It’s been a very weird summer for Apple’s beta program, with major changes happening months after the initial unveiling of the operating system upgrades. But iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 have finally reached the point where they’re stable enough for average users to try them out. The same goes for watchOS 8.
But that’s not true of macOS Monterey.
2021 is not a normal year for Apple betas
Usually, Apple releases the initial round of betas at its Worldwide Developers Conference, then fixes bugs (while perhaps adding some extra features) in the following months. The company is not following that trajectory this year.
Apple decided to make major changes to the Safari web browser in iOS 15, macOS Monterey and iPadOS 15. These put a new emphasis on Tabs and added Tab Groups. Apple also rearranged many commonly used features. But Cupertino faced so much pushback from beta testers that it modified these plans significantly in subsequent betas. As recently as mid-August, Apple revamped the design of Safari in iOS 15 beta 6.
This isn’t something I recommend typical users put themselves through. Having to figure out changes in your web browser while trying to find a place to eat dinner or buy something on Amazon is a hassle you probably don’t need. And with Apple willing to rearrange Safari several times, there was always the possibility that other major changes could be made to other critical apps.
iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8 betas are ready for testing
But development of most of these operating systems stabilized in the last couple of weeks. Apple recently released the seventh betas of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and watchOS 8, and these contained just simple bug fixes.
I updated my iPad Pro and iPhone 12 and found they are quite stable — something that certainly wasn’t true a few weeks ago. I’ve been enjoying using my favorite new feature in iOS 15: Live Text. And the new multitasking system in iPadOS 15 works very well.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t problems. The battery life on my devices is terrible, which is not surprising during a beta-testing process. And there are occasional bugs, though none that I found to be deal-breakers.
Just be aware that some apps apparently haven’t been updated for the new operating systems, so problems can occur. Twitter crashes too often, for example.
Even so, I’ve used my phone and tablet as normal — and for me that’s many, many hours every day. I’d say iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 are ready for just about anyone to try.
watchOS 8 is the oddball here — in a good way. There weren’t a lot of changes planned, and Apple put these in place quickly and smoothly. Based on use with my Apple Watch, the new OS has seemed ready for just about anyone to use for weeks if not months, though Apple keeps releasing new beta versions.
You might have noticed that tvOS isn’t getting much mention here. Sorry, I don’t have an Apple TV, so I can’t test its update.
macOS Monterey is not ready
Unfortunately, the development of macOS Monterey isn’t going so smoothly. As mentioned, in June and July, Apple changed and re-changed the way Safari worked. Then everything stopped.
As of this writing, there hasn’t been a new Mac beta for 2.5 weeks. Apple released two rounds of betas for iPhone, iPad, etc., during that same period. No one outside of Apple knows what the delay is. Perhaps it’s taking a while to integrate Universal Control.
However, the long delay means that now doesn’t seem like a good time for average Mac users to jump in and start testing. There’s no telling how stable the next pre-release version of macOS Monterey will be.
You really can help Apple
In response to years of demand, Apple lets anyone test very early betas of its various operating systems. You could have started playing with iOS 15, etc., way back in June. But I couldn’t recommend average users installing them that soon. Those first rounds were loaded with bugs. Very unstable.
But — as noted — a lot has changed since then. And you can help Apple by installing the latest pre-release versions of iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and/or watchOS 8. Earlier this month, Apple sent out an email looking for beta testers because it needs users to “help shape Apple software by test-driving pre-release versions,” in its own words.
It’s a valuable service you’d be doing. You’ll not only help identify bugs, you could end up affecting the final design of the various operating systems.
Just be cautious about it. A beta is unquestionably going to make using your Apple device just a bit harder to use. It can be a strain if you truly depend on the gear.
And if you do take the plunge, be sure to report the bugs you find to Apple. Betas come with a special Feedback app. Use it. If you find a bug, or even something you just don’t like, don’t complain to your friends or Twitter. Tell Apple.
If you’re looking for a project this weekend, and are willing to put up with a bug or two, install iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and/or watchOS 8. It’s free and easy.
That said, steer clear of macOS Monterey for a few weeks. Leave that to developers for now.