How much will my new iPhone change in a year?

10th Sep 2013 | 08:00

How much will my new iPhone change in a year?

The story behind the iOS updates

The secrets behind iOS updates

Today's smartphone owners are a different beast to those that shelled out for a mobile phone a decade ago. We now expect regular updates to make our phones better, faster and less buggy, and we want the updates now - and there's none more expectant than the iPhone user.

However, it's not just those who'll be in line (or online) to buy the iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C who stand to benefit when the all-new iOS launches this month; it's also an exciting time for existing handset owners who'll have some new software to play with.

When new users take the wrappers off the iPhone 5S, it'll also see Apple feed down iOS 7 to all of the devices it still deems compatible, right down to the three-year-old iPhone 4. What's old will become new again for iPhone owners this month.

Indeed, despite Apple's desire to have everyone upgrade to the latest device in its range, it has played a fair hand in ensuring legacy device owners can have access to as many of the new features as possible.

However, once iOS 7 drops on September 18 there'll also be plenty of in-version updates coming throughout the next year, bringing refinements and improvements and perhaps, (whisper it) some bug fixes, before iOS 8 comes along in 2014.

So how many times will would-be owners of the new iPhone be gifted updates? Will the iOS 7 we see drop later this month be the only new features iPhone users can expect for the next 12 months, or can we expect a slew of updates to boost iOS 7 as the year goes on?

iPhone OS – The legend begins

iPhone OS

Number of updates: 5

iOS didn't start life as iOS, as that moniker only arrived with iOS 4 in 2010. For the first few versions, Apple simply referred to it as the iPhone OS, a mobile version of Mac OS X, the company's desktop software and the first to boast a touchscreen interface.

With a mobile version of Safari, Mail, YouTube, Google Maps, iTunes and more, it was billed as the entire web on one device.

Apple didn't rest on its laurels for a year though, as it tweaked the software throughout the next 12 months.

iPhone OS 1.0.2 brought bug fixes and improved speaker volume, but iPhone OS 1.1.1 was the first major bump.

It brought access to the iTunes music store, allowing users to buy music over Wi-Fi, a change that would further mobilise the digital music revolution. It also brought compatibility for a video out connection, while double clicking the Home button allowed users to access shortcuts.

iPhone 1.1.2 brought international keyboard support and little else, but the next major update, which arrived in January of 08 was a real big hitter.

iPhone OS 1.1.3 brought a much-improved Google Maps app, which triangulated the user's current position using Wi-Fi towers, and also debuted a new interface.

iPhone OS

This update also focused on improving the iPhone's Home screen, allowing icon position to be customised and web pages to be saved to the home screen. Apple called them "Web Clips."

Group SMS was also a welcome addition. iTunes Movie Rentals also arrived with this update, but at this stage they weren't available for on-device purchases.

"iPhone doesn't stand still - we're making it better and better all the time," said Steve Jobs, Apple's then CEO in the company's press release. "We've delighted millions of users with this revolutionary and magical product and it's great to share these improvements with them."

Two more versions (1.1.4 and 1.1.5) brought more minor updates before iPhone OS 2.0 arrived in June 2008, but thanks to these updates the iPhone was a far superior device at the end of its first year than it was at the beginning.

iPhone OS 2.0 – Birth of an app nation

iPhone OS 2

Number of updates: 5

When the iPhone 3G arrived the numerous hardware updates were partly overshadowed by the improvements to the iPhone's software. The app-dominated mobile ecosystem we see today began in earnest with the launch of the App Store and the arrival of third-party apps within iPhone OS 2.0.

That version also added Microsoft Exchange support, opening the device up to business users and introduced MobileMe, the platform that would eventually become iCloud.

Owners of the original iPhone also were also able to upgrade to the new software, a trend which has continued where possible until this very day.

In terms of updates, well iPhone OS 2.0 had plenty… mainly because plenty of fixes were required.

iPhone OS 2.0.1 and 2.0.2 brought bug fixes, before the first major update iOS 2.1 delivered answers to complaints about battery life, speed and dropped calls.

