Update: Automatic Downloads are live… and they’re not quite what we expected. Instead of allowing you to update software automatically, the service lets you synchronize music, book, and app purchases across multiple iOS devices. Buy a song on your iPod touch and it will automatically be downloaded on your iPad as well.
Apple may have beat Google to providing an “update all” button in the App Store, allowing you to download and install all available free updates for apps on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with just one tap. But Google eventually added that feature to the Android Market and then took a step further, providing an option that lets users automatically download updates as they become available without tapping any buttons. Now it looks like Apple is preparing to even the score with its own automatic download feature.
Mac Rumors captured a screen in iTunes which is no longer visible, but which mentioned a new “Automatic Download” feature. If enabled, “your updates will download to your device without having to sync” with your desktop version of iTunes.
It’s not clear if Apple will take a Google-like approach and let you select which apps will be updated automatically while requiring other apps to be updated manually (so you can review any new features or other changes before downloading the update).
It’s also possible that Apple could eventually offer the ability to download iOS operating system updates over the air. Right now you need to sync with iTunes to backup your device and install system updates. Google Android, on the other hand, allows users to download and install updates directly on their phone or tablet without connecting to a computer.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs is expected to introduce iOS 5.0 at the company’s developer conference tomorrow. It’s possible that automatic downloads will be just one of many new features in the next version of the iPhone and iPad operating system.