When Apple reveals new versions of its various operating systems, it unleashes a torrent of feature announcements that have observers scrambling to keep up. It is therefore helpful to cherry-pick a handful or two that will have a significant impact. After watching Apple’s 2023 WWDC keynote, Adam Engst adopted this approach in “12 Compelling Features Coming to Apple’s Operating Systems in 2023” (5 June 2023).
I’m following up with my own list. I look at a half-dozen iOS 17, iPadOS 17, macOS 14, watchOS 10, and tvOS 17 features in a bit of detail and cite six additional ones in brief.
Profiles are a critical feature in Google Chrome, my current default Web browser, and in boutique browsers such as Arc (see “Arc Will Change the Way You Work on the Web,” 1 May 2023). They allow me to partition my personal, day job, and freelance writer personas when using the Web, and shift among them as needed. Safari’s lack of profile support is a big reason I have never fully embraced Apple’s browser. Profiles are now coming to Safari in iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and Sonoma. They permit users to browse in a more organized way and to separate history, extensions, tab groups, cookies, and favorites. I’ll need to see how Apple implements profiles before contemplating a switch, but I’m more excited about Safari than I have been in years. (Web apps are another reason for that.)
Find the Siri Remote
My wife, the main TV watcher in our household, continually loses track of our Siri Remote. That’s partly because Apple never built Find My into the remote and partly because we decided not to use a third-party sleeve with an AirTag pocket (see “Two Siri Remote Sleeves That Incorporate AirTag Pockets,” 22 July 2021). Something similar to Find My is now on the way. You’ll be able to open the iPhone Control Center’s virtual remote (which my wife refuses to use in place of the physical clicker) to start a hunt for the Siri Remote. It even provides an AirTag-like proximity indicator (though, reportedly, no swiveling arrow) so you know to keep looking under the couch cushions.
AirPods Adaptive Audio
Two big reasons to splurge on the second-generation AirPods Pro over the more affordable third-generation AirPods are Active Noise Cancellation (to filter out ambient noise) and Transparency Mode (to let ambient sounds in when being aware of your surroundings is critical). Until now, that has been an either-or proposition. Now, with a feature called Adaptive Audio, the AirPods Pro will dynamically blend or shift modes as you move among environments and interactions. Annoying background noise is filtered out when you’re on a walk, for instance, but you’ll hear a bicycle bell clear as, well, a bell. Similarly, a “conversation awareness” feature engages when you start speaking so that your music volume automatically lowers, background noise is reduced, and the two-year-old Conversation Boost feature kicks in (see “Ten Cool New Features Introduced at WWDC 2021,” 7 June 2021). This is supposed to happen seamlessly—Adaptive Audio is an additional option in Settings alongside Noise Cancellation and Transparency—so futzing should be minimal.
Group Password Sharing
I share passwords with my wife by giving her unfettered access to my BitWarden password manager with its hundreds of authentication entries. This is a great way to ensure she is never without an important password in an emergency, but some might prefer to engage in password sharing more selectively (as password managers typically allow). Apple already permits the quick sharing of a password or a passkey. With Safari in iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and Sonoma, it is building on this idea with the continual sharing of passwords among members of a trusted group. Settings stay current for everyone, and group members can be removed at any time.
I have long disliked the near-uselessness of most iPhone screens when they are idle— while charging on a MagSafe stand, say. Android phones have Ambient Mode, which turns them into little smart displays that show bits of helpful information when the devices aren’t in active use. In iOS 17, Apple is attempting something similar with StandBy, which transforms an iPhone into a smart display of a sort when charging in landscape mode. Customizable options include weather checks, photo browsing, setting of timers, use of Home controls, and the viewing of Live Activities such as food-delivery statuses and in-progress game scores. To use this feature effectively, you’ll want a stand that holds the iPhone in landscape mode; Twelve South’s Forté is one example (see “Seven Third-Party Accessories Show MagSafe’s Potential,” 4 June 2021).
Cycling Sensor Support
Nerdier cyclists often equip their bikes with Bluetooth sensors for measuring cadence, heart rate, power, and speed. I do this at home when using a stationary bicycle with the Zwift cycling simulator (“Zwift Transforms Stationary Bicycling into a Shared Virtual Experience,” 1 July 2020). However, I have long wanted to cut the expensive Zwift out of the equation. Now, with watchOS 10, Apple is adding direct sensor support for those riding indoors and outdoors, as well as people using GymKit gear. Cyclists can add cadence and power to their Apple Watch metrics via corresponding sensors. They can also tap into a new “cycling power workout view” that blends power, heart rate, and motion data to provide useful information. I am left with a question: Will smart trainers (stationary bike stands with built-in sensors for Zwifting) be supported?
Six More Features, in Brief
- AirPods press-to-mute: Need to mute a phone call? Squeeze the stalk on third-generation AirPods and first- and second-generation AirPods Pro. On the AirPods Max, pressing the Digital Crown has the same effect.
- Record a video message: When someone you’re calling isn’t available on FaceTime, you’ll finally have the option to record a video message, complete with features like Portrait Mode and Studio Light. You can leave an audio message, too. Just talk to the machine.
- Health app on iPad: The Health app’s prolonged absence from the iPad and Mac made no sense. Apple is partially remedying this omission by bringing the Health app to iPadOS 17. Log symptoms, create med reminders, track menstrual cycles, it’s all there. If it’s so easy to port apps between Apple’s platforms, what’s keeping it off the Mac?
- Crosswords in Apple News+: Details on this feature are sparse, but I’m excited because I all but live in Apple’s News app and devour its news headlines, magazine issues, and audio content. Puzzles will be a swell addition, but they’re only for Apple News+ subscribers.
- Grocery list sorting: Navigating a vast supermarket is one of my toughest first-world problems. The Reminders app in iOS 17, iPad OS 17, and Sonoma will make it easier by sorting grocery items into categories for optimal grocery store triangulation. You can change how items are grouped, and your shopping list remembers your preferences.
More Features Yet
For a list of everything coming in 2023’s operating systems—and Apple’s descriptions of the features below—see:
All these operating systems are now available in beta form for developers, will appear in public beta form for everyone soon enough, and should ship in the usual September/October time frame.