iOS 13.4 spills details of new over-the-air recovery for iPhone and iPad

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With the ability to survive 30,000 bends, and cary 275 pounds, this is one tough Lightning cable.
You still need a Mac or PC for now.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple’s mission to eliminate cables could take a big leap forward this year. New code in the iOS 13.4 beta suggests the company will finally give users the ability to restore iPhone and iPad software over-the-air.

“We’re living in a post-pc world,” said former iOS chief Scott Forstall in 2011. “We have a lot of customers coming to us and saying ‘I want to buy an iPad as my only device’ … And that’s exactly what we’re going to support.”

Nine years later, you still need a Mac or PC (or a Genius Bar) if you need to restore an iPhone or iPad and install a fresh copy of iOS. That might not always be the case, according to new leaks in iOS 13.4.

Apple plans over-the-air restores for iOS

Code hidden in the third beta release makes mentions of an upcoming feature named OS Recovery. Details are slim for now, but reports suggest it will give us the ability to restore an iOS device without first connecting it to a computer.

“According to what we found in the system, it would be possible to restore the iOS directly over-the-air as well as by connecting the device via USB to another iPhone or iPad,” reports 9to5Mac.

The feature isn’t active in iOS 13.4 yet, so although there is some code there, testing is not possible. It’s also worth noting that Apple could scrap any plans for the feature before it ever makes its way into a public release.

It would be a nice addition to iOS for those who don’t always have a computer handy, however — and Apple already knows how to build a feature just like this.

Over-the-air recovery available for macOS

Apple gave us the ability to restore a Mac over-the-air, without the need for a recovery DVD or flash stick, in OS X Lion in 2010. Its Internet Recovery feature lets you download a fresh copy of macOS during the restore process.

The same year, Apple brought Wi-Fi sync to iOS. This was the first step in reducing the need for a PC for iPhone users.