Apple is making a significant change to iPhone and iPad software betas

iOS 16
(Image credit: iMore)

Not surprisingly, developer versions of iOS, iPadOS, and other Apple software, have been designed for developer use only. And yet, it's no secret non-developers use these versions on their primary devices for no other reason than to test new software goodies months before they are released to the public. 

One reason for this is Apple has allowed it. That's about to change. 

First, the good news. Beginning with iOS 16.4, iPadOS 16.4, etc., Apple's making it easier for developers to try the latest betas by adding a toggle on the Software Update tab. The bad news: If you don't pay Apple the $99/year developers license fee, you won't be able to install and use the latest developer beta. 

What Apple is saying

iOS 16.4 new Software Update settings

(Image credit: Apple)

In the iOS 16.4 and iPadOS 16.4 beta release notes, Apple explains: 

"Beginning with iOS & iPadOS 16.4 beta, members of the Apple Developer Program will see a new option to enable developer betas directly from Software Update in Settings. This new option will be automatically enabled on devices already enrolled in the program that update to the latest beta release. Your iPhone or iPad must be signed in with the same Apple ID you used to enroll in the Apple Developer Program in order to see this option in Settings. In future iOS and iPadOS releases, this new setting will be the way to enable developer betas and configuration profiles will no longer grant access."

This doesn't mean it's the end of the line for beta testing for non-developers. Instead, the changes are intended so there's a clear separation on who's using developer betas instead of public betas. 

Key differences between developer and public betas

As we already noted, Apple's Developer Program is intended for actual app developers who need access to the latest software for testing purposes. In the case of developer software, this means software that can be unstable and bug-prone and ideally suited to only run on non-primary devices. For this, developers are asked to pay a yearly membership fee. 

By contrast, any with an Apple device can become a free member of the public beta program. Public beta versions are typically released a few weeks after the developer beta software versions. Though these versions can also include bugs, they are much more stable than the developer versions. 

iOS 16.4: a significant change

As a long-time non-developer using developer software from Apple on my primary devices, I'm somewhat upset by the abovementioned change. And yet, it makes sense. 

Non-developers love trying beta software, especially after new versions are announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) each June. And yet, when doing so, many of these same non-developers run into problems that they ask Apple to address. By limiting developer beta use to developers (willing to pay for the opportunity), Apple can eliminate many of these headaches and concentrate on improving the beta program. 

Besides, it's not like non-developers are suddenly out of luck. They'll have to wait a few weeks longer before trying new features as part of the public beta program. 

You can sign up for the public betas by visiting and clicking the Sign-Up link, or — if you're already a public beta member — logging in with your Apple ID and password.

You can join Apple's Developer Program to become a part of the Apple development community and get the tools and training you need to develop apps for the App Store. With this membership, you'll get access to developer betas of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. Again, Apple App Developer Program memberships cost $99 per year.

These betas can run on all the best iPhones and other devices, including the iPhone 14

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.