App DevelopmentQA and Testing

Beta OS: What You Should Know

It’s always fun when new technology is released, but especially for the QA team here at WillowTree. We are usually the first to get our hands on new phones, smartwatches, and a range of other hardware. But before we start tinkering with our new “toys,” we like to get a sense of what we’re in for in terms of accompanying software for these devices. Fortunately, as developers, we are able to do just that thanks to beta software we have the ability to access. Within the past month, both Google and Apple released new operating systems and having access to the beta versions of these systems was invaluable as it enabled us to get a sizable head start identifying potential issues with each OS prior to public release. It’s important to note, however, that Google and Apple go about releasing beta software in different ways, which I’ll cover in this post.

What Does Apple Require?

Apple requires that you have a developer account and a device registered to that account. With those in place, you then download the image for your specific device from Apple’s developer site. You can load the image on the device using a little trick in iTunes by option-clicking on the “Restore iPhone” button.

What Does Google Require?

Android simply requires that you have a Nexus device. Google provides images of all the supported models. The new image (in this case Marshmallow or 6.0) can be found at the same site. Multiple preview builds are often available throughout its development for testing. The download includes a script for each platform (Mac/Linux, Windows) to load the image on the device.

Differences in Approach

The most notable difference between these two approaches is accessibility. While Google allows anyone to put the beta on their device, Apple might only release a select version(s) of the beta for public use (as they did with iOS 9.0). Apple released 3 public betas and 6 developer betas prior to the iOS 9.0 public release. And developers needed a paid account if they wanted to enable a device for beta.

Installing Beta Software

Installing beta software usually means wiping the data on your devices. Fortunately, with iCloud and Android Backup Service, you’ll be back to where you were in no time. After flashing your device, you simply sign in and select what you’d like to restore to your device. This includes photos, music, contacts, settings, apps, etc. And if something happens to go wrong, just remember that you can always revert to the last stable release and use the same service to get back to where you started.

It’s critical for software engineers to test beta software before it’s released to the public. Doing so enables developers to get a grasp on the unique complexities of an operating system and build better apps. That said, it’s important to remember that beta software evolves and new versions are released. So while we can identify important issues prior to public releases and implement some fixes, we don’t support beta operating systems for our apps.

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