Apple has recently announced the Public Betas for iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and other Apple Devices. This is in anticipation of the release of the “Gold Versions” (or “Release Candidates”) of these operating systems this Fall, probably in October. Likewise, The Android Community also has Beta versions of the Android OS available for testing. So, with Internet safety in mind, should your family try the new Public Betas for Apple and Android?
Background – What Are “Beta Versions”?
New software is notorious for having issues, called “bugs”. This is to be expected since a software package or app may have from hundreds millions of lines of code. Tests are done on the different developmental versions of a software to work out these bugs and insure compatibility with hardware, operating systems, and.or user software/applications.
The industry starts hearing about these tests when software enters ALPHA testing. This is when the developers are testing potential release candidates. This normally is a proprietary level of testing and often does not take place outside of the developer’s firm. If the beta package is released for public or industry testing it is understood that it has not been fully tested and may contain serious errors. It’s not a “First Draft”, but it is far from being a Release Candidate. Not all features may be complete by this time this testing begins. At the end of the ALPHA testing it will be locked as a “Feature Complete” (FC) version.
The next phase of testing is what gets geeks and interested public users all excited: BETA testing. When beta testing begins it is Feature Complete but likely to contain several known or unknown bugs. It may even crash. The beta version is released to the desired population of users based upon it’s progress through the process. There are generally two types of beta versions that go into test:
- Developer Beta Versions: These are versions provided to software developers to test, especially against their own products which may use or interface with the software in development. For example: Facebook would want to test the iOS 17 Developer Beta early on so they can ensure that the Facebook app operates will with new OS. If not, they may suggest changes to the BETA version or they may update their own app. To participate in Developer Beta testing you normally must go through a sign-up and vetting. This often requires adherence to a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) as well as a fee to enter the publisher’s Developer Beta program.
- Public Beta Versions: Also known as “Open Beta Versions”, these are beta versions that are generally several versions behind the Developer Beta packages. Techies, geeks, and hobbyist are the primary audiences for these versions. Public Betas are generally more polished with performance-related issues already corrected. Basically, the software company is getting the public to test their product in the “wild”. This is very helpful because no company can test all the many different device and software configurations that are out there. Public Betas let the publisher have a wider testing field. Some publishers also charge for Public Beta testing, too!
A software publisher may use one, or both, of these types of Beta test procedures.
The Risks in Beta Testing Software
You assume considerable risk joining a best test program due to the unfinished nature of the software being tested, be it a Developer or Public Beta effort. Here are some of the potential risks:
- Time Commitment: Both testing and reporting take time.
- Training: Training may be required, especially if it is a new product or major upgrade.
- Data Loss: This is not a finished product, so if something really goes sideways you can lose your data. (We’ll discuss how to mitigate this risk below.)
- Performance: It might cause your device/system to act “weird” or slow down. You might have to completely wipe and reload it.
- If you are using parental control settings or apps then there is the risk that loading and updating the beta package could “reset” the parental controls, or the parental controls might not work at all.
Mitigating the Risks in Beta Testing
There are several things you can do as a parent to mitigate the risks of you, or your family members, beta testing software.
- Make sure your hardware can use the newer software. Especially with operating systems the developer may only provide compatibility with a certain subset of devices. For instance, the manufacturer of Android phones may only support a phone for its original version of Android + two more versions. Therefore, If you buy a device with Android 12, you might only be able to upgrade the device to Android 14. When Android 15 comes out you will be left behind. This means that you can’t get all the latest and greatest when Android 15 and beyond are introduced.
- Before installing beta test software: BACK THE DEVICE/SYSTEM UP!!!!! I cannot stress this enough. This is protects you from data loss should things really go sideways!!!! Consider all the pictures and videos you’ve taken and don’t want to loose! Or, you Contacts!
- DO NOT test beta software on “mission critical” devices and systems! For instance, if you want to test iOS 17 beta you should not do it on your primary phone or tablet. This is especially important if you use that device for business, school, or other critical uses. The teacher does not want to hear: “The beta software ate my homework!“
- Work with your children if they decide to beta test software. Have them do installs and upgrades of the software in your presence and then double-check the parental control settings to ensure nothing has happened. If it does, immediately report the bug to the publisher. (They will provide a system for reporting bugs when you begin the beta testing.) I would also limit beta testing to those 14 and over.
Beta testing can be fun. It is also a way to learn what is coming down the road, and possibly influence it! Just follow these guidelines!
Wrapping it up!
With all of this I hope you can now answer the question: Should Your Family Try the New Public Betas for Apple and Android?
How to Find Out More:
- Microsoft INSIDER programs: Microsoft has a number of different programs for beta testing. There are programs for Windows, Office 365, Xbox, and more. Search their site for the appropriate beta program . Here are links to some of the most popular Insider Programs:
Windows Insider Program
Officer 365 Insider Program
- Apple Beta Testing: Apple has both Developer Beta programs and Public Beta Programs. They have recently made the Developer Beta Program FREE! Click HERE to find out more!
Note: Apple’s beta testing program includes software for: iPhones, iPads, macOS, Apple Watch OS, tvOS, and visionOS. With Apple you only have to join one developer program for access to all.
- Android Beta Testing: Visit or search your device’s manufacturer’s web site for their beta test program. Android OS is not completely the same across all devices as phone/device manufacturers modify the base Android package from Google to fit their hardware, software, and corporate needs.
Caution: If you are reading about a best test, or new version of an OS or app, make sure it is compatible with your hardware. For instance, the Google Pixel beta package may not have full functionality or stability on other Android phones.
- App and Program Beta Testing – Contact the publisher of any software or apps that you wish to test to inquire what their policy is. It can be a LOT of fun. I’ve been beta testing games, off and on, since the 1990s!
- Parental Controls Testing: If you are just a major fan of a particular parental control product then contact the manufacturer or publisher. You may be able to help them on their next update!
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