iOS 17 Review: Standby Mode, Meaningful Changes in Messages and More – CNET

An iPhone with the number 17 on the screen next to the Apple logo An iPhone with the number 17 on the screen next to the Apple logo

iOS 17 brings these new features to your iPhone.

Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Whether you bought one of the new iPhone 15 models or are holding on to a 5-year-old iPhone XS, you can download iOS 17 now. Apple released the operating system on Monday, Sept. 18 after introducing it at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. 

Screen of different iOS 17 updates Screen of different iOS 17 updates

Apple announced iOS 17 at WWDC in June.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

iOS 17 picks up visually where iOS 16 left off. Contact Posters in iOS 17 brings visuals to contacts similar to those iOS 16 brought to the lock screen. But I found Contact Posters more fun than useful. The largest visual change is StandBy mode, which turns your iPhone into a mini hub filled with widgets, photos and customizable clocks.

iOS 17 will work on iPhone XS and newer models. But while the new software makes experiences seamless and less burdensome on older and newer iPhones alike, some features really shine on newer models, like the iPhone 14 Pro. That doesn’t mean you should avoid iOS 17 if you have an older iPhone — you’ll still experience about 90% of iOS 17’s benefits. StandBy mode, for example, worked on my XR, but with the display’s sleep timer turned off, I had to lock my screen in order for it to work. Once in StandBy mode, the display goes to sleep a short time later.

Now, let’s get into some of my favorite iOS 17 features.

StandBy mode is a standout

When Apple announced StandBy mode at WWDC, I was skeptical. My wife and I don’t have a smart display, like the Amazon Echo Show, or any other kind of supplementary hub in our home, and we’ve been just fine — and yes, if you come by later, I’ll probably be yelling about the weather. But StandBy mode is my favorite new iPhone feature in years, and it’s not even close. 

Sure, you could say StandBy mode makes your iPhone into an expensive bedside clock, but if you just use it as a clock, you’re missing out on so much functionality. Interactive widgets on my screen made it easy to check the weather, read the latest headlines and much more. I could also change music playing through connected smart speakers without fishing my iPhone out of my pocket. 

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The iPhone on a MagSafe charger in StandBy mode The iPhone on a MagSafe charger in StandBy mode

When the iPhone is on a MagSafe charger and in a horizontal position, StandBy mode kicks in.

John Kim/CNET

But StandBy mode has room to improve. Currently there are a limited number of widgets that can be used with StandBy mode, and email widgets, like Mail, are sorely missing. Being able to quickly check your email, or any social media app, from StandBy mode would elevate the usefulness of this feature. I’m not seeing more widgets in the iOS 17 release candidate, but a Mail widget still might be included in the final version. If it’s not, Apple should include it in an update soon.

StandBy mode also works best on iPhones with always-on displays, like the iPhone 14 Pro. It will work on other iOS 17 compatible iPhones, like the iPhone XR, but only until your screen goes to sleep.

Messages upgrades beyond autocorrect

Yes, autocorrect will now learn from your messages so it won’t correct you all the “ducking” time. Is this cool? Yeah. Am I immature? Also, yes. The cursing in my texts now flows without interruption or confusion. But more so, autocorrect has improved overall to better understand what you mean. It’s also not as eager to correct things like acronyms or slang.

Digital stickers of a dog in iOS 17 Digital stickers of a dog in iOS 17

I mean, how could you not share that face?

Zach McAuliffe/CNET

With iOS 16, Apple introduced the ability to lift a photo’s subject from the background, giving you (mostly) clean-looking cutout pictures. With iOS 17, Apple lets you use these cutouts to create your own stickers, called Live Stickers. You can add different effects to your stickers, like a white outline or a holographic filter, to make your stickers standout. And you can make animated stickers from Live photos. 

As a proud pup parent, I make and send more stickers of my dog than I’d like to admit. But I’ll gladly share a small sample of the stickers of Cinnamon Toast Crunch — yes, that’s her name. Are these stickers useful? Not really, but I’m having fun with them.

Read more: How to Create Your Own Live Stickers

iOS 17 can automatically delete verification code messages

Two-factor verification messages are a great way to improve security when logging into an account or service. You know what really annoys me about them though? All the random messages and emails that clutter my inboxes. But that’s no longer a problem.

With iOS 17, your Messages and Mail app can automatically delete two-factor verification codes once the code has been used to autofill its intended field. I love keeping all my inboxes clean and tidy, and this new feature is like a virtual Roomba that gets rid of those unnecessary messages as soon as they are used.

Shortcuts improvements

The level in the Camera app is yellow when the photo is straight The level in the Camera app is yellow when the photo is straight

The camera level is a small new feature, but I love it.

Zach McAuliffe/CNET

In iOS 17, the Camera app has an onscreen level so you can straighten your videos and pictures. The level comes across the center of your screen as a thin white line but it turns yellow when it’s level. It’s helped me take straight photos, and I also used it to double-check whether a picture frame on my wall was level when hanging it. 

Grocery lists in Reminders 

I love grocery shopping. I like walking the aisles, finding my items and seeing all the people and what they’ve picked up. But what I don’t like is forgetting an item on one side of the store after I’ve walked all the way across and picked up everything else I need. 

Luckily, Reminders has a new feature that lets you create a grocery list separated into sections with headers like Produce, Breads & Cereals and Household items. The app automatically creates these sections as you add items and sorts them into the appropriate categories. The app even recognizes certain brand names, like Dr Pepper and Ritz, and sorts them appropriately, too. 

iOS 17 features not available at launch

The biggest iOS 17 feature that’s not included at launch that I’m excited about is the Journal app. Apple announced the app at WWDC in June, saying it would be able to give you suggestions about what to journal about, keep your entries private and more. However, Apple said the Journal app would launch later this year. 

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