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StandBy Mode on iOS 17 turns your iPhone into a smart display - and I have questions

With the upcoming update, the iPhone will get a feature popularized by Google and Amazon's tablets.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Standby on iPhone

Apple's WWDC event is done and dusted, and while most of the fanfare stems from the much-anticipated Vision Pro headset, a new iOS 17 feature has me excited about what's next for the iPhone.

During the Monday keynote, Apple's Craig Federighi unveiled "StandBy", an upcoming iOS 17 feature that will turn the iPhone into a dockable smart display via MagSafe. When locked, a horizontally-positioned iPhone becomes a glanceable window of useful information. That includes the weather, calendar appointments, notifications, and more. 

Also: Every Apple product announced at WWDC 2023

Much like the iPhone 14 Pro's Always-On Display, this new feature gives iPhones more practicality, even when they're not in use. It's a trend we're seeing more of from Android tablets like Google and Amazon, making the most of devices when left idle.

StandBy will work in tandem with existing Apple services like Siri and Live Activities, displaying the latest updates on your calendar and upcoming events, as well as important notifications. Apple says the feature is best suited for users who often set their iPhone on a nightstand, in a kitchen, or on a work desk.

Also: The best Apple deals: iPads, MacBooks, and more on sale

Perhaps the most thoughtful aspect of StandBy is how your iPhone will remember what orientation it was docked in when the feature was last used. Basically, the orientation will automatically switch to landscape whenever you set the phone on a MagSafe puck, if that's your preference.


There's also a Night Mode that reduces eye strain with red-accented colors.


While I'm excited that Apple is thinking beyond the standard use cases of a smartphone, I have a few questions about the smart display feature.  

1. How will the feature affect battery life?

When ZDNET's Jason Hiner and I reviewed the iPhone 14 Pro last year, we agreed that the new Always-On Display was sipping battery like it had been stranded in a desert for the longest time. 

Apple's patched up the feature over the coming months, including updating it so that the screen completely dims out when inactive, but the question still stands with the new smart display setting and how it affects battery life.

Also: iPhone 14 Pro packs a lot more innovation for the same price as last year

With the iPhone passively displaying more information than ever (and updating it in the background), I wouldn't be surprised if the device takes a hit to its endurance. Perhaps there will be an ambient setting that only turns on the screen when it detects a person nearby, but even that would put a toll on the device's battery.

However, there is a simple fix to this, which leads me to my second question.

2. Will there be a dock accessory?

MagSafe-compatible charging docks are nothing new, but Apple has a golden opportunity here to create an accessory of its own for the new smart display feature -- one that naturally positions the iPhone in landscape orientation and will keep the device charged when stationed.

Also: Best MagSafe accessories for your iPhone

I don't expect StandBy to be supported by older iPhones (anything before the iPhone 12 series) since the feature likely requires a larger screen to actually be usable. But that may as well be music to Apple's ears because the iPhone 12 models and above all support MagSafe charging.

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