What Is Apple iOS?

Apple (AAPL) iOS is the operating system for iPhone, iPad, and other Apple mobile devices. Based on Mac OS, the operating system which runs Apple’s line of Mac desktop and laptop computers, Apple iOS is designed for easy, seamless networking between a range of Apple products.

Key Takeaways

  • Apple iOS is the proprietary operating system used on Apple mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad.
  • iOS ranks as the second-most used mobile device operating platform in the world, behind Android.
  • iOS features an intuitive user-centered design and the ability for app developers to create apps, distributed through the iOS app store.

Understanding Apple iOS

Apple iOS is the second-most popular mobile operating system. As of June 2021, Apple iOS held a 26.3 percent share of the mobile phone market, second only to Android which held a 73.3 percent market share.

The first version of iOS was released in June 2007, when the iPhone debuted on the market. iOS, an acronym for iPhone Operating System, is a Unix-derived operating system powering all of Apple’s mobile devices. The name iOS was not officially applied to the software until 2008, when Apple released the iPhone software development kit (SDK), enabling any app makers to create applications for the platform.

The popularity of the iPhone is often attributed to the user-centric design and effectiveness of iOS. Nearly 218 million iPhones were sold by the end of 2018, making the device the single most successful product ever released into the market. Some estimates show that since their launch in 2007, iOS products have been responsible for more than $1 trillion in revenue for Apple. 

Highlights from the History of Apple iOS

Over the years, iOS has enabled many advancements which have rippled throughout the culture, impacting those who own iPhones as well as those who do not.

The first version of iOS introduced the culture to the touch-screen smartphone, a significant cultural shift away from flip phones and Blackberry-style devices. The iPhone combined many functions within a single device, including a camera, internet browser, and media player alongside the phone and messaging, and the world would never be the same.

Apple finally gave iOS its name in the second version, when the company also released its SDK to developers looking to build apps for the platform. FaceTime, Apple’s video chat software, was released in iOS 4. Version 4 also introduced multitasking capabilities in iOS devices.

iOS 5 delivered Siri, a voice-enabled personal assistant, as well as iMessage as a central messaging system and the iOS Notification Center. Subsequent releases of the software added Airdrop, Touch ID, Apple Pay, and the much-derided Apple Maps mapping system as well as myriad improvements on functionality and design.

Apple released its iOS version 12 on June 4, 2018, delivering myriad improvements to Siri, FaceTime, and other key iOS features.