iOS users have always had to wait until Apple released the final version of an OS update to try out any new features. That's changed with iOS 9: For the first time, users can download a public beta of a new iOS update. Apple released the iOS 9 beta today (July 9).
Before you rush out to install iOS 9 on your iPhone or iPad, you'll want to take some precautions first. Since this is a beta version, you'll want to avoid installing the software on a device you depend on every day; instead, use a spare iPhone or iPad in case something goes wrong with the beta. And be sure to backup your device before installing the iOS 9 beta.
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To get the iOS 9 beta, you'll need to navigate to Apple's beta page on the iOS device you're planning on updating. (You'll be prompted to sign in with your Apple ID and password.) From there, Apple will give you a link to download the iOS 9 profile onto your phone. (We ran into some server errors when we tapped on the link, but that's not uncommon in the initial hours after a beta link goes live.) Once you've downloaded the profile, your iOS device will prompt you to install it, followed by onscreen instructions.
Subsequent updates to the beta will arrive over the air. You'll be able to install those via the Software Update feature in the Settings app on your iOS device.
Apple says the iOS 9 beta will come with a Feedback Assistant that appears on the second page of your iOS device's Home screen. The assistant lets you send reports to Apple about any issues you encounter with the beta.
You can expect to see plenty of new features in iOS 9. Leading the changes is a new Proactive Assistant aimed at providing more contextual information based on where you are, what time of day it is and how you use your phone. Go to the Search screen in iOS 9, for example, and the assistant will suggest contacts, apps and nearby points of interests it thinks you'll find relevant.
Siri is getting smarter as well, adding the ability to bring up photos from specific places and events as well beefed-up reminder tools. The iOS 9 beta provides an excellent first opportunity to see how effective these new Proactive features are.
Other iOS 9 enhancements include a revamped Notes app, public transit information in the Maps app, a News app that promises customized and personalized content and expanded support for store credit and debit cards in Apple Pay. iPad owners will be able to try out new multitasking features with the iOS 9 beta.
iOS 9 runs on the same devices that iOS 8 supports. You can run the beta on an iPad 2 or later, an iPhone 4S or later and a fifth-generation iPod touch.
The final version of iOS 9 arrives later this fall.
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