Hands-on: iOS, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma

It’s July, and it’s the default month that Apple releases public versions of its latest system software to testers, such as iOS, iPadOS 17, and MacOS Sonoma. This time with very few changes.

It was already known before Apple’s developer conference at the beginning of June that these wouldn’t be major updates. For example, it seems that a significant part of the developers have worked on the Apple Vision Pro program.

In fact, if you install the public beta, you won’t see any difference with the previous OS, except for Sonoma, where your desktop gets a new green gas wallpaper.

As said, most innovations are not immediately noticeable. New in iOS 17 are contact stickers, which let you control what your contacts see when you contact them. You can create a personalized call screen with your name, photo, memoji and font. But as is often the case with Apple: this of course only works between iPhones.

With the new standby mode in iOS 17, the iPhone becomes a kind of smart display. When the iPhone is charged and held horizontally, you will get a special offer with great widgets. The iPhone should not lie flat, but preferably on a height, otherwise the mode will not be activated.

Some very useful plugins. For example, Apple offers a function called NameDrop, with which you can easily share your phone number. You can leave a recorded FaceTime video message.

The dictation function has also received a major upgrade. You can now use the keyboard while speaking, for example to correct a misspelled name. You can also use Face ID or Touch ID to sign in to a website. You don’t have to type in the password anymore.

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Note: iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X will be dropped from iOS 17.


Every year the iPad gets a new app and this year it’s the Health app. But users will still have to wait (although insistently) for Apple’s own calculator app, which you can make at least as broad as the Health app.

Last year, only the iPhone managed to design completely new access screens with custom fonts and even widgets. This year it’s the iPad’s turn. For example, in iPadOS 17, you can choose which clock to set on the lock screen. Widgets are now also interactive, just like with the iPhone.

Stage Manager’s multitasking feature has been improved. It’s the part that should make iPadOS more like a PC by placing apps next to each other or putting them on top. Windows are now freer to move around and easier to resize, but many users prefer the older Split View and Slide Over.

One of the most useful additions is the ability to use auto-fill with PDFs. This function makes it possible to fill in forms automatically, for example, with your name and address details. Adding your signature just got easier, too. If you’ve saved or scanned a PDF document in the Notes app, you can now edit it more easily with the Apple Pencil.

Again, Apple can’t get everything ready for the launch of the new iPhones. For example, the new Journal app, also called the Diary app, won’t appear until later. With this application, you can record the feelings and events of the day. Such applications have been around for quite some time and their creators are certainly not satisfied with what they consider to be unfair competition.

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Direct voicemail, where voicemail appears as text on the screen, will not be available in Dutch at this time.


The most important addition to macOS are widgets that you can place anywhere on your desktop. Useful if you work in a different time zone and can, for example, put a clock with the time in the home country. You can even put existing iPhone widgets on your desktop, even if you don’t have the app on MacOS itself.

Apple is making animated bird’s-eye screensavers from Apple TV available on Mac devices. It is not yet clear if this will affect the battery life of MacBooks. These are heavy files that you have to download separately.

Also nice: You can turn almost any website into a web app in macOS Sonoma, with a small toolbar on top including navigation buttons. This way you can put a site you visit daily as an app in your taskbar.

With Safari, you can choose profiles for personal or business use, where you can, for example, password-protect business pages. I don’t see the point of it right away, but there will undoubtedly be people who find it useful.

Of all the system updates, you can say that there are useful and nice innovations, although only a small part of them will be used. How many users will adopt the diary app?

An advantage of “light” updates is that you can install them reasonably safely. Few real bugs were discovered. Installing has also become a lot easier in iOS 16. You can select the desired beta directly from Updates. And no need to download a configuration profile or, in the case of macOS, an installer. Caution is still advised. Do not install them on devices that you have to use intensively.

Winton Frazier

 "Amateur web lover. Incurable travel nerd. Beer evangelist. Thinker. Internet expert. Explorer. Gamer."

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