At WWDC 2020 this summer, alongside iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur, Apple also announced watchOS 7, a new operating system for the Apple Watch Series 3 and later which adds a range of new features and interface tweaks.

watchOS 7 launches to the public later today (16 September 2020): here's how to update your Apple Watch when it does. But if you want to try out the next version of watchOS before everyone else, you'll need to install a pre-release beta testing version.

In this article we explain how to install the watchOS 7 beta on your Apple Watch, covering both developer and public beta versions.

What do I need to install the watchOS 7 beta?

A model of Apple Watch that's compatible with the beta - the Series 3 and later can run it - and a reasonably new iPhone running the equivalent beta version of iOS 14.

If you're installing the developer beta you'll also need a developer account, which costs £79/$99 a year.

How to install the watchOS 7 beta

If you're keen to try out a beta version of watchOS, here's how it's done. But be warned that beta software is never as reliable as the public-release stuff (bugs will almost certainly crop up that have to be patched in later updates), 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.

So far, the only option for watchOS 7 is the developer beta, which as the name suggests is for developers only. Quite excitingly, there will be a watchOS public beta this year, for the first time ever, but it hasn't launched yet.

Before you install the beta version of watchOS 7, you'll have to install the 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 beta too. (You needed the iOS 14 beta to run the watchOS 7 beta.)

  1. Log into the Apple Developer Portal on the iPhone paired with your Apple Watch.
  2. Navigate to the watchOS download page.
  3. Tap 'Download watchOS [x] beta Configuration Profile', for the appropriate version.
  4. When prompted to choose a device, tap 'iPhone' then 'Install'.
  5. Enter your Passcode, tap Install and then again to confirm.
  6. Tap 'Restart' to reboot your iPhone and complete the configuration profile installation.

Once your iPhone has restarted, the watchOS 7 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 the next version of watchOS before everyone else? That's the decision you have to make. How much will it ruin your daily life if your Apple Watch is prone to peculiar behaviour?

Aside from the bugs, until the watchOS 7 public beta becomes available (which should be any day now, given that the iOS 14, tvOS 14 and iPadOS 14 public betas are out now) the only way you can install a watchOS beta is by signing up to Apple's Developer Program, which will set you back £79/$99 per year. We're not convinced that it's worth paying that much unless you want to develop apps for the platform, and wouldn't recommend this option just to go hands-on with the beta.

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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 the next version of watchOS, we'd wait until the official release.