I’ve been meaning to do a roundup of my favorite iOS 17 features for some time and had been waiting for one major one to actually work before doing so.
Having now given up on that, I decided instead to run through the iOS 17 features which have the greatest appeal for me, including a couple I haven’t yet been able to actually use …
While I won’t let a macOS beta within 500 feet of my MacBook Pro, I’m less cowardly with iOS betas. I started using the developer beta a few weeks before the public beta hit, and I have to say it’s been mostly smooth sailing.
For me, the biggest reason not to run iOS betas is that they sometimes break essential apps. With iOS 16, for example, one of my banking apps crashed every time I attempted to open it, requiring me to wipe and restore from backup.
This time around, though, I’ve so far hit only one (relatively obscure) app issue: You can’t record a slo-mo video of longer than four minutes in either Filmic Pro or Filmic Legacy. If you select a recording speed of 50fps and an output speed of 24fps, and record for around four minutes or more, the app crashes during the retiming process – and you lose the recording altogether.
That’s one I discovered because I’m midway through a video project in which I’m using my iPhone to record slo-mo dance footage, and the feature is really handy to be able to immediately show the dancers how the video looks in slo-mo. But simply recording at 50fps without retiming, and then doing the retiming in Final Cut Pro, is a perfectly usable workaround. (The company tells me it’s monitoring the issue, and will fix it if it persists into the final beta.)
So if that’s the biggest glitch I’ve found, it seems a safe beta!
This is the main iOS 17 feature which is supposed to work in the current betas, but for me stubbornly refuses to. I completed the recordings, and it spent several days at the ‘Processing 0%’ stage.
There was a brief flurry of excitement when it incremented to 1%, but since then it has alternated between 0% and 1% depending on wind direction, never reaching the dizzy heights of 2%.
I’m now pretty close to deleting the profile and starting again with the recordings.
Still, based on demos I’ve seen by people who have managed to get it to complete, I do think this is arguably the best iOS 17 feature – albeit one we all hope we’ll never need to use.
Also falling into the category of “sounds wonderful, if only I could use it” is Live Voicemail. I’ve had the same cell number since the mid-90s, so as careful as I am not to make it widely available, I do get enough spam calls that I don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.
My outgoing voicemail message also tells people not to leave me a voicemail, but instead to text me. So, yeah – nobody takes any notice of that.
So the idea of being able to allow a call to go to voicemail, and then see the message being left before deciding whether to take the call would be perfect. Sadly, this feature isn’t yet supported by my carrier.
This one half-belongs in this category, since it sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. But yep, this is a great idea for those of us whose tidiness – digital and otherwise – borders on the clinical.
It always amazes me how often technology requires us to engage in the kind of tedious repetitive tasks from which it was supposed to free us, and zapping all these is an obvious example. Finally automating it is a very nice feature – when it works.
This is a huge one for me. I’ve been arguing for years that passwords are horrible, and Passkeys are a great solution.
Speaking of things I’ve been requesting for years, Siri at last has contextual understanding! I have no idea why it’s take this long, but finally we can have a sensible “conversation” with Siri.
Previously, if you asked “What time is it in San Francisco?” followed by “And what’s the weather there?”, Siri would have no idea what you were asking. Now, finally, eventually, you can pose those same queries, and Siri is able to answer them.
It does still resort to “Here’s what I’ve found on the web” frustratingly often, but this is a big step in the right direction!
This one definitely wins the award for Most Overdue Feature! The ability to download maps to use without mobile data has been one of many reasons that Google Maps has remain my go-to. Most notably when travelling, and I’m either not staying long enough to justify a local SIM, or where coverage is slow or patchy.
However, the offline download feature of Google Maps does have one major drawback: The maps expire, and the app doesn’t even tell you, let alone ask whether you want to download replacements. So on more than one occasion, I’ve opened up Google Maps without mobile data to find … nothing.
Apple Maps has a much better implementation, silently updating updates in the background at regular intervals, so they are always there when needed.
Autocorrect frequently leads to WTD moments, when you simply can’t understand the obvious correction it has missed, and the bizarre one it has offered instead.
But I have to say that with iOS 17, Apple does finally seem to have managed to create a version which truly works well.
Not only are its suggestions more sensible, but I love the way that it gives you the gray preview of what it thinks you’re about to type, so that you can immediately hit the spacebar to accept it. This is a big time-saver for those times when I need to type a message rather than dictate it.
Don’t get me started on how this one took so long, but here it is, finally!
The ability to send voice messages can be handy, when you’re walking down the street, or want to explain something which would require too much typing (or checking-and-correcting of Siri dictation!), but they can be a pain to receive.
There are plenty of times someone sends me a voice message when I’m on a train or in a coffee shop or some other public place, and I’m either faced with getting out headphones to listen to it, or doing that awkward thing where you turn the volume down super-low and press the phone to your ear (which will still get you dirty looks in Britain …).
An even smarter implementation of Offline Maps is to have an option to automatically download the map sections needed along a navigation route.
We can’t always know if there will be reception along a certain route or at the destination, can’t always remember to trigger the download, and it takes multiple steps to download map sections at the prefer resolution (zoom) along a long route.
This is such an obvious problem to automate, I can’t believe no-ones done it yet.
Setting to turn this feature on or off if it’s fully automated, or make it a button available to tap once navigation starts
Setting to select resolution to limit file size (some people want all the details, some don’t and want to save device storage space)
Setting to select entire route (including cities), or just areas outside of cities (because cities are where you can reasonably expect continuous coverage and won’t need the extra download)
Then no-one will ever have to even think about whether they need to download maps or not. Magic.
So auto-transcription to read them instead is a really great feature!
Finally, while we might all want to frame our photos carefully to get them right in the first place, that can be pretty challenging with kids and pets! You know if you don’t just point and shoot immediately, they’re going to stop doing that cute thing in the couple of seconds it takes you to frame.
So it’s pretty common for me to take a cat snapshot, say, and then want to crop out part of the background. The quick-crop feature is great for that.
Those are my top iOS 17 features so far – how about yours? Please share in the comments.
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Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!