iPhone OS updates could soon come wirelessly

iPhone users must currently sync their handsets with their computers to receive system updates. That may be changing.

iPhone users may soon be able to receive iOS updates wirelessly. Here, the proud owner of a white iPhone 4 is shown in San Francisco.

iPhone users generally have things pretty good –– varied selection of apps, solid data service, seamless connectivity with most computers. What iPhone users do not have is the ability to wirelessly update their operating system. Until now! (Maybe.) Over at the usually-reliable tech site 9 to 5 Mac, Mark Gurman reports that Apple and Verizon are in the process of bringing this functionality to the iPhone, perhaps as soon as this fall.

As Gurman notes, wireless updates are already commonplace in the Android ecosystem, and why not? It's easier and simpler to push updates directly to handsets –– much easier than the current Apple set-up, which requires users to sync up their iPhone with iTunes. Gurman says it is unclear whether or not Apple is negotiating a similar wireless functionality with AT&T; right now, it looks like Verizon users would get the feature first.

"Obviously, if this is a feature in iOS 5, it should conceivably make its way to iPad and iPod touches as well," Gurman writes. "That means iTunes may no longer be a needed conduit for updating iOS devices in the future. It would also mean that the iPad could finally be a stand alone device." This last point is especially important: Right now, iPad users must own a laptop or desktop computer to get the most out of their iPads.

Wireless updates would change that.

But as Lance Whitney notes over at CNET, wireless updates would also present some unique challenges. "[U]pdating an iPhone through iTunes first syncs the contents of the device to the PC as a precaution in the event the update fails," Whitney writes. "If an update were to bypass iTunes, people would need some other way to back up and sync their devices, perhaps through some sort of cloud-based system.

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