Apple has released its iOS 11 beta to the public. That means everyone can get hold of the new software, months before it’s released – but there’s a big catch.

Because the iPhone and iPad operating system isn’t actually finished yet, it’s full of plenty of bugs as well as not being as refined as it will be when it’s officially unveiled. That means that using it comes with a huge warning: it might stop working properly at any time, and you can’t really complain about it if it does.

With that out of the way, it’s worth getting to what iOS 11 does actually give you. The new update – which brings probably the biggest changes ever made to the iPad, and some pretty major ones to the iPhone too – was unveiled at WWDC earlier this month.

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It brings proper multitasking to the iPad, allowing people to easily do more than one thing at once and making the tablet into a proper, productivity-focused computer. It updates almost all of Apple’s apps, bringing social features to Apple Music and document scanning to Notes, for instance.

And it changes the way the camera works in a major way, adding new ways of taking and editing photos. That comes alongside support for ARKit – Apple’s new technology built to make it easier for people to create apps that use augmented reality.

But the big question is whether you should start using it now, or wait until it’s officially released, probably in September.

The main thing you need to ask yourself is how much you rely on your device. If you need to make sure that it is always ready to respond for work, for instance, then don’t update to the beta: though bugs are rare within the software, they do have an annoying tendency to pop up exactly when you need to write an important email.

You might also found that apps haven’t been updated to work with the new software, and so might not work at all. You won’t know that until you upgrade – so if there is anything you rely on a lot, it’s also worth skipping this update.

Equally, if you don’t rely really on your device – if you have an iPad that you use only some of the time for reading or watching TV, for instance – then you should think about giving it a try.

In fact, the iPad is the perfect place to try the new update out on. Most of the biggest updates that iOS 11 brings are on the tablet – meaning that as well as being a less risky device to try it out on, you also get to experience the full joy of the new features.

Prime among those is multitasking, which also brings with it a redesigned home screen and way of using features like drag and drop. Those are explained to you when you first fire up iOS 11 on your iPad.

The problem is also that those new multitasking features also use up a lot of processing power – important, when the tablet is also trying to handle an operating system that doesn’t make use of the processing power in the most efficient way.

So if you do depend on your iPad for work, for instance, it’s probably best holding off for now. But if you can put up with it stuttering and becoming confused sometimes, then you’ll get the most out of putting it on there.

On the other hand, the upgrades to the iPhone are relatively few, though there’s still plenty of significant new features. While the updates to Siri, Apple Music, Messages, Maps and more are all fun, they’re relatively minor for the time being – while that means you’re less likely to run into problems, it also means that you’ll get a lot less out of taking the risk and diving into the new software straight away.

The same thing applies to macOS, which is also part of the beta programme. Apple has mostly focused on tightening up and straightening out parts of that software – which is great, but will be outweighed by the bugs of beta software and so it’s probably best to wait to update your MacBook or iMac for now.

In all cases, it’s worth remembering that you don’t need to sign up now, since the beta programme will be in effect all the time until the new software is officially released. With every new update to the preview, some of those bugs and problems are removed – so you can wait until later on and hold our for a more dependable version of iOS 11.

If you decide that you do want to get hold of the beta, head to beta.apple.com on the device that you want to sign up to it with. (You can do so on any Apple device that supports the update, which includes most iPads and iPhones, as well as the Apple TV.)

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