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Smartphone Systems: iOS

A guide to iOS based mobile devices and smartphones

Apple iPhone Logo


Developed by Apple, iOS is distributed exclusively on Apple hardware such as iPhones, iPods and iPads. As of September 2015, it is the most commonly used operating system for mobile devices in major markets including Canada, USA and United Kingdom.


The first device to use the iOS system was the original iPhone, unveiled in 2007. Since then, the system has received numerous updates and its use has expanded across any Apple hardware that features a large capacitive touch screen for direct interaction.

The user interface is designed primarily around the concept of direct manipulation, where the user interacts 'directly' with the interface via touch gestures such as taps and swipes in order to effect sliders, switches and buttons.

Whilst this is now considered the primary method of interaction with any mobile user interface (UI), Apple has been widely been credited with being the first to bring these concepts into mainstream consciousness and effect a radical change in consumer technology that has widely influenced others.

System features


Major revisions of iOS are announced annually. The keynote event at which this takes place has become a very important date in the calendar for technology enthusiasts and industry analysts.

iPhone OS 1

The first major release of the system had no official name, with Apple merely stating it was a version of Apple's desktop operating system, OS X. The statement was partly true, as while the code shares similarities which allow developers to more simply port apps to the mobile system it was, in essence, a siloed system.

Apple officially branded the system as iPhone OS on March 6, 2008, alongside the release of the iPhone software development kit. The OS was updated to the final version number 1.1.5.

iPhone OS 2

The second major release was made available on July 11, 2008, and was the first to support third-party applications via the App Store.

iPhone OS 1 users were able to upgrade for free to an iPhone or for the cost of $9.95 on iPod Touch. The OS was updated to version 2.2.1 as the final release.

iPhone OS 3

Released with the iPhone 3GS on June 17, 2009, this release added features such as copy-and-paste and MMS.

The original iPhone and iPod Touch could run updates to version 3.1.3.

Version 3.2 was released alongside the original iPad and was the first version of the system not to run on all previously compatible hardware.

iOS 4

Apple renamed the system to the simpler "iOS" when updating 3 to 3.2 for iPad, and 4 for iPhone / iPod on June 21, 2010.

Some features of iOS 4 were hardware specific so the older devices could not use them, including the iPhone 3G and iPod Touch 2nd Gen which could not use the multitasking capabilities or set a home screen wallpaper.

The iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch (3rd & 4th generation) had all features enabled.

The original iPhone and iPod Touch (1st generation) were unable to run iOS 4.0 and above.

Version 4 was updated to 4.2.1 which launched alongside the iPad 2 and was compatible with the iPad.

iOS 5

Released on October 12, 2011, the fifth version also dropped support for legacy phones in favour of features that required more advanced hardware to run effectively. This did not occur every year following, however, has been a regular happening.

The iPhone 3G and iPod Touch 2nd Gen could not use iOS 5.

Apple included iCloud, their cloud-based storage service with iOS 5, as well as new home screen apps.

Version 5 was updated to 5.1.1, the final release supported o the original iPad and iPod Touch 3rd Gen.

iOS 6

Released on September 19, 2012, via iTunes (itself requiring an update to version 10.7), iOS 6 was delivered installed on new iPhone 5 devices.

Apple removed Google Maps and YouTube from the default installation, although they remained available as standard user downloads from iTunes.

OS 6.1.6 is the final release supported for the iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch 4th Gen.

iOS 7

iOS 8

iOS 9

Apple announced iOS 9 on June 8, 2015, with a public release on September 16, 2015. Apple did not drop support for any currently up to date iOS devices. Therefore all devices supporting iOS 8 could run iOS 9.

Supported devices on this release include the iPhone 4S onwards, iPod Touch 5th Gen onwards, the iPad 2 onwards, and all iPad Mini devices. This made iOS 9 have the most supported devices out of any other iOS release, with 18 devices.

The iPad 2 is also the first iOS device to support six major releases of iOS, supporting iOS 4 to 9. This is the greatest amount of major iOS releases a single iOS device has supported, surpassing the iPhone 4S which supports five major releases (iOS 5 to 9), and iPod Touch 5th Gen supporting four major releases (iOS 6 to 9).

