Alongside iOS 12 and macOS Mojave at WWDC 2018, Apple also announced watchOS 5, a new operating system for the Apple Watch which adds a range of new features and interface tweaks to most existing models. (The original Apple Watch can't install watchOS 5, sadly - that includes the astronomically expensive $10,000, 18-karat gold, original Apple Watch Edition.)
watchOS 5 will launch to the public in the autumn of 2018 (here's how to update your Apple Watch when it does), but ahead of the launch you can download a pre-release beta testing version. Be warned that beta versions of software are not finished and may contain bugs.
In this article we explain how to install the latest beta of watchOS on your Apple Watch.
When will the watchOS 5 beta become available?
The first developer beta is available now - it launched on the first day of WWDC 2018, 4 June.
However, that beta was withdrawn soon after due to "an issue that occurs while updating".
Further beta versions will be released at regular intervals until the public launch, each of them fixing problems with the last version and adding new features.
If you aren't a developer and you were hoping that you'd be able to instal a public beta version of watchOS you'll be disappointed. Apple only makes Public Beta versions of macOS, tvOS and iOS available.
What do I need to install the watchOS 5 beta?
A compatible Apple Watch - any model other than the original, first-gen watch - and an iPhone 5s or later running a beta of iOS 12. You'll also need a developer account, which costs £79 a year.
How to install the watchOS 5 beta
If you're keen to try out a beta version of watchOS 5, here's how it's done. But be warned that beta software is never as reliable as the public-release stuff, so don't do this if you're not prepared for things to go wrong on your Apple Watch. Remember to back up any important data.
Before you install a beta version of watchOS, you'll have to install a beta certificate on your device. The beta certificate tells your iPhone to look for and allow you to install the watchOS beta directly OTA (over the air), much like a standard software update. Follow these steps to install a beta profile on your device.
Before you try to install the watchOS beta certificate, you'll have to be running an iOS 12 beta too.
- Log into the Apple Developer Portal on the iPhone paired with your Apple Watch.
- Navigate to the watchOS download page.
- Tap 'Download watchOS [x] beta Configuration Profile', for the appropriate version.
- When prompted to choose a device, tap 'iPhone' then 'Install'.
- Enter your Passcode, tap Install and then again to confirm.
- Tap 'Restart' to reboot your iPhone and complete the configuration profile installation.
Once your iPhone has restarted, the watchOS beta update should appear as an update option within the Apple Watch companion app. From here, the update process is pretty standard.
Downsides of installing a watchOS beta
Is it worth having a buggy experience, just so you can try out watchOS 5?
Unlike for iOS and macOS, there's no public beta for the Apple Watch software. What does this mean? The only way you can install the watchOS 5 beta is by signing up to Apple's Developer Program, which will set you back £79 per year. We're not convinced that it's worth paying £79 a year unless you want to develop apps for the platform, and wouldn't recommend this option just to go hands-on with the beta.
However, the price of Apple's Developer Program isn't the biggest reason to avoid using the beta. The biggest reason is that downgrading back to the original watchOS is quite an undertaking, and generally can't be done at home. Assuming you're not prepared to wait for the public versions to catch up, the process involves sending your Apple Watch to Apple.
We can't really say more than that, as the instructions are under NDA within Apple's Developers Portal, so instead we'll say that unless you're a developer who wants to make sure their apps work with watchOS 5, we'd wait until the official release in the autumn.
When will the watchOS 5 public beta come out?
As we said above, we don't think there will be a watchOS public beta, although that hasn't been officially confirmed one way or another. There haven't been public betas of any previous versions of watchOS, and you'll note that the Apple Beta Software Program page doesn't mention watchOS. (It does mention iOS, macOS and tvOS.)