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iOS (formerly iPhone OS) is a mobile operating system created and developed by Apple Inc. exclusively for its hardware. It is the operating system that powers many of the company's mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPod Touch; the term also included the versions running on iPads until the name iPadOS was introduced with version 13 in 2019. It is the world's second-most widely installed mobile operating system, after Android. It is the basis for three other operating systems made by Apple: iPadOS, tvOS, and watchOS. It is proprietary software, although some parts of it are open source under the Apple Public Source License and other licenses.

Unveiled in 2007 for the first-generation iPhone, iOS has since been extended to support other Apple devices such as the iPod Touch (September 2007) and the iPad (introduced: January 2010; availability: April 2010.) As of March 2018, Apple's App Store contains more than 2.1 million iOS applications, 1 million of which are native for iPads. These mobile apps have collectively been downloaded more than 130 billion times.

Major versions of iOS are released annually. The current stable version, iOS 14, was released to the public on September 16, 2020. It brought many user interface changes, including the ability to place widgets on the home screen, a compact UI for both Siri and phone calls, and the ability to change both the default web browser and email apps. No devices were dropped, as all devices supported by iOS 13 are able to run iOS 14, as well as the beta version of iOS 15.

In 2005, when Steve Jobs began planning the iPhone, he had a choice to either "shrink the Mac, which would be an epic feat of engineering, or enlarge the iPod". Jobs favored the former approach but pitted the Macintosh and iPod teams, led by Scott Forstall and Tony Fadell, respectively, against each other in an internal competition, with Forstall winning by creating the iPhone OS. The decision enabled the success of the iPhone as a platform for third-party developers: using a well-known desktop operating system as its basis allowed the many third-party Mac developers to write software for the iPhone with minimal retraining. Forstall was also responsible for creating a software development kit for programmers to build iPhone apps, as well as an App Store within iTunes.

The operating system was unveiled with the iPhone at the Macworld Conference & Expo on January 9, 2007, and released in June of that year. At the time of its unveiling in January, Steve Jobs claimed: "iPhone runs OS X" and runs "desktop class applications", but at the time of the iPhone's release, the operating system was renamed "iPhone OS". Initially, third-party native applications were not supported. Jobs' reasoning was that developers could build web applications through the Safari web browser that "would behave like native apps on the iPhone". In October 2007, Apple announced that a native Software Development Kit (SDK) was under development and that they planned to put it "in developers' hands in February". On March 6, 2008, Apple held a press event, announcing the iPhone SDK.

The iOS App Store was opened on July 10, 2008, with an initial 500 applications available. This quickly grew to 3,000 in September 2008, 15,000 in January 2009, 50,000 in June 2009, 100,000 in November 2009, 250,000 in August 2010, 650,000 in July 2012, 1 million in October 2013, 2 million in June 2016, and 2.2 million in January 2017. As of March 2016, 1 million apps are natively compatible with the iPad tablet computer. These apps have collectively been downloaded more than 130 billion times. App intelligence firm Sensor Tower has estimated that the App Store will reach 5 million apps by the year 2020.

In September 2007, Apple announced the iPod Touch, a redesigned iPod based on the iPhone form factor. On January 27, 2010, Apple introduced their much-anticipated media tablet, the iPad, featuring a larger screen than the iPhone and iPod Touch, and designed for web browsing, media consumption, and reading, and offering multi-touch interaction with multimedia formats including newspapers, e-books, photos, videos, music, word processing documents, video games, and most existing iPhone apps using a 9.7-inch screen. It also includes a mobile version of Safari for web browsing, as well as access to the App Store, iTunes Library, iBookstore, Contacts, and Notes. Content is downloadable via Wi-Fi and optional 3G service or synced through the user's computer. AT&T was initially the sole U.S. provider of 3G wireless access for the iPad.

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