What is Apple iOS?

A guide to Apple's iOS mobile operating system

iOS is Apple's mobile operating system (otherwise known as OS). The iOS software powers Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod touch range of products. It was introduced in 2007 when Apple launched the first iPhone and was formerly called iPhone OS.

The user interface of iOS centres around a large touchscreen where simple gestures are used to interact. These including swiping your finger across the screen to move to the next page, pinching two fingers on the screen to zoom in and out, and swiping your finger up and down to scroll through a list, for example.

What is an iPhone?

An iPhone is a smartphone sold by Apple and powered by the company's iOS software platform. Now in its fifth generation, the iPhone was first introduced in 2007. It is one of the most popular smartphones in the world. Although it was not the first touchscreen smartphone to launch, the iPhone is widely credited with bringing effective touchscreen technology to the mass market.

Apple has released an iPhone every year since 2007. The company began with the original iPhone in 2007, which only launched in the US. The iPhone 3G was launched in various other worldwide markets a year later, while the iPhone 3GS (2009), the iPhone 4 (2010) and the current iPhone 4S (2011) are other iPhone models Apple has released since then.

What is included on an iPhone?

Every iPhone comes pre-loaded with a range of apps and services. These include a mobile Web browser (Safari), an e-mail client, a music and video player and access to the iTunes App Store. iPhone devices also offer access to Google's YouTube and Maps services.

iPhone devices also come with a relatively new cloud storage service called iCloud. This service automatically stores content like music, apps, photos, e-mail, contacts and calendars from multiple Apple devices, enabling the content to be accessed from multiple devices simultaneously. iCloud initially comes with 5GB of free storage, with more space available at an extra cost.

What is the App Store?

The App Store is Apple's application distribution platform for iOS. The App Store is pre-loaded on every iPhone and both free and paid apps are available. Paid apps can be purchased with a credit card. Examples of apps can include anything from games to more business orientated functions like document editors.

Unlike the more flexible Android platform, developers who create applications for iOS devices have less flexibility and must adhere to strict guidelines. Every iOS application goes through an approval process before it is made available for distribution through the App Store. For paid applications, 30 per cent of revenue goes to Apple and 70 per cent goes to the app developer.

iPhone software updates

Apple constantly improves the iOS platform in what is called a software update. On average, the iOS platform is updated once a year, though there are often additional, minor updates throughout the year. Each software update provides new features, enhancements and improvements.

These updates are free and more recently have been provided over-the-air -- this means the software is updated wirelessly, so you don't need to plug your phone into your computer to receive the update. Because Apple controls both the hardware and the software of iPhone devices, iPhone software updates are sent out simultaneously to all phones, regardless of your mobile carrier.

The latest version of Apple's iOS software is iOS 5. New features include the iCloud service, a notification centre, and an iMessage application that allows iPhone users to communicate for free using data rather than traditional, carrier SMS services.

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World

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