How to Sign Up for Apple's iOS Public Beta Program

Get new iOS 12 features before anyone else

Apple devices

Apple Inc.

While Apple officially releases new versions of iOS in the Fall – usually September – there's a way you can get the latest version on your iPhone or iPad months early.

Apple's beta program for iOS is called the Apple Beta Software Program. It's completely free for anyone to join and lets you start using the next-gen software right now, before the final public release.

Signing up and installing the iOS beta software is easy and will let you test out new iOS features. However, it's not all good news; read on to find out what this program entails, whether it's right for you, and how to sign up.

Apple released iOS 12 public beta on Monday, June 25, 2018. The iOS 13 public beta will most likely be available by late June, 2019.

What Is a Public Beta?

In the world of software development, beta is the name given to a pre-release version of an app or operating system. Software is considered beta at a somewhat advanced stage of development where basic features are in place but everything isn't quite ironed out just yet.

What does that mean? Beta software isn't ready for public use because there's are still some things left to do, like fix bugs, improve speed and responsiveness, and generally polish the product.

Traditionally, beta software is distributed only within the company that's developing it or to a trusted set of beta testers. The beta testers work with the software, try to discover problems and bugs, and report back to the developers to help them improve the product.

A public beta is slightly different. Instead of limiting the beta tester group to internal staff or small groups, it puts the software out to the general public and allows them to use and test it. This greatly expands the amount of testing that's done, which leads in turn to better software.

What Are The Risks of the Public Beta?

While the idea of getting hot new software months before it's released is exciting, it's important to understand that public betas are not suited for all users.

Betas, by definition, have bugs in them – many, many more bugs than an official release does. This means that you're likely to run into more crashes, more features and apps that don't work properly, and potentially even data loss.

It's also tricky to return to the previous version once you've installed the beta of the next version. It's not impossible, of course, but you need to be comfortable with things like restoring your phone to factory settings, restoring from backup, and other substantial maintenance tasks.

When you install beta software, you have to do so with the understanding that the trade-off for early access is that things may not go well. If that's too risky for you – and it will be for a lot of people, especially those who rely on their iPhones for work – wait for the official release.

How to Sign Up for the iOS Public Beta

  1. Visit the Apple Beta Software Program web page in Safari.

    You can start these steps from your computer but you'll eventually need to open a specific web page on your iOS device, so it's best to perform all of these steps directly from your phone or tablet.

  2. Select Sign up.

    Sign up button for Apple Beta Software Program
  3. Log in with your Apple ID. If you don't have one, create a new Apple ID and then return to this step.

  4. Go to the Enroll Your Devices page by selecting enroll your iOS device under the Get Started headline.

    Enroll your iOS device to get started
  5. Follow the instructions for creating and archiving a backup of your iPhone in its current state.

  6. Tap Download profile on Step 2 of Apple's instructions page.

    Download profile button on beta.apple.com
  7. Choose Allow on the prompt to download a configuration profile, and then Close on the download confirmation box.

  8. Go to Settings > Profile Downloaded, tap Install, and then select Install again two more times for confirmation.

    Install button in Install Profile window on macOS
  9. Choose Restart when you see the prompt to reboot your iPhone or iPad.

  10. Go to Settings > General > Software Update, and tap Download and Install to update your iOS device to the most recent beta version.

    Download and Install in Software update for iOS
  11. Wait while your device downloads and installs the update. It will have to reboot once more to finish the installation.