I am what you might call an "early adopter" when it comes to technology — I love new features, hate waiting, and don't mind glossing over imperfections when there are exciting new features to be had. As such, even if I weren't writing about iOS 12 and macOS Mojave and required to run beta software for my job, I would have signed up for Apple's Beta Software program. It's just who I am.

The software won't be available for another few weeks, but if you're interested in signing up for the public beta, I've got a few words of consideration for you (and, if you choose to go forward, some how-to steps on joining the beta program).

Should you sign up for the Apple Beta Software Program?

Apple's public betas bring a ton of brilliant new features to iOS and macOS, but they also bring their fair share of unfinished bits: freezing apps, randomly rebooting springboards, slow processing, and things that plain don't work properly.

If you're on the fence about whether to jump into public beta land or not, here's a quick overview of the perks — and problems — that come with running beta software.

Do you have a non-mission-critical device you can test with?

This is the first question I ask people when they're debating running any sort of beta: Is this a machine or device that, if it catastrophically breaks, will end up destroying your life in any way? If the answer is yes, I emphatically reply: Do not run the beta. If you have an older iOS device, a second Mac, or extra space on your primary Mac to run a partition, you're in much better shape to consider running beta software.

Granted, I've never run a beta that completely wrecked my iPhone; even the earliest of developer previews have mostly played nice over the years. All the same, better safe than sorry: If you can't risk your device to a beta, you shouldn't be running that beta.

What features are really must-have for you?

If the only reason you want to upgrade is for a feature like Apple's new photo sharing features or Siri Shortcuts, I hate to break it to you — you may not be really able to enjoy it until the fall. Some of Apple's new features require server support from the company, and when it comes to third-party apps, developers have had about a three-week head start to augment or improve their programs. That's not a ton of time to build much of anything.

On top of that, Apple won't let developers submit apps that contain iOS 12-only features in them until the fall — so even if your favorite app has an updated beta for iOS 12, you may not be able to get them in a shipping update just yet.

Do you like reporting bugs?

As iOS and macOS continue to grow in complexity, it becomes harder and harder to catch every bug internally before the company's autumn release. It's a huge reason why Apple offers public betas: User feedback can help shape the operating system so that by the time Fall rolls around, those nasty bugs and weird user interface errors should be squashed.

Apple even offers dedicated feedback apps for both the iOS and macOS public betas, so that it's easier than ever to file bugs. But if you're more interested in messing around with the new Memoji than letting Apple know if Safari's privacy features crash your iPhone X, the public beta may not be the operating system for you.

Bottom line: When in doubt, you probably shouldn't

Honesty here: If you don't have an extra device to spare or partition space to use, it's probably not in your best interest to run Apple's betas. Software like this can muck up your day-to-day routine, and that can potentially result in all sorts of frustrating situations. I've missed morning appointments due to malfunctioning alarms, been unable to listen to streamed music over Bluetooth, and had third-party apps randomly crash on me while in the middle of typing.

I don't mind dealing with that. But you may well might. If you need your Mac, iPhone, or iPad for work or waking up or anything crucial, play it safe: Fall 2018 will be here before you know it, and those features you're so excited for will be a lot more fun when they don't result in lost productivity.

That said, if you don't mind putting up with bugs or you have an auxiliary device, the public betas can be a lot of fun — and you can be personally responsible for helping Apple fix and improve aspects of its software you find lacking or buggy. (Few things are more satisfying than knowing you helped push forward a fix that will eventually help millions of users.)

How to sign up for the Apple Public Beta Program

  1. Visit beta.apple.com.
  2. Click Sign Up.
  3. Sign in to your Apple ID account.
  4. Read and agree to the software agreement.

Once the public beta is available, you'll be able to download it by visiting beta.apple.com.

Any other questions?

Let us know in the comments.

Running beta software


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