How to put iOS on your PC
iOS is often touted as the most secure, stable and innovative of mobile Operating Systems. Unfortunately, since it is proprietary software exclusive to Apple products, not quite everyone can afford to give the program a proper once-over before deciding if they enjoy it or not. In this article, we’ll walk you through, step by step, how to get around this issue and try iOS on your PC.
So before we properly begin with the software we need a very brief history lesson to learn what is possible to do with iOS on a PC, and what is not. First, let’s look at how each is made in terms of core systems. To say operating systems originating from Apple and Windows (or Linux) are related is somewhat like saying dogs and cats are related; In a distant evolutionary sense, you’d be right. However, both diverged from their common ancestor (Unix) quite some time ago. To be specific, while systems like Linux and Apple proprietary software have stayed somewhat true to their ancient traditions (though distinct changes are certainly present), Microsoft had cut a new path in terms of infrastructure which made a new beast entirely. For us who don’t mind crossing brand lines this presents a unique problem we must overcome, which can be summed in yet another reference to the previous metaphor: How can we get a cat to bark?
Our second main obstacle is that we are also transferring a mobile operating system onto a decidedly larger platform. While this is certainly possible, it does have some caveats. The first is that we cannot make the OS native, meaning we can’t have a PC that only runs iOS. This is primarily due to internal performance constraints on part of the iOS system, as well as the need for virtualization of ARM processors, using the built in x86 processors. So, what we need is to create a virtual device to copy what the iOS operating system would see as an iPhone, and have it run on our computers. Luckily, this is much easier than one would expect.
Now that we’ve properly covered the background, let’s briefly go over why this may be a good idea, even if it doesn’t exactly line up with Apple’s EULA.
Reason #1: Little to no investment.
Apple products are admittedly quite expensive, and if you don’t have a friend who is willing to part with their device for a while it may be hard to get decent first hand experience. With this method, that problem is somewhat alleviated as you have a cheap (or free) method to play around within the system and see if you’d like to purchase the real deal.
Reason #2: Security.
As stated in the opening paragraph, Apple has a reputation which quite deservedly, is remarkable in terms of security. The curation of the app store is typically very well maintained, with minimal risk to personal information. That being said, there has been the occasional slip of adware into an app, which can be isolated and removed much easier in the virtual environment.
Reason #3: Development.
If you are wading into the mobile development market and not terribly fond of the Android SDK, iPhones are a natural choice. That being said, you need a proper Mac to develop and launch on the app store, which may be a heavy investment for a hobbyist. This option provides a decent way to start testing your code before tossing money into a virtual business venture.
Now that we’ve covered the history and the rationale, let’s get to the procedure.
How to run iOS on your PC
To run iOS, you’ll need to pick from a pair of emulator programs, all of which have their own pros and cons. Let’s quickly run these down.
Option #1: Air Phone iOS Emulator
Air Phone iOS is a fantastic program for those just wanting to get a general feel for Apple’s mobile operating system. With full rotation support, the ability to actually make calls with a valid Ribbit Account on the emulator (which can be set up through accessing the App Store within the emulator), and play with or test most apps, it provides a strong case for itself. The only drawback to this free program? Some of the more popular apps that regularly use a data connection such as Snapchat may have some functionality issues, and deploying home made apps through development suites like Xamarin (at time of writing, this suite was recently purchased by Apple) may be a slight hassle; In these cases, it’s better to use the debugger within the development suite. Before downloading this program make sure you have Adobe Air installed, otherwise it will fail to install or work properly.
To install, simply click this link, and follow the onscreen instructions. Do note that the initial download link may ask you to share on Facebook that you are giving this emulator a try. You can hit cancel and the download will still continue regardless of choice.
Option #2: iPadian iPhone Emulator
iPadian is by far the closest candidate for “fooling” your PC into thinking it’s an iPad or iPhone. It can run any local app you like (I tested around 10 of the most common, and all ran flawlessly), and does so in a smooth fashion. It shines particularly bright when you toss $10 into paying for the premium version, which allows for the use of programs like snapchat without any hiccups. There is a free version available, however in downloading the program I found that there was some attached adware which while easy to remove before full installation, would be very easy to miss. I did not need any additional programs or scripts to run this software. The main deficiency was that I couldn’t find any easy way to implement homemade apps into this emulator, though it is quite possible that I may have missed a subtle method.
The site for installation and/or purchase can be found here.
Whether you go with iPadian or Air Phone iOS, you will find that this is beyond adequate as a simulation to having an Apple Mobile PC. On a personal note, I found iPadian to be much more professional in design, and overall the better product. Do keep in mind however, that doing such simulations does not come with much support; Apple has a history of frowning upon such platforms, and there is no particularly comprehensive source for all troubleshooting. That being said, with a bit of creativity and proper discipline in what I.T. Pros call “Google-fu” you will find the use of these programs as not only a fun experience, but one to learn from.