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iOS 17's standby is my favorite new iPhone feature in years

iOS 17's standby is my favorite new iPhone feature in years

It only took a few minutes to get accustomed to the iPhone's new standby mode before I started using it all the time. After a few weeks of early beta testing Apple's iOS 17, I've already changed my daily phone routine around it — and acquired a new desk accessory in the process. I can't remember the last time a new iOS feature was this cool for me, and I almost can't believe the iPhone hasn't always had it.

Standby, in case you forgot it during this year's insanely fast WWDC announcements, is a new docking mode for the iPhone. If your phone's screen is off and it's charging and rotating to landscape orientation, it becomes a widget machine. You can see a full-screen clock, a clock next to your calendar, a full-screen slideshow of your photos, controls for your music, your activity progress for the day, the weather, live activities, or many more Are. Basically, Standby turns your iPhone into a tiny Smart Display. You can interact with Siri and view notifications, but mostly, it just gives you something to look at, even when your phone is off.

You don't need any special accessories to make standby work, just a charger and some way to stand the phone on its side. I haven't been able to ascertain the exact angle of uprightness needed to activate standby, but it's in the range of about 45 degrees. Flat on table: No standby. Leaning against my coffee mug: Standby. A window sill and a Lightning cable make a perfectly serviceable standby rig.

But I'm always too keen on buying gadgets I don't really need, so I picked up a HiRise 3 from Twelve South — it's a wireless charger for the iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods — and brought the phone to my Kept it Desk at a good angle. (If you're curious, Apple doesn't sell its own dock, but its staffers' unofficial dock of choice appears to be Twelve South's exclusive option, a $40 dock into which you can stick your own MagSafe charging disc. The idea But countless ideas.) There are variations so if forte isn't your style then get out there.)

The first time you enter Standby-Friendly Setup, you'll get a pop-up asking you to turn on and configure the feature. Really, it means choosing which widgets you want to appear. I've got a digital clock on the left — a simplified version of the clock's utility face — and a smart stack of scrolling widgets on the right. I can get information about the weather, my upcoming calendar events, my to-do list from TickTick, the battery status of all my Apple gear, and my activity score for the day. Of course, I can see a lot of the information on my Apple Watch, too, and they're just as useful: they're just there, filled with icons and other information, without requiring me to tap or tap to get to the homescreen. Swipe up.

Standby is brand new, and most apps don't support it yet. In theory, any app that supports the smallest widget size on your iPhone (the little square that takes up four icon slots) will work with Standby as well, but developers will at least have to tweak it a bit to display it. Have to do Menu needs to be updated. I doubt most people will because they're also working on making their widgets interactive (which is the second best feature of iOS 17). I've only been able to test a few interactive widgets so far, but I'd love to be able to check off a task or add a tally to my habit tracker from my homescreen without opening the app. All the interactivity works even in standby, so you'll finally be able to get a lot of work done without even looking at your homescreen.

Apple's approach to widgets is generally attractive and important. The basic paradigm of phones has remained the same since the advent of the App Store: Your phone is a collection of apps, and you spend your life inside those apps. But over the past few years, Apple has been trying to find ways to bring some of the information behind those app icons to the fore so that you can find and interact with it more easily.

App Clips are one part of that effort; It's also a complete history of the Apple Watch. But interactive widgets that appear and work across all your devices are by far the most powerful and useful version of that idea. The Mac now has widgets; The Apple Watch is basically all widgets now. If the Vision Pro is going to work, it's going to have to adapt to a world full of widgets, rather than a world full of apps.

I'm looking forward to a widget-y future of everything, but Standby still needs a lot of work (and obviously, a lot more widgets). Its biggest problem is that it's a landscape feature on portrait devices with relatively small screens — most of the time, if you tap on a widget to open the associated app, that app will render awkwardly sideways. "Night Mode" is still too bright for my bedside table, and the "Always On" feature that supposedly turns off standby when you're not using it doesn't work at all. And for the life of me, I can't figure out how to get to my homescreen from standby without lifting my phone from the dock. The next version of Standby needs to be better integrated with the rest of the iPhone experience.

However, even at this still-very-beta early stage, standby is the most useful new iPhone feature in a long time. (I think picture-in-picture mode in iOS 14 is probably the last thing I really liked — that or dark mode in iOS 13.) It's a huge improvement over the iPhone 14 Pro's existing Always-On Display mode because This makes iPhone useful when you are not using it and when you are not even close to it. Now I don't have to turn on my phone thousands of times a day just to check the time; It's just on the dock, showing me the time and my next appointment.

I hope developers see standby as a reason to make even bigger, better, better widgets because there's so much new screen space for them. I hope Apple eventually brings standby to the iPad as well, which would actually be a more natural home for the feature — most iPad apps work in landscape mode, and you probably don't pick up and put down your iPad as often as you do. We do . that you call Of course, the iPad doesn't have any kind of dock ecosystem to speak of, nor does it have MagSafe built in, but Apple can certainly solve those problems as well. Apple is reportedly working on a standalone smart display, but a standby-equipped iPad could be even better.

For the time being, I'm quite happy with the tiny smart display I have on my desk. If Siri was better, I'd never touch my phone again.

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