Should you in­stall pub­lic beta on your iPhone?

Now that iOS 12 is avail­able for any­one to in­stall, you’re prob­a­bly won­der­ing if it’s worth tak­ing the plunge. Ja­son Cross re­ports

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

Don’t run a beta op­er­at­ing sys­tem on your pri­mary de­vice. That’s the stan­dard ad­vice given to users ev­ery­where, ev­ery time they are given the op­por­tu­nity to test the lat­est and great­est. That’s al­ways our ad­vice, too. It’s good, solid ad­vice, and you should prob­a­bly heed it. Ex­cept... In the case of iOS 12, the waters are a lit­tle muddy. Yes, of course there plenty of rea­sons to head over to

beta.ap­ple.com on the iPhone or iPad you use ev­ery day and regis­ter for the beta. It’s one lit­tle pro­file to down­load and then new iOS 12 beta ver­sions will be de­liv­ered via Soft­ware Up­date just as if they were reg­u­lar re­leases. So, although you shouldn’t jump into the iOS 12 beta un­less it’s on a sec­ondary de­vice, Ap­ple makes it easy to.

And then there are all those new fea­tures to test: Screen Time, Me­moji, and Siri Short­cuts. Bet­ter por­trait mode pho­tos and im­proved ges­tures. Group FaceTime chats and grouped no­ti­fi­ca­tions. Maybe this time the usual sta­bil­ity trade-offs are worth it?

The nor­mal rules don’t ap­ply

New ver­sions of iOS al­ways come with a bunch of great new fea­tures, but the first few beta re­leases are of­ten a hot mess. Some of the ma­jor new fea­tures might be miss­ing, but you can live with that, right? The big prob­lem is that half of your reg­u­lar ev­ery­day stuff stops work­ing.

And, of course, per­for­mance typ­i­cally takes a nose­dive. For the past few years, the iOS beta re­leases only reached per­for­mance par­ity with the reg­u­lar re­lease at the very end of the up­grade cy­cle – some­time in Au­gust, usu­ally.

What’s worse, bat­tery life is usu­ally ter­ri­ble in the first three or four beta re­leases. It’s not un­usual to hear sto­ries of hav­ing to recharge one’s iPhone three or four times a day from the brave fools that in­stall early be­tas.

But with iOS 12, those two crit­i­cal set­backs ap­par­ently aren’t an is­sue yet. In fact, dur­ing the first two beta re­leases, users have re­ported greatly

im­proved per­for­mance, es­pe­cially on older de­vices. That’s per­haps un­sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing per­for­mance is such a crit­i­cal fea­ture of iOS 12 that Ap­ple led this year’s WWDC pre­view with it.

Bat­tery life doesn’t ap­pear to be an is­sue in iOS 12 beta, ei­ther. New iOS up­grades, beta or not, are of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by a short pe­riod of re­duced per­for­mance and lower bat­tery life as the sys­tem re-in­dexes and re-caches con­tent, but the over­whelm­ing con­sen­sus is that, even in these early beta days, iOS 12 is much snap­pier than iOS 11.4 and doesn’t suf­fer a no­tice­able bat­tery life penalty.

Sure, iOS 12 will ex­hibit the oc­ca­sional crash or trou­ble with apps, but those sorts of prob­lems ap­pear to be rel­a­tively un­com­mon. And let’s face it, iOS 11.4

still has its share of prob­lems. If iOS 12 is faster, and adds a ton of cool new fea­tures, and is only marginally less sta­ble than iOS 11.4, why not in­stall it on that iPhone or iPad you use ev­ery day, right?

The nor­mal rules still do ap­ply

Of course, it’s not that sim­ple. Some of the re­ported prob­lems with iOS 12 amount to no more than mi­nor in­con­ve­niences, sure. But oth­ers are more se­ri­ous. GPS, for ex­am­ple, works fine for some but is hor­ri­bly slow and in­ac­cu­rate for oth­ers. Some third-party key­boards will oc­ca­sion­ally have weird is­sues, such as in­ter­face glitches and for­mat­ting prob­lems.

We haven’t seen any re­ports of the beta mak­ing your iPhone into a prac­ti­cally un­us­able brick, and these sorts of prob­lems are com­mon in early iOS beta re­leases. But these aren’t just small prob­lems with the new fea­tures that haven’t been quite fin­ished yet. These are fun­da­men­tal flaws that could se­ri­ously im­pact how you use your iPhone or iPad.

Maybe you won’t run into any crit­i­cal is­sues at all, or maybe you’d be ag­gra­vated by your phone ev­ery time you pick it up. It all de­pends

on ex­actly how you use your de­vice, which apps you use most of­ten, which model iPhone or iPad you have, and just good old ran­dom chance.

Even though the iOS 12 pub­lic beta gives you ac­cess to a slew of new fea­tures, makes your phone faster, and doesn’t hurt bat­tery life, there are still plenty of rea­sons not to in­stall it.

Be­sides, if all you re­ally care about is Siri Short­cuts, then you should know that the Short­cuts app isn’t in the first pub­lic beta re­lease.

To beta test or not?

Ul­ti­mately, our rec­om­men­da­tion re­mains the same: don’t in­stall the iOS 12 pub­lic beta on any de­vice you rely on daily.

How­ever, the im­pres­sive per­for­mance, rel­a­tive sta­bil­ity (com­pared to pre­vi­ous iOS ma­jor re­lease be­tas), and ex­cel­lent bat­tery life com­pels us to fol­low that with a cou­ple caveats:

1. If you have an older de­vice – say, any iPhone or iPad that’s three or more years old – and you feel like it has be­come frus­trat­ingly slow, then you might want to give the beta a shot. Many beta testers report that their old de­vices feel much faster. Mak­ing a ‘nearly un­us­able’

iPhone or iPad us­able again is worth a lit­tle risk and the po­ten­tial headache of restor­ing a backup.

2. If you have a sec­ondary de­vice ready in case things go badly, go ahead and fire up that beta on your pri­mary de­vice. Just be ready to slap your SIM into that backup phone if you need to, and make sure it’s up to date and has all the apps and data you need.

It goes with­out say­ing, but you should al­ways back up your iPhone to iTunes be­fore in­stalling any iOS beta. If the ben­e­fits don’t out­weigh the prob­lems and you want to unin­stall the beta, you’re go­ing to need that backup.

Ap­ple’s fo­cus on per­for­mance in iOS 12 has made the beta ac­tu­ally faster than OS 11.4 on many de­vices

Group FaceTime sounds great, but since it only works with oth­ers run­ning the iOS 12 beta, you may not get much use out of it

The Short­cuts app isn’t even in the first pub­lic beta re­lease

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