"Not publishing" does not hold back changes in many circumstances, including products, blogs, etc. this is also true of dedicated mobile templates pages
publishing creates SEO files
publishing means publish the files... push the changes... clear the cache etc...
but it does not mean changes will be held back from any inaction. publishing helps push changes through that are cached, not publishing does not guarantee they won't get through.
Some servers are "live" and require no publishing. Some servers are remote, and require publishing.