The latest release of iOS 5, currently in beta 2, will pave way for over-the-air software updates as Steve Jobs had promised when the iPhone OS was unveiled at WWDC earlier in the month. Reader Sonny Dickson of 9to5 Mac dissected the code of the latest beta and finds that iOS 5 will allow select firmware updates over 3G and WiFi connections.
There are several caveats for over-the-air, or OTA, updates. For one, users will have to have at least 500 MB of free storage space for each delta update (or 5.x update, not major revisions like from a 5.x to a 6.0 update). Additionally, users must have a minimum amount of battery on their iPhones for the download to occur, presumably so that your phone doesn’t shut down mid-way through the update and brick itself if the update doesn’t complete successfully.
Additionally, some updates may only be downloadable on WiFi while others are available either over a 3G mobile broadband or WiFi connection. It’s unclear which updates would require WiFi and which would require 3G, but speculation is that an update like 5.1 may require WiFi while smaller updates like 5.1.1 may be available over 3G. These smaller delta upgrades are usually rolled out to address security flaws and bug fixes without adding any new features.