Apple Public Betas

I’d never used one of Apple’s betas before, always waiting until release date to start using the new versions. I’d heard that the early beta releases can be quite buggy, and I rely on my devices working. Now the beta process is over, I’m sharing my experience in case it’s useful to anyone considering a future iOS or macOS beta.

I’m a geek. When I was younger, I used to love things not working, for the chance to fiddle and tweak. I’d spend evenings and weekends reinstalling Windows. I spent quite a while running various Linux distributions, from Slackware through SuSE and others. In more recent years, though, computers have become something I use to do things. The things I want them to do are more important to me than the computers themselves.

I’d heard about some of the great new features in iOS for the iPad, and wanted to try it. I figured the worst likely case was it being broken for a while, and while that would be inconvenient, it would be possible to get it back with a bit of work, and a couple of people I follow online said it was totally worth the minor problems for the new features.

Installing a beta isn’t too difficult. You sign up at appleseed.apple.com, and enrol your Apple account into the beta program. Once that’s done, you visit the same site on the device you want to update to the beta software, and it updates the device to look for beta software updates, and installs the certificates so it will accept the beta releases. Restart, then check for a software update in the usual way – Settings, General, Software Update.

The iOS beta was generally very good for me. There were some quirks in iBooks, which were inconvenient, especially in one beta release, where footnotes stopped working – awkward when you’re reading Terry Pratchett books! The bigger problem from a practical point of view was that for a couple of versions, Photos wouldn’t import, just hanging indefinitely. Each problem I had, though, was fixed reasonably soon, and bug reports through the Feedback app appeared to be used by Apple – I had requests for more information for a couple of reports, and notifications when a couple were fixed in later updates, asking me to test again and confirm.

Since that was going well, I also went for the macOS beta, updating my MacBook to the beta releases of High Sierra. For the most part, that too was ok, but there were a few problems too. The worse was that one release stopped my Photos library opening. It would crash when opening whichever library was the system library. I could open my main library, as long as I set another to be the system library, but in that case I couldn’t sync it.

Fortunately, the Feedback app meant I could submit reports to Apple engineers, and had the tools available to take full logs of what was going wrong, and send them to Apple. I don’t know if they actually used them, but the problem disappeared in the next version, so at least I can pretend my reports were investigated and helped solve the bug that was causing me so much trouble.

Once iOS felt completely stable on my iPad, I enrolled my iPhone too, and saw no problems at all with that. I only did that quite late in the beta process.

I enjoyed getting early access to things, and I may do it again in future, if there are new features I’m keen to try, but it’s not something I’d recommend for non-geeks, or if you have to rely on your devices working for your income. For me, I only really rely on these things for my hobbies, so it’s inconvenient if they stop working, but not actually critical.

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