Over-the-Air: Future iPhone, iPad Updates May Not Require iTunes

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As Apple gets set to reveal details of the next major overhaul to the iOS software used on the iPhone and iPad, there’s been some speculation that future incremental updates to the operating system may be pushed out directly to devices instead of having to be downloaded into iTunes first.

That’d be a relatively trivial feature to add, as it’s one that exists for several other smartphone platforms already and, as 9to5Mac.com points out, “iOS-based AppleTV has been able to update itself without iTunes intervention so the hooks are obviously in iOS” already.

The challenge with updating a device like the iPhone over the air, however, is whether Apple would try to work out a deal with the carriers to allow big updates to be pushed out over fragile mobile networks or just require that updates be downloaded over Wi-Fi networks.

My money’s on making over-the-air updating a Wi-Fi only affair, seeing that the updates can reach several hundred megabytes in size. That, or Apple would have to convince carriers to offer updates as unmetered downloads.

Otherwise, those of us on a 200 megabyte-per-month plan could blow through our monthly allotment and then begin incurring overage charges just so we can update our phones. No, thank you. And considering app and music downloads are already capped at a 20-megabyte limit over a 3G connection, it’s hard to imagine big updates being pushed out over 3G.

But Apple and Verizon have apparently “been in talks over these wireless software updates since early this year,” according to 9to5Mac.com, so I could be wrong. The site posits that Apple may “make the updates much smaller by using incremental patches rather than full OS downloads,” which would work.

Either way, we’ll get a definitive answer in early June as Apple dishes up details about iOS 5 at its yearly developers conference.

More on TIME.com:

An ‘Onlion’ Release for Apple’s Next OS

New iPhone Update Addresses Location Tracking Issues

Analyst: Apple May Be the Biggest, but Will Get Even Bigger

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