Apple has quietly updated its developer program with a free tier that includes access to developer betas, but we still can’t recommend installing beta software.
Anyone interested in testing beta releases of Apple Software had two options — wait for public betas in July or pay $99 per year for early developer access. That changed with iOS 17 and the other 2023 releases, though Apple hasn’t made any official announcement.
Most people would be perfectly fine with waiting for public beta access, especially since those versions tend to be more stable than initial developer betas. However, a niche crowd has happily paid the $99 for early access, this writer included.
Now, Apple has created a free tier for the Developer Program. It includes access to Xcode tools, Xcode betas, on-device testing, Developer Forums, bug reporting via Feedback Assistant, and developer OS beta releases.
The paid tier, still $99 per year, includes everything else, including Apple support with code building and app distribution on the App Store. Apple provides a small statement on its developer website about who should enroll as a developer.
You can learn how to develop apps for Apple platforms for free without enrolling. With just an Apple ID, you can access Xcode, software downloads, documentation, sample code, forums, and Feedback Assistant, as well as test your apps on devices. If you don’t already have an Apple ID, you can create one now. To distribute apps, join the Apple Developer Program.
Clearly, Apple wants users interested in learning development to not be driven away by the $99 per year cost. This doubles as a boon for those of us who just want to play on the less stable developer betas, be it for work or personal use.
“On-device testing” seems to imply you’ll be able to build apps in Xcode and run them on your testing device. That’s great for those who still use this as a path for side-loading apps for game emulation.
Users began reporting that the developer beta was available on their device, despite not being a part of the developer program. AppleInsider wrote it off as a mistake since Apple hadn’t said anything publicly.
Wait for the public betas anyway
Apple is still advertising its public beta program, which tends to release betas a day or more after the developer one goes out — once the public program starts in July anyway. So, both betas will likely continue as normal, just with both free to access and one arriving sooner with more risks than the other.
AppleInsider and Apple does not recommend installing beta software on primary machines. Data loss and system failure are possible.
Though, with developer betas easier to access than ever, it seems Apple is confident in their stability. However, betas are still betas no matter how stable, and things break — especially third-party apps. So proceed at your own risk.
This story originally appeared on Appleinsider