Over the Air Updates: Failsafe, Fast and Post-PC

 update iOS 5 Beta 7

With iOS 5, Apple is introducing the long-awaited over-the-air updates. The idea is that you no longer have to plug your device into your computer and wait for things to update and the new OS to download and install. Most of us have experienced that and know that the process typically takes about 15 minutes or so. That’s 15+ minutes of having to keep your iPhone plugged in, and having to be near your computer to make sure the update goes well.

That’s soon going to be a thing of the past.

Over-the-Air Update

Over the Air Updates (OTA) are just updates that happen wirelessly. You get a notification on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch informing you that there is an update available. From there, you can download the update, which is very fast. In our experience with the beta it works rather well on both wifi and 3G.





It’s a good idea to plug in a device while it’s being updated. At the very least, you should make sure that it has a decent charge. Apple has ensured that users are aware of that by implementing a failsafe install on their OTA updates. As some may know, having your phone shutdown in the middle of an update can easily corrupt data and cause issues. In order to help prevent that, Apple has a warning:


If there is less than 50 percent battery power left in your device, you will not be able to install. You must either plug in, or make sure that you have sufficient juice for the install process.

Upon plugging in, the “Install Now” button will be highlighted again, letting you know that the option is available.


From there, it’s just a few minutes of sitting back.


What’s So Good About That Extra Measure?

For most of us, it’s standard practice to plug in or ensure that we have power on our devices before a firmware update of any kind, but may never cross the mind of a casual user. The device knows that it will need more power before the update or risks shutting down during the process, so it lets you know.


Over the Air Update Anything Special?

Well, it’s something Android devices have been able to do for a while, so it’s not entirely new. However, it’s something that iOS users have been wanting for quite some time. It’s also a model that helps tighten Apple’s whole ecosystem. If our devices update and sync over the air, then much like AirPlay, iCloud and Mac OS X Lion, it’s just part of Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems coming together.

It’s always been a pain in the past to download a song on your iPad, then plug in, sync, unplug, plug in your iPhone and sync, just to get one song on the other device. Apple is working towards making all of that a thing of the past. It’s taking time, but it’s coming together carefully.



Steve Jobs and Apple always mentioned a post-PC era. It may not be what all of us see, but it’s a bit easier to imagine when you completely remove the computer from the equation. The iPad will no longer need to be connected to a computer in order to update or even to be activated. Yes, the majority of us will still have a desktop computer. However, there are the users like our parents who may be in their 60s or 70s. They don’t typically want do deal with a computer and any of the fuss that comes with it.

Many of them don’t want to worry about installing drivers, software installs and discs, viruses, scans, defrags, malware. None of that. They just want to check their email and browse the internet. At most, they visit Facebook.

Those users often need nothing more than an iPad to get them by. They are happy with it, and it does anything they need of it.

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