Spotlight on iOS 17 Prakhar Khanna/Digital Trends

The rollout of iOS 17 is official, and it refreshes the software experience on iPhones like the iPhone XR. I’ve been testing it on my iPhone 14 Pro since the first public beta was released, at the risk of unreliable battery life and random interruptions across the board.

So far, I’ve noticed that iOS 17 doesn’t bring any dramatic, UI-wide changes, but it does introduce a wide range of new features that focus on the practical side of things. With iOS 17, Apple has paid special attention to seemingly minor, but meaningful, feature additions.

Here’s a brief overview of the key areas where iOS 17 really stands out for me in terms of making life easier.

AirDrop is more secure and better

NewDrop feature for sharing contact posters in iOS 17.


Apple has made some nice changes to AirDrop and its underlying architecture with iOS 17. When transferring data between two devices, if the iPhone-toting sender moves out of range, the transfer will continue over the Internet. Then there’s NameDrop, which lets you share contact details simply by bringing two iPhones (or an iPhone and an Apple Watch) close to each other.

Similarly, you can also start a SharePlay session for media playback by simply bringing two compatible devices together. But the most notable improvement to AirDrop is Apple bringing it under its Content Security Protocol. In short, no stranger or bad actor will now be able to airdrop a nude photo to your phone.

This is actually an old “cyber flashing” disease. Late last year, a Southwest Airlines pilot warned unruly passengers that if they did not stop airdropping nudity to fellow passengers, the flight would be diverted back to its starting point, and there would be no chance of departure. .

Sensitive photo controls in iOS 17.

Sensitive content warning in iOS 17.

In a 2019 report, ABC News said that airdropping obscene and explicit personal material into educational institutions has become quite a serious nuisance. Earlier this year, in May, the Tulsa Police Department arrested a man accused of sharing nude photos of himself without consent with strangers via AirDrop.

Thankfully, Apple has added a new explicit media filtering option to iOS that scans photos and videos for nudity. Once it detects objectionable content, it automatically blurs the content with appropriate warnings. The image attachments window also offers an option to block the sender and another tool to get proper support.

Apple calls it Sensitive Content Warning, and it can be enabled by following this path: Settings > Privacy & Security > Sensitive Content Warning, Interestingly, this feature also covers media shared in Messages, Contacts, FaceTime, and video messages. Just keep in mind that this isn’t the same as communication safety features, whose main purpose is to protect children.

Safari becomes more convenient

Despite being knee-deep in the Apple ecosystem, Safari is not my favorite browser. But it finally adds some features that might make me reconsider my interest in Chrome on mobile. The first is the ability to create a user profile.

User profiles in Safari after iOS 17.

Nadeem Sarwar/Digital Trends

I’m a shameless tab hoarder, but things quickly get messy when I open the tab tile, trying in vain to find the tab with the article I want to read. Thankfully, with the arrival of Profiles in Safari with iOS 17, I can keep my Research, News, and Entertainment tabs neatly organized in a separate slot.

In addition to creating multiple profiles, you can assign them recognizable iconography and an appropriate color code that serves as the background theme for each browsing profile so you don’t get confused. For greater convenience, history, extensions, tab cookies, favorites and cookies are stored neatly separately for each profile.

For someone who often goes to the history section to recover an accidentally deleted tab group, remembering the active user profile makes the task much easier. Speaking of history, if you’re one of those people who maintains an online reading list – and keeps forgetting about it – you can add your Safari reading list directly to your home screen.

Another cool thing is that Safari can now automatically pick up one-time verification codes that come via email. The next time you access the One-Time Password (OTP) page in Safari, the browser will pull the code and populate the auto-fill field. Till now, this feature was limited to OTP codes coming in the Messages app.

Locked browsing in iOS 17.

FaceID authentication for incognito tabs in iOS 17.

Finally, Apple is putting Incognito tabs in Safari behind a layer of biometric authentication. This feature is already available in Chrome, but it’s nice to see Safari finally catching up. The next time you open a Mini Incognito tab in Safari, Apple’s browser will ask for Face ID or Touch ID verification before you can view the page content.

calling is fun

Contact poster on iPhone call screen.

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The first new feature I tested when iOS 17 arrived in beta was Contact Posters. It’s essentially a full-screen poster that acts as your contact card. This means it can be a fun canvas to show your contacts your best side, or your silly side.

But it’s not just the fun side that Apple paid attention to. You get to choose how to share your contact poster and who can’t see it. Once it’s set up and the privacy controls are in place, you’ll see a beautiful caller screen, even when the phone is locked.

In terms of convenience, Apple wants to reinvent the dreaded voicemail. I don’t like voicemail. Not many people in my circle do this. Keeping in mind the preferences of the generation that prefers to watch rather than read or listen to content, you can now record a short video and insert it into the recipient’s voicemail.

FaceTime video messaging feature.

FaceTime messages on Apple Watch.

  • 1. Recording Video for Missed FaceTime Call
  • 2. A Video Message for a Missed FaceTime Call on Apple Watch

And here’s the best part. If you have an Apple Watch running watchOS 10, you can watch that video directly on your smartwatch. On the accessibility side of things, audio voicemails now come with text transcripts so you can read exactly what the other person has to say, even if you’re not currently in a position to hear it.

You can also interact with Siri and use the Live Speech feature during a FaceTime call. And if you want a huge screen for video calls, FaceTime has also added support for casting to Apple TV 4K. For security, iOS 17 also introduces the option to automatically reject FaceTime calls from numbers that aren’t saved in your contacts list.

Search gets smarter

Spotlight is the hub of on-device search for your iPhone. With iOS17, it goes deeper. When you look at an app on Spotlight, it not only suggests the app’s icon but also shows you the most used functions in that app. Apple calls it App Shortcuts, which makes sense.

Name shortcuts in iOS 17.

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For example, if you look at Messages, Spotlight shows you the last few conversations in the default messaging apps. It then goes a step further to show you relevant tools related to the Messages app in the Settings section. If you search for Photos, you get the option to jump straight to your favorite folder, among other intelligently chosen shortcuts.

But as I mentioned above, the search system now searches really in-depth. For example, if you look for the word “cat” in the search field of the Photos app, you’ll see all photos and videos that depict a cat. In fact, in the selected video, you will see all the points where a cat appears in the video, clearly marked with blue labels on the timeline.

If you’re looking for a particular control but can’t find it in the Settings app, Spotlight offers a direct shortcut. So, let’s say you’re not sure whether the dark mode settings are located in the display or battery section. Simply type “dark mode” in the Spotlight search field, and you’ll see a one-click shortcut to interact with the feature.

Similarly, if you enter the name of an acquaintance, you’ll get shortcuts to communicating with that person across various apps. For example, if I type my coworker Tushar’s name in Spotlight search, I see quick controls for calls, messages, FaceTime, email, and third-party work collaboration apps like Trello. In short, with the arrival of iOS 17 Spotlight is really shaping up to be a smarter and more meaningful on-device search system.

The benefits of the improved search system extend to the messaging app as well. It now lets you refine your search using multiple keywords and filters. For example, you can combine a person’s name, text keyword, and file type (URL, photo, etc.) to quickly find what you’re looking for.

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