The History and Evolution of iOS Design

While introducing iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs remarked about the phones falling into two different categories. He mentioned that mobile phones back then fell into the two categories; on one hand we users were availed with the powerful yet complicated to use operating systems and on the contrary there were phones, easy to use, but came with limited features.

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ios development history

However, then the iPhone from Apple set a benchmark by providing easy to use the system with some of the spectacular features as well. However, when compared to its competitors, iPhone was way behind considering Windows, Palm OS, BlackBerry and Symbian were quiet established by then.

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Apple’s iOS which launched as the iPhone OS has established itself successfully in the market of mobile technology. With more than eight years since its inception, Apple has significantly improved the OS design and performance in reaching to iOS 9.

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The design changes were quite significant even regarding the mobile applications of iOS. Moreover, while today we wait for the iOS 10 to launch in the next month, here’s a quick recap of the history and evolution of iOS app design.

iOS 1

iPhone’s iOS 1 was unveiled at the Macworld event held in 2007. One of the interesting thing to notice over here was the absence of App Store and nor you could multitask between the built-in apps.

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However, the plus point of iOS1 was its device compatibility regarding the capacitive touch screen. Apple was successful in leveraging on the wide range of customer base using iTunes for iPods. Though, no apps, iPhone was also widely accepted by the majority of the iPod users with the thought of widescreen touch-enabled iPod.


In 2008 the App was launched integrated with the iOS 2.0 such that users can browse and download apps directly on the device. One of the most revolutionary thought which played an indispensable role in the success of iOS 2.0 was again leveraging on the iPod users. Apple allowed user integration between the iTunes account to the App store, making a credit-card purchase of apps easy for the existing iTunes users.

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Also, one can clearly notice a stark difference in Google Maps for iOS 2. The native Google Maps app was updated with the street view, walking and public transport directions.

Furthermore, making things easy for multi-tasking, Apple came up with the multi-page views for the new apps. To make space for all the new apps, Apple negated the single-screen confined mobile apps screen and introduced multiple pages the mobile apps with the ability to scan through the several pages in a single app.

iOS 3

It was in 2009 when Apple came out with the third installment of its iPhone iOS. The Apple’s work on filling the gap of past two OS was reflected in the iOS 3. It was a massive makeover from the Apple regarding the app functionality and updates reworking on every possible corner of the operating system.

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One of the most revolutionary things that happened with the iOS 3 was copy pasting option between the two apps. Until the launch of iOS 3, copying and pasting of the text was not possible. However, with the advent of iOS 3, the copy and paste feature took a tall and this move made the iOS users adore their OS even more.

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One more feature which marked the success of app design was the implementation of spotlight search which enables users to search for anything throughout the system. This eased up half of the task for users by letting them explore anything on their phones with just one touch.

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Other features include 3rd party apps’ push notifications which were left to integrate with the iOS 2. Push notifications served as the stopgap for many of the functions and thereby easing up the undivided user experience along with making multitasking easy for the users.

iOS 4

Though iPhone made significant changes in the iOS 3, multitasking was still not an easy job till the launch of iOS 4 in 2010. Apple successfully implemented multitasking for the users with iOS 4 that enabled users to use more than one app at the same time running parallel on the system. Moreover, iOS app development was speeding up with the launch of iOS 4 because:

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-It enables the local notifications for the apps to give pop-up up alerts within the predetermined time.

-The feature of task completion made it possible for the iOS apps to wrap up an upload or another limited work in the background.

-Playing the music app in the background was a big plus point for the music lover which enhanced the multi-tasking experience.

-Location retention in the navigation-enabled apps for easy tracking of the phone’s position even if users restarts the app.

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Also, what challenged few of the iPhone app development companies was the innovation of Facetime and Retina display in the iPhone iOS 3. This opened the floodgates for the app developers to come up with apps that must look good in the high resolution.

iOS 5

One of the most significant updates that took place in 2011 with the iOS 5 was SIRI. It changed the way people using their iPhones. SIRI came up as a Voice Control integrated virtual assistant who can do any task for you – ranging from reminding you of a meeting to read the latest news for you.

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Another improvement came in the form of notification style, replacing the pop-up window to new slide bar which pops up above on the screen. On the mobile app front, IOS 5 users witnessed some of the remarkable updates in their reminder’s app, message apps, Newsstand, and Twitter integration.

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Also, with iOS 5, came some of the drastic improvements with the notifications which enabled users to swipe the app icon swiftly to open the app, and a feature to open the camera app from the lock screen itself.

iOS 6

The remarkable thing about the iOS 6 was the integration of Apple Maps with the integrated voice assistance for the routes. Regarding the mobile apps, IOS 6 introduced users with the Passbook – A digital wallet for the mobile payment.

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The native camera app was enhanced with the features like Panorama photos and Facebook integration that allow users to update status with a notification button. However, iOS 6 was all about updates regarding all that was lacking in the previous versions of iOS.

iOS 7

iOS 7 was reflected the change in user interface. There was a drastic makeover in the mobile apps as well where Apple polished the already existing apps by applying few new paints over it to bring them in the alignment with the newly designed interface.

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Apple shifted from skeuomorphism-based design to more of a flat design and therefore even the mobile app were kept devoid of the texture where most of the apps remained white, with a simple one-color flourish. Also, the swiping gesture was incorporated in the iOS7 which enables users to make gesture-based navigation pretty easy.

Drawing the inspiration from the successful iOS weather app from Yahoo, this version of Weather app in iOS 7 came with the animated backgrounds which reflect the change in weather conditions with a change in background images based on the time and current weather conditions.

iOS 8

Drawing the best out of iOS 7, the next release which came up in Fall 2014 was mainly about refinement of what is existing. However, one the fantastic feature which came with the iOS 8 was ‘Continuity’. This feature helped multiple iOS users to blend their work using a single device. Incorporating the elements to connect the users with Mac OS X 10 Yosemite to give a whole new level of interactivity by syncing their various Apple devices like iPhone, iPad, and a Mac computer.

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The significant contribution in the app industry from iOS 8 was the support it gave to the third partykeyboards and ventured into the development of health and fitness app by integrating Apple Healthkit for the health apps to flourish in the world of smartphones.

iOS 9

If one wants to sum up the iOS 9 update then it is safe to say that it was all about boosting up the user’s application efficiency. The updates brought enhancement in the SIRI’s AI along with the better search tools which enhanced user’s experience as a whole. Also, for the people juggling with the multiple apps, tasks became comfortable at it enable them to use multitask using the split-screen.

Affecting the app design was trimming down of the app sizes by allowing users to save space on mobile apps, allowing larger space for personal data. iOS 9 is a delight for the news lovers as it successfully integrates various news sources under one roof with a Newsstand app.

The release of brand-new iOS 10 is scheduled for the next month at WWDC 2016, and a lot more is likely to come from Apple with its new iOS. Plenty of changes are anticipated in the app design where rumors say that most of the apps will be possible to access without unlocking the handset by just using the lock screen widget. The truth, only time shall reveal, but there is no denial of the fact that iOS has come a long way in past one decade and revolutionize the way people use mobile phones from and the way it is effectively getting resourceful.

Shahid Abbasi is a marketing consultant with Peerbits, one of the top mobile app development companies, specialized in iOS and Android apps. Shahid likes to keep busy with his team, and to provide top-notch mobility solutions for enterprises and startups.