Has Apple just turned the iPhone into a smart display with iOS 17?

iOS 17 stand by
(Image credit: Apple)

Has Apple just announced a smart display? Not quite, but with iOS 17’s new StandBy feature the iPhone can be turned into a rival to the likes of the Amazon Echo Show and Nest Hub.

Demonstrated during the opening keynote for Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference 2023, StandBy is an all-new feature of iOS 17, which is available as a beta for developers now and will be available to the public later in the year.

We think one of the most popular features of StandBy will be smart home control. The new interface includes a widget that shows buttons for controlling your smart home devices and Apple HomeKit devices . 

It may only have been brief, but the demonstration during WWDC on Monday showed how an iPhone running StandBy can control devices like smart light bulbs, door locks and a garden sprinkler system.

iOS 17 stand by

(Image credit: Apple)

We’re interested to see just how powerful StandBy can be, and whether it can show live footage from a security camera or video doorbell, for example, or if parents could check in on their baby monitor with a glance at their iPhone, instead of opening a dedicated app.

Away from smart home control, StandBy with iOS 17 can also be used to show the time and date, as well as calendar and weather widgets. Standby is designed to work best with an iPhone in landscape orientation, and Apple says how the system takes advantage of the always-on display of the iPhone 14 Pro.

This isn’t quite a fully-fledged smart display to replace your Echo Show or Nest Hub, but it’s a nice extra that turns the iPhone into a useful secondary display when connected to a charger. It also turns the iPhone into a handy bedside alarm clock, with the interface dimming to a red colour palette when you turn out the lights.

This being Apple, we suspect StandBy will evolve gradually into a more useful smart display experience over time. But for now we like how the feature usefully puts smart home controls on the screen of an inactive iPhone, accessible without the need to first open an app or swipe to the Control Centre.

Alistair Charlton

Alistair Charlton is a freelance technology and automotive journalist based in London. His career began with a stint of work experience at TechRadar back in 2010, before gaining a journalism degree and working in the industry ever since. A lifelong car and tech enthusiast, Alistair writes for a wide range of publications across the consumer technology and automotive sectors. As well as reviewing dash cams for TechRadar, he also has bylines at Wired, T3, Forbes, Stuff, The Independent, SlashGear and Grand Designs Magazine, among others.