Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Stephen Hackett

The Summer of Betas

It’s the summer (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) and that means it is time for Apple software betas!

For many years, Apple has run a Public Beta program, giving non-developer nerds access to the new versions of macOS, iOS and tvOS.

Installing these betas is easy. After logging into Apple’s site, you’ll download a certificate that allows your device to download the latest and greatest.

Preparing for the betas is a little more work. While going back to the non-public version of iOS or macOS isn’t always easy — or even possible — it’s still important to have a backup of your data, and to have as much of it synced to services like iCloud as possible.

For an iOS device, I will run iCloud backup on the beta OS, but I’ll make a backup using iTunes to have in cold storage if I need it later.

On the Mac, I generally run the betas on an external SSD, leaving the stable OS and all of my data safe and sound on my laptop’s internal drive. When I decide to boot into it full-time, I’ll make a clone of my drive with Carbon Copy Cloner to have as a safety net.

An interesting point to consider is why Apple allows members of the public to test upcoming software. Surely some testers have less-than-great experiences with the betas, with some even possibly losing data and time if a restore is needed.

I think the answer is at least three-fold. Most importantly, the public beta allows Apple to capture a lot of data about how its new software operates in the real world. As large as the developer community is, spreading the betas even wider lets Apple gather automatic statistics and feedback from a wide range of users with an untold number of configurations.

Secondly, the public betas give enthusiasts a way to feel “in the loop” with Apple, and more connected to the platforms they feel so strongly about. Getting to use features before they are ready — and possibly helping shame them via feedback — is a cool thing if you are into this stuff.

Almost every summer, I have the opportunity to answer questions about upcoming iPhone features from friends and family members. This grassroots education program can help people get excited about updates in a world where many people still think that Apple releases new software to make their devices slower and outdated. This year, Apple is doing the exact opposite, and if the enthusiast community can help spread the word, then everyone wins.

[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]

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