To Beta Or Not To Beta

To Beta Or Not To Beta... That's the Question

I think that today's culture has lost some of the fundamental understanding of what exactly beta software is. We all know that beta software has bugs and glitches. Yet online forums are full of people complaining about beta software messing up their devices and data. Recently both Apple and Google have somewhat encouraged us to download their beta software, thus helping to dilute the true nature of beta software. And they did/do have a fairly good track record with public beta releases, making them feel safer than they are. It used to be that people who installed beta software only did this on secondary devices that were not linked to important data (and/or that data was carefully backed up). Nowadays people just install beta software without even thinking about it, everybody wanting to get the neat new features advertised by the developer.

But now our devices and data are tied to online sync engines, that don't have great backup and restore mechanisms, making it harder and harder to create a safe test environment without using fake dummy accounts with fake data, but then none of your "real" data is available, making it hard to truly test and experience the new features.

At the same time, we depend more and more on our devices and data, so exposing them to potentially harmful betas is not a decision you should take lightly. With our HomeKit systems, you are talking about potentially serious issues, including home security, home heating/cooling systems, and even basic lighting conveniences that cause great amounts of stress when they don't work properly.

Making this issue even bigger, HomeKit is an ecosystem that runs on iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, macOS, HomePodOS, and even watchOS. When installing a beta on one product, you typically have to update all of the devices in order for things to work correctly, exposing you to even more potential problems. Also, unknown to many people who install Apple betas, when using Apple beta software, your iCloud data may also be moved to a beta version of iCloudOS, with its own potential problems.

Another problem with beta software is that it is updated frequently and often times a stable beta release will be followed by an unstable release. This is the nature of beta software.

Usually after the official release of the software, many of the third party apps also receive updates to make them compatible with the new OS. You might even see firmware updates for your HomeKit devices. None of this is happening while you are running the beta software.

And finally, when you decide to move to a beta OS on your device and you use HomeKit, your family members will also be affected by this decision.

And still, the online forums are full of people ranting about how the latest beta "messed up" their HomeKit, or is buggy as hell, or how they lost their data and had to rebuild everything from scratch. Yup, that is how beta software works guys. That should actually be the expectation.

If you haven't guessed it yet, my recommendation is that you avoid the betas. Even the betas that promise great new features that you have been waiting for for years. Even if they promise to fix a problem that you are currently having. Don't. Install. The. Betas. (Or if you do, don't complain about it when they do something bad to your stuff).

I will go even further, and recommend not installing ANY software update until an appropriate amount of time has passed after its initial release, and you haven't heard about any serious issues online. This "grace period" should be longer for "point-zero" releases than "point" releases.