David Lewis Talking Tech & Audio

iOS 17 – the top 5 killer new features

Who needs sleep when the new iOS has just been launched?

Best 5 features of iOS 17

iOS 17 is now available on full release – so as you’d expect I have spent a few hours going through it trying to find the features I like the best and will actually use.

I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but out of the mind-boggling plethora of features in a brand-new OS there may only ever be a handful that I’ll actually use. Many of these new ‘toys’ look and sound great on stage at WWDC but are of limited use to us everyday folks.

As iOS 17 has been out for less than 24 hours there may be some bits and bobs I have overlooked and if I find that to be the case, I’ll write a follow-up.

But for now, here are some of the more interesting features I’ve come across overnight.

1. StandBy in iOS 17

I’d seen this feature spoken about by those brave souls running betas this summer and it was the first thing I wanted to try out – and it’s as good as it looked!

The best part about it is there is virtually no set-up involved.

StandBy turns your phone into a useful display when on charge and in landscape orientation. One downer is you will need some form of stand for this to work – I’ve just tried it with the phone plugged in via lightning and no joy. I’ll let you know come Friday if it works via a USB-C port when I get my iPhone 15 Pro Max.

When your phone is on a MagSafe stand you swipe left to right to choose the style of StandBy screen you want – either just a clock, portraits or useful widgets. Once you’ve chosen the basic style swipe top to bottom to change the screen to your favourite set-up.

In the clock display, you get 5 different faces for instance. With the widget display, you can tailor each side of the screen to suit your needs best – I have it set up with podcasts on one side and the weather on the other. Portrait will select photos from a chosen album.

This simple feature transforms your phone from being useless when charging to being something deeply interactive.

2. Contact Posters

Another feature that more or less takes care of itself – the kind I like the best!

In iOS 17 you can now personalise how other people will see you when call, FaceTime or message them.

Go to contacts, select my card and tap edit. Then choose the picture or caricature that you want to be shown. You get to choose the text, the colour of the text and the filter for the picture as well. You can even choose a contact photo that’s different from your poster – and of course, you can edit these at any time as well.

As you’d expect you are in complete control as to who sees your poster or contact photo. By default, it will be shared with everyone you call or message. But, if you tap Contact Photo & Poster you have full control of who sees what.

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3. NameDrop

The functionality of AirDrop has been extended with the release of iOS17.

Simply by bringing your iPhone close to another iPhone user who is also running iOS 17, you’ll be able to share the Contact Poster you’ve just made along with contact information. Using the same gesture will also allow you to start a SharePlay session, watch a movie together or play a game.

Later this year you’ll even be able to carry on transfers over the Internet when one of the users is out of range and of the local network.

4. AirPods Pro

It’s not only your iPhone that gets some love with this update – so do your AirPods Pro 2 & Apple TV 4K.

After installing iOS 17 when you open up your AirPods Pro 2 for the first time you’ll be navigated through some new choices.

Mute and unmute were the first options to pop up for me. If you press the stem on AirPods (including 3rd-gen AirPods) or the Digital Crown on AirPods Max you can now mute and unmute yourself when on a call.

You’ll also see there is a new mode available now – Adaptive Mode. Think of it as an amalgamation of Active Noise Cancelling and Transparency Mode all rolled into one setting.

Adaptive audio will try to track your movements throughout the day and adapt your audio to best suit your surroundings. After updating the firmware which happens when your AirPods are being charged, pop your AirPods in then head to settings > your AirPods > Adaptive.

Then in the Control Centre long-press the volume slider and you’ll see Noise Control Adaptive, Conversation Awareness and Spatial Audio.

I’ve not yet tried these functions out in the wild, but theoretically Adaptive Audio will work in one of three ways. Firstly Noise Control will remove environmental sounds you don’t want to hear. So the sound of airplanes, buses or cars will all be muted whilst enhancing what you are listening to.

That then lends to the next function – Conversation Awareness which will use AirPods forward-facing microphones to detect when someone is speaking to you and will automatically enhance their speech & reduce the volume of what you are listening to.

The last part of the jigsaw is Personalised Volume. Over time your iPhone will learn the volume you tend to listen to content and will adjust the volume of what you are listening to based on the sounds around you.

5. Enhanced Speech

This is a cool feature I found after updating my Apple TV 4K to tvOS 17.

Have you ever struggled to hear dialogue when watching movies or content on Apple TV via your HomePod?

After updating both your Apple TV and HomePod on your Apple TV go to Video & Audio > Audio > Enhance Speech.

Apple says enabling the Enhance Dialogue option analyses audio being played and separates the actors’ speech from effects and background music bringing dialogue forward to the centre channel.

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