Mac OSX iPhone or the iPhone OS is the mobile operating system currently in use on the Apple iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPod touch. It is an efficient mobile OS because it uses less than a gigabyte of the iPhone s total memory, and yet it quickly backs up through Apple iTunes, runs thousands of applications and supports POP and Microsoft Exchange email accounts.

The iPhone OS had a rather ambiguous initial release when the iPhone first hit the market in 2007. At that time, the iPhone was said to run Mac OSX, a well-known operating system used by Mac computers. The iPhone operating system is actually a mobile version of Mac OSX. It s a closed-source operating system with open source components, which allows software developers to create applications specifically for the Apple iPhone.

iPhone OS Features
The newest Apple cell phone to run a version of the iPhone OS inspired from Mac OSX is the iPhone 3G. This cell phone can support fast 3G wireless technology, GPS mapping and unlike older versions, enterprise features like Microsoft Exchange, which is used for programs like Outlook. Of course, it also plays music, takes pictures and displays video.

One of the most unique features about the iPhone OS, compared to Blackberry s OS, Microsoft Mobile, Symbian and Android is that nearly all interactions with the phone are conducted through the touch screen. The OS translates swipes, taps, pinches and reverse pinches into commands, without the use of a traditional keyboard or other buttons. A second exclusive feature is the voicemail function that allows voicemails to be listened to in any order, rather than just in the order they were received.

Though thousands of third-party applications are available for the iPhone, the included applications include iTunes, Stocks, Weather, Notes, Maps with GPS, a calendar, calculator, an iPod-type music player, a YouTube app and of course, phone features such as a contact organizer and voicemail. For web browsing, it uses a mobile version of Safari, which is compatible with 3G, EDGE and WiFi technology. The iPhone OS email feature supports most IMAP or POP mail types, including MobileMe, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo!, Google s Gmail and AOL.

iPhone OS Limitations
The iPhone OS is quite capable, though it lacks a few features that many cell phone users desire, such as Multi Media Messaging (MMS). Images have to be sent through an email account and MMS received images are viewed through a web app. Additionally, the Apple iPhone OS does not support Flash; however, it has been reported that Adobe is working on a third-party application that will enable the iPhone to display Flash in the near future.

iPhone 2.1 Software Update Improvements
The newest version of the iPhone operating system, released in September 2008, is free to download through the Apple Inc. website via iTunes.

  • Fewer setup failures and dropped calls
  • Increased battery life
  • Faster backup to iTunes
  • Better email reliability, especially through POP and Exchange accounts
  • 3rd party applications install faster
  • Less hanging and crashing while using third-party apps
  • Improved text messaging
  • Quicker loading/searching for contacts
  • Improved accuracy of 3G signal strength display
  • Repeat alert up to two added times for incoming text messages
  • Option to automatically wipe data following ten failed pass code attempts
  •  Genius  playlist creation
  • Supports iTunes 8
  • So, it looks like Apple has made some amazing improvements and once it supports MMS and Flash, it will be near perfect.

This article is just one in our  Mobile Operating Systems Demystified  series. You may also be interested in What is Android? and BlackBerry Operating System.

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