iOS 17 Review: StandBy Mode Changed My Relationship With My iPhone

Whether you’re upgrading to one of the new iPhone 15 models or holding onto a 5-year-old iPhone XS, you can download iOS 17 on Monday, Sept. 18. Apple introduced the latest iPhone operating system at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June before releasing beta versions of the software.

I’ve been testing beta versions of iOS 17 on a newer iPhone 14 Pro and an older iPhone XR for the past two months to see how the latest OS will affect most people with compatible devices. The OS brings a lot of new and useful features to your iPhone, especially in Messages, which might make you wonder why those functions weren’t there in the first place. Some apps, like Shortcuts, are less daunting than they were in previous iOS versions.
Screen of different iOS 17 updates

Apple announced iOS 17 at WWDC 2023 in June. Screenshot/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 have 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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