Here’s how to download and install the latest iOS 9 beta and join the public beta programme on your iPhone or iPad right now – months ahead of the official public launch this autumn. We show you how to install the beta on your device.
iOS 9, the next version of Apple’s iPhone/iPad operating system software, was unveiled at WWDC 2015 at the start of June. But for most owners of Apple devices, seeing the exciting new features in iOS 9 was a bit of a tease – because they won’t be able to get hold of iOS 9 for months. (When will iOS 9 launch to the general public? We discuss the iOS 9 launch date in more depth in a separate article, but probably in September, alongside either the iPhone 7.)
But it is possible to get iOS 9 right now, as we will explain in this article, thanks to developer preview betas and as of 9 July, a public beta programme. Whether it’s a good idea to do so is another matter; we’ll also talk about the reasons why you may prefer to wait a few months for the official public launch of iOS 9 instead.
If you decide you do want to wait until the final version of iOS 9 arrives, take a look at our iOS 9 upgrade guide to find out whether your iPhone or iPad supports the new software and what new features you can expect on your device.
There are a handful of ways to install the iOS 9 beta on your iPhone or iPad, but the simplest is to register with Apple’s iOS Developer Program, or join the new Public Beta Programme.
Apple gets apps developers to try out beta versions of iOS 9 for a few months before it unleashes the final software on the public, and for the first time it’s also letting the public try the beta of iOS 9. These betas are test versions – unfinished versions of iOS 9 with pretty much all the features that will make it into the official iOS 9 build, but probably with a few cosmetic differences… not to mention some glitches and problems that will need to be fixed.
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 great with iOS 8) to work perfectly with iOS 9. A huge issue for beta users of iOS 8 was that popular cross-platform messaging service WhatsApp was unusable, crashing upon opening – it’s not something developers can address and fix prior to the official release of iOS 9, so it’s something to keep in mind.
One of the points of the beta test programme is to give developers a chance to make their apps work with the new OS. A lot of non-developers joined the iOS 7 beta and then gave low App Store reviews to the apps that didn’t yet work with it, which is rather unfair. We would politely request that people not do that – it can really damage a developer’s ranking.
But it could be worse than just a couple of apps not working right. Sometimes people find that certain models struggle to cope with a beta OS in any meaningful way, and you may find that your device is effectively bricked until the next beta comes out and fixes the problem. Experienced beta users always advise you to install a beta version of iOS on a secondary or spare device – an older iPod touch rather than your main iPhone, say.
Anyway. If you know what you’re getting into and still want to try the iOS 9 beta right now, you can register as an Apple developer and join the iOS Developer Program, which costs $99 a year.
Go to Apple’s developer site and enrol using your Apple ID.
Or, as of 9 July, there’s a second, free option. There is now a public beta of iOS 9, a new programme that Apple has previously stayed away from. It asks any members of the public who are willing to install iOS 9 on their devices, bugs and all, and feedback on any bugs and issues that need to be ironed out. Apple has experienced several issues with final public launches in the past, so it’s likely that the new public beta programme is a bid to prevent that from happening again.
You can sign up to the programme by clicking Sign Up on the Apple Beta page and use your Apple ID.
We can’t stress how important it is to back up your device before you download and install iOS 9, or better still, use a secondary device that isn’t your main iPhone or iPad to try the beta. Not only will that mean you won’t lose everything if something goes wrong while the beta is installing, it also means you’ll be able to go back to iOS 8.4 should you find that you don’t like iOS 9 after all or that it’s too buggy.
We talk you through backing up your device in our how to back up an iPhone or iPad article.
Then, all you’ll need to do is click Sign Up on the Apple Beta page and use your Apple ID.
You’ll then be able to log in to the Beta Software Program, and click Enroll your iOS device. From there, you’ll be instructed to go toon your iOS device in order to download and install a configuration profile. That will make the beta available in the Settings app, under General, Software Update.
Before downloading the iOS 9 beta, back up the device you’re going to install the beta on. That way you can restore it fairly easily if something goes seriously wrong.
Sign into the iOS Dev Center using the Apple ID you used in the previous step.
Register your Apple device’s UDID (the easiest way to find out your UDID is to plug the device into iTunes, click on the device’s icon in the top right-hand corner, view the Summary tab and click on the Serial Number entry to get it to change to the UDID). Now you’ll be able to download the appropriate version of the iOS 9 beta for your hardware – select the exact iPhone, iPod touch or iPad model you’re using from the list.
Unzip the file that downloads to your Mac (this should produce a .IPSW file). Connect your device to iTunes (if it isn’t already).
