How to be the first to try Apple’s new iOS 17 features

iOS 17 beta software update

It’s nearly that time of year when Apple launches its suite of major software upgrades across its popular devices. While the full release of iOS 17 isn’t far away, you can actually try some of the iPhone’s newest features right now via beta access.

Apple just rolled out public beta access to the upcoming updates including iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, and macOS Sonoma. Originally announced at WWDC 2023, each one comes with a bunch of new features that add both increased functionality and fun to the respective hardware.

Considering the iPhone’s broad popularity, it’s arguably iOS 17 that garners the most attention. For some users, it may even be reason enough to upgrade to a newer model, as some older phones will no longer be supported. To enjoy a bunch of the new upgrades, like live voicemail transcription and family safety features, before anyone else, here’s what you need to do.

How to access the public iOS 17 beta

If you don’t want to wait until springtime for the new software, you can sign up for the Apple Beta Software Program. Here, you can sign up using your Apple ID to enrol, granting you access to beta software updates as they release.

On desktop, signing into the program directs you to the Feedback Assistant screen, which is where you can contact Apple with any bug reports and requests during beta access. This also confirms that you can now download and install any available public beta software.

Apple Software Beta Program feedback screen

Before downloading any beta software, back up your device via iCloud or your computer. In a frequently asked questions section, Apple mentions that you may encounter issues and instability, as it’s not yet in a full release state. If you encounter any major problems, having a backup means you can revert back to the previous software version you had. Apple Watch users beware, as you can’t revert back to previous OS versions once installed.

To do this on an iPhone, open Settings>General>Software Update, which then shows you the Beta Updates menu. Any public betas you can install will be listed here. Choosing one then lets you download and install the beta, granting access to new, in development, features before the official release later in the year.

What does iOS 17 include?

Apple’s latest major iPhone update includes many helpful features ranging from valuable accessibility tools to the ability to better screen incoming calls. One of the headline features that comes with iOS 17 is Live Transcription, which does exactly what it describes on the tin. As a call goes to voicemail, it then generates a transcription, giving you the option of accepting the call midway through if you decide you want to pick up.

Another iOS 17 feature with great potential is Check In. Ideal for families, it integrates with iMessage, keeping approved contacts updated when you arrive safely at a destination. If delays occur, the feature updates your chosen contacts on your location in addition to device details like battery and signal levels, so they know you’re safe.

Among the accessibility additions are Assistive Access, which provides a streamlined device experience for people with cognitive disabilities, and Personal Voice. The latter feature lets people with speech loss generate a synthesised voice to then communicate with others using Live Speech during calls and in-person conversations.

Plus, there are plenty of other features like a significant upgrade to the Health app that now includes mental health tracking, and a new Journal app for you to securely track your precious memories.

Apple has a massive list of features on its website including all the updates, big and small, coming with iOS 17. Personally, I’m looking forward to the upgraded autocorrect and dictation experience so I spend less time fixing errors as a type and speak.

As for all the upgrades coming to other devices, we’ll cover them in depth in the coming weeks ahead of the official release in spring. In the meantime, let us know if you’re trying the beta and if any features have caught your eye.

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