Developer emulates iPhone OS on a computer using QEMU

For years, Hackintosh tools have allowed people to run macOS on non-Apple computers. But when it comes to iOS, pretty much nobody has been able to run it on other platforms — at least until now. A developer successfully emulated the first version of the iPhone OS (remember the name?) on a computer using QEMU.

iPhone OS 1.0 emulated without iPhone hardware

Martijn de Vos, also known as devos50, did a lot of reverse engineering to emulate the very first version of the iPhone operating system, released for the first generation iPod touch in 2007 after the iPhone was released. The project took more than a year to work as the developer had to figure out how to simulate things like multi-touch support and other hardware components.

In a blog post, de Vos explains that the tricky part was emulating the iPod touch’s hardware components. Because of this, the developer chose to emulate the first build of the iPhone operating system for the iPod instead of the iPhone, since emulating even more components would be required for the iPhone version to work.

At the same time, de Vos also opted for iPhone OS 1.0 because this version has significantly fewer security mechanisms than newer versions of the operating system. “Modern Apple devices contain many additional hardware components, such as B. neural engines, secure enclaves and a multitude of sensors that make emulating such devices much more difficult and time-consuming,” explained the developer.

Interestingly, the project only became a reality thanks to OpeniBoot – an open-source implementation of Apple’s bootloader. The project was long ago shelved, but it allowed users to do things like install Android on the first generations of the iPhone and iPod touch.

But is it functional?

Despite some bugs, the final project appears to be quite functional, and iPhone OS 1.0 has been successfully emulated using QEMU – an open-source virtualization platform.

The system is fully navigable with a mouse and keyboard, and most of the preinstalled apps work perfectly. There are some situations that cause the system to crash, but it’s still impressive to see a version of iOS being emulated on a different platform.

The developer notes that this is probably the first time anyone has emulated the iPhone operating system using open-source tools. For example, Corellium sells virtual iOS devices, but all tools and code are private. Creating your own virtual machine isn’t exactly easy, but de Vos shared all the details in a blog post for those interested.

For his next project, de Vos wants to emulate a second-generation iPod touch released with iPhone OS 2.1.

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