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The big unveil of Apple’s latest lineup of operating systems at WWDC last month included a surprising bonus: For the first time ever, Apple would be releasing a public beta of watchOS 7, giving early adopters a chance to try it out before the public release in September.
Although Apple opened up its public beta program back in 2016 for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users, the corresponding Apple Watch betas were never included, leaving those who wanted to live on the edge with the latest iOS beta on their iPhone, were stuck with an Apple Watch that lagged behind.
While this wasn’t initially a big deal, since Apple had to maintain backward compatibility with older watchOS versions anyway, it did create a problem last summer when many Apple Watch users running the iOS 13 public beta on their iPhones experienced serious battery drain problems, likely due to the mismatched versions.
However, Apple was clearly reluctant to include watchOS in the public beta program, likely because unlike the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, there’s simply no going back once you update your Apple Watch. While falling back to an older iOS or iPadOS version is still a hassle, involving erasing your iPhone/iPad and restoring it from an older backup, at least it’s possible.
There’s simply no way to do this on the Apple Watch, however.
Despite this, Apple has obviously chosen to go forward with letting users try out the new watchOS 7 public beta, with the clear understanding that once you install watchOS 7, there’s no going back.
This is also likely why the watchOS 7 public beta has also taken a bit longer to arrive — Apple undoubtedly wanted to make sure that all of the bugs were worked out before letting end users risk installing it.
The iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 public betas landed only a couple of weeks after WWDC, following only two closed developer betas. By contrast, the fourth watchOS 7 developer beta was released last week, with the corresponding watchOS 7 public beta coming out yesterday.
How to Get watchOS 7
Again, we can’t emphasize this enough: There is no going back to an earlier watchOS version. Before you jump on the watchOS 7 beta, be sure you’re willing to deal with any potential problems that may arise from running a pre-release version of watchOS 7. If something goes wrong, you’ll be stuck living with it until the next public beta is released.
That said, I’ve been running the watchOS 7 developer betas on my Apple Watch Series 5 for the past couple of weeks, and it’s been remarkably stable for me, but of course your mileage may vary.
The second caveat is that you must also be running the latest iOS 14 public beta on your paired iPhone in order to get the watchOS 7 beta software. As much as Apple has been decoupling the Apple Watch from the iPhone over the past few years in terms of its day-to-day operation, an iPhone is still very much necessary to configure and set up the Apple Watch.
The third catch is that watchOS 7 drops support for some older Apple Watch models, specifically the Series 1 and Series 2. So if you’re still using one of these Apple Watches, or you had an old one lying around that you were hoping to try the beta out on, you’ll be out of luck. This is actually only the second time that watchOS has left older models behind; watchOS 5 dropped support for the original Apple Watch “Series 0.”
Lastly, Apple notes that VoiceOver is not functional in the current watchOS 7 public beta, so users who rely on VoiceOver should not install the public beta right now, as you’ll most definitely be missing this feature.
So, with all of that in mind, if you’re still champing at the bit to try out the latest watchOS public beta, here’s how to go about getting it:
- Update your paired iPhone to the latest iOS 14 public beta if you haven’t already (here’s how to get it if you haven’t already installed it at all).
- Sign into Apple’s Beta Software Portal on your paired iPhone using Safari.
- Tap “watchOS” from the horizontal bar at the top and then tap the “You can enroll your Apple Watch” link (or click here to go directly to the enrolment instructions).
- Tap on the “Download profile” button, and tap “Allow” to download the profile if prompted.
- Once the profile has been downloaded, the Watch app should open automatically, showing the new profile ready to be installed.
- Tap Install in the top right corner to begin installing the profile,
- Tap Install again on the “Consent” screen that appears.
- Tap Install one more time to confirm the beta profile installation.
- Tap Restart when prompted to restart your Apple Watch.
- After your Apple Watch has finished rebooting, reopen the Watch app on your iPhone and tap General, Software Update.
- The watchOS 7 Public Beta should appear as an available update.
- tap Download and Install and follow the instructions to install the watchOS 7 public beta.
This public beta installs in the same way as any other watchOS update, and the same conditions apply, meaning you’ll have to make sure the Apple Watch is on its charger with at least 50% power and in range of your iPhone and connected to Wi-Fi.
As with the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 public betas, once you’ve installed the configuration profile, subsequent public betas should appear automatically as normal watchOS software updates.