Most people are perfectly fine waiting until September for the annual upgrades to iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS. But for the impatient few among us, you can actually test out Apple’s next-generation software for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch starting today by downloading the public betas if iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and watchOS 8.
As always, installing beta software comes with a certain level of risk. Remember: These are unfinished versions of what Apple will roll out in September. While it’s very possible nothing bad will happen, you might also run into bugs, apps that don’t work, and in the worst-case scenario, you might bork your device. If you happen to have a compatible backup phone, tablet, or watch, we recommend trying one of those first. But you can also feel free to embrace the uncertain if you’re a unicorn who feels zero fear in the face of a gadget meltdown. In any case, here’s a rundown of how to install one (or all) of the public betas.
This might seem obvious, but your Apple gadget has to support iOS 15/iPadOS 15/watchOS 8. Here’s a handy list of which devices will work for each software version.
Devices that support iOS 15:
- iPhone 6S, 6S Plus
- iPhone SE (1st and 2nd gen)
- iPhone 7, 7Plus
- iPod Touch (7th gen)
- iPhone 8, 8 Plus
- iPhone X, XS, XS Max, XR
- iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max
- iPhone 12 mini, 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max
iPads that support iPadOS 15:
- iPad mini 4
- iPad mini (5th gen)
- iPad Air 2
- iPad Air (3rd and 4th gen)
- iPad (5th-8th gen)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (1st-3rd gen)
- iPad Pro 9.7-inch
- iPad Pro 10.5-inch
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st-5th gen)
Apple Watches that support watchOS 8*:
- Apple Watch Series 3
- Apple Watch Series 4
- Apple Watch Series 5
- Apple Watch SE
- Apple Watch Series 6
*For watchOS 8, you’ll also need to install iOS 15 on the iPhone the watch is paired with.
I know you weren’t going to run off and install the public betas on your main device without backing everything up. Because, you know, as we mentioned before, betas do not always run as you’d expect. While the latest developer beta that the public beta is based on was pretty stable in our testing, better be safe than sorry.
As always, you can back up any of your devices to iCloud. This is by far the easiest way to do it, but you can also back up your iPhone and iPad via Mac or PC. Apple Watches automatically save backups to the iPhone they’re paired with. So basically, if you want to back up your Apple Watch data, first back up your iPhone.
Here’s how to back up your iPhone or iPad on a Mac running Big Sur:
First, connect your device to your Mac via USB, USB-C, or wifi. Then open a Finder window and select your device in the sidebar. Next, select General in the button bar. From here you can select where you want to store the backup: iCloud, or locally on your Mac. You can also select “Encrypt local backup” to encrypt your data and protect it with a password if you wish. After all this, you can click Back Up Now.
The process is similar on PC, though you will have to use iTunes. First, connect your device to your computer or enable wifi syncing. Then fire up the iTunes app and select your device in the top left of the window. Click Summary, then Back Up Now. You can also at this time select “Encrypt local backup,” enter in a password, and then click Set Password. To view your backups, you can then choose Edit > Preferences > Devices.
Now that you’ve backed up your devices, it’s time to download the public betas. To do that, you can head to the Apple Beta Software Program website on the device of your choice. You have to sign up for the program if you haven’t already. It’s a painless process that involves providing your Apple ID and 2FA verification. Once you’ve done that, you download a configuration profile to your device, install it, and then hit the Software Update button in the General tab of the Settings menu. Again, a reminder that if you want watchOS 8, you’ll first have to go through installing iOS 15 on your iPhone. Otherwise, the steps are the same, though you’ll go to the Watch app > General > Software Update once you’ve downloaded the watchOS 8 configuration profile.
You might have to repeat a step here and there if a download doesn’t take, but don’t worry. That’s pretty normal and not a sign everything’s borked. Also, keep in mind that you may not have access to every single new feature that was teased at WWDC. Sometimes Apple releases features in later versions of a beta, or depending on the device you’re using, you may be missing key hardware components that enable a specific feature. But now you’ve successfully downloaded the public betas, go forth and have fun! Test out all the cool things! And if you’re still unsure about taking the plunge, feel free to read our iOS 15 and watchOS 8 previews.