iOS 17 StandBy Mode looks amazing — but it’s also a missed opportunity

WWDC 2023
(Image credit: Apple)

When Apple announced iOS 17 Standby Mode as one of the biggest iOS 17 features coming to the iPhone later this year, I thought of the beloved iPad mini in my backpack and realized that StandBy's arrival will also be a huge missed opportunity for Apple.

StandBy Mode turns an iPhone into a smart display with widget-sized clock styles, weather reports and photo slideshows. It also acts as a hands-free Siri hub, so you could theoretically ask Apple's voice assistant queries or control your HomeKit-enabled smart home devices with your voice.

Based on what we've seen, it seems like StandBy will be intuitive way to give the iPhone more ambient uses. As demonstrated, StandBy is optimized by MagSafe iPhone stands that you'd place on your nightstand or around your home (though it sounds as if MagSafe isn't necessary for StandBy to do its thing).

While in StandBy Mode, your iPhone will recognize what information what you might want to see at a certain time of day. If you have multiple MagSafe mounts around your space, your iPhone will adjust the display to what information you prefer to see in that location, too. 

This reminds me of the Google Pixel Tablet, which comes with a magnetic charging and speaker base that conveniently switches the tablet to a smart home command center. I'd hoped Apple is working on it's own tablet-turned-smart-display experience, but instead we got it for the iPhone. 

My iPhone 14 Pro Max's 6.7-inch display is definitely large for a smartphone, but I'm convinced Standby is truly made for iPadOS 17 — not just iOS. The 8.3-inch display on my iPad mini 6 mirrors the size of the Echo Show 8, my favorite dedicated smart display. 

For reference, the Echo Show 8 can be used as a bedside alarm clock and touch-screen enabled smart home controller. It also serves as a place to watch videos, take video calls and more. Since my iPad mini already goes everywhere with me, I think it'd be a great StandBy device with more versatility than my existing smart display.

Could StandBy be coming to iPadOS?

Just because we saw an overview of iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 at WWDC 2023, that doesn't mean that Apple is done working on new features for both software versions. In fact, the company has been known to save late-addition OS upgrades for the arrival of hardware at its annual Apple September event.

With rumors of an iPad mini 7 coming either later this year or next spring, Apple could be holding off on announcing StandBy for iPad. It seems practical for StandBy to come to iPadOS 17 alongside a new tablet for promotional purposes, but that's just my speculation. 

Of course, unless the iPad gets MagSafe, there will need to be a different stand or mount solution to complete the experience.

Otherwise, I might just have to wait for a bigger iPhone to create the StandBy experience I'm envisioning. There's no size change rumored for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but there is an early report that the 2024 iPhone 16 family will deliver the largest-screened Apple smartphone yet

Apple could try to add smart home capabilities to a monitor in future too.

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Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.