Developer Ports the Original iPhone OS to a Computer

Mobile developer Martijn “devos50” de Vos recently succeeded in emulating the original iPhone OS, version 1.0, from the first-generation iPod touch on a computer using QEMU (via 9to5Mac).

Apple keeps its operating systems (even legacy ones) pretty locked down — and for good reason, given that the company prides itself in being a purveyor of unparalleled privacy and security. While it’s pretty easy to run macOS on non-Apple computers (and vice versa), emulating iOS on one is virtually unheard of. Or it was, at least.

It did take more than a year’s worth of work, but de Vos was ultimately able to emulate iPhone OS 1.0 using QEMU, an open-source virtualization platform for full-system emulation that’s available on Windows, macOS, Linux, and some other UNIX platforms.

The developer noted that his breakthrough is likely the first time someone has emulated the iPhone’s operating system using open-source tools.

According to de Vos, he chose to target iPhone OS 1.0 because it has primitive (for this day and age) security measures, and fewer of them.

“Contemporary Apple devices contain many additional hardware components, such as neural engines, secure enclaves, and a variety of sensors that will make the emulation of such devices much more difficult and time consuming,” the developer explained.

Moreover, he chose the version of iPhone OS 1.0 Apple released for the iPod touch because it had less hardware to emulate than the iPhone. de Vos said in a blog post that emulating hardware components was the most challenging part of the project, and it would only have been tricker if he had opted to emulate the iPhone version instead.

The emulation has been functional for the most part. Navigation with a mouse and keyboard works flawlessly, and most pre-installed iPhone OS 1.0 apps work as well. While there are some scenarios that can cause the emulator to crash, it’s pretty impressive to see a version of iOS being emulated on another platform.

Not that it’s easy, but if you’re interested in trying to emulate iPhone OS 1.0, de Vos explains exactly how to do so in his blog post. Having conquered iPhone OS 1.0, the developer has now set his sights on emulating iPhone OS 2.1 from the second-generation iPod touch.