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How to enroll in the iOS beta program to get updates early

Here's how you can get into the iOS 13 beta once it becomes available

Do you love staying on the cutting edge of all things Apple, including the latest iOS 13 features? Then it makes sense to enroll in the iOS beta program, which allows you an early experience with the latest iOS updates before they go live for the rest of the public. Pretty much anyone can sign up to be part of the beta program and explore iOS 13, as long as you know where to go.

Of course, you will need to have a compatible device to use the iOS 13 beta. You might notice that no iPad models are on the list. That’s because Apple released a new operating system for iPads, called iPadOS, so the process may be a little different. Here are the devices that you can use.

  • iPod Touch (7th generation)
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 6s and 6s Plus
  • iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
  • iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS and XS Max

Here is how to enroll in the iOS beta program.

Note: The beta program works with iPhones. But older products may not be compatible with the newest iOS changes, so you may find issues with old models — more on this below. Additionally, beta programs are a way to test for bugs and problems, so all the usual warnings about lost data apply here.

Registering for the public beta

Step 1: Back up your iOS device

Backup iPhone
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In a perfect world, beta previews would never have a problem, but we definitely don’t live in that world. There is a chance that the beta will introduce bugs onto your iPhone, or possibly even delete your data and brick your device. To be on the safe side, connect your chosen device to a computer and pop open iTunes. If you have a pending update for your iPhone, then you’ll need to complete that before you can go on.

Select the name of your device on the sidebar once it is recognized. You will see a screen of device information, including a section called Backups. Here, look for a section that says Manually Back Up and Restore, and select the option that says Back Up Now.

You usually have an option to encrypt your backup if you want the extra protection, as well as an option to back up your apps. Encryption is up to you, but you should probably back up your apps in case something goes wrong. This may take a little space, which is why we’re doing a manual backup on your computer instead of trying to back up on iCloud.

Archive DeviceOnce the backup is finished, there is one more important step. Go up to iTunes in the top menu, select it, then choose Preferences, followed by the Devices tab on the new open window, and then go to the backup of the device you are using. If you’re using iTunes on a Windows PC, then select Edit, followed by Preferences. Here, right-click for the option to Archive your backup, which will add a lock icon to the device name. This is a little extra insurance that prevents the iOS beta from overwriting your backup in the future, so you will always have a copy of your current information safe.

Step 2: On your device, head toward the beta website

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Disconnect your iOS device from your computer, and make sure the device has a stable internet connection. Visit the Apple Beta Software Program website. Here, you can check out what devices support iOS 13. Most of the devices that are compatible with iOS 12 should work just fine with iOS 13, but we have a list of iOS 13-certified devices you can check to be sure. You can also learn more about some of the new features iOS 13 brings to the table, explore other beta programs, and learn about how the beta program works.

We encourage you to take a little time here and at least glance through the FAQs to learn what to expect. When you’re ready, select the Sign Up button to enroll in the program.

Step 3: Sign up for the beta!

Beta Sign in
Image used with permission by copyright holder

First, the enrollment process will ask for your Apple ID and password. It’s important that you use the ID that is associated with your mobile device. You may have to enter your passcode or another additional security code at this point.

When finished, take a look at the Beta Software Program agreement, read the warning labels, and select Accept when you’ve made up your mind. That’s it! You are enrolled and ready to begin.

It’s important to note that if you don’t have a developer account with Apple, you’ll have to wait for the public beta to actually use the beta. The iOS 13 public beta will be available in July.

Step 4: Download the beta onto your device

Once the public beta is available, enrollment will take you to the beta program guide, where you can explore the iOS beta tab to learn more. However, if you are on your mobile device you should also get a notification that a new software update is available that will load the beta up.

Downloading this update is easy: Just go to your iOS Settings and select the General tab, then select Software Update. This should bring up the update window, showing you what version of iOS you can update to. You can begin the update process by selecting Download and Install whenever you are ready.

You will probably want to plug your device in while it updates to make sure that it doesn’t run out of battery life. Now, just sit back and wait for your beta experience to begin!

Installing the developer beta

Though the public beta isn’t currently open yet, there is still a way to get access to iOS 13 before the public beta is released. Unfortunately, doing so requires an Apple Developer account — which costs $99 a year. That’s a bit much to pay for early access a month before the public beta is due, but just in case you do have access, here’s how you can download the developer beta of iOS 13.

Unfortunately, the iOS 13 developer beta is not available in an over-the-air (OTA) update. That means you’ll need to manually install it on an applicable iPhone from a MacOS device — there’s no way to install it via iTunes on Windows.

If that’s not a problem, follow the steps above to back up your iOS device, then begin.

Step one: Download the required files

Since there’s no way to update to the iOS 13 developer beta over the air, that means you’ll have to use a restore image. You’ll find the iOS 13 restore image on the Apple Beta Software Downloads page. There are specific files for specific iOS models, so make sure you select the correct file for your device. It’s a hefty file, too, so make sure you have the time and bandwidth to accommodate it.

If you’re currently on the MacOS 10.15 developer beta then you have everything you need to install the iOS 13 beta on your iOS device. But if you’re using MacOS 10.14, then you’ll need to make sure you have the latest version of iTunes and the Xcode 11 beta also installed. The Xcode 11 beta is available from the Applications section of the Downloads page. If needed, download, extract, and install the Xcode 11 beta.

Step two: Installing the restore image to your device

Once the Xcode 11 beta is installed, open iTunes and attach your iOS device. Select your iOS device when it appears in iTunes, and head to the Summary panel. Hold down the Option (or Alt) key on your keyboard and click on the Check for Update button. This will bring open a file selection screen. Navigate to the downloading restore image, select it, and hit Open to start the installation. You may need to confirm your passcode to continue.

This may take some time, so feel free to kick back and allow your iOS device to do its thing. Obviously, don’t disconnect your device from iTunes while the update is taking place.

Once the installation is complete, your iOS device will restart, and you’ll have access to the latest and greatest in Apple’s iOS software. But be aware, it’s likely to be super buggy at this stage, and though the public beta in July is likely to be more stable, it’s worth keeping in mind you’re in a beta test.

If you want to get rid of the beta at any time, check out how to uninstall iOS beta software from your iPhone.

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Mark Jansen
Mark Jansen is an avid follower of everything that beeps, bloops, or makes pretty lights. He has a degree in Ancient &…
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