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Evolution of Apple’s iPhone OS iOS, from 2007 till 2018

iOS is a mobile developed by Apple for iPhone, iPad and iPod iTouch devices. Apple releases updates for iOS through the iTunes software and since iOS 5 also via a software updates. Major new iOS releases are announced yearly during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and are generally released in September of the same year, coinciding with the release of new iPhone models. The most recent stable release, iOS 12.1.2 for iPhone only and iOS 12.1.1 for iPads and iPod Touch were released on Dec 17, 2018 and Dec 5, 2018 respectively.
As iOS is being updated regularly hence it has become important for an iOS Developer to update his knowledge about iOS to the latest version so that he can continue building superior quality iOS apps. Below you’ll find a history of each version of the iOS, when it was released, and what it added to the platform.

iPhone OS 1 – June 2007

In 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and iPhone OS 1 along with it. In a press conference, Jobs referred to the operating system as OS X because it shared a similar Unix core compared to the full-fledged desktop version of the operating system.  Later when Apple launched the iPhone SDK, it changed its name to iPhone OS. The first iPhone is one of the most important device of all time. It took ideas and thoughts from the mobile industry and made them more user friendly. It also created a group of apps – a grid of apps on a screen which is present even today after 11 years of first smartphone launch. The best thing was that an iPod, Camera, phone and internet machine could really be packed into one device which can fit in your pocket and you can use it whenever you wish to.

iPhone OS 2 – July 2008

This version led to the birth of iOS Development Company as now many companies and businesses were looking to build their iOS apps. In July 2008, Apple expanded the capabilities of its mobile operating system with the launch of iPhone OS 2.  This new version had third-party apps which is now known as App Store and location services through the newly added GPS element on iPhone 3G. iPhone OS brought revolution in the mobile computing and iPhone OS 2 started to push smartphones into a new territory. In the original iPhone all the apps you wanted to use had to be made by Apple but releasing iPhone OS SDK changed that and opened up its new platform to external developers all over the world. With new App Store, millions of iTunes Music customers transformed into potential app customers.

iPhone OS 3 / iOS 3 – June 2009

Apple App Store was a huge success but Steve Jobs had big advancements for iPhone fans in 2009 including copy/paste tools, MMS support, Spotlight, tethering and push notifications for 3rd party applications. Apple focused now on fine-tuning. iPhone OS 3 created richer third-party apps with push notifications and an easier way to search across the iPhone with Spotlight, a feature that Apple still plays with so many years later. iPhone OS 3 also introduced a design known as skeuomorphism with the release of iPad in 2010. This means that apps like Newsstand and Notes were digitally designed to look like a newsstand and a notepad.

iOS 4 – June 2010

With the launch of iOS 4 the need for iOS App Creator was highly felt. With this version, Apple officially dropped the “Phone” part of its mobile OS, which was a good decision considering the software now ran on iPods, iPhones and the new iPad. But the two big features were FaceTime and Multitasking.  With iOS 4, we began to see the development cycle which Apple followed for years. For example, in FaceTime, Apple helped establish a new communication frontier, making the future concept of video phones a reality and Skype took few more years before this app was finally available on mobile devices. Multitasking was introduced in iOS 4 and now a double press on the home button allowed users to quickly switch between apps. The new iPhone 4 model introduced the new, high-resolution Retina screens.

iOS 5 – Oct 2011

iOS was becoming more and more popular and Apple added three new features into it i.e. Notification Center, iMessage and Siri. Apple also introduced iCloud and a more functional lock screen. Now Apple began building more features on top of its core services like SMS/MMS support and push notifications. When iMessages was integrated into iOS and when Apple opened push notifications to third-party apps, WhatsApp started to flourish. In 2011, Siri, a personal assistant was an amazing idea. Siri could do actions on your behalf and projected a bright glimpse into the future of mobility. Therefore, soon Siri became the virtual assistant for millions of iPhone owners.

iOS 6 – September 2012

With iOS 6, Apple launched its own mapping service, Apple Maps with Passbook for storing coupons, plane tickets and other digital things. Siri also got important updates and Apple stopped preinstalling YouTube and Google Maps on the iPhones. With its own mapping service, Apple now parted ways with Google. In 2012, Google Maps was considered the best online mapping service. With iOS 6, Apple was going to challenge Google supremacy in this field. Apple intensive work on Siri make their voice assistant into a highly popular service. Apple also started to work on the limitations of a closed source ecosystem by creating its own notification widgets for Facebook and Twitter. Apple was taking time to open up its APIs.

iOS 7 – September 2013

iOS 7 marks the most extensive design change in the history of the platform as iOS was completely overhauled with a more simple design, flat icons and Helvetica Font. iOS apps were designed edge to edge and the operating system included a new parallax-scrolling home screen.  Apple also launched the frosted glass control center for quick access to options like Bluetooth, flashlight and a new feature called AirDop which allows the easily transfer of files from one Apple device to another. iOS 7 also added the new Photos app, iTunes Radio and card based multitasking. iPhone also brought Touch ID, which allows unlocking of devices via fingerprint scan. Tim Cook described iOS 7 at WWWDC 2013 as the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone.

