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What is iOS?

What exactly is iOS, and what makes it different from Android? In this article we answer all your questions so that you know the basics about Apple’s smartphone software.

iOS is just a three-letter acronym, but it’s still very significant when it comes to using your smartphone. iOS is the name given to Apple’s proprietary smartphone operating system, and it is present on every iPhone.

An operating system is the overarching software that runs a device, managing all of its memory and processes. Essentially it makes the hardware usable, you couldn’t do anything with it if it hadn’t got an operating system.

Only Apple devices can use iOS software. Its main rival is Android, a mobile operating system created by Google, which is used by dozens of different tech manufacturers as it is open source.

Both these software options have their own sets of fans; on the one hand, iOS offers a great deal of compatibility with other Apple devices, such as iPads, AirPods, MacBooks, and more. It is updated for longer than the vast majority of Android devices and some would argue that its privacy and security settings are superior too.

On the other hand, some people prefer customisation options offered by Android, along with its low starting price point by comparison to expensive Apple devices.

When did iOS first come out?

The first iteration of iOS was unveiled in January 2007, along with the first-generation iPhone. Since then it has undergone significant changes to say the least (the App Store didn’t even arrive on the platform until July 2008), but it is still going strong after fifteen years.

iOS 15 highlights
All the iOS 15 updates

What is the latest version of iOS?

iOS 15 is the latest version of this software, and it was released in September 2021 along with the launch of the iPhone 13, although all Apple’s smartphones right back to the iPhone 6s are eligible for this update. This particular version was not a major overhaul, but it did introduce updates to the FaceTime video calling app, the Safari web browsing app, and changes to how notifications are displayed.

How do I get the latest version of iOS?

It’s important to make sure that your software is as up-to-date as possible, because updates bring with them security upgrades to protect your devices against potential threats. For a step by step guide check out our How to update your iPhone feature. But the cliff notes on how to do it are:

  1. Open your iPhone and go into settings
  2. Click General
  3. Tap Software Updates
  4. Check to see if any are available, there should be one called iOS 14.8
  5. Download the update and install it

When is the next version of iOS coming out?

The next version of iOS will almost certainly be launched alongside the upcoming iPhone 14, which we expect to see in September. However, we’ll probably get our first preview of the software at Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC 2022), which we expect to take place in June this year.

What about iPads?

Previously, iPads also ran on iOS software. However, in 2019 iPadOS was released as a separate operating system dedicated to tablets. While it is very similar to its smartphone counterpart, this software has some extra tweaks that make it optimised for tablet use, especially relating to multitasking and keyboard use.

What does iOS stand for?

iOS is thought to stand for “iPhone Operating System”, which certainly makes sense. As for the “i” that prefixes many other Apple products, including the iMac and iPod, apparently Steve Jobs stated that it stands for “internet, individual, instruct, inform, inspire.” Hmm.

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