This is a complete guide about Apple iOS mobile operating system version history.
In 2007, Apple revolutionized the mobile world by introducing the iPhone. At the time, the Blackberry ruled the land of somewhat “primitive” smartphone devices. It never quite took off like its designers hoped, likely due to the cumbersome, compact keyboard that took up almost two-thirds of the face of the device.
The iPhone, however, came roaring into the market with a touchscreen that would permit users to operate all of the phone’s capabilities right from the screen rather than a tiny button keyboard.
Apple needed an operating system capable of supporting its new multi-touch interface to power the breakthrough device. Steve Jobs insisted on building the operating system from the ground up rather than relying on third-party technology. And what Apple put together would become the foundation that Apple would build upon for nearly a decade in a half.
iOS Version History
The operating system was dubbed iOS. And since 2007, it’s evolved into a powerhouse of a system, as Apple continuously stepped up the game releasing 12 subsequent releases (so far), continuously improving the interface and the phone’s vast set of features and capabilities.
Let’s take a trip back to 2007, when it all started, and take a journey through time with stops along the way in every version of iOS.
iPhone OS 1, June 2007
The genesis of iOS first surfaced in supporting the iPhone on June 29th, 2007. It did not have a moniker or a version at the launch time. The numbering schedule wouldn’t come into the picture until iOS 4.
Though primitive compared to today’s iOS versions, back in 2007, this operating system was a groundbreaking achievement of technology whose impact on what followed cannot be overstated.
It made significant progress in common support areas for the multitouch screen, iTunes integration, mobile browsing with the Safari browser, and visual voicemail.
The iPhone OS 1 contained several apps preinstalled on the phone, including a camera, mail, phone, photos, calendar, notes, the Safari web browser, and an iPod feature (which would later become video and music apps).
Because Steve Jobs insisted on having the iPhone operating system be homegrown, what this early version of iOS did lack was the use and support of third-party applications.
Several versions followed iPhone OS 1’s initial release, with version 1.1.5 being its last in July of 2008. As Apple moved on to new iOS systems, the support for the original iPhone OS was halted in 2010.
iPhone OS 2, July 2008
In 2007 and through 2008, the iPhone took off, becoming an unprecedented success, being adopted by the masses ravenous for this new, futuristic technology.
In January 2009, Apple unveiled the iPhone 3G, which coincided with iOS 2.0 (though, at the time, it was known as the iPhone OS 2.0).
The most significant of the changes that the iPhone OS 2 brought along with it was undoubtedly the introduction of the App Store. Now Apple was ready to support hundreds of third-party apps, with roughly 500 being included in the app store at launch time.
The second iPhone OS version experienced five updates, adding hundreds of improvements and features like walking and public transportation directions in its Maps app. Additionally, iPhone OS 2 introduced podcasting support.
Version 2.2.1 concluded the version releases for the iPhone OS 2, with the support for the system wrapping up in 2011.
iPhone OS 3, June 2009
When the iPhone 3GS made its debut in August of 2010, it came loaded with the next phase of iPhone OS systems. iPhone OS 3 added the ability of the camera app to record videos and supported new features like a Messages app with MMS support, copy & paste feature, and the Spotlight search.
This was also the first operating system that supported the iPad, the first generation of which was introduced in 2010 and was preloaded with version 3.2 of the iPhone OS.
In August 2010, Apple released version 3.2.2, which would be the final iPhone OS 3 version until its support ended in 2012.
iOS 4, June 2010
In July 2011, what is widely considered the first early contemporary version of iOS was released. It was also the first operating system to be dubbed “iOS,” replacing the iPhone OS moniker of the prior releases.
This one came loaded with many new features, most of which are a staple of modern-day iPhones. These included iBooks, Facetime, AirPrint, AirPlay, and Personal Hotspot.
Also, it introduced the ability to organize applications into folders, creating a logical category split and allowing users quicker access to more apps from the front-page screen.
What was abandoned in this iOS 4 version was the support for the original iPhone as well as the iPod touch (1st generation) product. After releasing version 4.3.5 in July 2011, Apple ceased further enhancements of iOS 4 and wrapped up support in 2013.
iOS 5, October 2011
The first iOS version to allow for the ability to activate the iPhone wirelessly came with iOS 5 in October 2011. This was Apple’s answer to the increased demand for wirelessness and cloud computing.
This iOS also featured the ability to sync the phone with the iPhone via a Wi-Fi connection rather than a more traditional corded method.
iOS 5 was the first iOS version that could be updated over Wi-Fi without connecting your phone to a computer and syncing it with iTunes.
This iOS version also marked the debut of current mainstay features like the Notification Center and the iMessage. With this iOS, Apple abandoned support for the 2nd and 3rd generations of iPad touch, the 1st generation iPad, as well as the iPhone 3G.
After releasing version 5.1.1 in May 2012, Apple ended the support for iOS 5 in 2014.
iOS 6, September 2012
By September 2012, when iOS 6 entered the picture, the competition for Apple from Android smartphones was heating up, with Google pushing in on the Apple smartphone market.
To remain differentiated, Apple abandoned the maps feature used in the earlier iOS versions and pre-installed its own version of the Maps app. Unfortunately, the app was riddled with bugs, feature issues, and bad directions, causing a consumer backlash.
To add to the controversial iOS story, Apple CEO Tim Cook tried to get Scott Forstall, the development head for iOS, to publicly apologize for the shortcomings.
When he refused, Cook fired the man involved with the iPhone product since the beginning to make a point.
