Periodically Apple will release the latest version of iOS so that you can download and install it on Apple devices like your iPhone, iPod Touch and your iPad. The latest iOS update is typically rather big news, and is covered by a number of different websites that will inform you on the more important elements of that update.
But while you might be aware that an iOS update is basically just a software update for your iOS device that improve much about the mobile operating system on that device, you might actually be curious about what exactly iOS means.
The “OS” part of the name is short for “operating system” which is a fairly common usage when naming operating systems for devices. The “i” part of the name, however, is a little more ambiguous.
While there isn’t a specific meaning for the “i”, it effectively originated to indicate the Internet-focused nature of the iMac, which was a popular desktop computer released by Apple in the early 1990s. Since then the popularity of “i” devices has exploded, and it has become a critical part of Apple’s branding.
This increase in visibility for the term has led to the “i” taking on some additional meaning such that it can effectively be used to indicate almost any relevant word that begins with the letter “i.”
iOS Additional Usage and Related Terms
The iOS term has largely become associated with the iPhone, as it is perhaps the single most popular device in the world. The App Store on the iPhone offers access to a huge variety of iOS apps, ranging from games to utilities to social media and more.
But the iPhone OS usage for iOS is its initial and primary definition. Many mobile devices now run iOS in one form or another, and the similarity of iOS’s appearance on all of those devices makes it considerably easy to move from one similar device to another.
Another aspect of having iOS on a device that you own is being aware of the version of the application that is installed on your device.
Typically Apple will release updates for the iOS version multiple times throughout the year. For example, currently I have iOS 12.1. installed on my iPhone.
The number after the period indicates an incremental version increase that fixes bugs or adds new feature from the previous version.
The number before the period is a much more important change, and you typically won’t see an increase in that number more than once per year. That usually occurs when the newest iPhone versions are released, so we would expect to see iOS version 13 release in fall of 2019. iOS version 12 was released to the general public in fall of 2018.
iOS Beta Releases
But Apple doesn’t just release a new version of iOS into the wild without any testing. In fact, there is a large population of Apple users that will download and install the “beta” versions of iOS on their devices. This gives them access to new features and changes before everyone else, but at the cost of using an operating system that might not be fully working as expected, or that may not be compatible with many of the apps that they want to use, or already have on their phone.
iOS Apps and Compatibility
This leads us to another critical aspect of iOS versions, as not every app that you want to use will be compatible with the version of iOS that you have on your device.
Whether this is due to the app simply not being supported by its developers anymore, or a new version of iOS not being compatible with a specific device, it is a real problem that can present itself to both individuals that are using the latest iPhone model and those using a model that is several years old and no longer eligible for iOS updates.
If you have ever used Windows computers in the past and lived through several versions of those, then you may already be familiar with the problems that OS version incompatibilities can present with legacy programs and Windows versions that Microsoft eventually choose not to support anymore. It’s an unfortunate problem caused by technological improvements, but the effect of this incompatibility is generally overshadowed by the increase in features and functionality that is offered as new OS versions are released.
How to View the iOS Version on an iPhone
Now that you have a better understanding of what iOS means and why it’s important information to know in relation to your iOS devices, you ight be wondering where you can find this information.
Luckily you can see your iOS device version on your iPhone by navigating to Settings > General > About. The iOS version os then shown to the right of Version.
If you are ever running through a troubleshooting guide or trying to get tech support from someone either on your computer or over the phone, then this information can be vastly important in enabling them to help you faster and more effectively.
How Do I Change My iOS Version?
You can switch to a different version of iOS by downloading and installing iOS updates as tey become available. You will typically receive notification about these updates when you see a red circle with the number 1 on your iPhone’s Settings app.
By tapping on that Settings app the first time you see this number you will be taken directly to the Software Update menu for your device. There you will see a description of the iOS version update that is available, and you can elect whether or not you would like to download and install it.
Newer versions of iOS are able to install these updates automatically during the night, thereby minimizing the amount of downtime that you will experience while this update occurs. Some iOS updates can be very extensive and take up to an hour, or even longer, to complete the installation.
This leads to another important aspect of iOS updating to consider; you are going to need some storage space available on your iPhone when you want to update. Some iOS updates can be several GB in size. This can present a problem for iPhone owners that are always running out of space, making an iOS update a difficult prospect. Luckily you can also install an iOS update through the iTunes application on your Mac or PC computer, thereby providing a useful alternative to those whose iPhones lack the storage capacity to complete the update over the air.
Note that you aren’t able to go back to previous versions of iOS. Once you have upgraded to another version, you are only able to go forward with future releases. This leads many iPhone users (such as myself) to wait a little while after a new version of iOS is released so that we can see if there are any unexpected problems or incompatibilities with important apps and features that we need for our personal or professional iPhone usage.
How to Free Up Space on an iPhone
But if you don’t have a PC or a Mac with iTunes and you would still like to install the iOS update on your device, then you have an interesting dilemma ahead of you.
You are going to need to delete some things from your iPhone if you want to install that update.
One of the best ways to do this is to go through your installed apps and remove the ones that you aren’t using anymore. Often the best apps to delete are games, as they can take up a surprising amount of space.
Other useful apps to delete include some of the larger default ones, such as Garage Band and iMovie. These apps are huge in file size and, if you aren’t using them, then they might simply be taking up valuable space that can e used to perform the desired iOS update.
Other key places to look for freeing up iPhone space include the Photos app, where you can delete older pictures or pictures that have been otherwise saved to someplace like Google Drive or Dropbox. Additionally you may want to look for any lengthy recorded videos, as those can take up 100s of megabytes, or even gigabytes of space.
Now that you have some additional information on iOS, its meaning, its usage, and releated iOS information that is part of being an informed iPhone owner, you can read up more on the future iOS releases and maybe even consider downloading the latest beta release version of iOS and test out new features before your friend and family members.
Kermit Matthews is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with more than a decade of experience writing technology guides. He has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Computer Science and has spent much of his professional career in IT management.
He specializes in writing content about iPhones, Android devices, Microsoft Office, and many other popular applications and devices.