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iOS 17 release date beta 1 hands-on: A buggy delight that further alienates Android users

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iOS 17 release date

We had been anticipating the official previews of iOS 17iPadOS 17macOS Sonoma, and watchOS 10 for months. And, finally, following the main WWDC23 keynote, we got to try out these operating systems for the very first time. While the public, stable releases are still around three months away, registered developers can now give the beta versions a spin on their compatible machines.

iOS happens to be Apple’s most popular operating system, powering millions of iPhones around the globe. And with iOS 17, the Cupertino firm aims to bring its users closer. While the first developer beta doesn’t give the right impression in terms of the final release’s stability and reliability, we do have an idea as to what this version will offer.

Communication upgrades were a major theme during the conference. Though, evidently, these upgrades will mostly affect you if your social circle relies on iOS. Otherwise, iOS 17, in many ways, is a minor bump that doesn’t bring a lot of excitement to the table. After running iOS 17 beta 1 for around a day, I’ve come to some conclusions, which I will highlight below.

The overall iOS 17 beta 1 experience

I’ve been running iOS developer betas on my daily driver for many years, and I have to say, iOS 17 beta 1 is one of the buggiest I’ve ever gotten my hands on. While that’s known and expected when it comes to a first beta for a major release, previous releases were more stable, in my opinion. So if you’re contemplating the idea, you may want to hold back until a future beta stabilizes the experience.

For example, enabling the new Crossfade toggle in the Music settings crash the Settings app. Following the initial crash, whenever you enter the Music section in the Settings app, the app will crash yet again. There’s seemingly no way to fix that, and you won’t be able to change any settings related to the Music app until Apple fixes it.

There are also plenty of visual bugs and broken animations across the system, and OS feels wonky in general. It’s not super smooth to navigate through, and the battery life is seemingly shorter. Furthermore, sometimes the system gets stuck in a certain state. So, for example, tapping the HomePod toggle in the Control Center will open the overview page, which you can usually dismiss by swiping it. In iOS 17 beta 1, you can’t dismiss it without locking and unlocking your iPhone. This is only one example, and there are plenty of other similar glitches that make using iOS 17 beta 1 unpleasant. While none of them are a deal-breaker for me so far, impatient people may find themselves rolling back to the latest iOS 16 stable build.

The third-party applications I rely on seem to be working just fine, including banking apps. That’s not to mention that the core functionalities I depend on are working without any major issues. So you can make phone calls, text people, install new apps, etc. It’s just that executing these tasks may not be as smooth as you’re used to. If this doesn’t sound scary to you, you can install the iOS 17 beta and then roll back to the stable release if you change your mind or regret the decision later on.

As stated earlier, iOS 17 beta 1 brings plenty of new additions. However, many users won’t be able to utilize them if their friends rely on Android or non-Apple solutions. For example, while many of my friends use iOS, iMessage and FaceTime are not the apps we use to communicate. So while the new FaceTime video voicemail and reaction features are handy, I likely won’t be able to utilize them actively in my daily life. Similarly, many of my friends rely on Android, so they won’t be able to see the Contact Poster I’ve set, as only other iOS 17 users will be able to see my profile.

This isn’t just about the Phone, FaceTime, and Messages apps, though. Let’s take a look at music. In iOS 17, users will be able to work on collaborative playlists and rely on SharePlay in CarPlay to control the queue. However, considering my friends are subscribed to Spotify, I won’t be able to make use of these features with them.

It really feels like iOS 17 was designed to push people into adopting more Apple devices

NameDrop for quickly sharing your contact card or number with someone? Also requires another iPhone or Apple Watch. AirDrop through internet after walking away during an ongoing transfer? That requires the person to have an Apple device, as well. That’s not to mention the Check In feature that allows you to notify someone when you make it to certain destination safely.

