Today in Apple history: iOS 4 makes its official debut

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Next year's iPhone could resemble the classic iPhone 4.
Remember iOS 4?
Photo: Yutaka Tsutano/Ste Smith

Tuesday21 iOS 4 was not only the last version of Apple’s mobile operating system released during Steve Jobs’ life, it was also a significant step up in terms of the software’s productivity features.

Watch Jobs introduce it in the video below, which was recorded on June 21, 2010.

In some ways, iOS 4 was a fitting finale to Jobs’ work on the iPhone. At his last keynote the following March, Jobs spoke about the “post-PC world.”

iOS 4 made it clear that the iPhone was a productivity tool in its own right, and not simply an entertainment device. It was the first version of iOS to arrive post-iPad, a fact most obviously evidenced by the fact that it was launched under the name “iOS” rather than “iPhone OS,” as had been the case previously. iOS 4 incorporated a variety of features that had previously been exclusive to the iPad, but which made Apple’s smartphone and tablet devices feel more cohesive.

These features included spell check, Bluetooth keyboard compatibility, and Home screen backgrounds, all of which had previously been available on the iPad but not the iPhone. Most crucially, however, iOS 4 brought multitasking to the iPhone for the first time. The update gave users the ability to keep certain apps running in the background while using others (for instance, playing music while reading a website), as well as easily skipping between different open apps.

More than half a decade on, Apple’s still grappling with whether iOS is intended as a replacement for your Mac. But whatever your view may be on that point, there’s no disputing that iOS 4 served to make iPhones far more useful and productive.

In addition, it delivered a host of other neat innovations, such as Home screen folders, a new unified Mail inbox capable of managing different accounts, a zoom mode and tap-to-focus features for the camera, web and Wikipedia results showing up in Universal Search, and geo-location to help sort your images (an early precursor to the AI filtering seen in iOS 10).

Finally, iOS 4 introduced two controversial new apps: Game Center and iBooks.

A social network for gamers, Game Center never really caught on as Apple hoped and was finally done away with this month. iBooks, meanwhile, showed a new excitement on the part of Apple related to e-books, which landed the company in hot water after it colluded with publishers to fix prices.

Like the recent news about Game Center’s demise, the iBooks scandal has only just ended — with affected users only receiving their damages payments today.

Do you have fond memories of iOS 4? Leave your comments below.