FAQ | How Can I Get iOS 16 Right Now?

You may find ways to get iOS 16 early, but note those are grey areas at best (and outright scams at worst).
New Lock Screen iOS 16 5 Credit: Apple
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This week, Apple announced iOS 16 with lots of exciting new features and enhancements. There’s so much cool stuff packed in that many folks are understandably eager to find out how they can get it for themselves right away.

Unfortunately, unless you’re a member of Apple’s Developer Program, you’ll need to be patient. As usual, Apple released the first “Developer Preview” (read: early beta) of iOS 16 to registered developers right after yesterday’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) Keynote. Still, it’ll be a few weeks before anybody else can get their hands on it.

Developers pay $99 per year to be part of the Apple Developer Program. While technically, anybody willing to pay the fee can sign up to be a “developer” with Apple, it’s intended for folks who plan to create apps to publish on the App Store.

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The same principle also applies to these early developer betas. There’s a reason why Apple only makes them available to developers and not just curious early adopters. Developers who are building apps need to have access to the new operating system as soon as possible to get their apps ready for the general release in the fall.

However, Apple also makes it abundantly clear to developers that the iOS developer betas are intended to be installed only on “development devices” — secondary iPhones used for testing — and not on the personal devices that those developers regularly use. Apple tells developers to only install the software “on devices and systems that you’re prepared to erase if necessary.”

That doesn’t mean that some smaller developers don’t take these risks. After all, not everyone can afford to buy a second iPhone just to test their apps. For a small independent developer, that’s a calculated risk — it’s the tradeoff between getting their app ready and having a buggy and unstable iPhone. It’s harder to justify merely to satisfy your curiosity.

PSA | Avoid Questionable Sources

While you may find folks offering ways to get early access to an iOS 16 developer beta, it’s important to note that these are grey areas at best and outright scams at worst. The only legitimate way to get the iOS 16 beta right now is to be a valid member of Apple’s $99/year Developer Program.

Some unscrupulous folks are selling or even giving away access to the first iOS 16 beta through semi-legitimate Apple Developer accounts. However, this goes against the terms of the Apple Developer Program, and these accounts will be terminated when Apple catches up with them.

Beta software, including previews and seeds, refers to a version of software that’s still under development and not yet released to the public. This software is intended only for installation on development devices registered under your Apple Developer Program membership. Registered development devices can be upgraded to future beta releases and the public version of the software. Attempting to install beta software in an unauthorized manner violates Apple policy and could render your device unusable and necessitate an out-of-warranty repair.

Installing the iOS 16 beta through a non-legitimate source could result in several problems. If Apple closes the developer account, you won’t be able to update to any future betas, so you’ll be stuck on whatever potentially buggy release was last installed on your iPhone.

Further, Apple Support does not provide warranty service on a device running an iOS developer beta. The folks at the Genius Bar or an Apple Authorized Service Provider (AASP) will refuse to touch a device running an iOS beta — you’ll have to erase your iPhone and reinstall the last released version before bringing it in for repairs.

Legitimate Apple Developers can go through Apple’s developer support channels. Those who installed a developer beta through other means don’t have that option.

Wait – It’s Not Worth It

I am a member of Apple’s Developer Program and have been for years. While I can attest to first betas getting remarkably more stable in recent years, I avoid installing the initial beta of a major new iOS release on my primary iPhone.

Even if this initial iOS 16 beta is entirely stable, there are still several problems you can run into:

  1. There’s a good chance that many of your third-party apps won’t work correctly. Some may not even launch at all, while others may have problems getting online, syncing, or interacting with other parts of iOS like the camera, photo library, or contacts.
  2. You’re guaranteed to get noticeably poorer battery life. Not only are early betas not optimized for power management, but Apple has numerous other background processes running for diagnostic purposes. I have never used an early iOS beta that didn’t seriously impact my everyday battery life, even on an iPhone 12 Pro Max.
  3. With recent iOS versions, there are many moving parts beyond your iPhone, and these are almost certainly not available yet. Last year, features like iCloud Private Relay and Hide My Email were non-functional in early betas. This year, the same will likely be true with things like editing iMessages, snoozing emails, and iCloud Shared Photo Library in iOS 16. Most of these rely on back-end changes on Apple’s servers.
  4. Sometimes, even the built-in features aren’t ready in the early betas. For example, SharePlay wasn’t available in the first beta of iOS 15 last year. So, many of the cool new features you’re hoping to play with likely aren’t even there yet — and if they are, they’re probably not fully baked.
  5. Some of the things Apple showed off require third-party apps to get on board. Focus Filters, widgets on the Lock Screen, and Live Activities will only be available with Apple’s first-party apps like Calendar and Mail. You won’t see most of these showing up in third-party apps until the general release of iOS 16 in the fall. Some developers will release beta versions of their apps via TestFlight before that, but there’s no way any are ready today; the developers writing these apps have had the iOS 16 beta for less than 24 hours.

I don’t recommend wasting your time with the first iOS 16 developer beta. Enjoy what others have to say and share about the exciting new features in iOS 16, and you’ll have a chance to try them out for yourselves later this month or early next month when Apple releases the first public beta of iOS 16.

If you’re not already a member of Apple’s Beta Software Program, you can get a head start by signing up now to be ready when the public beta lands.

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