For many years, Apple preferred to keep its software products shrouded in relative secrecy: developers got early glimpses, but actual users needed to wait until the release date to play around with any new features and UX. Like many policies at the company, though, that’s begun to change: Apple now offers betas of its core operating systems, Mac OS X (now renamed ‘MacOS’) and iOS.
If you’re interested in becoming a guinea pig for Apple’s software, you can download and try out the public betas for MacOS Sierra and iOS 10, both of which are due (in their finalized versions) sometime this fall.
With iOS 10, which Apple first previewed earlier this summer at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, new and upgraded features include improvements to Siri, Apple’s digital assistant. By opening Siri’s API to third-party developers, Apple hopes to boost the software’s utility in everyday life. There are also significant tweaks to Apple Music, Apple Maps, and Apple Home, the lattermost an app that allows iOS users to control HomeKit-enabled appliances from their phone.
The betas will offer automatic updates, so the software will become less buggy as the weeks pass. There’s also a Feedback Assistant app, located in the Doc (for Mac) or the second page of the home screen (for mobile devices running iOS 10).
Over at Macworld, Jason Snell has an excellent breakdown of what to expect from the MacOS Sierra beta. In a nutshell: don’t download and run the beta on the machine that serves as your main workhorse, unless you like to live with danger. As with most betas, there are noticeable bugs that Apple still needs to squish. Whatever machine you use to install the beta, make sure to back up any valuable data on it, first.
For those wondering what parts of MacOS Sierra to poke, Snell has a list that includes Siri, now accessible on Macs via the Dock, along with new storage-management features and a much more robust Messages app.
Later this year, Apple will also release the latest version of its iPhone, which will probably have the moniker “iPhone 7.” Despite its openness regarding software, Apple still sees value in keeping its iPhones as secret as possible until the big unveiling: details of the device’s hardware features are being kept under wraps, although the rumor-mill suggests it may lack a headphone connection.