How to install iOS 12 public beta on your iPhone or iPad

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The iOS 12 public beta could render your iPhone almost useless.
The iOS 12 public beta could render your iPhone almost useless.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iOS 12 public beta is available to download and install on any of your compatible devices. The public beta is essentially the same as the developer beta, only each build is released around a week after the developer version. So far, the develoer beta has been surprisingly stable, but its definitely not ready for regular day-to-day use (more on that in a moment). But if you’re feeling brave, or if you have a spare device you’d like to use to see what all the fuss is about, then installing the beta is easy.

Should you install the iOS 12 public beta already?

Most guides get all condescending at this point. The writer tells you that by no means should you install a beta on your main device, while they themselves have done exactly that. So, instead of an empty knee-jerk warning, here’s are a few things to look out for when using beta operating systems.

  • Check to see that your essential apps are working in the beta. Forums are a good place for this. iOS 11 broke a ton of apps in its early stages, because it radically changed the way the iPad worked. But so far in iOS 12, I’ve only had crash-on-launch problems with a few apps, and those have already been fixed in dev beta 2 (aka public beta 1).
  • Screwy behavior. I post to several forums, and a couple of them now hide their web text fields behind the keyboard. It’s super annoying, but I get around it by writing in Drafts instead, and pasting. There are many such glitches in beta software.
  • Battery life. This is the big one. My iPhone 7 is boring through its battery faster than usual, although that seems to have settle down a little in the last few days. Part of this is down to the system not yet being properly optimised, I would guess, and part is down to the iPhone or iPad being forced to do a lot more. For instance, with every beta update, your Photos library will be rescanned, which eats battery fast. Consider trying the beta on an iPad instead of an iPhone, because the battery is bigger, and it’s usually a less essential carry-everywhere device.
  • Missing features. Not all the new iOS 12 features are yet available. The Shortcuts app still doesn’t exist, for example. Neither is there third-party support for many of the new features. Apple usually gives developers the go-ahead a short time before the official update so they can submit builds that take advantage of the new features. So, unless you’re also testing beta versions off apps, you won’t see much. Last year’s iOS 11 beta, for example, existed without Files support, or drag-and-drop support, from any third-party apps. These were the biggest features of iOS 11 for iPad, and you couldn’t really use them for the entire beta.
  • Unexpected restarts. My iPhone crashes whenever I get a notification from a particular app, pretty much every time. Be prepared to have an iPhone that could require a hard reboot at any time.

Back up

Something will go wrong, and you’ll wish you could revert to iOS 11. We have a video how-to on that, but you can’t downgrade without a backup. And forget iCloud backups. You can’t restore an iOS 12 backup to a device running iOS 11, so you’ll need to have a separate, safe, archived backup. This is done via iTunes. Take the time to make a backup now, and you will not regret it. It may take a while, so just install the beta tomorrow morning instead of right now.

How to download and install iOS 12 public beta

This is the easy part. First, head over to Apple’s beta program on the device you want to use for the iOS 12 public beta. Then either sign up or sign in. Once you’ve signed in, you will see the beta page. Tap on the link to enroll your device, in the Get Started section of the page. You’ll see this screen:

Click to install a beta profile direct to your device
Click to install a beta profile direct to your device.
Photo: Apple

Click Download Profile, and follow the on-screen instructions. You’ll be prompted for a password, and you will have to reboot the iPhone or iPad to complete this stage.

That profile takes over the software update part of your iPhone. To access it, go to Settings > General > Software Update. You’ll see this:

The iOS 12 beta software update screen.
The iOS 12 beta software update screen.
Photo: Apple

Now, whenever there’s a new beta, it will show up in the Software Update section of the preferences. And when you’ve installed the first beta, you’ll see that there’s a new option to automatically install iOS updates from now on.

That’s it. Enjoy the beta! You can also follow along with all our iOS 12 beta how-tos.