Apple's iOS17 software update comes with new security and health features

The company is focusing on consumers’ safety, security and mental and physical health with its upcoming update

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the company announced updates consumers can expect on some of their most-used devices. 

In addition to a $3,500 VR headset, Apple’s next operating software update – iOS17, which is expected to launch this fall – comes with several new features geared specifically toward consumers’ privacy and mental/physical health and wellness. 

New safety features

With privacy and security at the forefront of upcoming operating system, here are just a few of the new features consumers can expect on their devices: 

  • Check In: Whether it’s your kids driving late at night, your friend going on an early morning run, or just the peace of mind of knowing your loved one got home safely, this new feature will allow Apple users to do just that. Rather than waiting by your phone for a text (that often gets forgotten by the time your loved one ends up at their destination), when this feature is turned on, select contacts will receive an alert when the user has reached their final destination. It will also alert certain contacts if there are any unexpected delays while the user is in transit, providing important information like their phone’s battery life, their current cell reception, how far they are from their destination, and the last time they were active on their phone. All personal information is end-to-end encrypted, meaning only users and their selected contacts have access to it, and the feature can be turned off at any point. 

  • Safari Private Browsing: While private windows aren’t a new feature, Safari’s protection is getting an upgrade. Now, any private window will automatically lock when it’s not in use, and it will require either a fingerprint or a password to get back in. 

  • Lockdown Mode: This setting is getting even stricter to protect users’ personal information. Not only will it become available on the Apple Watch, but device functionalities will become even more limited than earlier versions of this feature. 

  • Communication Safety/Sensitive Content Warning: The Communication Safety feature already works to send warning to children’s devices when receiving or sending pictures that contain nudity. The feature is expanding to include both still images and video content, including FaceTime and AirDrop. Additionally, Apple users will gain access to a Sensitive Content Warning, which will work to alert consumers to any images or video sent via messages, over FaceTime, through AirDrop, or even in contact photos, that contain nudity. 

  • Photo Privacy: Apps are getting updated photo privacy permissions. With iOS17, users will have the option to share their entire photo library with apps, or only allow them to have access to specific photos. 

  • Password Sharing: While many iPhone users take advantage of Apple’s password keychain to keep track of all of their accounts, now users will be able to create groups to share passwords. This feature is also end-to-end encrypted, and everyone in the group can add or edit passwords. 

Health updates 

In addition to the security and privacy updates, Apple’s iOS17 will also come with a number of health updates, with a special emphasis on new mental health capabilities. 

“Our goal is to empower people to take charge of their own health journey,” said Sumbul Desai, MD, Apple’s vice president of Health. “With these innovative new features, we’re expanding the comprehensive range of health and wellness tools that we offer users across iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.” 

Some of these new features include: 

  • Mood tracking: The Health app – available on iPhone and Apple Watch (and which will roll out on iPad with the iOS17 update) will now allow users to track their moods, scrolling through a spectrum from very unpleasant to very pleasant. There will also be spaces to share how you’re feeling that day, add outside forces (work, family, etc.) that may be impacting your mood and emotions, and include details like exercise and sleep that can also affect health and wellness. The more that users log their emotions, the more data they’ll collect, and the more insight they can gain about themselves long-term. 

  • Mental Health Assessments: The update to the Health app will also include depression and anxiety assessments that mental health professionals use to screen patients. Apple users have access to these screeners at any time, and the results can help them determine the next steps, find mental health providers in their area, better understand their risk for depression or anxiety, and have something tangible to share with their doctors. 

  • Journal App: Another mental health feature is the new Journal app. This will help users track both big and small moments and include prompts, gratitude lists, reflection exercises, and the opportunity to add pictures to entries. 

  • Vision Health: In an effort to prevent nearsightedness (myopia) in children, Apple will unveil two important updates that tackle two of the biggest risk factors of myopia: outdoor time and screen distance. Apple Watch will begin measuring how much time is spent outdoors, and users can monitor the data on their phones and iPads. Kids’ watches can be linked to their parents’ phones. Additionally, Screen Distance measures how close a user is holding the phone or iPad to their face, and if it’s closer than 12 inches, a notification will alert you to hold it further away. These features are also beneficial for adults, as more natural light and holding devices further from your eyes can have mental and visual health benefits. 

These new features will be available to consumers with the rollout of iOS17, which is slated for this fall. 

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