Before you can ship a product to customers you have to test it. Be it hardware or software, there is no escaping that simple fact. The more you test, the more opportunities there are to identify problems and fix them before the product ever reaches a customer. The testing period is also an opportunity to experiment with different implementations of a new feature.
The latest ‘controversy’: the battery icon
In the most recent beta of iOS 16 (developer beta 5, public beta 3), Apple restored the battery percentage indicator for many iPhone models with a notch. Opinions were mixed with many users happy to see the feature return with others lamenting the design. Still, others took issue with the fact that Apple has not enabled the feature on the iPhone 12 mini, 13 mini, iPhone 11 or iPhone XR.
All of this is valid feedback. Moaning and complaining are just counterproductive. By all means, complain away, but it doesn’t mean the opinion is right or that anybody at Apple has to listen to you. This is a beta testing period. That means the software is subject to change. Complaining about a product that hasn’t shipped is useless. What actually helps is to provide specific feedback that addresses the issue and offers ideas/solutions.
Access to beta programs
Apple is not required to offer you access to the beta program. And we all know that most people are probably running the developer beta without the right to do so. Thanks to the illicit distribution of developer beta profiles, anybody that wants to skirt the licensing conditions of the beta program is able to do so. And for the most part, it is this category of self-entitled individuals that are the serial complainers.
Genuine developers know very well how to provide great feedback and how to test. After all, that’s how they build their own products. And it’s why developer betas exist. They’re for developers to build new features based on new APIs and update apps for compatibility. Not for child-like adults to throw a tantrum when they don’t like a design decision or encounter a bug.
Now it’s also true that Apple has a public beta program. This is absolutely intended to provide the more eager of us to have access to new features. But not just for entertainment purposes. The public beta like the developer beta comes with a feedback app. Apple wants you to report bugs and provide feedback during the testing period. That’s why Apple has expanded the beta program in recent years to include a public beta. It isn’t for entertainment purposes. It’s to contribute to the testing period and to help make the final release better for everyone.
Crackdown on illicit distribution
This past week Apple has issued warnings of litigation to hundreds of sites that are distributing beta profiles and IPSW files without authorisation. Sites such as BetaProfiles.com have shut down (or will do so imminently). Even Twitter has been hit with a takedown request under the Digital Millennium Copyrights Act. But why is Apple doing this? It’s probably for a combination of reasons.
The easy access to developer betas without a developer account has the potential to be harmful to customers. Data loss, restricted access to Apple customer support, broken apps and more. Developers are warned in flashing lights of the risks and are instructed to install on secondary devices. Consumers accessing beta profiles without authorization are provided with no such warning. Developers by contrast are presented with terms and conditions to accept before installation. Consumers will of course never see these terms via illicit distribution platforms, let alone have the opportunity to agree to them.
It might not be an issue for some who are well aware of the risks, are relatively tech-savvy and are prepared to take the risk. The problem is that such easy access to early betas for non-developers creates an undue customer support burden for Apple. It also has the potential to damage the brand when whiny, non-testers start to complain about their ill-gotten gains on social media. It’s no wonder Apple is trying to shut this down.
Apple isn’t stupid though. They know that where there is a will, there will always be a way. But perhaps by making it harder to access early betas for all but the most determined, it’ll help reduce some of the whining and endless noise online.
By all means, install the betas. Go and enjoy them or not as the case may well be. But don’t just endlessly complain. Provide useful, meaningful feedback. Be additive to the testing cycle rather than just contributing endless noise. Apple can and does make changes as a result of feedback. In iOS 15 for instance, they restored the top address bar as an option when it became clear that some users found the change hard to adjust to. I still use the top bar. I am that consumer. But what I didn’t do was complain. Instead, I provided feedback via the feedback app and explained why it was problematic and proposed solutions. Many others did the same and Apple listened.