OPINION: Apple has just introduced a load of new versions of its flagship software, the underlying operating systems that power just about all of its most popular products.
WWDC 23 saw updates revealed for iPhones, iPads, the Apple TV box, Apple Watch and the Mac. All of those, including watchOS 10 and macOS Sonoma, are available for registered developers to try out now, with a wider public beta in July and a full release likely in September – just before the iPhone 15 hits shelves.
As would be expected, the major software focus during the multi-hour keynote event emanating from Apple Park was iOS 17. Hitting the iPhone XR and newer, iOS 17 is packed with new features like a redesigned, very WhatsApp-like Messages app, interactive widgets, Stickers and a brand-new Journaling app.
Perhaps the most eye-catching addition though, at least for me, is something Apple is calling StandBy. This is “a new, full-screen experience” (Apple calls it as such) that’s initiated when an iPhone is charging and placed horizontally. With StandBy, the typical iOS UI changes into something more akin to a smart home display. A large format clock, for instance, could take up the whole screen making glancing at the time easier.
Other examples showed a large calendar that could be flipped through, scrolling photos, a fullscreen music player, Siri results and Live Activities. It’s a neat feature that makes sense, especially as phone screens are huge and often charged nightly on a bedside table. An iPhone with StandBy enabled sat on a charging stand (Apple used this a TwelveSouth Forte during its demo sessions) makes for a smart alarm clock replacement.
StandBy, however, isn’t available on the iPad and this continues a theme that has been clear over the past few years whereby the iPhone gets a glitzy new feature and the iPad has to wait another year. Following this process, the iPad should get some form of StandBy next year with iPadOS 18.
Homescreen widgets that could be placed anywhere, for example, arrived first on the iPhone and then a year later on the iPad. The heavily customisable lock screen hit the iPhone with iOS 16 and is coming to the iPad a year later with iPadOS 17. It’s the same story for Live Activities, too.
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The thing is, I would have thought StandBy is a feature more suited to the iPad than the iPhone anyway, making its absence a little odd. The larger screen of the iPad – whether it’s the dinky iPad Mini or the huge 12.9 Pro – would make for a glorious smart home hub or smart photo frame in a way that iPhone doesn’t.
My first thought when I saw StandBy demoed on stage was the Pixel Tablet. Google’s upcoming tablet is built around this idea of a device doubling up as a smart display used for controlling lights, interacting with the Google Assistant and viewing photos. Rumours have swirled for a few years now that Apple would offer a HomePod with a screen, and this StandBy feature surely hints at that future.
The lack of StandBy on the iPad with iPadOS 17 could point to it being a big feature next year when multiple new iPads are rumoured to arrive.
A long-running rumour has been that the iPad Pro would pick up MagSafe charging, allowing it easily attach to magnetic stands similar to the ones available for the iPhone. Paired with StandBy, this would make a lot of sense. Still, it’s a shame one of iOS’s best features has again been withheld from the iPad at launch.