Definition

Apple iOS

Contributor(s): Brita Van Fossen, Brien Posey

Apple iOS is a proprietary mobile operating system that runs on mobile devices such as the iPhoneiPad and iPod Touch.

Apple iOS is based on the Mac OS X operating system for desktop and laptop computers. The iOS developer kit provides tools that allow for iOS app development.

Designed for use with Apple's multitouch devices, the mobile OS supports input through direct manipulation. The system responds to various user gestures, such as pinching, tapping and swiping.

Apple iOS stands for iPhone operating system.

Apple iOS market share

As of 2019, the Apple iOS market share was 13.4% worldwide, making it the second most popular mobile OS behind Google Android, according to IDC.

Apple iOS features

  • Wi-FiBluetooth and cellular connectivity, along with VPN support.
  • Integrated search support, which enables simultaneous search through files, media, applications and email.
  • Gesture recognition supports -- for example, shaking the device to undo the most recent action.
  • Push email.
  • Safari mobile browser.
  • Integrated front- and rear-facing cameras with video capabilities.
  • Direct access to the Apple App Store and the iTunes catalog of music, podcasts, television shows and movies available to rent or purchase. iOS is also designed to work with Apple TV.
  • Compatibility with Apple's cloud service, iCloud.
  • Siri is Apple's personal assistant. It can be used to set reminders, offer suggestions or interact with certain third-party apps. Siri's voice has been modified in recent years to make it sound more natural.
  • Cross-platform communications between Apple devices through AirDrop;
  • Support for Apple Watch, which runs watchOS 6, but requires iPhone 6s or later running iOS 13 or later.
  • Apple Pay, which stores users' credit card data and allows them to pay for goods and services directly with an iOS device.
  • CarPlay allows users to interact with an iOS device while driving. CarPlay supports Siri voice controls, and users can access apps through a connected vehicle's touchscreen. CarPlay provides access to maps, phone, calendar, messaging, and music apps.
  • The HomePod feature allows Siri to identify family members by voice, so that everyone receives a personalized experience. HomePod's handoff feature allows users to hand off music, podcasts and phone calls so that they can listen on another device.
  • HomeKit allows iOS to be used as a tool for controlling home automation. HomeKit accessories include routers, lights, security cameras and more. The Home app allows you to control these devices from iOS.

Security and privacy

iOS includes the following security features:

  • Apple ID support. Users can sign into websites and apps using their existing Apple ID. Additionally, iOS supports signing in using Face ID or Touch ID, which use biometric authentication methods. Apple IDs are protected with two-factor authentication.
  • Privacy and security. iOS supports the use of fine-grained controls that can be used to prevent apps from gaining location information or from accepting AirDrop content from unknown senders. Apps can also be blocked from using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth without users' permission. Additionally, iOS devices use a secure boot chain to ensure that only trusted (signed) code is executed during the boot process. This allows iOS devices to verify the integrity of any code running on the device.
  • Secure Enclave Support. Secure Enclave is a hardware-based feature that stores cryptographic keys in an isolated location to prevent those keys from being compromised. Secure Enclave is not exclusive to iOS devices. It also works with Apple TV, Apple Watch, Mac computers and other Apple products.

Apple iOS version history

Apple iOS was originally known as iPhone OS. The company released three versions of the mobile OS under that name before iOS 4 debuted in June 2010. Apple released iOS 2 on July 11, 2008. It premiered alongside Apple's iPhone 3G. This operating system was followed on June 17, 2009 by iOS 3. The fourth version of iOS was released on June 21, 2010, along with the iPhone 4.

On Oct. 12, 2011, Apple released iOS 5, which expanded the number of available applications to over 500,000. This iOS version also added the Notification Center, a camera app, Siri and more.

Unveiled on June 11, 2012, iOS 6 included a Maps application and the Passbook ticket storage and loyalty program application.

Released on Sept. 18, 2013, iOS 7 featured an entirely redesigned user interface. In September 2014, iOS 8 introduced Continuity, a cross-platform system that allows users of multiple Apple devices to pick up on one where they left off from another. Other new features included the Photos app and Apple Music.

iOS 7
The interface of iOS 7

Apple iOS 9 and iOS 10 -- released, respectively, on Sept. 16, 2015, and Sept. 13, 2016 -- featured upgrades such as a revamped notifications section, improved iMessage capabilities and Siri integration with third-party apps.

iOS 10
The interface of iOS 10

iOS 11 debuted on September 19, 2017. With the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. With this release, Apple dropped support for older 32-bit iPhones. iOS 12 was released to the public on September 17, 2017 along with the company's new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.

iOS 13

iOS 13 is Apple's latest version of the iOS operating system. It was released on September 19, 2019. One of this release's most significant features was dark mode, a new light on dark color scheme.

Apple has also introduced a new Maps application in iOS 13. Maps now supports street view-like capabilities.

Apple also chose to enhance Siri in iOS 13. In addition to making Siri sound more natural, Apple now allows Siri to announce messages to AirPod users.

In iOS 13, Apple rebuilt its Reminders app. Reminders are now categorized as All Tasks, Scheduled Tasks, Flagged Tasks, or Finished Tasks.

Apple has also updated its Health app to allow better health data tracking over time. The app has also been extended to support women's health by tracking menstrual cycles and predicting fertility.

iOS 14

iOS 14 is slated for release in the fall of 2020. Among the new features is a new messaging app that will give users the ability to retract messages sent accidentally, and to include @mentions in messages. This release is also rumored to allow third-party apps to be used as the default for web browsing, accessing email and playing music. Additionally, Apple is working to integrate augmented reality capabilities into the operating system.

This was last updated in April 2020

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