A beta test is really necessary

That's why we all benefit from Apple's public betas

Simon Lohmann

The public beta for the macOS and iOS versions coming this fall are already available to users and developers. But why is Apple not even offering fully programmed software for download? And who ultimately benefits from it?

EnlargeBecause of this, everyone benefits from Apple's public betas.

With the release of the public beta versions for macOS Sierra and iOS 10, Apple grants users access to the latest Prerelease software. It took some time before Apple was moved to take this step. The first operating system for Macs that users could download for testing purposes before the official release date was OS X 10.10 Yosemite in 2014. The first official public beta for iOS even followed a year later with iOS 9.

In comparison, the software developers have had access to the corresponding Prerelease software for much longer. However, this is also necessary so that the developers can adapt the apps to the new iOS features and improve them. However, the interests and uses of the developers do not match those of typical Apple users in many areas. The public betas therefore offer advantages for everyone involved.

Apple got that from the public beta

First and foremost, of course, Apple takes the greatest advantage of the public betas. Thus, not only can the developers optimize the apps for the new operating system, but also the broad mass of Apple users can examine the new software for bugs and other improvements.

Both the beta for macOS and iOS include a feedback assistant that users can use to send suggestions for improvement and error messages to Apple during the public beta phase.

The more people use the public betas, the more bugs Apple can fix in the software. For example, certain bugs only occur in certain combinations of settings or in particular ways in which the programs are used. Apple itself can only check certain areas. With the help of the public beta testers, it is very likely that not all bugs can be fixed, but the number of bugs can be significantly reduced.

Of course, there is also a flip side of the coin. As great as the possibility of being able to test the software in advance may sound, there is still the risk that serious errors can occur with the public beta - and possibly even put the devices out of operation. In such extreme cases, users often get angry, which in turn affects Apple's reputation. The fact that Apple warns of precisely such cases before installing public betas no longer plays a role for most users.

But since this rarely happens, Apple can gain more positive insights from the public betas. For example, the company can understand whether certain functions are actually desired by the user and whether they should ultimately appear in the final version.

How third-party developers benefit

Apple allows third-party developers to search for bugs with their own software in the Public Betas. At this point it becomes clear again that more bugs can be found by having more beta testers, which in turn is good for Apple. On the other hand, third-party providers have access to beta testers, who in turn are potential test candidates for beta versions of their own software. One hand washes the other, so to speak.

In this case, however, the disadvantages for third-party developers can ultimately be significantly greater than those for Apple. If, for example, an app does not work correctly in the beta version, this leads angry users to negative reviews. Sometimes the causes of the error do not have to come from the third-party developers, but can also be caused by Apple itself. Therefore, third-party developers always take a certain risk, especially since Apple, as one of the largest and most prosperous companies in the world, can cope better with criticism than said third-party developers.

However, Apple has already countered this problem with the beta version of iOS 9 and excluded the test subjects from writing reviews.

What everyone else gets out of it

What about the rest? After all, we “normal” Apple users are neither part of the Apple company nor one of the developers. We belong to the power users, to the early explorers, to those people who don't mind taking certain risks as long as you can test the latest features as early as possible. And that is the main reason for most of them.

After all, as a beta tester you can actively help and make changes and improvements. We can tell Apple directly what we like and what not, what we find useful and what is more of a hindrance.

However, the risk that you take at the same time is not exactly harmless. After all, we entrust our personal data to software that has not yet been fully developed. No matter how far our precautionary measures go, the risk that the Mac or iOS device could no longer work due to the faulty software still remains.

Nonetheless, we all act symbolically as evangelists for Apple's products. We spread the good news, show and explain what is possible with the new software, what can still be improved and where there is new potential for users. In the end, everyone benefits from the public betas: Apple, third-party developers and of course the broad mass of users.