First Look At Over-The-Air iOS Software Update [iOS 5 Features]

BY Jason

Published 22 Jul 2011

iOS 5

When Apple unveiled iOS 5 at WWDC 2011 Keynote, one of the features it showcased was the OTA software update.

iOS 5 Beta 4 that was just seeded to developers of iOS Developer program is also available as an over the air (OTA) software update, which makes it the first OTA iOS Software update (from a developer point of view).

How does it work?

  • The iOS OTA Software update downloads automatically on the iOS device when it is available. However, after the delta update is downloaded, you are prompted to either install it now or later.
  • After the iOS software update is downloaded, you should also see a pending notification badge for the Settings app.
  • The OTA software update works over Wi-Fi and also over 3G.
  • You can continue to use your iOS device when the delta update is being downloaded.
  • It looks like iPhones must have 50% of charge or must be plugged into a power source to download the OTA update. This requirement seems to be more relaxed for iPad as users have been able to download the OTA update with only 12% charge.


Though Apple had told us that the OTA updates will be an incremental/delta update rather than downloading the entire iOS firmware, we weren’t sure how much MB of data it would save from being downloaded.

We now have some idea. If you consider iOS 5 Beta 4, the iOS 5 beta 4 firmware file for iPod Touch 4G is 773MB, while the delta update is only 128MB, which is a savings of 645MB of data from being downloaded. For iPhone 4, the iOS 5 beta 4 firmware file is 824MB, while the delta update is only 133MB, which is a saving of 691MB of data from being downloaded.

It is important to note that the savings will depend on the changes and new features incorporated in the latest iOS software update. The size of the delta updates should also change/increase or decrease if one wants to skip a particular version and want to update straight to the latest iOS 5 beta update.


You can checkout the screenshots of the OTA software update feature below:


You can checkout the video showing the new iOS 5 Beta 4 over the air (OTA) updating in action (via InsanelyGreatMac).

What do you think about the OTA software update for iOS? Let us know in the comments.