The just-released iOS 17 gives the iPhone’s call screen a makeover and includes new features like live voicemail, FaceTime messages and custom stickers. WSJ’s Joanna Stern helps you find what’s new. Photo Illustration: Jacob Reynolds/The Wall Street Journ
If you don’t pick up when I call, I’ll know exactly why: You saw my new calling card pop up on your iPhone’s screen and hated the color scheme. I knew I should have dialed down the turquoise by 5%.
If you don’t want to customize your own calling card (“contact poster” in AppleAAPL 2.15%increase; green up pointing triangle lingo) in iOS 17, you don’t have to. Pretty much the only new feature you needto use is the improved autocorrect. But when you get the update—released on Monday for iPhone models going back to XS and XR—you’ll see others that you’ll want to use.
Forget self-driving cars, iPhones can finally set multiple timers!
This continues to be Apple’s iOS mantra: No drastic changes, just small improvements. This year, Tim Cook & Co. are putting the phone back in smartphone. From live voicemail to FaceTime video messages, there are lots of new enhancements for those who use their phones to make actual calls.
My annual advice remains the same: Walk, don’t run, to upgrade. It’s never a bad idea to hold off a few days to let the company iron out lingering bugs. I have continued to see several throughout my beta testing this year. When you’re ready, go to Settings > General > Software Update.
OK, now let’s stretch those fingers and poke some screens!
Scattered around the operating system are enhancements to connect via voice and video with your peeps.
Contact Posters: Put your best face forward—literally—on the screen that appears on others’ devices when you call, FaceTime, message or AirDrop.
Tap Edit in the top-left corner of FaceTime or Messages or the Phone app’s Recents page. Tap your name and photo and then tap Edit again. Now you should be able to customize your current poster or add an entirely new one by tapping the blue + button in the bottom right.
You can select any photo or Memoji you’d like to use for the main image on your poster. Tap your name for tools to adjust how it looks. Tap the rainbow ball and you get more hues than a nail salon. To match a color from your main poster image, tap the little dropper icon.
Live Voicemail: A wise tech columnist recently said “voicemail is back.” As soon as someone begins leaving a voice message, you’ll see a live transcription on your lock screen. Just like the good ol’ days of call screening with an answering machine, you can even pick up midmessage.
FaceMails: That’s my name for it but what else do you call a FaceTime video message? When the person you want to video-chat with doesn’t pick up, hit Record Video and leave a message. Not happy with your double chin? Hit Retake to rerecord before you send it off. The receiver will get the message in their FaceTime app.
NameDrop: Instead of exchanging business cards or awkwardly asking someone to type their number into your phone, just bump phones together! When two phones running iOS 17 are held right near each other, they connect—signaled by a trippy animation and sound—so you can wirelessly transfer contact posters. If you don’t want to share all your info, you can select the specific phone number or email address to transmit.
When two phones running iOS 17 are brought together, they can connect to exchange contact cards. ADAM FALK/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
This same trick works for AirDropping images, websites and other files. If there’s one thing you’ve got to try, it’s that. I hope it works for you—it’s been a little hit-or-miss in my testing so far.
In the Messages app you can now swipe right on a message to quickly reply to it, play audio messages back at twice the speed and view a transcription of the audio.
Message Search: There are now deeper filters so you can search for a keyword in a specific conversation. Pro tip: Search the name of the contact—say, Clark Griswold—then tap the line that says “Messages with: Clark Griswold.”
Check In: This is a new way to let a friend or family member know you arrived at your destination. Tap the + button in a message to a person or group. Then hit More, then Check In. Enter the destination and the mode of transportation you’re taking. When you arrive, the contacts will automatically be notified you’ve made it.
Apple has improved the language model powering autocorrect so it can better learn from your typing habits and fix grammar so you can write more good.
A grayish blue underline appears under corrected words and phrases so you know what’s been changed. Tapping on it shows the original text so you can revert without retyping—something I complained about last year. Apple has also improved predictive text so it may suggest next words in gray as you type. Tap the space bar to insert them. Just be patient: Sometimes it corrects things after you finish a full sentence.
Is it perfect? Nope, but at least you’ll appreciate that a certain profanity no longer autocorrects to duck.
Custom Stickers: In the Photos app, hold down on an object in a photo. When you see the glowing outline, you should see a pop-up that says “Add Sticker.” Tap that and the image appears in the sticker drawer. You can also add an effect to the sticker. When sticker-ized, live photos move like GIFs.
StandBy Mode: When your iPhone is locked, charging, horizontal and not lying flat, StandBy turns your device into a fancy digital clock. Swipe horizontally to choose between a widget screen, a photo screen and a clock screen. In each, you can swipe vertically to pick other options. You can hold down on the screen for even more customization. Yes, more color picking! It’s really best if you have a MagSafe stand, like the $100 Belkin Boost Charge Pro.
More Fun Stuff:
It’s just “Siri” now—no need to say “Hey.”
Take a photo of a food dish, tap “i” in the Photos app and links to recipes appear. Same for a laundry tag—it will tell you what those hieroglyphics mean.
Go to Settings > Passwords > Password Options > Clean Up Automatically to automatically delete two-factor code emails and texts.
And now the annual tradition: The List of Stuff Apple Isn’t Done With. Though announced in June, the new Journal day-logging app isn’t part of the software yet. The ability to choose any sticker when you tapback on a message? Also not ready. Apple says to expect those later this year.