Apple to Offer First-Ever iOS Public Beta

In order to keep future versions of iOS as bug-free as possible, Apple could soon let the public test-drive its pre-release software for the first time. According to a new report, iOS 8.3 will be launched as a public beta in March, with a similar beta for iOS 9 due this summer.

9to5Mac reports that Apple will release the iOS 8.3 beta to the public via AppleSeed, which is currently an invitation-only program that lets customers preview certain software. Already available to developers, iOS 8.3 adds features such as wireless CarPlay support, Siri improvements and an updated Emoji keyboard.

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It's unclear if iOS 8's public betas will receive the same updates as the ones for developers, but 9to5Mac does report that iOS 9 will be available for public preview after it's unveiled at WWDC in June. Public betas for iOS will reportedly be limited to 100,000 users, who, like developers, will be able to report bugs to Apple via a dedicated app.

A public preview program could help iOS 9 launch more smoothly than its predecessor, which was plagued with issues such as app crashes and camera problems when it was released last fall.

Likely launching later this year, iOS 9 will reportedly focus on performance rather than a slew of new features. 9to5Mac claims that Apple is looking to make iOS function faster as a whole, and wants to keep software updates to a manageable download size for iPhone or iPad owners who don't have a ton of storage.

While we don't know if iOS 9 will herald any major new features, recent Apple patents point to future improvements such as public transit directions and a Google Maps-esque street view function for Maps. We'll likely get a clearer look at what iOS 9 has in store when Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) kicks off over the summer.

Mike Andronico is an Associate Editor at Tom's Guide. Follow Mike @MikeAndronico and onGoogle+. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+

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    How odd that Apple should bother to release beta versions. Surely the dumb sheep that flock to buy each grossly overpriced Apple product will similarly stampede to the nearest network connection so they can install whatever bug ridden OS Apple chooses to send them?
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