What Will Happen If iOS Goes Open-source Like Android?

Have you ever wondered what will happen in someday Apple decides to make iOS open source? We have thought about too and wrote an interesting piece document what change we think it will bring in the world of mobile operating systems. Read on to know more.

Android manufacturers and Apple have long-established their separate business models. On one end, you have Android, with 72.26% of the OS market share, and on other, you have iOS, which makes up for only 27.03% of the global market share.

Despite these massive differences, iOS is still far more profitable for developers than Android. This is because while Android's open-source nature makes it a quantity-driven platform, iOS is more about quality and high-end production.

This is evident in their pricing range, where you find Android devices ranging from low-tier Android devices to flagship phones. Whereas iOS only comes in Apple-manufactured devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch and is generally considered high-end and heavy on the pocket.

Apple keeps it simple; iOS is reserved for those who can pay for it. Android, on the other hand, allows developers to make tweaks, add their own twist to the standard Android OS, and ship it within their cost-effective hardware devices. This includes smart TVs, wearables like smartwatches, and even gaming consoles.

iPhone alternatives will be introduced to the market with Custom iOS

iOS becoming open-source like Android will change the mobile device market forever. Today, the balance between iOS and Android lies in their distinguished target audiences.

While Android caters to a wider and more cross-class audience, Apple's strategy of only targeting the top brass of the socio-economic pyramid is well-known in the industry.

New iOS supported Hardware and Mobile Devices

Since Android is open-sourced, there are a wide variety of options for users to choose from. There are Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, Motorola, LG, HTC, Sony, and many more manufacturers of Android phones.

Each of these companies has its own twist to the base- Android OS, which helps their version of the OS stand out from the others.

While there are plenty of Android options available, Apple's iOS comes packed only in its own hardware, which is the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

In a world where iOS becomes open-source, this will change drastically. You'll see companies co-opting the base iOS and adding their own twist to it. You will likely see a huge surge in iPhone alternatives since you'll be able to get the user experience of iOS packed into a much cheaper device.

Disrupting the iOS and Android Market Share.

The reason why iOS does not have a higher market share is affordability, not likability. Once companies start making their own mobile devices priced much cheaper while providing a close to iPhone user experience, the mobile OS market shares will tilt dramatically.

This overhaul is likely to be led by developing nations, which is the biggest market for Android devices. Companies like LG, Oppo, and Xiaomi are an incredibly popular, cost-effective alternative to high-end Samsung phones, although Samsung remains the biggest market shareholder.

You can expect to see a significant shift in market trends within the developing nations where iOS usage is likely to surge due to increased affordability, as cheaper iOS-supported mobile devices are released in the market.

Though, by no means will this hurt Apple's market share. The reason is that companies that develop both the OS and the hardware generally make much better and more optimized devices. Moreover, Apple's brand loyalty, image, and optimization are what make them a powerhouse, and a low-end iOS device is unlikely to match up to those standards.

Thus, this might only hurt mid-tier Android device manufacturers rather than Apple and tilt even the market share towards iOS, instead of Android.

More iOS wearable devices

The wearable industry is booming with estimates suggesting that the industry will reach a revenue of $15 Billion in 2020.

Right now, most wearable devices run a version of Android as their operating system with only wearables produced by Apple run iOS, such as the Apple Watch.

While many wearable devices are compatible with iOS, they don't function with the same quality that an Apple Watch does.

On the other hand, nearly all wearable devices that run on Android work seamlessly with Android devices from different manufacturers.

This idea is similar to that in the mobile phone industry, where a highly specialized product goes up against a more quantity-driven product.

The WatchOS, which is similar to iOS, is restricted to Apple products while Android is decentralized in spirit.
If iOS becomes open-sourced, we can expect a lot of changes in the wearable industry as well. One such change will be the rise in cost-effective products that run an OS similar to the original WatchOS with seamless compatibility with iOS devices, regardless of the manufacturer.

This is likely to ignite another industry war between Android and iOS, with both their demographics clashing together, rather than existing in the current balance that their distinguished demographics have ensured.

This step will blur the line between the two OS' target audiences and might just push them to a new edge of innovation and accessibility.

Custom ROMs for iOS

ROMs are essentially a phone's firmware that is based on Android OS. Since Android is open-source, developers found a way to edit and compile it with customizations and release it for usage. These ROMs are developed by groups of developers with a passion for modding.

They are used to change the behavior and the appearance of a mobile device from its initial version, which is called "stock ROM."

Since these are free, they can be used by users with a simple installation process that involves flashing your stock ROM. Though this can unlock new functionalities that had been rendered out in the stock version of the ROM, things can go wrong while flashing, resulting in your phone becoming inoperable.

So, what happens when iOS goes open-source?

Well, one can guess that there will be plenty of custom ROMs for iOS available if that ever happens. Developers would take inspiration from Lineage OS, which is the CyanogenMod Rom, based on Google's ASOP code.

Most likely, users will be able to download custom ROMs for iOS on any iOS-supporting device, be it an Apple-manufactured device or any other iOS-based phone.

