I’ve been thinking a lot about betas and why some people are always wanting the latest version of any given piece of software. I have a few ideas for the interest in beta software. I’ll be focusing on the iOS betas, but this really could apply to any piece of software. You will be taken through some of the good and the bad points of betas.
One of the things that most people want is new features. This has definitely been the case with the iOS software for each release.
With each release of the iOS software, developers have been given access to the new features well ahead of the general public. Part of this is because they must be ready for the new features upon release and developers require some time to acclimate themselves with the new features and APIs in order to verify that their software will function upon release.
There are those who may pay for a developer account just to be part of this group to say that they have the new features before others.
The desire to be part of a select group. Everybody is part of at least one group. There are those who wish to be part of a very small group that is allowed to gain special early access to items. This is part of the reason that I’m in the developer program. I want features early as well as to be part of a select group of individuals. But, all of this does come at a potential cost.
One of the biggest issues with beta software is that it has the potential to break functionality. This has definitely occurred several times throughout the myriad of iOS betas. For instance, during the 4.0 beta periods, one of the builds broke the ability for the camera to actually take pictures. This is definitely not something you want to have happen when you only have one phone and really want to take a picture. Another bug impacted audible. This has happened more than once throughout the betas. The most recent, 4.2, has severely broken the ability for users to listen to any audible items, whether it be through the iPod software or through the Audible application.
The second issue with betas is slowdown. Beta software is not truly intended for everyday use. Yes, there are some betas that are meant for testing to find the little bugs and there are those that are meant to be used to find the big issues, but with beta software, you may have to deal with the software being slower due to debugging code and being in a debugging mode.
If you don’t mind dealing with potential problems and are able to handle not being able to use all of the features of your device or the software then maybe a beta is good for you. Otherwise you might want to steer clear and just wait for the release, although these can also be problematic (… ahem… iOS 4 on iPhone 3G … ahem…) as well.