The Pixel Tablet could have an unlikely competitor — your iPhone


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iOS 16 review public beta

We’re less than two weeks away from finding out what Apple has planned for iOS 17, the next version of its iPhone software. While that update won’t arrive until later this fall, we’re all but certain to get an iOS 17 preview as part of the WWDC 2023 keynote on June 5.

But you don’t have to wait until June to get a sense of what Apple has planned. Some iOS 17 details are beginning to trickle out, and one feature in particular sounds like it could make your iPhone a lot more useful even when the phone isn’t in use at all.

According to Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman, one of the changes coming to iOS 17 is a new interface that will appear when your iPhone is locked and positioned in landscape mode. The interface will display relevant information — Gurman cites calendar appointments, weather and incoming notifications — which would essentially turn the iPhone into a smart screen when it’s not being put to use.

This is all old hat to Android users, who’ve enjoyed a similar feature since 2019. Likewise, Google’s Pixel Tablet — currently available for preorder — can double as a smart screen when it’s charging in a dock. Apple would not exactly be breaking new ground here.

To which iPhone users might say, “Great, but I’m not using an Android device nor do I plan to order a Pixel Tablet.” So while the new feature may not score any points for Apple in terms of innovation, it certainly would make the iPhone a lot more useful.

iOS’s ongoing evolution

That seems to be the driving force behind many of the changes Apple’s been introducing to iOS over the last few years, starting with the arrival of widgets on iOS 14. With widgets, iPhone users now had relevant bits of info, right there on their home screens, saving them from having to open up an app if they didn’t want to. For instance, I can get the current temperature just by looking at the weather widget on my home screen, and I only need to launch the Weather app if I want more details.

Last year’s iOS 16 update moved those widgets from the home screen to the lock screen, as Apple added the ability to customize lock screens on the iPhone. The iOS 17 feature Gurman describes in which the iPhone converts into…