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When the iPhone 3G came out in 2008 iOS 2.0 came along with it, and it brought big changes. iOS 2.0 gave us the App Store, 3G data, GPS, and support for Microsoft Exchange.
Incremental updates of iOS 2 also brought Google Street View and genius music playlists.
Remember a time before you could copy and paste text on the iPhone? That capability didn’t make its way to the device until iOS 3.0 rolled out, and I for one can’t imagine life without it now.
3.0 also introduced in-app purchases, iTunes movie rentals, the landscape keyboard, and voice controls. The rest of the iOS 3 updates were fairly minor, adding features like premade ringtones and reception improvements.
Another biggie came with iOS 4.0: Multitasking. June 2010 was also the first appearance of app folders, the unified email inbox, iBooks, and iAd. 4.0 spelled the end of life for the original iPhone, too: It didn’t receive any updates after this point.
iOS 4’s other updates included AirPrint, AirPlay, HDR photo support, Find My iPhone, and support for the iPhone on Verizon.
iOS 5.0 came out along with the iPhone 4S, and Siri came along with it. iOS 5.0 was a pretty major update to Apple’s mobile OS. Other features included Twitter integration, iMessage, iCloud and iTunes match support, the Newsstand app, the camera shortcut on the launch screen, and vast improvements to the Notification Center (including being able to see it from the lock screen).
iOS 5.0 brought a lot of changes, but the rest of its life was fairly dull in terms of upgrades.
Apple is no stranger to tech controversies, and the big one in iOS 6.0 was Apple Maps. It drove people crazy instead of getting them to their destinations and caused a big to-do among iPhone users and perennial Apple critics.
There were some good points to iOS 6.0, though: Facetime calls could be made over a cellular connection, Facebook integration showed up, we got the Passbook app, and Siri was updated to make her a bit more practical to use.
iOS 6.1 provided iPhone owners with a nice big “report a problem” button in Apple Maps, and we also got lockscreen music controls.
iOS 7.0 was easily the biggest update in iOS history. The look of icons, apps, and interfaces changed dramatically as Apple “flattened” them into what we still have now.
7.0 also came with the Control Center, AirDrop, background app updates, a redesigned Camera app, iTunes radio, and the ability to get to Spotlight with a downward swipe.
Apple wasn’t done with the big changes in iOS 7 though. 7.1 came with the ability to hold the home button down for Siri and release it to end listening and the HDR auto option for the camera.
iOS 8.0 came to us in September 2014–less than three years ago–and it brought more features to iOS that iPhone users didn’t know they couldn’t live without. Healthkit, Homekit, AirDrop between iOS and macOS devices, Wi-Fi calling, Notification Center widgets, third-party keyboards: All those things were nonexistent before iOS 8.0.
8.0 was with us for a year, and in that time it brought many other iOS firsts: Apple Pay, Apple Watch support, the iCloud Photo Library, and Apple Music were all features that came with updates to iOS 8.
The biggest feature in iOS 9.0 was support for 3D touch that came with the iPhone 6S, but it wasn’t the only addition. iOS 9.0 also came with live photos, public transit directions in Maps, a low power mode for extending battery life, a new News app, the iCloud Drive app, and an overhaul of the Notes app.
iOS 9.0 continued to evolve over the course of several updates, which brought us Night Shift, improvements to 3D touch, the ability to protect notes with Touch ID, and a whole slew of new emojis.
iOS 10 came with a lot of little changes users may not notice at first, but they’re welcomed changes from a usability standpoint.
iOS 10 is the first to give us a chance to delete basic Apple apps, the lock screen has been overhauled with new swipe shortcuts, iMessage and the Messaging app got some graphical improvements and effects, the Maps app was transformed, and a whole bunch of other improvements came with it as well.
The latest release of iOS is version 10.2, which brought the TV app, more emoji improvements, and changes to numerous other apps.
A lot changed in this version of iOS. These are some of the standout features:
- The App Store is getting an overhaul.
- New smart select features will make text selection and copying a thing of the past.
- Siri is getting lots of contextual features and will have more robust machine learning capabilities.
- Apple Pay is coming to Messaging, and peer-to-peer payments are being added as well.
- The Control Center is getting an overhaul.
- Maps is adding support for malls and airports.
- A new driving do not disturb mode is being added.
- New photo editing APIs and support for HEIF and HEVC is being added.
- A new AR kit will allow developers do to lots more with augmented reality.
Big changes came to the iPhone with iOS 12. The developer beta launched June 4, and two versions of the the open beta launched on June 25 and July 5, respectively, giving people a taste of the new features. The full iOS 12 officially launched September 17. Here are some of the most talked about updates:
- Memoji (iPhone X only): Memoji is a customizable avatar created to look just like you, which you can use in your camera like a filter. Just like last year’s Animoji characters, except now you can create one for yourself.
- Screen time: A new chart in Settings shows how long you’ve been on each app, how many times the phone has been picked up, and how many notifications you receive.
- Notifications: iOS 12 makes notifications way less annoying, organizing them much cleaner on the home screen, and eliminating unnecessary alerts.
- Built-in tape measure: Using augmented reality, the iOS 12 Measure app is able to measure real-world objects. No ruler or tape measure needed.
- Siri: iOS 12 brings Siri Shortcuts, which allows users to create custom commands, such as sending a text or being directed to your favorite store.
Apple introduced it’s latest iOS 13 operating system at the June 2019 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), with the beta version released on June 3. The public release of iOS 13 is expected in Fall 2019.
Here are some of the most exciting features:
- A system-wide dark mode, available for iPhone and iPad
- Newly configured Reminders app
- Updated Maps with a Look Around feature, showing a 3D street view
- Swipe to type keyboard
- Sign into apps with Apple ID
- Memoji stickers
Click here to join the Apple Public Beta Program.
- How to install the iOS 13 beta on your Apple device (TechRepublic)
- WWDC: iOS 13, iPadOS, Mac Pro, and more of what businesses need to know (TechRepublic)
- Apple WWDC 2019 keynote: Scenes and surprises (ZDNet)
- Apple products you should and shouldn’t buy: June 2019 edition (ZDNet)
- iOS 13 public beta: The best things to try now that it’s live (CNET)
- 5 reasons you should not install the iPadOS or iOS 13 beta yet (CNET)
- iOS 13: New features let you install, manage and download fonts from the App Store (CNET)
Apple iOS 14
Released in September 2020, iOS 14 is the latest version of Apple’s iPhone operating system, and yet again it has come with major changes.
Widgets can now be added to iPhone home screens. This feature has been a standard part of Android for some time, and now iOS users can finally customize their home screens to provide key information at a glance.
Swiping left from the home screen opens the new App Library, which automatically sorts apps by category, frequency of use, and newness. Newly installed apps are now placed in the library by default, and will no longer clutter up home screens.
Activating Siri will no longer dim the entire screen. Instead, what’s on the screen stays put, and Siri now looks more like a notification window. The same goes for incoming calls.
A new app feature called App Clips allows developers to build small parts of an app that are triggered by scanning an Apple proprietary QR code. When triggered, App Clips can be used to place a drink order, buy parking, make a reservation, and other quick tasks that shouldn’t require a full app launch.
Favorite users can now be pinned in the Messages app.
New privacy features will tell you more about what an app requests and stores about you, as well as how it may be tracking you.
iOS 14 is available now as an over-the-air update for iPhone 6s and newer.
Editor’s note: Brandon Vigliarolo and Macy Bayern contributed to this gallery.