Latest iPadOS 13 beta is finally stable enough for almost anyone [Opinion]

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iPadOS Home Screen
Widgets on the Home screen are something you can have today, if you install the iPadOS13 beta.
Photo: Apple

The iPadOS beta Apple introduced this week offers something none of its predecessors did: reliability. Stability, even. After days of testing on an iPad Pro, I found it close enough to the final version that an average person can access a mouse or thumbdrive with their iPad nearly hassle-free. That hasn’t been true of earlier betas.

Less rigorous testing of iOS 13 on an iPhone XS Max indicates it’s also relatively stable.

iPadOS 13 is reasonably stable at last

Apple began releasing developer and public betas of both the replacements for iOS 12 — one for iPhone and the other for iPad. I installed the first iPadOS Developer beta on a tablet because it‘s part of my job. Using it required plenty of patience because it was exceptionally buggy.

Each subsequent beta has offered enhancements, but stability improved only marginally. My 2018 iPad Pro test device experienced multiple daily Springboard crashes — that’s when everything running on the tablet reboots back to the unlock screen. Individual apps crashed or performed badly.

All of that changed this week… mostly. There are still problems, but Springboard crashes went from a semi-hourly occurrence to something rare, perhaps one a day. And that’s on a device that average 10 hours of use on a work day.

All the third-party applications I depend are now stable, though some required tweaking by their developers to support iPadOS 13. I can sometimes use this tablet for hours and forget I’m running a beta.

To be clear — and please pay attention to this part — there are still problems. The iPad Pro crashes occasionally. The Mail app keep bringing back archived emails. Safari has quirks. This definitely isn’t the final version.

But those with a moderate tolerance for bugs can start taking advantage of the great new features.

iPadOS 13 is a huge improvement

It’s not surprising that iPad users have been eagerly awaiting iPadOS 13. Apple finally gave in to endless user requests and iPadOS 13 lets you use a mouse or trackpad. This is very convenient for people who attach a clip-on keyboard to temporarily turn their tablet into a laptop, as virtually everyone is accustomed to using a mouse alongside a keyboard.

If that wasn’t enough, the Files app can now fully access all the contents of USB drives connected to the tablet. Those with a 2018 iPad Pro can get a USB-C hub with USB-A ports, or the mis-named Apple Camera Kit can do the same trick for iPads with Lightning ports.

I’ve extensively used both of these features while running the latest iPadOS 13 beta on last year’s iPad Pro, and found they work well. The same goes for the improvements to Apple Pencil, widgets on the Home screen, and other new features.

iOS 13 is reliable, too

Apple put its focus on improving its tablets this year, so while iPadOS 13 contains really dramatic improvements, the same can’t be said about the iPhone version.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some nice new features, like Dark Mode. And the redesigned Photos app is welcome, as are the Swype-like keyboard and the additional Memoji.

Also, iOS 13 users can take advantage of the enhancements made for iPad. You can hook a mouse to your handset if you want. And access thumbdrives.

Because most of the changes are for tablets, I didn’t give as much attention to testing the iPhone version. Still, the latest iOS 13 beta has performed well in light use. I’ve had no problems with battery drain, as some have experienced with earlier editions.

Become an iPadOS 13 or iOS 13 beta tester today

Anyone looking for a weekend project can sign up for the Apple Beta Software Program, which is open to all at no cost. It’s not an onerous job to install iPadOS 13 Public beta 5, then start having fun tinkering with the new features.

Wednesday’s iPadOS 13 Developer beta 6 I tested and Thursday’s Public beta 5 have the same 17A5556d serial number, so don’t think I got access to something you won’t.

I’m deliberately not going to give step-by-step instructions on how to install the public beta. If you can’t take the link above and follow it through the process of putting iPadOS 13 or iOS 13 on your device, you’re probably not ready to run a pre-release operating system.

Because you’ll be installing buggy software into your iPad or iPhone. Remember that. Don’t try to say later you weren’t warned. In my testing, these latest betas have been significantly improved, and have reached the point where I think they could be used without too much hassle. You may have a different experience.