It now seems that Apple is actually able to update iPhones or just unlock features for iPhones over the network. Apple has not confirmed this to be true; however certain functions have appeared this way. The send photos to web gallery function was added to many iPhones in this manner. The update was required and you have to have a .Mac account, but then it should just automatically update the iPhone even when it is not plugged into iTunes.
This is big news as far as I am concerned. This means that Apple has complete control over what is on your device. Scary? Well, maybe, but it is also very cool. This means that Apple could have certain things updated on your iPhone immediately if it was necessary when say troubleshooting the device. Apple may be able to notice that a certain update has not been made and unlock it at that time to make it work and you would not have to have it connected to the computer and iTunes.
This could be a great feature in the future, but we will have to see what Apple ends up doing with it.