Want the Newest iPhone Features Early? Learn How to Join Apple’s Public Beta Software Program

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If you browse this site regularly, you may periodically see articles about OS X or iOS beta releases. Just recently, Apple released iOS 9.3 Beta 2 for iPhone users that are currently enrolled in Apple’s Public Beta Software program.

The update added several new features to iOS, including a toggle for the yet-unreleased “Night Shift” mode. Most users will have to wait a month or longer for the official iOS 9.3 release to access these features.


However, if you’re the type of person who can’t wait until Christmas to open your presents, and you want early access to such features, you may consider enrolling in Apple’s Public Beta Software Program.

What is the Public Beta Software Program?

Apple introduced the Public Beta Software program in 2014, allowing certain users early access to beta versions of OS X Yosemite. These beta versions are essentially operating system updates that aren’t quite ready for the public, yet.

Apple previously relied on developers to work through the beta updates and report back any crashes or bugs that they encountered during testing or normal use. The Public Beta Software Program was designed to get more eyes on the beta releases – the more people use it, the quicker any errors get sniffed out and resolved, leading to more efficient and stable releases in a quicker fashion. The program was extended to iOS last March, letting iPhone and iPad users in on the fun.

Should I Join?

Well, that depends. On one hand, getting early access to new features and native apps can be really fun. On the other hand, the beta releases aren’t officially available to the public for a reason. The beta releases aren’t fully fleshed-out versions of OS X or iOS yet – they may have bugs or errors, they may crash or perform erratically, and they often aren’t quite as quick or responsive as the official releases.

If you’d like to get an early peek at some of Apple’s latest features, and you’re willing to put up with the occasional bug or crash, then joining the program may be a good idea. All that Apple asks is that you report back to them if you encounter a problem so that they can get to work on fixing it. However, if you’re one of the people that enjoys Apple products because they “just work”, you may be better off just sticking to official releases.

How do I Join?

Before installing any beta software, it’s highly recommended that you backup your system. If you’re looking to install OS X beta software, use Time Machine to create a backup – use iTunes to backup your iPhone or iPad before installing.

It’s also worth noting that Apple recommends that you only install beta updates on “non-production devices that are not business critical.” And while it may seem like overkill, Apple also recommends that you only install these beta versions on a “secondary system or device, or on a secondary partition on your Mac.”

One you’ve created a backup for your device, joining is easy. Head to Apple’s Beta Software Program website, and click the “sign up” button to sign up with your Apple ID. Apple will send you instructions on how to proceed, and you’re in business. The program is open to anyone with a valid Apple ID, so long as they’re willing to agree to the terms and conditions.

There is no cost, and you’ll receive updates every time a beta release is issued. It’s that simple.

Is There a Way to Get Out of the Program?

Some people enrolled in the program have had their system crash completely, or they’ve decided they’ve had enough of playing around with incomplete software. If you’re one of those people, and you’d like to go back to official versions of OS X and iOS, Apple has published detailed guides on how to roll back to official updates and un-enroll from the program.

Instructions on deleting the beta and re-installing the previous official iOS releases are here, with a guide to restoring from an iTunes backup here, and for re-installing official OS X releases here, with a guide to restoring from a Time Machine backup here. Finally, to leave the Beta Software Program, visit Apple’s unenroll page and follow the instructions to leave the program.

Learn MoreiOS 9.3 Beta 2 is Available Now with Multiple New Features

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