Last month, Apple officially took the wraps off iOS 17 during its 2023 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The next major release of the iPhone operating system includes some exciting new features, ranging from improvements to phone calls and FaceTime to a new Journal app and a StandBy smart display mode for your bedside table.
The final release of iOS 17 isn’t expected to arrive until September, but as usual, Apple has already run through a round of early betas to give developers a head start on prepping their apps for the fall release. Now, as promised, the first public beta has officially arrived to allow non-developers to get a taste of what’s coming.
Apple changed the rules for its developer betas this year, allowing anybody to download them by signing up for its free Apple Developer program, without the need for the $99/year paid membership required to submit apps to the App Store. However, even though those early betas were more freely available, Apple’s stance remained the same: developer betas aren’t ready for prime time and should only be installed on secondary devices “dedicated for iOS 17 beta software development.”
However, the new iOS 17 public beta is a different matter entirely. While Apple makes it clear that this is still pre-release software that “may contain errors or inaccuracies and may not function as well as commercially released software,” iOS 17 is now considered stable enough that early adopters can take the plunge and try it out on their primary iPhone — as long as it’s compatible with iOS 17, of course.
Back up your iPhone
Even though public betas are more stable than the early developer betas, you should still make sure you have a good backup of your iPhone before taking the plunge. This is highly recommended before installing any major iOS upgrade, but it would be particularly foolish not to make a backup before installing a beta.
You can find the instructions on how to do this in our article on how to back up your iPhone.
One thing that hasn’t changed from the developer betas is that Apple’s warranty won’t cover an iPhone running an iOS beta. To be clear, Installing the beta doesn’t void your warranty, but Apple notes that you will need to “restore to previously-released software prior to contacting AppleCare” to confirm the problem isn’t being caused by a glitch in the iOS 17 beta.
That will require restoring your iPhone to its new state, and we highly recommend making an additional backup to your Mac or PC in case you need to return to the iOS 16 public release. You can’t restore a backup made from a newer version of iOS onto an iPhone running an older version, and iOS backs up your iPhone to iCloud automatically every 24 hours. Only the three most recent iCloud Backups are retained, so it won’t take long for your iOS 16 backup to be pushed out of the rotation. Backing up to your computer will ensure you have a backup to fall back on in case you have to restore to iOS 16. While that could end up being weeks old, it’s probably still better than starting over with a blank slate.
Register your Apple ID to receive the betas
Although Apple is distributing the iOS 17 developer betas more freely this year, you’ll still need to opt-in by registering your Apple ID and agreeing to a standard set of terms and conditions. This way, Apple can make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Fortunately, it’s a simple process. You can also skip this step if you’ve signed up for the public Apple Beta Software Program in the past. Apple wants you to opt-in before receiving the betas, but it doesn’t seem to care which way you’ve done it — folks who have previously joined the public beta program are also eligible to download the developer betas.
Step 1: Visit the Apple Beta Program website at beta.apple.com.
Step 2: Select the blue Sign Up button.
Step 3: On the next screen, sign in with your Apple ID and password.
Step 4: Respond to any other normal prompts during the sign-in process. When you reach the Apple Beta Software Agreement page, read it and select the blue Agree button.
Step 5: Once you’ve agreed, you’ll be taken to the beta software program home page. You can read through the information here, but as long as you’re running at least iOS 16.4, there’s nothing you need to download to your iPhone this time around.
Enable and install the iOS 17 beta on your iPhone
This year, Apple has made it considerably easier to download the iOS 17 betas for developers and public beta testers alike. Gone are the days of having to locate and install beta configuration profiles to tell your iPhone where to get the betas.
Instead, any iPhone with iOS 16.4 or newer installed will offer up the appropriate beta options. It’s a much more straightforward process, but the downside is that your iPhone will need to be running at least iOS 16.4 to get started; while it is possible to go directly to the iOS 17 beta from older point releases, you’ll have to use the more cumbersome method of downloading and installing a configuration profile; it’s far easier just to update your iPhone to the latest version of iOS 16.
Here’s how to enable iOS beta downloads on your iPhone:
Step 1: Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
Step 2: Select General.
Step 3: Select Software Update.
Step 4: Select Beta Updates. Note that this will only appear if your iPhone recognizes that your Apple ID is part of a beta program.
The next screen will show a list of betas that your Apple ID is eligible to download. You’ll see both developer betas and public betas here if you’re registered for both programs.
Step 5: Choose iOS 17 Public Beta.
Step 6: Select Back from the top-left corner. You’ll be returned to the main software update screen, and the iOS 17 Public Beta should appear after a second or two.
If you’ve previously installed an iOS 17 developer beta, you’ll only see the public beta show up here if it’s a newer build than the developer beta. Apple’s public betas are typically the same betas that developers get, delayed by two or three days to make sure there are no show-stopping bugs.
This means that if you were on the developer beta program and want to switch tracks to the public beta program, you’ll need to change the setting to the public beta now and wait for the public beta that follows the next developer beta release.
Step 7: Select Download and Install to begin installing the iOS 17 beta.
It may take up to an hour or more to download the iOS 17 beta, prepare it, and then install it on your iPhone. Once that process completes, your iPhone will restart and take you through the usual series of welcome and setup screens.
The iOS 17 beta setting will remain enabled in Software Update, so you’ll be on track to get future iOS 17 beta updates as they become available. Just return to Software update to check for the latest betas and download them as they become available.
You can also switch the Beta Updates setting in Software update to Off if you want to stop receiving future iOS 17 beta updates. This won’t revert your iPhone back to iOS 16 — you’ll have to wipe your iPhone and restore it from a Mac or PC if you want to do that — but it will leave you with whatever iOS 17 beta is currently installed, skipping future updates until the final release arrives in the fall. Since future betas generally improve things, we don’t recommend switching these off unless a future beta introduces a severe problem and you want to skip that release.