<img src="/sites/imore.com/files/images/stories/2011/03/ios_51.jpg" alt=Apple exploring over-the-air updates for iOS 5?" title="Apple exploring over-the-air updates for iOS 5?" width="500" height="224" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-57632" />

Mark Gurman from 9to5Mac is hearing that Apple and Verizon are discussing over-the-air (OTA) software updates for iOS 5. Google's Android and HP/Palm's webOS have been doing OTA OS updates for a while now, and Apple has done OTA carrier file updates, but when it comes to iOS the only option thus far has been complete firmware updates via iTunes.

Multiple sources say the new feature will debut in iOS 5, meaning iOS 5 will not come over-the-air but following point updates to it will. Just like tethering in iOS 3, Apple has the technology but cannot just unleash it everywhere. Apple and Verizon Wireless are said to have been in talks over these wireless software updates since early this year. Sources could not comment on whether or not Apple is negotiating similar deals with AT&T or international iPhone carriers.

And according to Chronic Dev-Team founder, Chronic, it may have been in the works for a while:

I can say quite a bit of code to allow OTA updates has been on the OS for awhile

Chpwn adds:

MobileSoftwareUpdate.framework has been there since iOS 4, but is only "fleshed out" with daemons, etc on the Apple TV.

And iH8ns0w:

there is strong evidence that OTA updates could be coming. Ramdisks have been getting shipped w/o encryption. The AES engine is disabled when it reaches kernel state. So, it cannot decrypt images in iOS.

Apple TV (2010) already does OTA updates for iOS, though it's secured to a power source at all times. Apple provided Mac OS X Lion's developer preview via the Mac App Store, so it's not inconceivable that future iOS updates could come via the iOS App Store either.

Step by step Apple has been dismantling the iTunes tether dependency. Could OTA updates be the next big leap?

[9to5Mac, @chronic, @chpwn, @iH8sn0w]