It really feels like iOS 17 was designed to push people into adopting more Apple devices and pressuring their friends to do so, too. This release further amplifies the Blue/Green Bubble drama by gatekeeping the excitement and requiring people to have iFriends. Even if you have all of Apple’s devices, iOS 17 likely won’t be exciting to you if the people you communicate with don’t rely on the company’s devices and services.

The good

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To be fair, though, iOS 17 beta 1 does introduce some features and changes that you can enjoy without necessarily having Apple-using friends. One of my favorite additions is the new Standby mode, which turns the iPhone into a smart display of sorts when it’s charging in landscape orientation. So at night, I just place the device on my MagSafe charging stand, and it displays the time and date in a large, prominent typeface. That’s not to mention that it surfaces photos from your library, the current weather, Live Activities, incoming notifications, and more. For me, it’s hands-down the most obvious change in iOS 17 beta 1. While the Journal app is arguably more exciting, it won’t be available to users until a future iOS 17.x update.

Another interesting addition is the upgraded stickers experience, which lets you easily create animated stickers from Live Photos and insert them in Messages, when using Markup, and in compatible third-party apps. Though, in iOS 17 beta 1, the stickers menu is still pretty broken, and using it in third-party apps has been close to impossible on my iPhone 14 Pro.

Apart from the aforementioned, major changes, iOS 17 beta 1 introduces plenty of nice-to-have features, which we will list below.

Quality-of-life improvements in iOS 17 beta 1

While there aren’t a lot of significant additions in iOS 17, users will notice plenty of smaller tweaks and introductions across the system. For example, beta 1 introduces the ability to share AirTags with other people, a feature I had been needing for ages. This way, a shared item can be tracked by more than one person, and the secondary owner won’t be notified about being tracked around.

Autocorrect has also gotten better, with the system becoming less stubborn when trying to revert a correction to its initial form. That’s not to mention that it can suggest a few words in advance as you type, thanks to the Neural Engine. However, as of beta 1, I still can’t get this to work on my device. And speaking of the Neural Engine, I really appreciate that I can now say Siri, instead of Hey Siri, to trigger the assistant. While it may seem like a minor change, it actually has made me more motivated to rely on Siri for various requests. You also now get to make consecutive commands, sparing you the need to say Siri all the time.

Apart from that, crossfade support comes to Apple Music on iOS, but the toggle is broken on beta 1. You also now get to download cities for offline navigation on Apple Maps, which is long overdue. And in the Health app, you can now log your mood and enable Critical Notifications for select medications to be reminded even when a Focus mode is enabled.

There are also other welcome additions that I personally love, such as interactive widgets, Keychain password sharing, and locked incognito tabs in Safari. Gone are the days of needing to launch the Reminders app to tick a certain task. You can now do it through the widget on the Home Screen.

One-time codes received through Messages and Mail now optionally delete themselves after they’re auto-filled to clear your inbox. Moreover, the Photos app can now detect my pets’ faces and include them in the People & Pets album. That’s not to mention that iOS can now optionally blur received photos when it detects nudity.

While I don’t personally rely on the Fitness app often, I do appreciate the redesigned Sharing tab which displays your friends’ data in a neater way. You also get to create personalized workout programs, based on your goals and expectations.

iOS 17 beta 1: The bottom line

Source: Apple

As you can see, iOS 17 focuses on features that connect you to other Apple users. So while there are some exciting introductions, many users won’t be able to utilize them due to the social limitations. Otherwise, the system packs plenty of welcome tweaks that users had been asking for. These include crossfade in Music, AirTag sharing, pet detection in Photos, and more.

If you’re contemplating installing iOS 17 beta 1 on your main iPhone, I advise you not to. Firstly, you likely won’t be able to utilize most of its new features due to your friends potentially being on iOS 16 or Android. Secondly, many of the new additions are broken, such as crossfade support. That’s not to mention that the entire OS feels wonky, and it requires a lot of patience to handle in its current state. iOS 17 beta 1 is one of the buggiest, most boring builds I’ve tested in years, and it simply is not worth it.

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