It also sought to improve third-party app download speeds, brought faster iTunes backups and faster contact loading. In terms of features, it added the Genius playlists the company introduced at an iPod event in September 2008.

iPhone OS 2.2 was a little more rich in new features bringing Google Street View to the iPhone for the first time, as well as driving directions, walking directions and public transport.

OS 2

Google Maps would also show display the address of dropped pins and enable locations to be shared. Podcasts were also available to download for the first time, while Apple continued to work on eliminating dropped calls. In January of 2009 Apple made a few more fixes with iPhone OS 2.2.1.

By the end of that cycle, the second version of iPhone OS had become much more stable, but hadn't grown significantly in terms of new features. However, the arrival of third-party apps meant that didn't really matter as much, with users exposed to a new world of other options.

iPhone OS 3 – Filling in the gaps


Number of updates 4

The launch of the iPhone 3GS in the summer of 2009 saw Apple bring iPhone OS 3 in to play. It ushered in a large array of new features that improved life for iPhone owners without revolutionising it.

MMS finally arrived, as did push notifications for third-party apps, the system-wide Spotlight search tool, voice control (a pre-cursor to Siri) and the option to cut, copy and paste text into other apps. In-app purchases also debuted for paid apps, while Bluetooth stereo support enabled new wireless audio options.

As well as debuting on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 2G and iPhone 3G owners also got in on this action.

In terms of updates, well, they became less plentiful as Apple settled into its yearly update cycle and started saving new features for later versions. iOS 3.1 allowed users to buy ringtones from the iTunes Store, while the Genius feature was extended to apps.

Some bugs relating to lost network connectivity and waking the device from sleep were resolved in iOS 3.1.2, while iOS 3.1.3 brought no new features beyond stability.

iOS 3.2 arrived in April 2010 to coincide with the first-gen iPad release, but brought no new features for iPhone users. They'd have to wait until iOS 4 for the iBooks Store.

The move to iOS

iOS 4 – The real iOS stands up

iOS 4

Number of updates: 9

When Apple launched the iPhone 4, it also introduced iOS 4, dropping the iPhone OS moniker as the mobile software continued to grow in stature and influence Apple's desktop strategy, as well as proving it wasn't just for the mobile phone..

The headline new feature was the long-demanded multi-tasking option, enabling iPhone users to easily jump between apps by double-clicking the Home button. It also added the ability to group like-minded apps into folders.

FaceTime video chats arrived as well as the long-desired threaded email app and the aforementioned iBooks app, previously an iPad exclusive.

iOS 4 supported the iPhone 4 iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 3G (minus some of the new features) but it signalled the end of the road for the original iPhone.

However, iOS 4 got off to an inauspicious start thanks to the antenna-gate scandal of July 2010. iPhone 4 users reported huge signal drop-off as they gripped the device in proximity to the repositioned antennae on the side of the device.

Apple blamed iOS 4's signal reporting rather than the hardware and Steve Jobs famously told users to "just hold it differently"

Apple said the bars on display were not correctly reflecting the actual signal strength and launched iOS 4.0.1 to "normalise" it.

When it came time to update the software following the iPod event in September 2010, Apple introduced iOS 4.1 added High Dynamic Range photos and introduced the new Game Center online multiplayer gaming tool, as handheld gaming on the device really started to come into its own.

TV show rentals were also introduced, while Apple's ill-fated attempt to launch a music-themed social network with Ping also made its arrival.

iOS 4

When the second-gen iPad arrived, Apple introduced iOS 4.2 which brought AirPlay and AirPrint support to the iPhone. The next minor updates, iOS 4.2.1 brought bug fixes, while iOS 4.2.5 saw the long-awaited arrival of the iPhone on the Verizon network in the United States, but no improvements for other countries.

iOS 4.3, however, introduced AirPlay support for third-party apps, allowing the likes of YouTube to be beamed to an Apple TV. iTunes Home Sharing also arrived for sharing music, video and more across your home Wi-Fi network, while Personal Hotspots were now possible on GSM-based devices too.

iOS 4.3.3, 4.4.3 and 4.3.5 fixed bugs and security holes.