However, iOS 9 has limited support for the iPad 2, iPhone 4S, the iPad Mini 1st Gen, and the iPod Touch 5th Gen due to hardware limitations.

iOS 10

iOS 10 was announced on June 13th, 2016 and launched exactly 3 months later on September 13th. iOS 10 incorporates changes to 3D Touch and the lock screen.

There are also new features to some apps: Messages has additional emojis and third-party apps can extend functionality in iMessage. Maps received a redesigned interface and additional third-party functions. The new Home app managed "HomeKit"-enabled accessories.

Photos has algorithmic search and categorization of media known as "Memories", and Siri is compatible with third-party app-specific requests, such as starting workouts apps, sending IMs, requesting the Lyft or Uber apps or to use payment functions.


iOS 10.0.2 was released on September 23, 2016, as the first update to iOS 10. The update contained bug fixes, specifically fixing a bug that temporarily disabled the headphone controls on the Lightning EarPods that ship with the iPhone 7, fixing a bug preventing app extensions from being enabled, and fixing an unexpected crash of the Photos app when activating iCloud Photo Library.


iOS 10.0.3 was released on October 17, 2016, exclusively for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models, with a fix for connectivity issues.


iOS 10.1 was released on October 24, 2016, with a new depth of field portrait camera mode for iPhone 7 Plus, transit directions for Japan in Apple Maps, the ability to replay Bubble and Screen effects in iMessage, as well as lots of bug fixes. iOS 10.1 also features a warning message when launching a 32-bit app, that says the app "may slow down your iPhone". iOS 10.1 also allows users to use iMessage effects even when the "Reduce Motion" setting is turned on.


iOS 10.1.1 was released on October 31, 2016, with a fix for an issue where Health data could not be viewed for some users.

On November 9, 2016, Apple released a new version of iOS 10.1.1, only available for users who hadn't yet updated to the previous 10.1.1 update. No information on the new update was given.


iOS 10.2 was released on December 12, 2016. The update included a new "TV" app (U.S. only) that unifies content from different video apps and recommends new TV shows and movies to watch. The update also added new and redesigned emoji, stabilization and photo grouping accuracy changes to Photos, new "Love" and "Celebration" Messages screen effects, notification support for HomeKit-accessories, as well as revamped sorting options and design tweaks in the Music app. iOS 10.2 also adds a telemetry diagnostic tool that Apple can use to report battery consumption, for diagnosing reported issues with 30% battery shutdowns on some iPhone models. iOS 10.2 also includes three new wallpapers for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, specifically the wallpapers featured in the marketing of the phones.


iOS 10.2.1 was released on January 23, 2017, with bug fixes and security improvements.


iOS 10.3 was released on March 27, 2017. The update introduced a "Find My AirPods" feature for lost AirPods headphones, changed the file system to Apple File System (APFS) for improved performance and encryption (also increases usable storage on the device), support for additional Siri actions, including status of bills in payment apps and scheduling with ride-booking apps, a new Apple ID view in Settings, the ability for developers to respond to reviews in the App Store as well as "Helpful" and "Not Helpful" review labels, improved overview of iCloud storage usage, and bug fixes and stability improvements. Users can also give app ratings inside the app itself. iOS 10.3 also features a significant security patch fixing an issue where a JavaScript exploit link would cause devices to repeatedly call the 9-1-1 emergency phone number. The update also added a Podcasts widget and made app transitions smoother, and extended support for Wi-Fi calling to more carriers. For CarPlay, the update added a quick-access multitasking screen with the three most recently used apps, and added functionality for the Maps app to find electric vehicle charging stations.


iOS 10.3.1 was released on April 3, 2017, with bug fixes and security improvements, including a fix for a Wi-Fi vulnerability discovered by Google's Project Zero team of security researchers.


iOS 10.3.2 was released on May 15, 2017, with bug fixes and security improvements.

iOS 11

Announced on June 5th, 2017, iOS 11 is scheduled to be release in the fall/autumn of 2017