iOS, the mobile operating system that powers Apple’s iDevices including the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Apple TV, has evolved greatly since its introduction in the first-generation iPhone back in 2007. It has even undergone a name change from iPhone OS to iOS in 2010 after Apple began releasing other iDevices such as the iPad.
The difference between iOS and other mainstream mobile operating systems such as Google’s Android is that, like with Mac OS X, Apple does not allow for iOS to run on any non-Apple hardware.
iOS started off as the very basic iPhone OS in June of 2007 when the first iPhone was released. There was no App Store, multitasking, or even copy and paste as we know them today. Arguably, what sparked Apple’s implementation of the App Store into iPhone OS 2.0 was the jailbreak of version 1.0 that allowed unsigned code, and therefore unofficial third-party apps, to run on the iPhone.
Apple has been playing “cat and mouse” with the jailbreak community ever since then, attempting to compete with the unofficial third-party app market using its own official App Store. The only problem with this is approach is Apple’s strictness in approving apps into the App Store, forcing developers who get rejected to either discard their work or take it to an app market for jailbreakers, most commonly Cydia and formerly Installer.
iPhone OS 3.0 brought with it some significant new features such as MMS support and push notifications, and iPhone OS officially became known as iOS around the time that 4.0 came around. iOS 4 was the first version to drop support for older iDevices, and the first major update that came free for iPod touch owners.
It was at this point that Apple began to show its intentions for older hardware in terms of software updates, as even iDevices that were not dropped at this point, the iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2G, were limited in the iOS 4 features that they gained. Multitasking, background wallpapers, and support for Bluetooth keyboards are among the things that Apple decided not to grant these older (but not yet unsupported) iDevices.
As new iOS versions continue to be released past the current iOS 5 (which brought with it significant new features such as iMessage, Notification Center, and Siri on the newest iPhone 4S), more and more older iDevices will likely continue to be discontinued, with the iPhone 3GS, iPod touch 3G and 1st generation iPad first in line.
Only time will tell what route Apple plans to take iOS on in the near future and what features the company plans to add to it in the next release, although it is highly likely that they will continue to take ideas from consumer feedback and the jailbreak community as they have in the past.