Beta software lets you test out the newest features while app developers work out the final bugs in the software. Now, more app developers are offering beta programs than ever before. All you need to do is sign up to be part of the beta program. Plus, switching back to the stable version is usually easy. (Please note: beta programs can cause problems in your devices, so please proceed with caution). Here are 11 beta programs you can join today — and one you can't.
Since the release of OS X 10.11 El Capitan and iOS 9, Apple lets anyone sign up for beta updates. While these versions of the software are usually stable, you might want to think twice about installing them on devices you use every day. If you need to go back to the stable editions, a full restore is required.
New with Android N is the Android Beta Program — if you use a Nexus device, signing up is as simple as choosing your device from a list (you can go back to stable releases with a click, but your device will be completely wiped first). Be warned that Android N is still unstable at the time this article was published.
One of the most well-known beta programs is Google Chrome. You can choose to run the stable, beta, developer or Canary version of Google's Chrome browser on your devices, with each one getting progressively more cutting edge (and buggy). The first three options are available on your Chromebook too.
Mozilla offers three versions of Firefox that almost match the Chrome ones: stable, beta and developer. The beta is fairly safe for most users to use, whereas the dev edition really is best left to the hardcore testers. Switching between the editions is just a question of uninstalling and reinstalling.
As of last month, WhatsApp began offering a public beta on Android. Users get a heads-up on new features coming down the line before everyone else. You simply get a new version of the app pushed to your device (you can't run beta and stable together), and you can return to the stable version at any time.
If you don't want to use the stable versions of Dropbox, there are beta builds available to anyone who wants them on the official forums. You can also opt to receive early releases in your account settings. If you sign up, you'll automatically get updates for the version of the software you're using.
Facebook is another Android app with a public beta program that anyone can sign up for. This is actually one of the older beta experiments around (it's been going since 2013) and new versions are pushed out on a very regular basis — note that not all Facebook beta testers see the same new features.
Eager to test out some experimental filters? Want to see what's coming to the photo feed first? Android users can opt to run a beta version of Instagram on their phone, which replaces the standard version (switching back is simple). Multi-account switching is one feature that's recently been seen in the beta.
The Google app, which includes Google Now and various other search goodies, is another member of the growing group of Android betas. With Google devoting so much time and energy towards its digital assistant, it's worth putting up with a few bugs just to see some of the innovations on the way.
"Snapchat Android Beta allows you to test drive our newest features," explains the landing page for potential beta testers, and you can even sign up from inside the app. Several new features have been previewed in the beta in the past, and what's unusual is that you can opt-in or opt-out on a feature-by-feature basis.
If you've picked up some of the Sonos music streaming kit, then you can also opt-in for the company's public beta program too. Just join from the inside of the app and you're good to go. In the past, we've seen tweaks to audio quality and new music partners like Apple Music appear in the beta before the final release.
Microsoft ran a large-scale public beta test of Windows 10, but right now there's no option to try out future versions of the operating system on an ongoing basis. Perhaps now that Apple has a beta program, Microsoft might change its mind, but casual beta testers are out of luck for the time being.
Did we miss any major beta programs? We know there are plenty of others out there, so let us know what we missed. Sadly, the Netflix beta came and went in the blink of an eye, so we weren't able to include it this time.