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Can’t wait for iOS 14? Download the ‘beta’ version for early access

June 25, 2020, 9:00 PM UTC

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Apple previewed its new iPhone software, iOS 14, during its worldwide developers event (WWDC) last week. Its release is expected in mid-September, alongside the debut of Apple’s next generation of iPhones.

However, iPhone fans can get early access to the upcoming mobile operating system by applying to join one of Apple’s “beta” programs, which offer prerelease versions for testing. There are two options to consider.

Impatience is a virtue

The first program is free, open to the public, and provides advance access months before the official rollout.

To participate in the test, you can sign up on the Apple beta program software website. All that is required is a working Apple ID, which consists of an iCloud email address and the relevant password.

Like the date of iOS 14’s commercial release, the release date for the public iOS 14 beta has not yet been set. But based on the company’s timeline in recent years, it is expected in mid-July.

Once the public beta becomes available, registered testers can download it through the usual “software update” tab in the default iPhone “settings” app. Apple recommends that people back up their iPhones before downloading the software, since bugs can cause issues.

If you can’t wait, you can get your hands on iOS 14 beta software as soon as today. But it will cost you.

For the alphas among us

The Apple developer program is designed for people who are interested in developing applications. The program offers the earliest access to iOS 14 beta software.

In addition to an Apple ID, registrants must provide some basic personal information, like a legal name and street address. The developer program also requires an annual membership fee of $99; though some organizations, such as nonprofits, academic groups, and government agencies, can apply for a fee waiver.

If you’ve followed these steps and have become a member, you will then be able to download the iOS 14 beta software here. Navigate the menu and click “install profile,” then select that profile in the “general” tab of the default iPhone “settings” app.

As with any beta, it’s wise to backup one’s device before installing it. Apple offers people early access partly to discover—and resolve—technical issues that the new software may cause.

Why care about iOS 14?

The new iOS represents a major makeover.

Apple calls it “the biggest update ever” to the iPhone home screen. The features include customizable “widgets,” or shortcuts to programs that can be dragged and dropped around a screen (like a weather-at-a-glance tile); an App Library that automatically sorts apps into a convenient gallery view (picture “productivity” and “lifestyle” bundles); and a new kind of temporary, disposable app called App Clips (useful for throwaway downloads, like the app for a scooter rental service in a city you’re visiting just for a weekend).

The enticements are more than cosmetic. The new iOS features privacy enhancements, including informational report cards about the data an app is collecting, a stand-alone translation app, and less disruptive notification for incoming phone calls (a pop-up rather than a full screen).

If you’re going to download an early version of the iOS software, remember that you’re signing up for a tradeoff. You’ll get to try all the whizbang upgrades sooner than your friends, but you’ll be volunteering as a guinea pig while Apple works out the kinks in the system.