Of all the iOS 17 features Apple announced at WWDC this week, one, in particular, made me very happy. It’s called Check-in, and if you’re a parent, a woman or a member of other marginalized groups then I think you’ll like it a lot.
Check-in is a way of telling a friend or a family member that you’ve arrived somewhere. I laughed when someone described it as a feature made for Dads, because it’s true that on Facebook in particular many dads do like to announce that they’ve arrived at a particular location. But the name does it a disservice, because it’s much more than an “I’m here!” announcement.
I can think of two important use cases right away. The first is for parents and guardians, who are of course legally obliged to worry themselves silly whenever the kids are out of their sight. And the second is for anyone who’s ever said “Text me when you get home” and worried until the other person did.
What does Check-in on iOS 17 do?
Check-in enables you to alert somebody else, such as a friend or a family member, when you arrive at a particular location. It’ll be integrated into the iOS 17 Messages app, where it will be encrypted so only the selected recipient(s) gets to know where you are.
Where it gets interesting is in the period while you’re en route. If for whatever reason your iPhone detects that you’re no longer making progress toward your destination, it can share key information with your selected contact: your iPhone’s location, your iPhone battery level, and whether you can get cellular coverage.
That answers three key questions many of us have asked when our friend or family member seems to be taking too long: where are they? Has their phone died? Are they maybe just out of service?
Why I really want Check-in on my iPhone
Check-in could have been made for me. I’m a city-dwelling parent of two kids who are starting to become independent, and also I’m a trans woman with many women and LGBT+ friends, so my friends’ safety is always in my mind after we say goodbye (and vice-versa).
But while I want to know that the people who matter to me are safe I don’t want to invade their privacy.
As useful as Find My is, I feel much more comfortable using it to find iPhones than finding my offspring. That’s particularly true of my eldest, who’s fifteen: if iPhones had been around when I was fifteen and my folks had used Find My to track me, I’d have left my iPhone at home and met my friends carrying a burner phone instead.
I know that I can check my kids’ location, but I don’t think doing so is good parenting – but at the same time, I don’t want to be a nervous mess if one of my kids is delayed coming back from a class or the cinema. Check-in looks like the perfect solution: useful enough to stop me worrying, but not sinister enough for me to feel like I’m stalking.
That’s even more so with my friends. I wouldn’t dream of asking my friends to open up location sharing to me unless we were all going on a group trip or to a big festival. But “let me know you’re home safe” is just what we do, and once again Check-in seems to be a great way of taking care of that and of preventing me from deciding my pals have been abducted by a serial killer if it feels like they’re taking a bit longer to reply.
Of course, this is all based on what Apple’s told us; I’ll need to see the feature in the public beta to be sure it’s what I want my iPhone to do. But all the signs are positive, and it’s a great example of the kinds of little iOS improvements that turn out to be a really big deal.
Check-in may not be the most gasp-inducing new feature in iOS 17, but it means the Health app’s going to show a big improvement in my heart rate.