Hold Alt (on a Mac – it’s Shift on a PC) and click the Restore iPhone button on the device’s Summary tab (next to Check for Update). Select the .IPSW file from the previous step. iOS 9 will be installed on your iPad or iPhone after a few minutes.
The beta version you’ll get on your device if you’re using the public beta won’t be the most up-to-date version that Developers have been testing. If you’re desperate to have the latest build, there is another option available. Before we begin the how to, it’s worth noting that once you update to iOS 9, none of the personal data accumulated on the firmware will be restorable if you later decide to downgrade back down to iOS 8.4.
An easy way to get around this issue is to manually back up your device via iTunes before you upgrade to iOS 9, then exclusively use iCloud for backup once the upgrade is complete. This way, if you need to downgrade back to iOS 8.4, you’ll have a backup available – granted it won’t be the most up-to-date backup, but it’s a better option than completely loosing everything.
Step 1: Download the latest beta of iOS 9. These are usually released via the Apple Developers Portal, but you have to pay $99 a year to access this service (as discussed above). However there are also other sources that will supply users with the iOS 9 betas, with iMZDL being one of the most popular online resources.
There are many versions of the beta available, and it’s important to download the corresponding beta for your device – if you download the wrong beta, iTunes will first wipe iOS 8 from your device before informing you that it’s unable to install the selected iOS 9 beta, which forces the device into DFU mode and requires a complete restore to fix. Some sites (iMZDL included) provide a service that uses your devices serial number to identify the correct beta to download.
Step 2: Download the latest version of iTunes. This is fairly straight forward – it’s important to make sure that you’re running the latest version of iTunes, which at the time of writing is iTunes 12.2. You can download the latest version of iTunes via the Apple website, the App Store Updates tab on Mac or click Help > Check for Updates within iTunes for PC.
Step 3: Register your devices UDID. The UDID, or Unique Device Identifier, of your device has to be registered for developers use before installing the iOS 9 beta. There are some reports that it isn’t needed with the iOS 9 beta, but we think it’s better to be safe rather than having to deal with UDID-related issues down the line.
You can either get an iOS developer friend to register your devices’ UDID, or you can pay for it via iMZDL or ATFDL. If you’re unsure of how to find the UDID of your device, you can follow our tutorial here.
Step 4: Back up your device. As mentioned earlier, we advise that you back up your device before installing iOS 9 because:
A) If anything goes wrong during the installation of the iOS 9 beta, you’ll have a backup available – no harm done.
B) You won’t be able to use any iOS 9 backups with iOS 8, so if you downgrade with no iOS 8 backup, you’ll have to completely wipe your iPhone.
This can be done by plugging your iPhone or iPad into iTunes, selecting the iPhone/iPad icon from the menu and then selecting “Back Up Now”. It’s also advised that you select “iCloud” under the Backup menu as your automatic backup option as we don’t want your iOS 8.4 backup being overwritten.
Step 5: Restore your device to iOS 8.4. Once you’ve followed the above steps and backed up your device, it’s time to restore your iPhone to its factory settings. You can do this by clicking “Restore iPhone/iPad” within iTunes with the device connected.
Though this step is advised by many publications online, we’ve installed the iOS 9 beta on several of our devices without restoring our devices prior to the install and encountered no issues along the way.
Step 6: Install the iOS 9 beta. To install the iOS 9 beta on your device, make sure it’s plugged in to your computer and select it within iTunes. Next, while holding the Option (Alt) key on Mac/Shift key on Mac, click the “Check for Update” button.
This should open a window where you can browse for the iOS 9 beta .IPSW file that you downloaded earlier. Navigate to wherever you chose to save the .IPSW file, select it and click open. iTunes may display a notification informing you that you’re installing iOS 9 – just click OK, then the installation process should initiate.
Step 7: Wait. The install process can take a while – the important thing is to not unplug/turn off your device during the install, as it may corrupt the operating system and ‘brick’ your device.
Step 8: Slide to upgrade. Once the upgrade process is complete and your device has restarted, you’ll be prompted with a “Slide to upgrade” screen. Swiping this will again reboot your iPhone, but don’t panic – it’s normal. Once it has rebooted, you’ll be greeted with the familiar “Hello” welcome screen. Follow the on-screen instructions and you’ll be successfully running the iOS 9 beta on your iPhone or iPad.
There are basically two down sides to grabbing iOS 9 early, but they’re quite big.
On the other hand, getting the iOS 9 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 and very broad design ideas. (Bear in mind that it’ll probably be sharpened up a fair bit before the final launch.)
It will probably also be easier to get rid of the beta than the full version when it launches.