iOS 5 to Enable Over-the-Air iOS Updates & Patches for iPhone & iPad?

May 5, 2011 - 8 Comments

iOS 5 OTA updates iOS 5 may include the ability to push over-the-air updates and patches to iOS, meaning you’d be able to update your iPhone or iPad without hooking it to a computer with iTunes. More specifically, iOS 5 is reported to include the feature, but it will be future versions of iOS 5 take advantage of the OTA updating, perhaps as iOS 5.1, according to a report by 9to5mac.

iOS Over-The-Air is a Step to True “Post-PC” World
Over-the-Air, or OTA, would be an important step to turning the iPhone and iPad into true “post-PC” devices, since it would free the hardware from the tethered world of desktop updates. The next question this poses regards iOS backups that are typically synced with iTunes, but that could theoretically be handled by a cloud based wireless syncing solution which is rumored to appear sometime in the future.

OTA Updates & Bandwidth Limits on Data Plans
The major problem with Over The Air updating is the increasingly strict world of wireless bandwidth limits imposed by carriers. When you consider that most software updates weigh in at hefty sizes (iOS 4.3.3 is 670mb, for example), you have to wonder how OTA iOS updates would work. There are several ways to address this, here are three possibile solutions:

  1. Allow OTA updates to only download over WiFi, in a similar fashion to how FaceTime only works on WiFi connections
  2. Split the updates into smaller incremental patches, but allow them over either cellular or wireless, as 9to5mac theorizes
  3. Apple reaches a deal with wireless carriers to allow OTA iOS updates to be ‘whitelisted’ from the bandwidth allowance of a users data plan, allowing users to get updates without counting against their allotted monthly limits

The report comes from 9to5mac, who cites “multiple sources” who say that Apple is working specifically with Verizon on the matter. Although they say there is no information on OTA support with other carriers, it would be unlikely for Apple to not pursue a widespread adoption of the feature across all carriers.

iOS 5 is expected to make an appearance at WWDC 2011, which begins June 6.


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Posted by: Matt Chan in iPad, iPhone, News, Rumor


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  1. Ruthe Biondolillo says:

    Sabrina,I think you need 3.1.3 – you can download it from HDR Soft. Install it and it will ask you if you want the Lightroom plugin installed (like in the video).Cheers, Markus

  2. […] 5 has been long rumored to include wireless syncing and over-the-air updates, and now at least part of this feature seems to be confirmed through a brief leak on iTunes. […]

  3. […] other cloud-based features will be coming to the Apple lineup as well, from wireless iOS syncing to over-the-air iOS updates and even some kind of cloud storage in Mac OS X Lion. Whether or not these features will be opt-in […]

  4. […] “iOS 5 to Enable Over-the-Air iOS Updates & Patches for iPhone & iPad?” and rela… […]

  5. Montana says:

    Even if they do put this in iOS5 I imagine at least 60% of users will end up syncing with their computers anyways. Because if something goes wrong mid-update, they’ll end up having to connect it to a computer.

    That would make it too much of a hassle.

  6. Carlos says:

    Androids have been doing this for a while, I think it doesn’t count towards data plans so Apple will probably do the same thing.

  7. Mark says:

    Given that ATT and other carriers will be charging almost exclusively by the MB soon, this will be a FAIL for customers and a WIN for the carriers.

    …if they allow updating over the cell network.

  8. Duc Nguyen says:

    This would be a GREAT feature. This is 100% necessary for the POST PC future, I’ve always wondered why do I have to plug my iPad/iPhone into a computer when I first buy it? Why can’t I just use it? And what if you are POST PC and don’t have a PC to update? See what I’m saying? Maybe security updates will download from any connection, and core OS and feature updates will require Wi-Fi?

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