iDevice Primer 101: Basic Terminology

Last modified
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
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What is an iDevice?

Throughout this document, the term 'iDevice' is used to refer to a portable Apple device with a touch screen. This includes the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad product lines. When a specific device is mentioned, it is intentional. For instance, all iDevices have wifi, but only the iPhone and cellular-enabled iPad can access cellular networks. This is not an official term, but rather one adopted by the author for the sake of clarity.

What is iOS?

iOS is basically the operating system of the iDevice family. As of the time of this writing, it is at version 8.4. It is what runs the iDevice and the platform on which all apps run.

What is VoiceOver?

VoiceOver is the screen reader that comes on all modern iPhones, iPads, and iPods. It allows blind and low-vision users of these devices to hear what is on the screen, which makes it possible to do just about everything a sighted user can do. VoiceOver is found on the following devices:

  • iPod Touch (all versions from 3 to 6, excluding some iPod Touch third generation models) *iPad (all models, including Minis)
  • iPhone (all models from 4 to 6 Plus, excluding some 3GS models)

What is Zoom?

Zoom is a feature that enlarges the content displayed on an iDevice's screen. It can do this across the whole screen, or only within a certain area of the screen, and it offers additional viewing options. You can invert colors, for instance, to make text easier to read.

What is a gesture?

When talking about using VoiceOver, you very often hear the term 'gesture' used to describe an action to be taken. A gesture is simply a motion to be performed with your fingers to tell VoiceOver to do something, in much the same way a keystroke on a computer is used to tell the computer to do something. Common gestures are 'swiping', 'tapping', or 'rotating' with one, two, three, or four fingers (note that rotating is only ever done with two fingers).

What is an app?

An app is a program written for the iDevice that will accomplish some task. There are hundreds of thousands of apps for Apple devices, and they do everything from GPS navigation (on supported devices) to web searching to music creation and playback to wordprocessing and a great deal more.

What is Braille Screen Input?

Braille Screen Input, often shortened to BSI, is a system introduced in iOS8 that lets you type braille directly on your device's touch screen.

What does 'jailbreak' mean?

Normally, iDevicees will only run the apps that Apple approves; any apps in the App Store have been given the green light by Apple. While this makes sure that apps are secure and do what they say they do, it also can limit a lot of functionality, so apps may not be able to do certain things because of these restrictions. When an iDevice is jailbroken, it means that a modified copy of iOS is installed on the device which lets it accept apps without official approval from Apple. Essentially, jailbreaking lets users install apps which may be able to do more than official apps can. The process is relatively straightforward, but it is strongly recommended that you do not jailbreak your iDevice unless you know what you are doing and feel sure that jailbreaking would be of use to you. There are many explanations and arguments both for and against jailbreaking, and we suggest that you do a good deal of research before deciding. Note that jailbreaking will void any warranty you have on your product.


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Submitted by Gerardo on Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In the article is mentioned that Iphone 3gs only has VoiceOver in the 32 and 64gb model?So how come I've got the 8gb model with VoiceOver on it? From when has this changed? Good for Apple! because I would not have had an Iphone yet if it wasn't for the 8gb model having VoiceOver.

Submitted by Ekaj on Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Thank you for this post. I just got my first iPhone on Saturday, and have been looking through the iOS resources on here. This stuff is definitely clearing up some misconceptions I had about iOS devices. I've not used my iPhone that much thus far but I like it.