Apple and US network carrier are reported to be planning to issue over-the-air updates for the iPhone in the near future.

9to5Mac reports that the two companies want to provide iOS updates without the user having to connect to a Mac or PC and manually apply updates through iTunes.

Other smartphone operating systems such as Android can be updated over-the-air, though the timing of these updates are dictated by the mobile carriers. Verizon, which only began offering the iPhone to US customers earlier this year, is said to be in talks with Apple about providing over-the-air updates, with 9to5Mac citing "multiple sources".

It is thought that the feature won't be in the first iteration of iOS 5, but will be part of a point update, perhaps only for Verizon iPhones. There have been no reports of AT&T, the other US carrier to offer the iPhone, or any other international carriers planning over-the-air updates.

One iOS device that already supports over-the-air updates is the Apple TV, bypassing the need for iTunes intervention for the latest operating system versions to be applied.

However, the file sizes of iOS updates - generally over 600MB - are a potential stumbling block. Apple would need to make the updates a lot smaller in order for issuing them to millions of customers over mobile networks to be realistic.

But the report does point to the interesting possibility of making all iOS devices standalone, not having to rely on a Mac or Windows PC for updates.

Meanwhile, Apple has issued iOS 4.3.3 - much earlier than expected - to fix location-tracking bugs in iOS that were revealed last month.