Back to the future: iOS could get original ‘iPhoneOS’ name back

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Original iPhone running iOS 1
Apple’s first handset in 2007 ran iPhone OS. And the 2020 model might run an operating system with the same name.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Before there was iOS, early Apple handsets ran iPhone OS. A frequent Apple leaker apparently suggested on Thursday that the next version of this operating system will return to that classic name.

While this might seem like a seismic shift to some, if Apple really is prepping iPhone OS 14 — or perhaps iPhoneOS 14 — it’ll simply be using the same pattern for this operating systems as it does for all its others.

Macs run macOS. Apple Watches run watchOS. Apple TV’s run tvOS. And now reliable leaker and YouTuber Jon Prosser hints via Twitter that iPhones will run “iPhone OS.”

While Prosser’s comment is minimalist, responses to his post widely assume he’s suggesting that iOS will be replaced with iPhoneOS.

Apple may have telegraphed this move in 2019. For many years, iPhone and iPad both ran iOS. Then, last fall, Apple forked off iPadOS. That left only iPhone and iPod touch running iOS. Perhaps, the company thinks it’s time for a more consistent OS naming system.

If Apple actually decided to introduce iPhoneOS 14, it’ll happen next week. By long-held tradition, Apple will unveil its new iPhone operating system, and other upcoming software updates, at the Worldwide Developers Conference on June 22.

Remembering iPhone OS

The original iPhone introduced in 2007 ran iPhone OS 1. This was such an early version, it didn’t support third-party applications.

It was followed the next year with iPhone OS 2, which debuted on the iPhone 3G — the second handset from Apple, despite the name. This version brought the App Store.

In 2009 there was iPhone OS 3. This is still so early its major new feature was support for cut, copy and paste. It ran on the iPhone 3GS as well as the first iPad when it debuted in early 2010.

But later in 2010 came the debut of iOS. Perhaps, this change came because users thought it odd that the iPad ran “iPhone OS.”