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As Apple releases the first public beta of iOS 17, here’s what to expect

Apple released the first iOS 17 public beta. The public beta should be stable, unlike developer betas.

iOS 17 will be released this fall. Apple will release summer betas every few weeks. It helps fix bugs and gather user data.

Before installing iOS 17, back up your device on iCloud or your computer and sign up for Apple betas. Next, go to Settings, “General,” and “Software Update.” A “Beta Updates” menu should appear. Select iOS 17 Public Beta, return to the menu, and check for updates.

So what’s new in iOS 17? I’ve tested iOS 17 for weeks. iOS 16 is similar. Updating makes you feel at home. There are many new features and improvements.

iOS is maturing. That’s good. Apple keeps updating iOS. The company no longer demolishes and rebuilds the house annually.

I like Messages, StandBy, Maps, widgets, and dictation improvements.

Messages first. I use Messages a lot, as do many iPhone users. Search failed in iOS 16. Finding a message was hard.

iOS 17 overhauled search. Searches can be filtered like Mail. If you want to find a link your friend Sarah sent you, type Sarah’s name first and Messages will suggest searching for messages with Sarah. After tapping that, you can enter any keyword or tap “Link” to see your private conversation’s links.

Apple also improved audio messages. Audio messages are growing, whether you use them or not. Long audio messages weren’t great in the previous iOS. iOS 17 lets you leave the app and continue listening to an audio message or view a transcription if you received a batch and want to listen to a specific part.

Apple now lets you swipe on a bubble to reply to a conversation message, borrowing from WhatsApp. New arrows let you quickly jump to the oldest unread message. Group chats benefit from that feature.

StandBy is a major iOS 17 feature. StandBy may replace many radio alarm clocks on nightstands worldwide.

After iOS 17, your iPhone will display full-screen widgets when charging on its side. It works with a cable if your iPhone is leaning against something, but a MagSafe-enabled dock works best.

Three StandBy screens exist. The first has two square widgets side by side. These widgets are inspired by iPhone home screen widgets. Display the weather forecast on the left and reminders on the right. Show a list of home accessories on the left and a frequently used note on the right. You can create two stacks of widgets and swipe up and down to find what you want.

Swiping left opens the second StandBy screen, a photo album. On-device intelligent categorization lets you choose an album or get random photos of cities, people, or nature.

Finally, a full-screen, customizable alarm clock appears if you swipe left again. The screen dims at night automatically. If you have multiple MagSafe docks, your iPhone remembers your preferred StandBy setup based on location.

Widgets are also being updated, even on the home screen, even if you don’t use StandBy. More interactive features. To-dos, music, podcasts, and home accessories can be done.

As a heavy Apple Maps user, I should also mention that Maps can now download offline maps so you can use it without a signal. Search for a city, select the area to cache, and hit download in the app settings. Google Maps added offline maps years ago. However, Apple Maps’ inclusion is welcome.

These are some iOS 17 features. There’s much more:

  • You can create a contact poster and share it with your contacts. They look great, so let’s see if people start using them.
  • When is the last time you listened to a voicemail? iOS 17 transcribes voicemail as people speak and leave you a message.
  • You can now leave voicemails in FaceTime. They appear directly in the call history list.
  • Location-sharing finally works as expected in Messages, meaning that it is displayed directly in the conversation as a bubble.
  • Talking about location-sharing, there’s a new check-in feature that can automatically notify your friends and family members when you arrive home safely (or at a destination).
  • You can initiate an AirDrop by selecting content and putting the top of your phone on top of someone else’s phone. If you don’t select anything, you can use this gesture to share your contact info. Goodbye, business cards.
  • You can share passwords (and passkeys) with other people. If you managed to convince your family to use a password manager like 1Password, now you can all switch to iCloud Passwords.
  • Autocorrect and dictation have been improved. It takes a bit of time to get used to the new text suggestion system, but it feels a bit more intuitive.
  • When you start playing a song or a video, iOS now automatically suggests nearby AirPlay-enabled devices. It can be useful or annoying, depending on what you actually want to do.
  • “Hey, Siri” is now just “Siri.”

iOS 17 feels like a better iOS 16—not always the case with software updates. Journal, one of iOS 17’s most anticipated features, won’t arrive until later this year. This new app lets you record your daily adventures and photos. It will be a default app.

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