How to Download the iOS 16 Public Beta and What to Try First

How to Download the iOS 16 Public Beta and What to Try First
You can grab the iOS 16 public beta for your iPhone! (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

Apple’s next version of iOS is now available to the public as a downloadable beta. You can enroll your iPhone into the program to try iOS 16 before everyone else. The software is still in development, so you’ll have to approach it more patiently than an average build of iOS and take some of its bugs in stride. But the upside is that you can go hands-on with new features like the new Lock Screen look, Visual Lookup, and improved translation abilities before they go live this fall. Here’s how to set up the iOS 16 beta on your iPhone and what to try out first.

How to install the iOS 16 Public Beta

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It’s easy to get the public beta installed on your iPhone. First, make sure you have a compatible device. The beta is available for the iPhone 8 and up.

Then, head to the Public Beta page on Safari on your iPhone to sign in with your Apple account. Tap on the option to Get started, and on the next page, enroll your iOS device. Once that’s set, tap the button labelled Download profile.

After downloading the profile, head into Settings > General > VPN & Device Management to approve the installation package. Tap on it, and then select the Install option at the top-right. Apple will install the software once you’ve consented to the terms of use.

Your iPhone will then restart. Go back to Settings > General > Software Update, and that’s where you’ll see the iOS 16 Public Beta waiting for you to install. You’ll need to have a battery life of over 50% or be plugged into an outlet to proceed.

Make yourself a few new Lock screens

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Now that you’ve installed the iOS 16 beta, you can try out the new customisable Lock Screens. Press and hold down on the Lock Screen to bring up the customisation option, then tap the plus sign to make a new one. This will bring you to the full customisation menu, which is pretty overwhelming initially because there are so many preconfigured options. They include:

  • Featured Lock Screens
  • Weather & Astronomy, which provides live weather and astronomical conditions based on your location
  • Emoji, which lets you select from up to six emojis with which to make a wallpaper
  • Collections, which include wallpaper choices provided by Apple
  • Colour, which includes a spectrum of gradients ready to present a vibe

Each Lock Screen option allows you to customise the font for the time and date and add as many widgets as possible within the allotted space, including an activity rings monitor, a sunset timer, and even a battery metre. Once you make a Lock Screen, don’t forget to save it so it’s easy to swap in and out as you see fit.

How to use the new Focus mode

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I could’ve used these Focus filters while researching this piece! While iOS has had the Focus feature since iOS 15, it’s been revamped in iOS 16, making it much easier to set up. Now, Focus offers an onboarding explainer before dumping you into the many options available.

To access Focus mode, head into Settings > Focus. Start a new Focus profile by tapping on the plus sign, and then iOS 16 will ask you what you want to focus on. Choose from a list of predetermined Focus modes, including one for driving and one for reading. Or you can tap to create a custom Focus mode.

Once you’ve named your Focus mode, there are four main options to consider before saving. The Silence Notifications option lets you mute people and apps that you don’t want to bother you during a specific time. Below that, you can choose to customise the Lock Screen and Home Screen, which we’ll get into next.

Then comes the automation part. You can allow iOS 16 to use Smart Activation, which automatically turns on your Focus mode based on time, location, and app usage. You can also choose a precise time, location, or app to trigger the particular Focus mode.

Lastly, Focus mode offers Focus Filters for select apps, so you can configure how some of Apple’s default apps react when switching into a particular mode. This will allow you to do things like shut off your work calendar when you’re in “Hang out with the family” mode or force the interface into dark mode for an easier time reading on screen.

Link a Lock Screen to Focus mode

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One of the better features of the new Focus suite is the ability to tie a specific mode to specific Lock Screens and Home Screens. For instance, I set up Mindfulness mode so that the weather widget is the only thing on the Lock Screen while it’s active. I also chose a premade Home Screen with only a few apps available to tap, though iOS 16 lets you create a custom one as needed — including widgets, too. You can customise this feature through the Focus settings panel or the Lock screen editor.

Notifications — but from the bottom!

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iOS 16’s notifications are now at the bottom! And they’re consolidated. Indeed, my Google Photos notifications were whittled down to one row of layered tabs after the iOS 16 public beta update. But be careful how many notifications you let through, because they’ll still take over your Lock Screen if there are too many.

Take heed before retracting an iMessage

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Apple announced the ability to edit and retract sent iMessages a few months ago, and while developers have been able to use the feature since the beta went live, there are still some quirks. It doesn’t quite work as advertised at the moment, as most folks are still on iOS 15 or earlier, so you should heed this warning if you’re planning on trying out the feature for yourself.

If you send off a text to someone using iOS 15 or earlier and then try to delete it, they’ll still see your message. The same happens if you try to edit an iMessage; it’ll simply send another with the edited copy. Apple had to place a warning message to beta users because of how this is currently implemented, but it will hopefully work fine once the software goes live for everyone (though, it’s a wonder how it’ll work with older versions of iOS then, too).

Start a Shared Album

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Like Google Photos, Apple Photos now lets you create a Shared Album that your friends and family can collaborate on. The option is also available under the three-dot menu for individual photos. Tap on Share Photos, then scroll down and select Add to Shared Album. Note that once you add folks to these shared albums, they’ll also have access to add photos to the library, so be prepared for what may come!

Enjoy the full-screen music player

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Finally, the iPhone is starting to feel like an iPod again. Apple reinstated the full-screen music player on iOS 16. You’ll be able to control music directly from the Lock Screen rather than having to log in and tap around to pause playback or shuffle through a playlist.

Tap and drag to lift ✂

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This one is fun if you’re rushing to share images. Apple’s expanded Visual Look Up to let you quickly cut images from photos. Essentially, use the Apple Photos app to go into any photo with a person or animal, then tap and hold until you see an animation sprout across the area. You’ll then see a little menu window on the area asking if you want to copy the clipped part of the photo or share it externally. You can even share it on social media without leaving the Photos app.

Translate using the Camera app

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This is definitely something you’re going to want to use if you’re on vacation abroad! While your camera preview is on, tap on the screen to select visible text, and you’ll see a little icon pop up in the lower right-hand corner. Tap on that, and a Translate option appears below the selected area. Once you select that, iOS 16 will translate the text for you. Note that available languages for this ability are still limited.

Schedule an email

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It’s easy! Before you send an email in Apple Mail, long-press on the option to select a time and date to send it later.

There’s still more to try

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There are so many new features coming to iOS 16 that we can’t wait to go hands-on with once everyone else has the software. If you have a willing friend, try out the new SharePlay, which works with Messages so that you can listen to music or watch TV with a friend using FaceTime, provided they have access to the same streaming services. Or, if you don’t have an Apple Watch but want to track your steps, you can try closing your rings using just the iPhone with iOS 16 in your back pocket. Check out Apple’s page for the full list of what’s new in iOS 16.