Apple’s upcoming new software for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, iOS 5, is currently available in beta form for developers. In addition to devs, there are tons of other regular iDevice owners hoping on the iOS 5 beta train without understanding what a beta is and in the process hurting app reviews on the iTunes App Store.
Current iDevice owners can either pay to install the beta of iOS 5 or, if they’re willing to ignore some risks, get it for free. It appears that some people that have installed it this way have taken to the App Store to give applications poor reviews because they aren’t working with iOS 5 and at least one iPhone developer has chimed in with his thoughts on the situation.
Here is what Malcom Barclay had to say about the situation regarding the poor reviews of applications:
I can understand users are very eager to get their hands on the latest & greatest iOS shown off at WWDC. So they sign up for developer accounts for £59…with a few clicks, an alternative restore through iTunes, voilà, latest iOS is installed on your shinny iPhone. Problem is, this is beta software and there’s a very good reason it’s called beta software. It’s not finished.
Downloading & installing beta versions of iOS is akin to moving into a near-new house with missing windows, no carpet & some furnishing. In other words, it’s a building site. If you don’t understand this distinction, then you have no business installing it.
He also adds:
The review system is not for leaving bug or support related questions, for example, ‘How do I add a favourite?’.
With so many regular iDevice users downloading the software these days, it might be time for Apple to rethink its iOS beta policy or better yet, not allow users using beta versions of software to rate applications. While it’s probably not a big deal to regular old people, the ratings mean a lot to developers and Apple would be wise to appease them with some sort of safeguard against this. But Apple shouldn’t be the only one taking action.
What’s happening here is the direct result of companies misusing the term beta for years now. People used to associate the word “beta” with something that was in development or a product that was unfinished. However, as Barclay’s findings show, the average user now equates beta to a sneak preview or early access and until companies and devs stop throwing the word beta around, issues like this are going to continue to pop up.