Every June, Apple announces the next version of iOS for your iPhone, but the update won't actually launch for another three months. At WWDC this June, Apple announced iOS 14, an exciting and feature-filled update which won't be released until the autumn of 2020 (probably September).

But what if you don't want to wait that long to try out the new features? You need to install a beta.

In this article we walk you through the steps required to get the iOS 14 beta. We explain how to join Apple's beta programmes, and how to install and run an iOS beta on your iPhone.

What's a beta?

Betas are pre-release testing versions. Every iOS update goes through the beta phase before it's officially launched, from small tweaks like 13.5.1 to the full-version game-changers such as iOS 14.

There are developer betas (for software developers only) and public betas for anyone; both types go through half a dozen versions before a major launch.

Risks and precautions

Note first of all that betas are test versions. They are by definition unfinished pieces of software, and while they should include most or all of the features in the finished product, there will be cosmetic differences and, inevitably, some glitches and problems that will need to be fixed. The glitches and problems are why Apple bothers to beta-test iOS in the first place.

In other words, don't expect a perfect user experience. In particular, don't expect existing apps (ones that you may rely on, and which may have worked fine with the previous version of iOS) to work perfectly with the new version. In extreme cases you may even find that your device is bricked by the beta, and cannot be used until the next beta comes along and hopefully fixes the problem.

At time of writing, Apple has released the first and second developer betas of iOS 14 and, crucially, the first public beta, so everyone can get involved. However, at this early stage the software is likely to be unreliable, and you may wish to wait a while before plunging in.

The closer we get to the final launch of iOS 14.0, the more polished and feature-complete we can expect the available betas to become. The counter to that, of course, is there will less time left to wait for the official launch, so you won't be gaining so much by installing a beta.

It can be risky, but installing the iOS beta will give you some serious bragging rights among your Apple-loving friends, and let you decide for yourself whether you like the new features, so maybe it's a price worth paying...

Assuming you decide to go ahead, we can't stress enough how important it is to back up your iPhone before you install an iOS beta, or better still, use a secondary device, not your main iPhone, to run it. You won't lose everything if something goes wrong while the beta is installing, and you'll be able to go back to the last version should you find that you don't like the new software after all, or that it's too buggy.

How to install the iOS 14 public beta

The iOS 14 public beta is out now! This is the version of iOS 14 that most of us will be running ahead of launch, since the (more advanced) developer beta is, as the name suggests, for developers only.

First check that your device is compatible. Have a quick read of Can my iPhone get iOS 14? (It's the iPhone 6s and later, basically.)

To install the iOS 14 public beta, follow these instructions.

  1. Click Sign Up on the Apple Beta page and register with your Apple ID.
  2. Log in to the Beta Software Program.
  3. Click Enrol your iOS device. (If you signed up for a previous version's beta last year you may need to uninstall the profile for that and then re-enrol for the new one.)
  4. Go to beta.apple.com/profile on your iOS device.
  5. Download and install the configuration profile.
  6. That will make the beta version available in the Settings app, under General, Software Update.

How to install the iOS 14 developer beta

Each stage of iOS 14's development cycle will be rolled out to developers first, and then to public beta testers afterwards. If you're a developer and need to test your apps against the most up-to-date version of the OS possible, this is the version to run.

You'll need to be registered as an Apple developer. Joining the Apple Developer Program costs £79/$99 a year.

All set? Okay! Here's how to install the iOS 14 developer beta, in eight easy steps:

  1. In Safari on your iPhone, go to developer.apple.com and log in using your Apple ID.
  2. Go to the Downloads section (you'll find it in the lefthand menu), scroll down to iOS 14 beta and tap Install Profile, then Accept.
  3. Open the Settings app. You should see Profile Downloaded at the top of the main screen - tap this. If you can't see it, go to General > Profile and tap on the iOS 14 beta profile there.
  4. Tap Install in the top-right to install the iOS 14 beta profile.
  5. Read the developer consent form and (assuming you're happy with the terms) give your consent.
  6. Restart your iPhone.
  7. Now go to Settings > General > Software Update, where you should see the iOS 14 beta. Tap Download and Install.
  8. Wait for your iPhone to finish downloading the update, then tap Install when prompted.

And if everything has worked the way it should, your iPhone will now be running the iOS 14 beta.

Can I get the developer beta if I'm not a developer?

If you're not a developer, but you want to install the developer beta anyway, this is possible. Just be warned that this goes against Apple's terms and conditions and needless to say will completely rule out any warranty assistance if things go wrong.

You'll need to find and download a copy of the iOS 14 beta profile on a non-Apple site. Google is your friend here, although this is one example that appears to work at time of writing.

Once you've downloaded the profile, install the beta using the same method listed above. You can jump to step 3.

We have a guide to installing the beta if you aren't a developer in the linked article.