Here’s another rumored feature coming in iOS 5: over-the-air updates. While not ground-breaking in any way (this has been available on smartphones running Android and webOS, as well as Windows Phone 7, since their inception), it will be a compelling new feature and bump in ease-of-use.
There are currently a few setbacks with this system being implemented in iOS. The first is that the current size of updates is well into being 600 MB. Apple would have to switch to a patching system, instead of downloading the whole OS and flashing it over, in order to reliably get the full download to work. That could mean a hit in reliability either way, though, as patching the OS can go wrong.
Tied in with that previous point is that backups aren’t going to happen if you aren’t synced. One major part of every update cycle is the backup process, which ensures that, should the update fail, you will be able to get back your apps, music, videos, and other information by restoring.
One theory being thrown around is that iOS will only be allowed to download updates when connected to a WiFi network, and not a typical 3G connection.
The other part of this story is that Verizon and Apple have been “in talks” regarding this very feature since the laucnh of the Verizon iPhone. It’s unclear if Apple has had those same talks with other carriers, though if the feature debuts in iOS 5 it is likely to be implemented across every carrier that the iPhone is compatible with.