An unordered list of the most significant iOS features over the years

iOS has evolved in amazing ways over the years, and I want to look back at the major end-user features that made a big difference in the ways we work and play. Of course, the App Store is arguably the 800-pound gorilla, so I want to cover the others, some of which we might take for granted these days.

Below is my list in no particular order, including suggestions from a few friends.

  • Multitasking
  • Copy and paste
  • Accelerometer/gyroscope
  • Notification Center and Today page
  • Control Center
  • Share Sheet (and it’s underlying system for moving data between apps)
  • Split View/Slide Over
  • AirPlay
  • Folders

Additions

Matt Bischoff:

  • Siri
  • Touch ID for Authentication
  • Push Notifications
  • Apple Pay (both in apps and in the real world)
  • iMessage
  • Spotlight (iOS 3)

Fraser Speirs:

  • Document Providers
  • iCloud Photo Library
  • App Sandboxing
  • iCloud backup
  • Replying inside a notification

Bryan Irace

  • 3D Touch, Peek, Pop, especially for homescreen shortcuts
  • Easy location sharing/Find My Friends
  • Find My iPhone
  • Family Sharing (Even though this hasn’t really taken off, I think “Find Someone Else’s iPhone” is a big deal)
  • Safari View Controller and shared web credentials
  • Smart App Banners. I was on the fence about this one. But now that iOS 9 supports the next feature listed here, they’re much more useful.
  • Universal Links. With these, app banners can now take you from a web resource in Safari to that same resource in the site’s corresponding app

Runners-Up for Relieving Pain

Some features were big not because they Changed Everything™, but because they removed a bottleneck or significant source of pain. I’ll toast to these as well:

  • Do Not Disturb
  • clear multiple notifications
  • Setup Assistant (cutting iTunes cable)
  • Custom wallpaper, small change but huge impact
  • Low power mode