Should You Be a Beta Tester for Apple?

Apple will soon be releasing beta versions of its iOS and OS X software to participants in its Beta Software Program. Based on feedback that participants provide on usability and quality, Apple identifies and resolves issues prior to its production release.

Should you participate in the free Beta Software Program? That depends. If you only have one iOS device or one Mac, probably not. As Apple cautions, the beta version may contain errors or inaccuracies and may not be as stable as the current production version. I have an ‘old’ iPad mini (1st generation) as well as a 3rd generation one so I decided to take the plunge and join the Beta Software Program. I will load the beta, or pre-release, software on my 1st generation iPad mini.

The Apple Beta Software Program is different from the Apple Developer Program. The Beta Software Program allows early access to a public version of the operating system to help Apple to identify any bugs or other issues. The Apple Developer Program allows developers to test and build applications. Participants in the Apple Beta Software Program may receive different beta software from participants in the Apple Developer Program.

You can join Apple’s Beta Software Program here: Apple Beta Software Program

Help make the next releases of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan our best yet. As a member of the Apple Beta Software Program you can take part in shaping Apple software by test-driving pre-release versions and letting us know what you find.

You have to agree to Apple’s Beta Software Program Agreement. Some of the more standard or expected conditions in the agreement are:

  • You cannot share or transfer any software or other materials you receive from Apple in connection with being a Beta Program participant. The Apple ID and password you use to login as a Beta Program participant cannot be shared in any way or with any one.
  • However, if you are the parent or legal guardian of a child between the ages of 13 and the legal age of majority, you may allow your child to share your Apple ID and password for their use in connection with the Beta Program solely under your supervision.
  • You may not disclose, reproduce, distribute, modify or create derivative works of the Apple software.
  • You may not decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, decrypt, or otherwise attempt to derive the source code of any Apple software
  • You will be able to provide feedback to Apple by submitting bug reports, questionnaires, enhancement requests, issue reports and/or support information to Apple.
  • Of course, all information is confidential.
  • Apple will not reimburse you for any costs, expenses or liabilities incurred, including equipment damage or loss of data.
  • You should back up all data and information prior to installing the pre-release version.
  • Do not use the pre-release version in business-critical applications.

Now for the stuff that may give you pause:

  • You may be unable to revert back to the pre-loaded, commercial release (such as iOS 8) of the Apple software you were using.
  • Applications and services you have installed or been using may be unable to run or function in the same manner because of your use of the pre-release software.
  • Your computer or device may not be capable of being restored to their original condition.
  • Applications and services may be affected by your use of pre-release software.
  • Data (including documents) that you create or change while using the pre-release software may not be able to be restored or recovered.
  • The pre-release software may cause failures, corruption or loss of data or other information.
  • Apple is not obligated to provide you with any maintenance, technical or other support for the pre-release software.

And, lastly, since you are agreeing to test software for Apple’s benefit, there are certain Big Brother aspects to the agreement, some of which may indeed give you pause:

  • Apple and its subsidiaries and agents will be collecting, using, storing, processing and analyzing diagnostic, technical, and usage logs and information from your devices that are running such pre-release versions of iOS as part of this Beta Program.
  • Thankfully, the information will be collected in a form that does not personally identify you (although they are collecting your unique device identifiers).
  • Information may be collected from such devices at any time, including when you sync to iTunes.
  • The information that is collected includes:
    • general diagnostic and usage data
    • various unique device identifiers
    • details about hardware and operating system specifications
    • performance statistics
    • data about how you use your device, applications and peripherals
    • if Location Services is enabled for Diagnostics, the location of the device at least once per day
    • the location where a call ends
    • the wireless/cellular network coverage and current radio conditions at a particular location
  • Apple may share such diagnostic, technical, and usage logs and information with partners and third party developers
  • You acknowledge and agree that Apple and its subsidiaries and agents have your permission to collect all such information
  • If you do not agree, you may choose to turn off Diagnostics (which kind of defeats the purpose).

These are just the ‘highlights’ of the agreement. If you are thinking about participating in the program, please be sure to read the agreement in its entirety.

Since I am enrolling an iPad in the program as opposed to an iPhone, I don’t have concerns about Apple tracking my call information. Also, I will only used the iPad at home so I’m not concerned about location tracking.

Apple is expected to release the public beta versions of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan in early July.


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