A message that appeared in iTunes briefly last night before being taken down by Apple hints that automatic application updates are on the way to iOS users as part of the upcoming system update.
Discovered by MacRumors, the hint came inside of the iTunes app update page, where users can opt to have the iTunes software fetch application updates in bulk, as opposed to waiting for them to update one at a time on the device itself. The boilerplate text on this section was otherwise identical to what's been there for years, with the exception of the end line, which said: "or if your device has Automatic Download enabled for apps, your updates will download to your device without having to sync."
Apple's had on-device application updating since the launch of the App Store, though one of the only enhancements since then has been an option to install all the updates at once, which was added as part of iOS 2.2. Otherwise, the process is entirely manual, and one that requires launching the App Store app, and often being connected to a Wi-Fi network for any updates over 20 MB in size.
Competitor Google's had an automatic update feature as part of Android since the "Froyo" update was released last year. This lets users opt to pick certain applications that should automatically update every time the OS makes a check. Apple's system could work in a similar fashion, though the brief language suggests the feature will only deliver downloads over the air, versus automatically installing them.
Rumors cropped up earlier this week that Apple was testing a similar update system for its Time Capsule device that would fetch system software updates for Apple's Mac OS, as well as tap into iCloud services. This could very well be a part of that system, or just a standalone feature in iOS 5, which Apple has said it will be debuting on Monday morning.
WWDC kicks off at 10 a.m. Pacific on Monday with a keynote from Apple CEO Steve Jobs. You can catch our live coverage of it here.