, you’ll be used to saying ‘Hey Siri’ to prompt it to come to life. With the iOS 17 update, you’ll be able to just say ‘Siri’ to engage the assistant, and you’ll be able to deliver back-to-back commands without having to say ‘Siri’ a second time in quick succession.

Apple Maps

With iOS 17, Apple Maps will support offline maps, allowing you to download an area of the world that you’ll be able to access without an internet connection. This is especially useful if you’re going on holiday abroad or planning a hike in an area with little to no mobile reception. 

Photos

The ‘People’ album in the Photos app gets improved person recognition in iOS 17, making it better at spotting known people in your photos, as well as adding in recognition for cats and dogs as well. Yes, you’ll soon be able to filter your photos by your favourite furry friend. 

And much more

Apple announced even more new iOS 17 features during its WWDC 2023 keynote, and you can read about them all on its website. 

This isn’t a complete list of every new feature that will arrive with the iOS 17 update, and we’ll learn more about it in the coming months. 

8. Will your iPhone get iOS 17?

iOS 17 will come to all iPhones from 2018 onwards

Apple has always been excellent when it comes to backdating support for previous generations of devices, and with iOS 17 every iPhone launched in the past five years will get the update.  

If you’re still using an iPhone XR or iPhone XS from 2018, firstly well done, and secondly, you’re in line for another major software upgrade in 2023. 

And while it’s not announced yet, you can fully expect the iPhone 15 series to arrive with iOS 17 onboard as well when it launches later this year (likely in September). 

iPhone models that will get the iOS 17 update

2022

  • iPhone 14
  • iPhone 14 Plus
  • iPhone 14 Pro
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE (3rd gen, 2022)

2021

  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone 13 mini
  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max

2020

  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE (2nd gen, 2020)

2019

  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max

2018

  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
John McCann

Written by John McCann he/him

Updated:

John McCann has been a technology journalist for more than a decade, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He’s interviewed CEOs from some of the world’s biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. During his time in journalism, John has written for TechRadar, T3, What Laptop, Windows 8 magazine and Gizmodo UK, and he’s appeared in the Evening Standard and Metro newspapers.

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