iOS 17 May Be More Than Just a ‘Tuneup’ Release

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Every few years, Apple releases a major iOS version that’s more of a “maintenance” update — one that’s long on bug fixes and short on features.

For example, the 2018 release of iOS 12 focused primarily on improving performance; while it did deliver some interesting new features, these weren’t nearly as exciting as what had shown up the year before in iOS 11 or what came in iOS 13 the following year.

Releases like these may not generate as much buzz as an entirely new home screen experience with widgets, live text in photos, or a customizable lock screen. However, they represent critical moments where Apple can take a beat and focus on fixing existing problems and speeding things up, rather than adding more complexity — and more potential problems.

Apple has set a rather frenetic pace over the past four major iOS updates, so many believed that iOS 17 would be another relatively pedestrian “tuneup” release, prioritizing polishing things up under the hood while adding few new user-facing features. Earlier this year, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman suggested that this may also be a result of Apple’s engineers being tied up with its mixed-reality headset, and having little time for this year’s iOS 17 release, which has been given an internal code name of “Dawn.”

Apple’s focus on the xrOS operating system — along with iOS 16 snags — has also cost it some new features in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17, the next major iPhone and iPad software updates. That software, codenamed Dawn, may have fewer major changes than originally planned. Mark Gurman

Fortunately, it looks like Apple has recently changed its strategy, and now plans to deliver at least a few “nice to have” features in this year’s iOS 17 release.

What’s Coming in iOS 17

In his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman doesn’t believe that iOS 17 will include the kind of “tentpole” improvements that we’ve seen over the past three years, such as the new customizable Lock Screen or Home Screen widgets, but that Apple does plan to “check off several of users’ most requested features.”

This suggests that iOS 17 may be closer to iOS 12 in terms of features, but that’s not particularly surprising. As Gurman notes, there’s every reason to believe that Apple is being more conservative after some of the problems it had with last year’s iOS 16 release.

When Apple set out to develop iOS 17, the initial thinking was to call it a tuneup release — one focused more on fixing bugs and improving performance than adding new features. The hope was to avoid the problems of iOS 16, an ambitious update that suffered from missed deadlines and a buggy start. Mark Gurman

Gurman didn’t elaborate on what those “most requested features” could be, so we’re left with only speculation for now. One questionable leak from October 2022 suggested Apple was planning to redesign iMessage with “a new home, chat rooms, video clips, and new chat features in AR.”

If accurate, that would be a fairly significant change, but it’s worth noting that the leaker in question doesn’t have a consistent track record, and we’ve heard no other confirmation on this. However, the AR aspect of these changes may be related to reports that Apple’s mixed-reality headset could be coming later this year.

Similarly, iOS 17 will undoubtedly introduce support for Apple’s new headset, but that’s arguably more of an under-the-hood improvement, as are the changes required for the new CarPlay 2.0 experience; Apple already unveiled that at last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), and we’ve been waiting for automakers to get on board with it anyway.

Similarly, with new EU legislation expected to force Apple to open up its app ecosystem by March 2024, iOS 17 could pave the way for side-loading and alternate app stores. However, Apple may choose to appeal that decision, which could delay its enforcement well into iOS 18 or beyond.

Nevertheless, with Apple’s 2023 WWDC a little over three months away, we’re likely going to start seeing more solid reports from leakers in the coming weeks about what to expect in iOS 17.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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