For the second year running, the addition of a new iPod touch and the iPad 2 into the yearly product update cycle brought iPhone users new features as the year progressed. Game Center and especially AirPlay have proved popular features since.

iOS 5 – New features galore, but fewer updates

iOS 5

Number of updates: 3

Along with the launch of the iPhone 4S in the autumn of 2011, Apple introduced a pretty sizable iOS update. iOS 5 brought built-in Siri, the iCloud storage and syncing platform, iTunes Match support, Newsstand magazines, iMessages, built-in Twitter support, a new Notifications Centre as well as impressive Notes and Reminders apps.

There was also the introduction of AirPlay Mirroring, iTunes Wi-Fi syncing. The software also supported the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS, but Siri was only available on the iPhone 4S.

After all that, there wasn't much left to do for the rest of the year. iOS 5.0.1 brought fixes for battery-life moans, and iCloud document storage while Siri was updated to understand Aussies.

The only major update, iOS 5.1, wasn't that major at all. It brought support for the iPad 3 (or new iPad as it was coined) and also enabled Genius (wait, is that still around?) Mixes and Playlists within iTunes Match.

iOS 5.1.1 sorted a issue with AirPlay Playback and improved reliability for HDR photos taken from the lockscreen. There was also improved support for the Safari bookmark and reading list syncing.

Overall, after the original onslaught of new features, Apple didn't do much during the iOS 5 life-cycle other than fight a few very minor fires.

iOS 6 – The end for mid-year updates?

iOS 6

Number of updates: 6

The launch of the iPhone 5 saw iOS adapt to accommodate the iPhone 5's new 4-inch widescreen display, giving users an extra row of apps on the new device.

Beyond the aesthetics, Facebook integration joined Twitter, while Apple dropped native Google apps like YouTube and Google Maps. Its own mapping solution was largely derided and Google Maps was welcomed back into the fold by users a couple of months later.

It also brought the Passbook app, Apple's answer to the digital wallet trend, and shared Photo Streams. Neither of these apps have gained traction yet, but could be setting the scene for future trends.

In terms of updates, iOS 6.0.1 and 6.0.2 arrived before Christmas to bring Wi-Fi bugs (among other minor niggles), while January 2013's iOS 6.1 brought additional music controls on the lockscreen when double clicking the home button. It also enabled users to download music from iTunes over cellular data.

The other updates were extremely minor. 6.1.1 brought bug fixes, 6.1.2 cured an ailment that affected battery life for Exchange calendar users, while 6.1.3 took out a bug that enabled users to get past the device's passcode. The last update, iOS 6.1.4 updated the audio profile for the speakerphone.

iOS 6 still brings support for previous iPhone models all the way back to the iPhone 3GS. Will that device survive into iOS 7's era?

iOS 7 – Future iOS updates?

iOS 7

By analysing the recent trends, it appears that iOS 7 will still be much the same operating system when it reaches the end of its year at the top of the food chain.

Not since the introduction of AirPlay, Game Center and iTunes Home Sharing during the iOS 4 life-cycle has Apple added significant new features in the gap between major releases and we can't envision that changing this time around.

Having strived for at least a year to revolutionise iOS 7 – by far the biggest change in its relatively-short history - it's difficult to see Apple adding plentiful new features throughout the year.

However, should the next-generation iPad 5 introduce software enhancements they will likely be fed down to the iPhone. If the company introduces a smart iWatch in the next 12 months, an iOS 7 update will also be necessary to support that device.

However, a prospective lack of new features doesn't mean we won't see plenty of updates throughout iOS 7's life-cycle. With the top-to-bottom rebuild, there are bound to be teething problems for iOS 7, despite its lengthy period in beta testing.

We would expect plenty of early updates addressing bugs and security worries or perhaps even the fine-tuning of some new features that aren't going over too well with its core user base.

As for the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C? Well it's certain the handsets will outlive iOS 7 by a number of years. Considering 2010's iPhone 4 is on the compatible devices list, it's certainly plausible that Apple's newest devices will still have access to the latest and greatest version of iOS which, if our maths is correct, will be iOS 10.

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