updated 07:35 am EDT, Thu May 5, 2011
Apple in talks for iOS 5 OTA updates
Apple may give iOS some of its first real computer independence with iOS 5 after rumors late Wednesday of over-the-air update plans. While every user would still need to get iOS 5 through iTunes at first, at least iPhone owners would have the option of getting subsequent updates directly from the device. It's presumed by 9to5 that upgrades would also finally be incremental rather than requiring users download the entire firmware every time.
The update wouldn't necessarily get automatic approval from carriers, contacts said. Talks have reportedly been underway with Verizon, and presumably other carriers, to allow the updates to roll out over 3G. It wasn't clear how discussions were progressing, though Apple has until as late as September to make a deal if rumors of the iPhone 5 and iOS 5 launch schedules are true.
Questions remain unanswered as to backups. Apple would presumably keep iTunes backups in place, but whether or not it would use the iCloud service isn't as clear. Even when discounting media, however, firmware and apps can consume gigabytes and could put a heavy strain both on the device and on bandwidth.
The feature would still represent a long requested addition to iOS. Virtually every other smartphone platform, including Android, BlackBerry, webOS, and Windows Phone, lets users update directly from the device. Apple when introducing the iPad 2 referred to it as a post-PC device but, without OTA update delivery, has been inherently tied to a computer in a way that Android isn't. Direct updates and potentially backups could let users own an Apple handheld without ever having to connect to a PC.