Is Apple Ready to Offer an iOS 8 Beta to the Public?

In 40 days Apple will likely offer the first iOS 8 beta download after the announcement at WWDC 2014. This week Apple started a new OS X Beta Seed Program that left some iPhone and iPad owners wondering if Apple is ready to offer an iOS 8 beta program to the public.

iOS 8 is the name given to the next version of Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod software. Apple is currently on iOS 7.1.1 and on June 2nd the company is hosting a meeting for developers where they will announce the future of iOS. While the event does not call out an iOS 8 announcement or an iOS 8 beta by name, this is the event where Apple announced iOS 5, iOS 6 and iOS 7 and then promptly offered a download of the iOS beta to developers.

Unless Apple announces a major shift, we could see the iOS 8 Beta downloads available on the afternoon of June 2nd. This will be the start of a long iOS 8 beta program that could easily span seven or eight betas and before an iOS 8 release date in the fall. Apple typically releases the new version of iOS to older devices several days before the new iPhone release.

Apple's new program led some to believe Apple is ready for an iOS 8 beta for anyone, but that seems unlikely.

Apple’s new program led some to believe Apple is ready for an iOS 8 beta for anyone, but that seems unlikely.

Every year there are a large number of users that want to try the new iOS software well before the release. This week Apple announced the OS X Beta Seed Program that allows anyone running Apple’s Mac software to try the new beta update ahead of the official release and to try a new version of iTunes. Normally users would need to pay $99 a year to access these files as a registered OS X developer.

This led to speculation that Apple is planning to open up the iOS 8 beta program to all users, but there are important differences between this OS x Mavericks beta and an iOS 8 beta that should arrive on June 2nd.

The OS X Mavericks Beta is for an OS X 10.9.3 beta that developers have been testing for several weeks and over several versions already. This OS X update is aimed at testing graphics performance and delivering better 4k support on some Mac devices. Apple may need to test the update on a broader range of devices before a public release. These OS X betas are already well-tested.

Users can sign up with an Apple ID, and are still required to agree to a confidentiality agreement, but there is no need to pay anything to test the new version of OS X or iTunes. It is not clear how often Apple will use the OS X Beta Seed program. We should also see OS X 10.10 announced at the WWDC 2014 event in early June,  followed by an OS X 10.10 beta release. The OS X Mavericks beta followed a similar string of upgrades as the iOS 7 beta and it is possible Apple will restrict this new version of OS X to developers until later stages of testing.

As for the iOS 8 beta and any public iOS 8 beta downloads right after the WWDC announcement it seems very unlikely that Apple will deliver a public iOS 8 beta program, at least in the early stages of the process.

A new version of iOS is not complete which means that there are bugs, broken features, random reboots, apps that won’t work and battery life can take a major hit. Apple uses the beta period to test, find and fix bugs that users are not used to seeing on a final version of iOS. While some users may accept random reboots and other issues with an iOS 8 beta app incompatibility is always a major issue.

Every year there are regular users that buy their way into an iOS beta through the developer program or by purchasing a UDID registration for about $10. A vocal group of these users end up leaving negative reviews on apps that don’t work with the new version of iOS. This results in a lower rating and frustration for app developers who will use the iOS 8 beta period to make sure their apps run on iOS 8.

While an iOS 8 public beta would reduce the need for UDID registration sites that will undoubtedly offer an iOS 8 beta download to the public this summer, it would bring a number of problems. In addition to the app reviews, users with issues could end up in Apple Stores with questions and problems the Apple Geniuses aren’t able to fix.

It seems unlikely that the OS X Beta Seed Program signals plans for an iOS Beta Seed Program and a public iOS 8 beta this summer. There is not even a promise of an OS X 10.10 beta in the current seed program and if Apple does offer this it may arrive after several betas.

Users that want access to an iOS 8 beta download and to the iOS 8 beta release will need to spend $99 on an Apple developer account to be completely legal. There are other UDID registration services that charge $5 to $10 to register users for an iOS 8 beta, but Apple does not support these sites and in the past closed some sites and services down.