How To Download And Install Apple’s iOS 8 Beta

Apple’s annual gift to iPhone and iPad developers is ready for a summer of design and development, bug testing and quality assurance programs. The iOS 8 beta is now available for download.

See also: Apple’s iOS 8: What You Need To Know About Its New Features

This year, iOS 8 beta is packed full of features. Before digging into the 4,000 new application programming interfaces in the iOS 8 beta, we know that Apple has added a ton of new capabilities to its the games development stack, added health and fitness features and iCloud “extensibility” features. The iOS 8 beta may not be as dramatic as the complete redesign of the operating system featured in iOS 7 in 2013, but there is more than a lot to dig through before the new iPhone comes out later this year.

See also: What Developers Need To Know About iOS 8

Below are some of the basics of what you’ll need to know to load the new iOS and start building apps.

Before Downloading The iOS 8 Beta

Before you get started, here are several items you should have on hand:

  • An iOS developer account. These cost $99 a year and are available through Apple’s developer website.
  • A development device specifically for use with the iOS 8 beta. You really shouldn’t use your a personal device you rely on; beta versions of operating systems can be buggy and crash.

    Worse, you might lock yourself out of your device. Apple will release several versions of iOS 8 beta throughout the summer; older updates are eventually phased out, and if you’re still running one when that happens, your phone will basically shut down—as happened to many users last year with the iOS 7 beta.
  • A device that supports the iOS 8 beta. At the moment, that would be the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad Air, iPad Mini (both generations), 4th generation iPad, 3rd generation iPad and the iPad 2. The iPod Touch 5th generation is also supported. iOS 8 beta does not support the iPhone 4.
  • The identifier for your device. For instance, an GMS iPhone identifier is A1533, A1547 or A1530. You will need this to know which version of iOS 8 beta to download. You can determine your iOS device identifier here for iPhones and here for iPads.
  • Your device’s Unique Device Identifier (UDID). This is a string of 40 numbers and letters that serves as a kind of serial number for your iDevice. You will need to register your developer device in the iOS Development Center using the UDID, and you can’t complete the iOS 8 beta installation without authenticating the device this way.
  • A backup of your device to iTunes and/or iCloud. Just in case the device crashes so badly you have to start from scratch, you can stash a backup in iTunes for a quick recovery. Also note that all documents on iOS 8 test devices need to be backed up to the new iCloud beta environment for both iOS 8 beta and Mac OS X Yosemite.

Apple says that once you download iOS 8 beta, you will not be able to downgrade to earlier versions of iOS. There are ways around this (and we’ll outline them in a later post), but be prepared to be stuck in the beta until the end of the summer, when Apple releases the Gold Edition of iOS 8 shortly before the next iPhone comes out.

Preparing For The iOS 8 Beta

Here are a few things to note before you download the .dmg file of iOS 8 beta:

  • Have the most current version of iTunes downloaded and ready.
  • Charge your battery. There’s nothing worse than borking a download because you ran out of juice.

Download And Install

  • On your Mac, go to the iOS Development Center and download the appropriate version of the iOS 8 beta. This will take a few minutes.
  • Open the .dmg file and find the .ipsw file. It should be the only file in the .dmg package.
  • Connect your developer device to your computer and launch iTunes.
  • Click on the iPhone button in iTunes. This will bring up your stats (such as memory use and serial numbers). Go ahead and back up your phone to iTunes now if you haven’t done so already.
  • Press the option button (right click) to update the operating system in iTunes. It’s better to choose the “update” option in iTunes than the “restore” option. A window will open where you can choose the iOS 8 beta .ipsw file. Download it (which will take about 10 minutes).
  • Wait patiently.

That is how you officially get the iOS 8 beta. You will likely notice that the beta OS is kind of slow, eats your battery a little quicker than you are used to (especially on older devices), and is generally sort of buggy. This is why you don’t put beta operating systems on your personal devices.

A Few Notes Of Caution

In 2013, the iOS 7 beta was extremely popular among both mobile developers and ordinary consumers. The popularity was due, in part, to the big iOS redesign that people just had to see for themselves. It’s also a sign of the democratization of technology, as the spread of tools and know-how enable larger numbers of people to take control of their devices.

Last year, that trend turned out to be problematic for many iOS beta users (and, generally, for Apple as well).

If you’re not a registered Apple developer and still want to download the iOS 8 beta, plenty of websites around the Internet have historically offered to give you access to the new operating system. These sites ask for your device’s UDID and use it to get you access to the beta software, usually for a fee of between $10 and $30.

It’s not clear that this particular trick will still work this year. Apple released a new developer agreement with iOS 8, so these third-party sites might run higher risks offering access to the beta software. That being said, people tend find ways around those sorts of restrictions.

While the cheaper fees here might seem like a good deal, doing business with these sites aren’t usually a good idea. In addition to the normal risks involved with putting a not-ready-for-prime-time operating system on your phone or tablet, you’d also be giving some anonymous third party your UDID. That identifier could be used to track you, to advertise to you and possibly even to deliver remote malware to your device.

In other words, it’s generally not a good idea to share your iPhone’s UDID. You also won’t get access to the iOS Developer Center, which would let you install subsequent, and presumably less buggy, updates to iOS 8 beta. Don’t forget that as Apple rolls out new versions of the beta, it discontinues old versions; you risk lockout if you don’t update when that happens.

So proceed at your own risk. And if you have any doubts, you might want to err on the side of caution and wait for the official release of iOS 8 later this year, lest you find yourself dealing with a balky, prone-to-crashing phone all summer—or worse.

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