The public betas for Apple's iPhone and iPad operating systems are here. But should you go rushing out to download? Probably not.
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 11 and required to run beta software, I would have signed up for Apple's public beta program. It's just who I am.
But is it who you are, reader? The public betas bring a ton of brilliant new features and apps to iOS, to be sure, 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 Cash or drag and drop to third-party apps, I hate to break it to you — you won't be able to really enjoy it until the fall. Apple Cash requires 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.
iOS 11 also introduces a new photography and video standard — one that most apps have yet to fully support. If you take a lot of photographs and use an app that doesn't auto-convert formats before uploading, expect to see a lot of errors during the beta period.
On top of that, Apple won't let developers submit apps that contain iOS 11-only features in them until the fall — so even if your favorite app has an updated beta for iOS 11, 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 iPad multitasking features than letting Apple know if Drag and Drop crashes your tablet, 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 2017 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.)
- FAQ: Apple's beta software
- Should you run beta software?
- iOS 11 public beta: The ultimate guide
- macOS High Sierra public beta: The ultimate guide
- iOS 11 developer beta: The ultimate guide
- macOS developer beta: The ultimate guide
- iOS 11: Everything you need to know
- macOS High Sierra: Everything you need to know