However, iOS 6 did bring about some vital features to the iPhone product, not the least of which was the introduction of Siri. It also introduced the Apple Passbook (known as Wallet) and a do-not-disturb feature.
In February 2014, the final version of the iOS 6 was released (v. 6.1.6). Support for the operating system ceased in 2015.
iOS 7, September 2013
The iOS that followed faced another type of consumer backlash. This time it was due to the numerous operational changes.
With the former head of iOS development no longer employed by Apple, the reigns were taken up by Jony Ive, Apple’s head of design.
The iOS 7 overhauled a significant part of the interface to make the iPhone product look more modern.
However, it seemed as if there were too many changes all at once for most users who liked their older iPhone models. People complained about the difficulty of reading small, thin fonts and citing motion sickness caused by the new animations.
With subsequent iOS 7 versions, many of these troublesome complaints were pacified as Apple adapted the necessary changes.
With all that, the iOS 7 would become the ground basis for the current iOS. After version 7.1.2 in June 2014, Apple moved on to stop supporting this operating system in 2016.
iOS 8, September 2014
The iOS 8 returned with a renewed focus on delivering significant new features like Apple Pay (a contactless payment method).
As part of iOS’s 8.4 updates, Apple Music was introduced, which was the company’s entry into the streaming services. Learn more about how to set up and use Apple Pay with this comprehensive guide.
Working out the problems of the last two iOSs, Apple focused on improving the iCloud platform by adding multiple cloud-based apps like iCloud Photo and Music libraries.
They also introduced iCloud Drive to compete with Dropbox. On top of that, the HomeKit, Family Sharing, Handoff, and third-party keyboards were added to the mix.
While August 2015’s 8.4.1 version was iOS’s last, Apple continues to offer support for this operating system at this time.
iOS 9, September 2015
With September 2015’s iOS 9, Apple decided to address the observations that they got too focused on developing apps and were not focused enough on improving and beefing up the operating system.
With iOS 9, they decided to do just that by making major improvements to stability, performance, speed, and responsiveness that plagued some of their older devices.
The iOS 9 was a significant building block to the two subsequent iOS releases. However, it was not completely devoid of new features.
It introduced a low-power mode battery-saving option, a blue light-emitting level for dark rooms called the Night Shift and a beta program for some early adopters.
Version 9.3.5 was the final release for this iOS in August 2016, before Apple moved to a more robust iOS 10.
iOS 10, September 2016
Apple’s iOS became known as a “walled garden.” The idea was that being inside the iOS was great, but Apple’s hard restriction to its interface for third-party apps made it a tough place to get into. In September 2016s, iOS 10 had a more focused drive toward customization and interoperability.
Certain apps could now communicate and work with one another, even utilizing another app’s features without that app being opened to do so. More apps got integrated with iMessage and Siri as well.
Users could finally delete preinstalled apps, a well-received feature by consumers. With this new iOS came the drop of support for the 5-generation iPod touch, the iPhone 4S, the 1st-generation iPad mini, as well as the iPad 2.
While Apple continues to support the iOS 10 products, the iOS 10 has not been updated since version 10.3.3, which came out in July 2017.
iOS 11, September 2017
Originally the iOS was developed with the iPhone in mind. Over time, it became the operating system for Apple’s other products like the iPod and the iPad.
Even Apple TV and the Apple Watch run on a modified version. But iOS 11 was the first time the development focus shifted to the iPad instead of the iPhone.
That is not to say that it was devoid of any new features for the iPhone, however. When it was released in September 2017, it introduced features like AirPlay 2 and became capable of implementing augmented reality.
However, the major focus was on the iPad. As many users have begun to use the iPad essentially in place of a PC, Apple felt they needed it to run with an operating system more akin to a desktop computer.
Some changes included split-screen ability, file browser apps, drag-and-drop capability, and multiple workspaces. It also supported handwriting and notation with the Apple Pencil.
iOS 11.3 was one of the many updates that brought several new features to iOS 11. As of this writing, Apple continues to support this iOS. However, they plan on dropping support for the iPhone 5 and 5C and iPad 3 and 4 models.
iOS 12, September 2018
Nothing overly dramatic changed in iOS 12 when it came out in September 2018. New features and enhancements were added, but they were not as extensive as in some of the previous iOS systems.
This iOS was focused on improving several features on iPhones and enhancing the user experience. The main improvements were to Siri, such as adding multi-step actions and Siri shortcuts.
Improved augmented reality features with ARKit 2, as well as providing monitoring features for users (especially parents) to control their devices with Screen Time.
This iOS is at version 12.3.2, released in June 2019, with Apple continuing to support the product at this time.
The idea was to focus the operating systems on performing more ideally for the iPhone. This most recent and current iteration focused on updating some of the core iPhone features.
Among the updates were improvements to using Face ID (to unlock phones) faster, quicker app launches, and a fresh face on some of the mainstay features of the iPhone, including the Safari browser, Mail, Reminders, and Notes.
This version introduced new privacy and security features, improved Siri’s voice, Sign In with Apple, the Look Around feature for Apple Maps (comparable to Google’s Street View), added Portrait Lighting options, and introduced the most notable new feature of a system spanning Dark Mode.
Dark mode changed the interface color to avoid user eye strain when using the iPhone in a dark environment.
iOS 13 was released in September 2019, unveiling the current 13.3.1 version in January 2020. The iOS also featured a support drop for the 6th Generation iPod touch, the iPhone 5S, and the iPhone 6.
Editor’s Note: This article will be regularly updated as Apple continues to release new iOS versions.