iOS 17 release: everything you need to know about Apple’s big updates
Apple plans to release software updates for its iPhone, iPad and smartwatch on Monday, adding new features and designs for compatible devices.
Announced at the company’s developer conference in June, iOS 17, iPadOS 17 and watchOS 10 add a much-improved keyboard with autocorrect that will let you swear, new standby modes, contact posters, greater customisation and the biggest reworking of the Apple Watch’s interface since launch.
Here’s what you need to know about the updates.
When can I get it?
Downloads for iOS, iPadOS and watchOS updates usually start at about 6pm UK time (1pm in New York; 3am in Sydney). Unlike other manufacturers, all eligible Apple devices will be able to download and install the update the moment it is released rather than in a staggered fashion.
Which devices can get it?
All Apple smartphones from 2018’s iPhone XS or newer can install iOS 17. All tablets from the 2017 iPad Pro 10.5in or 2018 iPad (6th gen) and newer can install iPadOS 17. All Apple Watches from the 2018’s Series 4 or newer can install watchOS 10.
How do I get it?
Open the Settings app on an iPhone or iPad then navigate to General > Software Update. Tap install if available to download, verify and then reboot to install. You can also install the update via a Mac or iTunes on a Windows computer.
WatchOS 10 requires an iPhone XS or later to be running iOS 17 first. Then open the Watch app on the phone and navigate to General > Software Update to begin the installation. You will need to put the smartwatch on its charger to complete the update.
How much will it cost?
The updates are free from Apple. If you are being asked to pay for an update, it is likely to be a scam.
Apple’s keyboard will finally let you swear by learning from your manual corrections, which should banish “ducking” typos to the scrapheap. You can revert corrected text by tapping on the underlined words when it does get it wrong. The keyboard can now predict and complete full sentences as you type, too, similar to the feature in Google’s Gmail and others.
Contact posters include your photo, text and customisable colours that show up on recipients’ phones and in their contacts app when you make a call, allowing you to choose how you look when contacting people.
NameDrop allows you to share your contact information with another iPhone or Apple Watch just by bringing them nearby and choosing what to send. The same proximity process works for other AirDrop filesharing interactions, too.
Available only for those in the US and Canada initially, the phone app can now automatically transcribe voicemail messages in real time so that you can see who is calling and what it’s about before picking up the call, handy for dodging spam calls.
FaceTime callers can now leave video voicemails if the recipient isn’t available. Video calls can also be made on a TV using an Apple TV box and an iPhone or iPad’s camera, while animated reactions including rising balloons and other bits can be triggered with hand gestures such as thumbs up.
The new Standby mode can turn the iPhone into a small smart display when it is turned in landscape while charging, showing the time, widgets, photos and other information at a glance, including Siri interactions. A new option drops the “hey” from “hey Siri” when invoking Apple’s voice assistant, which can now handle back-to-back requests without having to say Siri each time, too.
You can save areas of a map in the Apple Maps app for offline access including directions, opening hours and other information, matching the longstanding popular feature of Google Maps. Apple’s Safari browser now has profiles, catching up with rivals such as Chrome and Firefox. They allow you to have a different set of bookmarks, settings, sites and cookies, such as one for work and one for home.
Check In is a new safety feature that allows you to share your location with friends or family. The system automatically detects when you get home and lets them know. If it sees you are delayed it can send information to your contact such as your location, battery life and other bits so they can help.
Apple’s tablets gain most of the new features of iOS 17 with a few additions just for the larger-screen devices.
Apple added extensive customisation to iPhone lock screens last year with iOS 16, which have now come to the iPad. Users can add widgets, use animated wallpaper, change the typeface and other options, while live activities, such as flight tracking and other real-time events now show on the lock screen.
Health app now on an iPad
Apple’s longstanding Health app is now on the iPad, in which you can see data such as sleep tracking, activity and other bits from first and third-party apps. It has a new tablet-sized interface and can be used to review trends in your data, plus log things such as your vision or mental health.
When multitasking, app windows can be resized and placed anywhere on the desktop rather than being limited to certain slots as with iPadOS 16. If you have a keyboard attached to the tablet you can hold the shift key and tap or click on an app icon to open it in your current desktop space. These small updates make the iPad feel more like a Mac or desktop computer.
WatchOS 10 gains many of the new features from iOS 17, including NameDrop, contact posters and other bits. But Apple has also reworked how some parts of the operating system function.
Most built-in apps on the watch have been redesigned with more colour and animation, as well fitting more information on screen per page for less scrolling. For example, tap the screen the Weather app to switch between current conditions, temperature, rain chance and other metrics, while the activity, heart rate and sleep apps have bigger and better graphs of your daily progress.
Widgets are now accessible straight from the watch face by scrolling or swiping up from the bottom to reveal a stack of them. The widgets update dynamically based on time of day, your location and how you’re using your watch so that timely information is displayed first, but you can customise the widgets and pin the most important, too.
To accommodate the widgets two key features had to be reworked. To get to control centre for adjusting settings you now press the side button instead of swiping up from the bottom. Double-clicking the Digital Crown now brings up the dock of recently used apps from previous watchOS. You can no longer just swipe left or right to change your watchface, instead you must press and hold on the face first.
Snoopy, Woodstock, Palette and more new watchfaces
There are several new watchfaces to choose from. The Palette face changes colour throughout the day using three overlapping layers behind analogue hands. The Snoopy and Woodstock face allows the titular characters to react to your movements, the weather and time of day in amusing fashion. The solar watch face now has an analogue version plus there’s a new animated Nike Globe face.
The Watch Ultra also gets a new more information-dense Modular Ultra face, which adds information to the bezel of the screen and can have up to seven complications on screen for the first time.
The Workouts app can now connect to Bluetooth cycling accessories, such as pedal power meters, allowing it to show and record metrics including cadence, speed, power and power zones. The watch can also link to your iPhone to show live cycling data on the phone’s screen, turning it into a bike computer surrogate when mounted on your handlebars.