The next version of iOS will offer over-the-air updates, without the need to plug your iPhone/iPod into your computer, according to sources quoted by 9to5 Mac. There have been negotiations between Apple and Verizon Wireless over this development, though nothing is yet known about AT&T.
This improvement means that Apple would have to make serious changes to the entire update process, no longer requiring the download of the entire OS.
An over-the-air update could also solve the tedious update process, by applying incremental updates, just like Microsoft has been updating its OS. Android also does the same. If Apple manages to eliminate the need for a plug-in and the entire OS download, it would regain lost ground in this area, as most of Apple’s competitors are using the method already.
Most likely, as we’re already used to, the iOS 5 will be released at the same time as the iPhone 5. We should expect the over-the-air update to be released shortly after that.
This update could affect iTunes as it will no longer be needed by iOS devices for future updates. This could finally make the iPad a standalone device. Obviously, the iPhone being the most widespread product Apple has, and the one that brings in most of the sales, will be the first to feature the update.