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The Evolution of Apple’s iOS Beta Testing Program

by Lidia Lucovic

Apple’s iOS beta testing program is undergoing changes. Prior to the release of a new software update such as iOS 16, it undergoes several stages of beta testing.

The initial phase is carried out internally by Apple, during which new features are developed and potential flaws are identified. The software is then provided to developers, who utilize the beta version to update their apps and identify any bugs. Subsequently, members of the public can sign up as beta testers and be the first to test the upcoming software release prior to its full public launch.

Typically, developers gain access to beta software through a configuration profile that authorizes a device to receive over-the-air beta software updates. While an official Apple developer account is required to access this configuration profile, it can be shared with others, making it easy to obtain and install without registering as an official developer. However, with the release of iOS 16.4, Apple is phasing out developer beta configuration profiles, and registered developers will be able to install beta software updates without needing to install a configuration profile.

In the iOS 16.4 developer beta software update release notes, Apple introduced changes to the process of downloading and installing beta updates. Instead of using a configuration profile, developer beta software updates can now be installed automatically. To do this, users must sign in to their Apple Developer account on the device they want to install the developer beta software update on. In the “Software Updates” tab in the Settings app, developers can then select whether to install a public release or a beta release.

This change means that developer beta software updates will be exclusive to Apple Developers for the first time. Since configuration profiles are being phased out, it is no longer possible to install a developer beta update on a device without an Apple ID registered as a developer. Although Apple Developer accounts are not exclusive to developers, they are less accessible than the online configuration profiles previously used. Now, anyone with an Apple ID can register as a developer for an annual fee of $99 to gain access to developer resources, including beta software updates.

These changes ensure that average users cannot install developer beta software updates without paying Apple, but they do not affect public beta software testers. Anyone can sign up for the Apple Beta Software Program for free, but public beta testers receive updates after the developer betas become available. While Apple’s new approach to developer beta software updates simplifies the process, it also makes the releases more difficult to access.

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