The First iOS 18 Beta Is Now Available (But Should You Install It?)

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It’s an exciting week for Apple fans. Yesterday, the company showed us previews of all its major new operating system releases during its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) Keynote, plus some groundbreaking new generative AI features it’s calling Apple Intelligence.

Like every June WWDC, iOS 18 brings a lot of fun new features that you’re likely eager to try. The good news for brave early adopters is that Apple has already released its first developer beta of iOS 18, and it’s continuing the tradition it started last year of making developer betas free for everyone.

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That means you can grab iOS 18 developer beta 1 (DB1) without signing up for a paid Apple Developer Program membership or trying to hunt down alternative workarounds. This means it’s easier than ever to jump into iOS 18 right away — all you need to do is sign up for a free developer account and flip the switch in the Settings app to get the iOS 18 Developer Beta.

Of course, like many things, just because you can do something easily doesn’t always mean you should.

We get it. There are a lot of things in iOS 18 to get excited about, and those who like to explore new features are probably champing at the bit to play with everything Apple’s next big release has to offer. However, Apple’s presentations are always top-notch, so they’re often surrounded by the “Reality Distortion Field” first credited to Steve Jobs.

In other words, iOS 18 looks really cool when Craig Federighi and the gang are showing it off, and, to be fair, it will probably be pretty close when it’s ready for the final release in September, but we’re nowhere near that point yet.

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Here are a few things to consider before taking the plunge into an early iOS 18 beta:

  1. This is a developer beta. We can’t emphasize this one enough. Apple explicitly states these betas are only to be installed on ”devices dedicated for iOS 18 beta software development.” They’re not for public consumption, and there are zero guarantees that your iPhone (and data) will come through an update to a developer beta unscathed. Remember, Apple expects these to be installed on devices dedicated to testing, which means iPhones with nothing important stored on them.
  2. Apple won’t service devices running beta software. If you’re running any beta version of iOS on your iPhone, even a public beta of a point release like iOS 17.5, Apple will refuse to touch it, even if it’s suffering from an obvious hardware problem. This isn’t even a matter of the Apple Geniuses being difficult; the company’s systems now outright refuse to check in a device that’s not running a public release version. If something goes wrong with your iPhone, you’ll have to wipe it and restore iOS 17 onto it before bringing it in.
  3. There’s no easy way back. Once you update to an iOS beta, the only way to return to the last stable release is to fully wipe your iPhone and set it up as a new device. You can restore from a backup if you have one, but you can’t restore a backup made while you were running iOS 18 onto a device running iOS 17. If you have problems or need to take your iPhone in for service, you’ll be forced to revert to a backup that could be days or weeks old — and that’s only if you had the foresight to keep an older backup on your Mac or PC since any backups made from iOS 18 to iCloud or your computer will overwrite the older iOS 17 ones.
  4. You will experience poor battery life. Not “might” or “could.” Early developer betas are guaranteed to be hard on your battery. Apple doesn’t waste time optimizing its betas during these initial stages. Expect your battery life to take a nosedive if you opt for DB1, and don’t go out without a charger or battery pack handy.
  5. Third-party app incompatibility is a given. While early developer betas have been remarkably accommodating to third-party apps in recent years, there’s always one or two that don’t work quite right after applying such an early beta. That’s not Apple’s fault, as sometimes there are things that developers need to fix to make their apps run better on the newest iOS release. However, remember that these developers haven’t had access to iOS 18 for any longer than the rest of us have — that’s what the first developer beta is for.
  6. Not everything is even here yet. Just because Apple showed us everything that iOS 18 will offer doesn’t mean that it has everything ready to go. Early developer betas are often missing features or have them implemented in a half-baked way. For example, iOS 18 DB1 lacks support for hidden apps and RCS Messaging, and Mail categorization isn’t coming at all until later this year. Apple Intelligence features like the improved Siri aren’t scheduled to come to beta testers until sometime this summer; they’re nowhere to be found in iOS 18 DB1.

In addition to the features that are simply missing, some of the coolest iOS 18 features won’t be useful unless your friends are also running the iOS 18 betas. For example, you’ll see colorful tapbacks and be able to use the new text effects in the iOS 18 Messages app, but users on iOS 17 won’t see them at all — they won’t even get a message that says you reacted to theirs in some way.

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With all that being said, we’d recommend most people wait until the public betas come out early next month. However, if you have a spare iPhone lying around or you’re willing to take the risks and you’re going into it with your eyes open, you can install the developer beta of iOS 18 by visiting developer.apple.com and signing in with your Apple ID under Account in the top-left corner and accepting the terms of the program to confirm that you know what you’re getting yourself into. Note that you don’t need to join or enroll in the paid Apple Developer program — you can close your browser when you get to that final page.

Once you’ve done that, you should find a new “Beta Updates” option under Software Updates in the Settings app, where you can select the iOS 18 Developer Beta. Once that’s done, the iOS 18 Developer Beta will appear like any other standard iOS update, and subsequent developer betas will arrive the same way.

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