iOS Operating System Mobile Phones

Information verified correct on October 21st, 2016

Everything you need to know about the most popular system in the world: Apple’s iOS operating software.

Anyone that owns an iPhone will know it has a completely unique operating system compared to that on other phones. Apple developed the system, now called iOS, which is used for their phones, tablets and TV’s. An updated version is usually released on an annual schedule.

About the iOS system

iOS is a mobile operating system used specifically for Apple products. It has an array of applications that can be downloaded from the Apple App Store. The iOS operating system was introduced without a proper name at the Macworld Conference & Expo with the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, but later became referred to as ‘OS X’. A year later the name changed to ‘iPhone OS, and by 2010, with the release of the iPad, the name changed for the final time, to ‘iOS’.

This operating system is used for the iPhone, iPad, iTouch, and Apple TV, and can be updated through iTunes and also through ‘over-the-air’ updates.

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How does the iOS system work?

The concept of this type of operating system was established on the premise of direct manipulation and multi-touch gestures. In other words, the main objective of this software was to make it user-friendly, interactive, fast and responsive. The new software responded to different ‘touch’ commands, which is more than one, or more than two points of contact on the screen, with the user being able to easily manipulate objects appearing on the screen. With over 410 million iOS devices being used within the span of five years, it was clear this new operating software was changing the way people used their phones.

What are the different versions?

  • iPhone OS 1.x. In 2007, this was the first version released by Apple, introducing a touch-centric system. When it was released, all that was said about this system was that it was the same operating system as Apple Desktops.
  • iPhone OS 2.x. This system was released in 2008, alongside the iPhone 3G. Anyone still operating on a 1.x system was able to upgrade to 2.x, which introduced users to the new ‘App Store’ allowing for applications to be downloaded onto the iPhone and iPod Touch.
  • iPhone OS 3.x. The release of the iPhone 3GS in 2009 came with the updated OS 3.x system. Apple added some new features, among the most valuable being MMS and the copy and paste feature.
  • iOS 4.x. In 2010 the new operating system was release with a new name ‘iOS’. It was the first operating system that was not available for all devices, and was also the first system iPod Touch users could download for free. With this operating system, older devices like the iPhone 3G and iPod Touch 2nd Generation could not use the new multitasking features or the ability to set a wallpaper for the home screen. However, all other more recent devices offer the new multitasking features.
  • iOS 5.x. This was released in 2011 and was available for the iPhone 3GS onwards, iPod Touch 3rd Generation onwards, and all iPads. The new system offered iCloud, iMessages, Reminders, Newsstand, and the ability to sync with iTunes wirelessly. The camera could also now be accessed from the lock screen.
  • iOS 6.x. In 2012, version 6 was released. It only supported iPhone 3GS and later, iPod Touch 4thGeneration and later, and the iPad 2 and later. Apple removed Google Maps and Youtube as default apps, but could still be downloaded for free. Apple made it’s own built in Maps, with smoother zooming and spoken navigation in various languages. It also introduced the Passbook app, and Siri was improved with more capabilities such as the ability to make restaurant reservations and find movie reviews. New privacy settings and location services were also new features.
  • iOS 7.x. This version was released in 2013 and is available with the iPhone 4 and onwards, iPod Touch 5th Generation and onwards, the iPad to and onwards, and the iPad Mini and onwards. This version had a completely redesigned interface aiming for a more neat and organised look. Some new features include AirDrop (wireless sharing), more app store search options, a new camera interface, as well as the ability to multitask, meaning you can operate multiple apps at once and flick between them with ease.

Features of the iOS operating system

The current iOS 7.x system includes an array of features that makes it unique, such as:

  • Design. This was said to be the biggest change to the operating system. It introduced refined typography, new icon designs and layering. It has a flat graphic-design with a multi-plane 2.5 dimensional structure. Also, the keyboard has a new shift/backspace key and the ‘slide-to-power-off’ option was also redesigned.
  • Camera and photos. The new camera has three modes including photo, video and panoramic. It also has the option to take photos in a new square mode. Users have the ability to choose from different photo colour filters as well as a new ‘Burst’ mode, allowing you to take a large amount of photos in a few seconds.
  • Web browser. The iPhone web browser uses Safari, and offers some new features with iOS 7.x, including infinite tabs, parental control options and improvements to Twitter sharing and the Reading List.
  • Multitasking. This was one of the most defining features of the new system. A multitasking layer makes it possible for the user to view all running apps, showing a screenshot of the whole running up, rather than just the icon. It also allows for background updating of apps.
  • AirDrop. This feature allows users to wirelessly share files without the use of any cables or cords, but is only available for the iPhone 5 and onwards, iPod touch 5th Generation and onwards, and the iPad Mini and onwards.

Pros and cons of the iOS operating system


  • There is a completely new interface design with the newer models, allowing for more organisation
  • New and improved features like AirDrop, automatic updates and improved camera settings
  • The Control Centre allows users to quickly access most used features.


  • The new design allows for more space, but not for more information, meaning the user will have to scroll more often to read all of the information
  • Some features are not available for all devices, including iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S

Frequently asked questions

  • Which features of iOS 7 will work on my iPhone?
    The newest iOS has some features that are not compatible with all iPhones. All features will work on the iPhone 5S, and most will work for the iPhone 5 and 5C, with the exclusion of the fingerprint scanner. AirDrop, new camera photo filters and the fingerprint scanner will not work on any device before the iPhone 5.
  • How do I download the iOS 7.x?
    If your device is compatible with iOS 7, you can download the new software via Wi-Fi or via iTunes. Through Wi-Fi, you will need to go through your settings and you will be given prompts to complete the download. If you choose to do it through iTunes, all you need to do is plug your device into your computer using a USB, and open iTunes. The device should automatically prompt you to install the new software.
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