iOS 8 – September 2014

Apple gave iOS 8 a new look and again focused on iOS usability and given more control to developers throughout iOS. Apple had now started allowing third-party keyboards, widgets and the ability to share files from different apps and services. Apple also launched Testflight, a method for developers to run betas on iOS as well as a Health app and number of kits like Health kit, Home kit and Research kit. With iOS, Apple brought its desktop and mobile platforms closer together. It was the continuity concept which made it possible to read and write iMessages or answer phone calls on your iPhone and your Mac. Apple also launched Apple Pay on iOS 8.1 and Apple Music with iOS 8.4. These things were important as Android had been providing the third-party widgets and keyboards on Android for many years. With iOS 8, Apple finally gave developers tools to do more research into its operating system. Apple was actually opening up its iOS more to better compete with Google’s Android. At that time Apple Pay was the most exhaustive mobile payments platform. iOS 8 also had features of customizable keyboards which made it easier for expert users to personalize their iPhones. The iPhone still didn’t have the similar customizability options as in Android but it was coming closer steadily.

iOS 9 – September 2015

iOS 9 mainly focused on three things i.e. making Siri smarter, 3D Touch and Apple Music. Siri became even more intelligent with the use of Proactive by Apple which brought back the whole panel spotlight feature now with intelligence better comparable to Google Now. Also the popular apps like Transit, News and Notes were majorly upgraded and iPad got multi-window support and software download sizes were comparatively much smaller than previous versions. With iOS 9, Apple was in a catch-up mode. Samsung and Microsoft had been offering multi-window support for many years, Spotify had been out in the US for 4 years and Proactive was a lesser powerful version of Google Now. Now 3D Touch was a new feature for Smartphones including iPhone. It has created context menus for apps on the iPhone home screen and other easier shortcuts in keyboard and Mail apps. It is expected that Apple might release the second generation of this technology soon. These new features were more like imitation than innovation and these were necessary for a more open iOS. iOS 9 mainly focused on performance and stability improvements.

iOS 10 – September 2016

iOS 10 was considered the OS version which had major upgrades as said by Tim Cook. This new version of iOS improved the lockscreen and refreshed the look of the News and Music apps. But the biggest feature was opening the software development kit to developers for the first time with Siri, iMessages and Maps. In iOS, Apple promoted iMessage to more than just a simple app, Stickers and a separate App Store transform it into a full platform, open to third-party developers. Siri was one of the first mobile virtual assistants but it was losing its top spot as it was closed from developers. With opening of iOS to developers, Siri can now interact with non-Apple apps from the App Store and the new Home app lets you control your smart home. There had been a major change in Notifications also which could now directly display photos and videos. iMessages was now much more competitive with apps like Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. iOS 10 was definitely a major push as now Apple was more open than it was ever before.

iOS 11 – September 2017

iOS 11 version brought the usual small tweaks and improvements, along with some bigger changes. With the release of iOS 11 public beta, Apple enabled peer to peer transactions via Apple Pay, redesigned the App Store and introduced many augmented reality features. Along with iOS 11 came a rework of the App Store as now it had a new design and regular editorial content would help users find apps more easily than before. iOS 11 also came with lots of improvement like customizable Control center, the Quick Type keyboard and new features for the Photos app. Many upgrades were mainly targeted for the iPad like the new Files app and Mac-style Dock, a new concept for better multitasking and drag and drop interactions tremendously improved working on the iPad. iOS 11 also has single-page Control Center, easy Wi-Fi sharing, a screenshot tool, many new photo effects and AirPlay 2, which would help with multiroom alongwith Apple’s forthcoming smart speaker, the HomePod. Apple however dropped support for 32 bit products and apps in iOS 11 hence it was bad news for iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C and iPad Mini owners.

iOS 12 – September 2018

Some of the key features of iOS 12 included improvements to Siri like Siri Shortcuts, enhanced Augmented Reality with ARKit 2, and giving users and parents ways to monitor and control their device use with Screen Time. The new features and improvements added in iOS 12 are not as extensive and revolutionary as in some previous updates of iOS. Instead, iOS 12 focused more on making refinements to commonly used features. Actually performance was one of the core topics in iOS 12. Especially the tasks that users perform regularly like opening the camera or revealing the keyboard were optimized, even on the older iPhone devices. Some of the key features of iOS 12 include improvements to Siri like Siri shortcuts, enhanced Augmented Reality with ARKit 2 and giving users and parents ways to monitor and control their device use with Screen time. Screen Time feature actually helps users to monitor their device usage and maybe eventually put their phones down. iOS 12 also has features of Memoji, a personalized kind of Animoji and it has also improved its Grouped Notifications feature.


We have just explained in detail the history of iOS from first version to iOS 12. This evolution of iOS from 2007 till 2018 clearly shows how Apple did wonder by creating iOS and upgrading it continuously year after year to bring before us the kind of iPhone smartphones which have amazing features and the ability to make our life much more easier and convenient. Siri in iPhone is much powerful now and can help us in many of our tasks. While other features like Apple App Store , Maps, ARkit, iMessages, iCloud etc. make iOS a highly sophisticated, robust and feature rich mobile OS. Therefore, iPhones are considered a premium smartphone and most of the affluent and tech-savvy people prefer iPhone smartphone over Android Smartphone.


About Author
Aman Malhotra
Aman Malhotra

Aman is a business consultant and strategic leader bridging the gap between technology and client satisfaction. With 15+ years of knowledge, innovation and hands-on experience in providing consultations to startups, agencies, SME's and large enterprises who need dedicated development and technology partners. He has also lead to the delivery of countless web development and mobile app development projects with 100% client satisfaction.

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