The next major software update for the iPhone and iPad is currently available through Apple’s public beta program. Apple will likely release iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 to everyone with a supported device in the latter half of September, if the company follows its typical release schedule. And while it may be tempting to enroll for iOS 15 beta on your iPhone now to get a sneak peek of features like Live Text, FaceTime calls with your Android friends and a whole bevy of new privacy features, I humbly offer this advice: Hold off for now.
Apple has updated the beta, on average, every two weeks since its initial release in June. Sticking with that cadence, we have at least three more updates (we’re currently on public beta 4) before the official release in late September. That means at least three and possibly four more rounds to go that in theory will make the software more stable overall.
More specifically, here’s what gives me pause with any beta software: Bugs, horrendous battery life and broken apps. You’re going to experience one or more of those hiccups while the beta program runs its course. And then there’s the fact that Apple is still working its way through a redesign of mobile Safari, the default web browser on iPhone and iPad. The redesign hasn’t been a welcome change, and Apple is slowly making changes in order to appease testers. If you’re determined to install iOS 15 on your primary Apple device, here’s what you absolutely need to know before installing it.
Some iOS 15 bugs are more headache than not
A beta is called that because it’s not finished and there are bound to be issues. For example, the second beta of iOS 14.7 includes an issue that causes some iPhones to not recognize the SIM card inside the phone. Without a SIM card, your phone may as well be an iPod Touch.
Bugs and issues just like that have cropped up in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. And even if they don’t completely stop you from using your iPhone or iPad, the bugs will still be annoying and could mean the difference between getting work done and reliably sending messages, and having a paperweight.
I have iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 installed on test devices, and the third beta was by far the worst build so far. Apps constantly crashed for no reason, and the keyboard would randomly stop working on my iPad Pro. Super annoying.
It’s inevitable: Some apps won’t work
Whenever Apple makes major changes to the operating system and the underlying APIs that developers use to build new features and services, it typically means that older developer tools are removed or how it works gets changed. Even a slight change can cause an app to no longer work, at all.
A couple of years ago, I was testing an iOS beta and I couldn’t use my bank’s app. It would open and then immediately force quit. Thankfully, the developers were able to release an update that took care of the issue, but that’s not always the case.
This year, I have a few apps that constantly ask for me to sign back into my account, and half of the time my password manager doesn’t recognize I’m trying to enter a password so it doesn’t give me the option to automatically enter my credentials. Instead, I have to open the password app, manually copy my password, then paste it into the app(s) I want to log back into.
And something I’ve learned over the years — just because an app works during the first beta, that doesn’t mean that beta 3 won’t break them. If there are apps you rely on daily, it’s better to wait until closer to the official release before joining the beta.
Battery life almost always suffers
Even if you’re fortunate enough to not have any apps that won’t run on the beta or missed out on a show-stopping error like the iOS 14.7 SIM bug, almost no one is immune from the hit that battery life takes during the iOS beta season.
One of the last things Apple does during beta programs is optimize the apps, features and services for battery efficiency. Or at least that’s how it feels. In previous beta programs, I’ve often found myself looking for a charger halfway through the day, even with minimal use. And the same has been true with the first couple of iOS 15 betas. I’ve had to leave my phone on a charger whenever I’m at my desk in order to get through the evening. Battery life always suffers.
In the past Apple has released a battery case for its current-generation iPhones that have helped. And this year, Apple released the MagSafe Battery Pack for the iPhone 12 just in time. If you do install the iOS 15 beta, be ready to carry around a wall adapter and cable. You’re going to need it.
Back to my original advice of waiting a little bit longer. How long? I’d hold off until near the end of August or early September, when we’re typically about a month away from the official release of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. By that time, the developer beta and the public beta will have been out for a couple of months and a lot of the bugs and issues will be resolved. And that’s usually when you start to see battery life slowly improve. In addition to the anticipated release of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 in the latter half of Sept., we also expect Apple to hold an event and announce the iPhone 13 (or will it be called the iPhone 12S?).
If you decide you’re going to give iOS 15 a try, here’s what you need to know about installing it. Joining the beta isn’t a permanent decision. You can go back, but it’ll take some work.