How to prepare your iPad or iPhone for the iOS 13 and iPadOS public betas

By

iOS 13 could render your iPhone useless.
iOS 13 could render your iPhone useless.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iOS 13 and iPadOS public betas are here. And if you plan to test them, you need to take a few steps to get ready. And remember, you will be testing them. Or, more likely, you’ll be testing your own patience.

The early betas are almost always buggy, screwy and crashy. You may lose work. Weird things may happen to your iCloud data. Your favorite (and essential) apps may flat-out fail to launch.

But still, these public betas are already more stable than the very raw early developer versions. If you’re planning on trying them out, here’s how to do it.

Which devices will run iOS 13?

First up, will your machine even run the new versions of iOS? Here are all the devices that will run iOS 13:

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

And here are the iPadOS-compatible iPads:

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • 11-inch iPad Pro
  • 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro
  • iPad (6th generation)
  • iPad (5th generation)
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • iPad Air 2

Things to consider

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.

Still, installing a beta on your only device certainly is risky. Developers and (some) journalists often keep an old device around for just this purpose. And early betas can often be impossible to use, day to day. As the betas mature, they can usually be relied upon, more or less.

But what exactly does it mean when a beta is unstable, or not usable? In this section, we list what to look out for when using beta operating systems.

  • Apps that don’t work at all: Check to see that your essential apps work in the beta. Forums are a good place for this. iOS 12 was fairly benign in this regard. The same for iOS 13. On my old iPad, the majority of problems are with the system, or Apple’s own built-in apps.
  • Screwy behavior: The current beta (dev beta 2) still won’t let me dismiss a Slide Over panel. Once it’s there, I can only get rid of it by going to the home screen. Also, keyboard shortcuts are flaky as hell.
  • Shortened battery life: This is the big one. In the iOS 12 beta, my iPhone 7 burned through its battery faster than usual. This year, my iPad’s battery use was heavy in iPadOS beta 1, and back to normal in beta 2.Part of this comes down to the system not yet being properly optimized, I would guess, and part is because the iPhone or iPad is 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. Plus, it’s usually a less essential carry-everywhere device.
  • Missing features: Not all the new iOS 13 features are available yet (or at least they’re not fully implemented). The Shortcuts app was super-buggy in beta 1 for example, to the extent that it could break shortcuts on your other iOS 12 devices. It’s still far from done in the public beta, but at least the basics are there.

    Neither will you find third-party support for many of the new iOS 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 of third-party apps, you might not see much. For example, iPadOS brings multiple windows for apps, but developers must add support for that.

  • Unexpected restarts: While running last year’s iOS beta, my iPhone crashed whenever I got a notification from a particular app, pretty much every time. This year, I’m not touching the beta with my iPhone. I’ll wait for the official release in the fall. If you do install a beta, be prepared to have an iPhone that could require a hard reboot at any time. This applies to the iPad, too, but the iPhone is typically a more critical device for most people.

Make a backup — and remove some apps

Before you do anything, make a backup of your device. Your iCloud backup is good, and usually the fastest way to restore (depending on the speed of your internet connection). And while you’re doing it, take the opportunity for some spring cleaning — delete any apps you haven’t used in a while. This isn’t just about tidying up. A smaller backup will take less time to restore, and the app-restoration stage is the longest.

Usually we’d recommend making a local backup, too, using iTunes. But this year, iTunes is gone. In macOS Catalina, syncing and backing up your iPhone and iPad will be done in the Finder. Relying on a beta for your backup is a bad idea, so use iCloud — or don’t run the macOS beta.

Join the iOS and Mac beta program

To get the public betas, you must sign up for the Apple Beta Software Program. This is done by clicking this link, signing in with your Apple ID, and agreeing to various conditions. Then, in the Get Started section of the page, tap on the link to enroll your device. You’ll be prompted to download the beta profile. After a restart, you can go to the General > Software Update section of the Settings app. Then install the beta, just like any other update.

Now, whenever a new beta is available (roughly every two weeks, based on previous Apple release schedules), you will find the update in the same place.

That’s it. Good luck!