iOS stands for iPhone operating system, though it also serves as the operating system for iPhones. The 15th iteration was released in September 2021. So, it felt like the right time to look back on past iOS versions. Let’s take a look at all the tech the iPhone has had to offer us since its initial release in 2007. Yes, 2007. It seems hard to believe how quickly the smartphone has advanced technology and become one of those gadgets we simply cannot live without.
Apple iOS 1
Initial release: June 29, 2007
It’s the iOS that started them all, the OG iOS for the OG iPhone. At the time, it was simply known as iPhone OS and given a version number. Version four is when the iOS moniker officially launched. While looking back, it might not feel as revolutionary, at the time, it was truly spectacular. The OG iOS bragged iTunes integration, multitouch screen, and visual voicemail. It came with certain apps pre-installed, including calendar, Safari, phone, iPod, camera, photos, mail, and notes.
iPhone iOS 2
Initial release: July 11, 2008
iPhone OS 2.0 came a year after the initial phone launch. This release coincided with the 3G release. The biggest change was the third-party app support in the App Store. At launch, hundreds of apps were available. Additionally, Maps included walking directions and public transit information.
Apple iOS 3
Initial release: June 17, 2009
The release of iOS 3 coincided with the iPhone 3GS release. The key features added were spotlight search, the capacity to record with the camera app, and spotlight search. Another notable fact about iOS 3 is that it supported the first-generation iPad, launched in 2010.
iPhone iOS 4
Initial release: June 22, 2010
iOS 4 is when we start to see much of the modern system take shape. Widely used features today debuted in the iOS 4 version updates, including iBooks, AirPlay, FaceTime, AirPrint, folders to organise apps, and multi-tasking. It was the first iOS that dropped support for older devices.
Apple iOS 5
Initial release: 12th of October, 2011
iOS 5 introduced us to the cloud! You can’t live without it today, but it only came into existence a decade ago. It meant you could sync up wirelessly as long as you were connected to WiFi, completely changing the iTunes game. IOS 5 also introduced iMessage and the notification centre.
iPhone iOS 6
Initial release: September 19, 2012
Of all the latest iOS versions, iOS 6 was perhaps the most controversial. Siri was the biggest feature introduced, and it was revolutionary. Before this point, it was Google that supplied YouTube and Maps as pre-installed apps for the iPhone. However, due to Google being smartphone competition, Apple chose to introduce its own version of Maps. Unfortunately, it was bug-heavy and poorly received. Wallet (known as Passbook then) and Do Not Disturb were also new additions.
Apple iOS 7
Initial release: September 18, 2013
After the iOS 6 debacle, similar resistance met the release of iOS 7. This time, it was because there was too much change. It introduced thinner, smaller fonts that users found challenging to read, and animations triggered motion sickness. Apple tinkered with it until improvements placated users, and they adapted to the other changes. New features included touch ID, CarPlay, Activation Lock, Control Centre, and AirDrop.
iPhone iOS 8
Initial release: September 17, 2014
In addition to general improvements, iOS 8 delivered several new features. These included Apple Pay, HomeKit, Family Sharing, Apple Music, Handoff, Third-party keyboards, and iCloud Drive.
Apple iOS 9
Initial release: September 16, 2015
While new features were at a minimum (Low power mode and Night Shift), iOS 9 solidified the foundation of their operating system. Improvements were made to the stability and responsiveness of older devices while laying the groundwork for the major improvements delivered in the next iterations.
iPhone iOS 10
Initial release: September 13, 2016
The biggest theme for iOS 10 was customisation and compatibility. Apps could communicate with each other, which allowed one app to utilise the features of another without opening two apps. There were iMessage apps built-in and then the customisation aspect. Not only could users use effects and animations in messages, but they could also delete pre-installed or built-in apps to create space in storage.
Apple iOS 11
Initial release: September 19, 2017
It was in iOS 11 that the focus shifted to the iPad from the iPhone. While there were iPhone improvements, the biggest changes were made to the iPad. All to make the iPad a legitimate replacement for laptops. Aside from the major iPad improvements, the iPhone received AirPlay 2 and Augmented Reality.
iPhone iOS 12
Initial release: September 17, 2018
There was nothing revolutionary in this update, but it did refine the commonly used features people depended on. IOS 12 welcomed Siri improvements, enhanced Augmented Reality, Screen Time, Grouped Notifications, and Memoji.
Apple iOS 13
Initial release: September 19, 2019
This was the point at which iOS became separate from iPad OS. A fact which made users of both gadgets exceedingly happy. New features included new security and privacy options, system-wide dark mode, portrait lighting, a change in sign in options, improved Siri’s voice, upgraded stock apps, and Apple Maps own version of Street View.
iPhone iOS 14
Initial release: September 17, 2020
There were no massive updates in iOS 14; it was more about making tweaks to improve the overall experience for users. The most notable change was allowing users to customise widgets and improve privacy. There was also the addition of App Library and Smart Stacks, which would provide you with different widgets at different times to reflect your habits. It was also the first time users could set a third-party app as their default for browser and email. There were also improvements, such as mentions and threaded replies in group iMessages and design changes to allow multi-tasking during FaceTimes.
iOS 15 Update
Initial release: September 20, 2021
iOS 15 is the business. It might not have offered any revolutionary updates, but it delivered a collection of improvements. There are certain aspects of the operating system Apple has been tinkering with over several releases, and those come to fruition here. Siri has been improved, as has the camera app. Now it’s easier to increase privacy, security and block ad tracking.
New features include SharePlay, Portrait Mode, Spatial Audio, Cross-Platform support, and enhanced mic mode for FaceTime. These are particularly useful for remote working. The photo app also added improvements with live text and visual search. New privacy features include app privacy reports, so you know exactly what information each app accesses and how often, mail privacy protection, and on-device Siri that prevents recordings from being stored in the cloud.
At times, it may feel as though iPhones have always been around. Considering they only came into existence fourteen years ago, the technology is advancing at a rapid rate. Even the most disappointing iOS releases have some incredible features that we think of as standard today. A review of iOS history highlights just how lucky we are to live in these modern times.