Customers: Using Apple's beta software before it's ready is a terrible idea

As developers test new versions of Apple's iOS and OS X operating systems, non-developers should refrain from using the latest and not-so-greatest.

Apple desktop
Image: Apple

It's been the same story every summer for the past few years. In June, Apple introduces a new version of its iOS mobile operating system and releases a beta version fully stocked with a number of new and exciting features for developers to test.

Then, regular users who have no business trying out a buggy piece of beta software use sketchy websites or pester friends with developer accounts with Apple to get the new operating system early.

Inevitably, beta software is buggy, and many apps don't work. Unfortunately for developers, many of these users then take to customer support channels, message boards, and the App Store's own review sections to complain that their favorite apps don't work with Apple's newest and unreleased software.

We see it every year, and it's incredibly frustrating. When I worked at an Apple Store, we dealt with this as customers came into the store complaining that their iPhone battery life was terrible or that they couldn't get Safari to load more than two web pages without crashing. We immediately turned them away (to their annoyance -- and ours), saying that beta software wasn't supported and that they would do well to wipe their phone and reinstall the latest consumer release of iOS.

Even recently, I have friends asking me if they should install iOS 8 or OS X Yosemite on their Macs, iPhones, and iPads. I tell them that it's a terrible idea, and that I regret installing the software on my own devices -- but, in the name of journalism, I make the sacrifice. For three months every summer, my iPhone and iPad are totally unreliable, requiring regular restarts and displaying terrible battery life. However, for regular customers, getting access to upgrades ahead of time is a terrible idea.

Advice given and then ignored, they ask me for tips on how to install the new operating systems anyway.

Sorry developers, I tried.

All that said, it's easy to see why -- particularly over the past few years -- users want to play with the new iOS operating systems early. Last year, iOS 7 brought a top-to-bottom redesign of the entire user interface. This year, the tight integration of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite promises to be one of the biggest upgrades to iOS since the App Store (well, if Apple's marketing hoopla is to be believed). Either way, it is a big update.

Tight integration between iOS 8 and Yosemite includes some of the following features:

  • AirDrop -- lets users quickly transfer files (documents, photos, and videos) from iPhone to Mac
  • Handoff -- allows users to begin reading a webpage or working on a document on one device and then have it seamlessly transferred to another device
  • Continuity -- helps erase the distinction between the Mac and the iPhone when it comes to making calls or sending text messages

These are all great features, and the redesign of OS X Yosemite appears to be fantastic. The Loop's Jim Dalrymple had nothing but positive things to say about the new Mac operating system, claiming that he "couldn't be more behind an OS X update" if he were designing it himself.

Both iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite are expected to be released this fall, alongside new iPhones, iPads, and perhaps an iWatch. It's going to be an exciting second half of 2014, and I know millions of Apple fans are finding it difficult to wait on the company to decide if everything is ready.

But, please, for all the Apple Store employees and thousands of developers... just wait until it's ready.