Mobile

Apple and Verizon may be planning over-the-air iPhone updates in iOS 5

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Apple may be gearing up to offer updates wirelessly (without the need to connect your iPhone to iTunes) in its upcoming iOS 5 this fall, and it’s apparently in talks with Verizon to make it happen, 9to5 Mac reports.

The feature has been a long time coming for the iPhone, as both Android and WebOS have been offering the ability for users to update their phones over-the-air (OTA) for some time.

Since wireless updates involve transferring large amounts of data over cellular networks, carriers also have to be on board. At the moment, it sounds like Apple is only discussing the feature with Verizon, as AT&T continues to have trouble managing its iPhone network traffic.

9to5 Mac says it’s been hearing about the prospect of OTA updates in iOS 5 since March. Just like iPhone tethering before it officially launched, Apple likely already has the technology to implement the updates, but it needs to be careful about how the feature rolls out. The site notes that the new Apple TV, which is based on iOS, can receive wireless updates on its own.

There are also two potential issues with moving to wireless updates, as 9to5 Mac points out. For one, Apple will have to make sure that updates are more incremental in the future — at the moment, even minor iOS updates (like the recent location tracking fix) weigh in over 600 megabytes. That’s because Apple is including a full copy of iOS with every update. Apple also relies on iTunes to perform backups, so there may have to be a cloud-based solution (perhaps the MobileMe revamp we keep hearing about) to back up user data.