This could potentially open a whole new level of user experience on mobile devices. Imagine an iPhone's swiftness and smoothness, with a mod that makes the UI look more like a Pixel, or vice versa, depending on our preferences.

MOD ROMs for iOS will likely be a game-changer that brings high customization to iOS' native feel and look, giving more control to the users.

Future of Apps and Their Accessibility On iOS Devices

In terms of mobile apps for iOS, there are is one important consideration to make. Currently, downloading an app developed for iOS requires you to have an iOS device manufactured by Apple since licensing is based on hardware identification.

Here, there are two scenarios that could come about.
  • Apple retracts its licensing policy
  • Apps not available for download on Non-Apple Manufactured devices.
Let's take a look at both of these cases to understand what they entail and how they could impact iOS users.

Apple retracts its licensing policy

Intuitively, you would assume that if Apple does make iOS open-source, then they will remove their hardware licensing policy for apps.

Because in the presence of this policy, new iOS devices are likely to fail. Sure, there will be other ways to get those apps, if not from the App Store itself. But this goes against any standard that companies hold themselves by. The first and foremost of which is convenience and accessibility.

If Apple ends up fighting for a larger market share, rather than just a larger profit share, they would ideally want iOS to become a widely used Operating System, and for that, they will have to remove the licensing policy.

So most likely, they will have to remove this barrier.

Apps not available for download on Non-Apple Manufactured devices

Though highly unlikely, it remains a possibility that devices that are not manufactured by Apple, despite them running iOS, might not be able to download native iOS apps from the App Store.

They might be able to download said apps from 3rd party sources and installers, but as long as the devices are not Apple-manufactured, they will not be considered licensed hardware, which is key to downloading apps from the Apple App Store.

This, in practice, is likely to hurt iOS' market by limiting its usage potential. The question here is of their intentions with regard to going open-source.

If it is to challenge Android for market share, then this might not be a great strategy but if the reason to go open-source is part of some larger transition in their business model, then who knows if this is the right thing to do or not. Intuitively though, this doesn't seem like a possibility that will bear any sweet fruits for Apple.

Is iOS becoming Open-source a Likely Scenario?

To judge whether this is a likely scenario, one has to identify and judge this concept on two fronts. First, is this in line with Apple's business model? Second, will this have a positive impact on Apple's revenue?
In terms of the business model, Apple has always fought for profit share against Android, as opposed to market share.

Apple realized that its products with iOS built-in are an exclusive and symbolic representation. They focus on playing a different numbers game, as opposed to Android, that is more quantity and market share heavily in their approach.

A move like making iOS open-source is unlikely because it aids no benefits to them. Rather, fighting for market share might hurt Apple's technological superiority that they boast with their one-of-the-kind processing speed that comes with iPhones.

Though Apple's revenue did fall from its iPhone sales in 2019, it's hard to imagine that a single quarter's result can force Apple to make such a dramatic decision.

Now, let's analyze this likelihood from the perspective of revenue.

Apple makes a significant amount of its revenue from the sales of iPhones. They are a flagship product that sells millions of devices every year.

In the case of iOS becoming open-source, the first thing that we discussed will happen is that new iOS-supported mobile devices will be launched by companies. We've already seen how low-cost Android devices by Chinese companies such as Xiaomi and Realme have dominated the recent Android phone market, giving Samsung a good run for its money.

Similarly, with Apple, this might become the case too. Chinese companies that are able to develop mobile devices that run iOS at 1/10th of the price will easily provide cheaper alternatives to the expensive iPhone devices.

For a fraction of the population that uses iPhones, this might not change anything. But brand loyalty isn't 100% given. If these devices offer similar performance perks at a lower cost, then iPhones might lose their Unique Selling Point, which is the user experience that comes with iOS.

This might further hurt the sales of the iPhone, and in the current climate, it is a risk that Apple is likely to not take.

So from both perspectives, this seems like an option that is indeed possible but highly improbable.


The idea of iOS becoming open-source is nothing short of fantasy, in light of the status quo. Though it does open incredible new avenues and changes the mobile devices and OS market forever, it feels like an unnatural move from Apple, one which in a conventional business sense does not reap any benefits.

Though going open-source means that iOS can become much more widespread, the qualifying factor here isn't market share but rather profit share. If Apple is to increase its revenue, then becoming more like Android doesn't seem like the wisest option.

The only party that seems to benefit from such a change are developers who work on Custom ROMs and who will have quite the experience developing Custom ROMs for iOS.

It might even be great for mobile manufacturers who will now have access to iOS' code, which could be an informational gold mine for some.

But at the end of the day, the question "What if iOS becomes open-sourced?" does not have a straightforward thumbs up or thumbs down answer. The situation that happens and the strategy behind such a turn of events will decide whether this brings positive or negative changes to the industry, the market, and the competing businesses.

Jane CollenAuthor: Jane Collen

Jane Collen is a tech enthusiast who likes to cover all trending topics. Her major expertise is in how Android application development companies are taking new approaches to power growth and redefine industry standards.


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