Over-the-Air iOS app updates coming soon?

iTunes displays App Update feature hinting at the future

Apple could have accidentally released an iOS5 feature several days before the WWDC conference. As proven by MacRumors, asking iTunes to check your app library for updates, the update page leaves a hint at a future feature, which the user who captured the information managed to screen-capture. The sentence underlined above relates to a feature currently non-existent in iOS, and means it may release as part of iOS5. If such a change was to happen it would mean that users could avoid manually re-downloading the app from the App Store, or syncing their Apple device with iTunes. Furthermore, it suggests an 'Automatic Download' setting appearing for more than just apps. Apple have been rumored to be looking into over-the-air updates for some time now, and it seems plausible that this will be the case.

Over-the-air updates are typically among the less well supported methods of releasing new updates for software, as some network providers choose to not support them for various reasons. It is common for network providers to contact customers using a specific handset via an SMS in order to alert them to the existence of newer software, and is typically done in a manner to prevent service disruption for other users. Should Apple implement the feature, it is not yet clear what network providers will work with the system and what will not. Over-the-air updates are occasionally pushed for Android devices, though have been unusually absent from Apple's products since their release. Assuming the system is implemented for all devices running iOS it could appear available with both the iPod Touch and the iPhone, as well as the iPad. Rumors have suggested that the iPhone 3GS and other older models will not be able to run iOS5. The new update system may have made this possibility more likely.

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19 Comments

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over the air updates? that's so CUTTING EDGE. i can't believe nobody has thought of doing this sooner.

they'll be putting in copy and paste next!

...maybe they'll even get rid of the stupid itunes requirement altogether.

We can already do over the air updates of apps, no not really a feature coming soon. Just that from the blurb from apple it could soon be automatic.

jimmyfal said,
Copying WinPh7 again eh? So annoying...

WP7 app updates aren't automatic, you have to go to the marketplace and click Update All.

So, why did every one start putting over-the-air in the title for these articles? The first few about it I saw used said automatic which makes a lot more sense since that's what it's about, you can already do App updates OTA this is making that automatic.

Also,
"Furthermore, it suggests an 'Automatic Download' setting appearing for more than just apps. "
how exactly is this suggesting OTA system updates? Most apps are small so they could be downloaded (games could be trouble though a bunch of them being almost a gig), for system they would have to first make the updates smaller and stop reinstalling the system every time and then they would have to write a way for the phone to update itself too, none of what's needed is there, for apps everything is in place and just needs to be made automatic.

Of course, there have been rumors about OTA system updates and I kinda hope they are true, just so the download gets smaller which in the end might make app updates (both ios and mac app store ones) smaller too as they too could be made incremental.

Leonick said,
So, why did every one start putting over-the-air in the title for these articles? The first few about it I saw used said automatic which makes a lot more sense since that's what it's about, you can already do App updates OTA this is making that automatic.

Also,
"Furthermore, it suggests an 'Automatic Download' setting appearing for more than just apps. "
how exactly is this suggesting OTA system updates? Most apps are small so they could be downloaded (games could be trouble though a bunch of them being almost a gig), for system they would have to first make the updates smaller and stop reinstalling the system every time and then they would have to write a way for the phone to update itself too, none of what's needed is there, for apps everything is in place and just needs to be made automatic.

Of course, there have been rumors about OTA system updates and I kinda hope they are true, just so the download gets smaller which in the end might make app updates (both ios and mac app store ones) smaller too as they too could be made incremental.

Yeah, Neowin's reporting skills are always really bad. This article in particular made me cringe more than usual.

thommcg said,
I'd be happy if they managed to (significantly) reduce the update size.

That will be. Currently they ship the whole OS, instead of just a diff.

CSharpFan said,

That will be. Currently they ship the whole OS, instead of just a diff.

This is just app updates though.
But true, if they would do OTA system updates they would have to make them incremental instead of the whole thing every time.

thommcg said,
I'd be happy if they managed to (significantly) reduce the update size.

Sorry, what I meant was, I'd be happy if the downloads were smaller whether or not OTA is introduced.

Jan said,

And? This is a news post, not a forum post.

I know NeoWin isn't in the habit of properly citing it's sources or tips - but it would have been good to have a "thanks for the tip" at the end?

Matt Hardwick said,

I know NeoWin isn't in the habit of properly citing it's sources or tips - but it would have been good to have a "thanks for the tip" at the end?

They linked MacRumors...maybe the writer got it from there not the forum.