Alongside iOS 12 and macOS Mojave at WWDC 2018, Apple also announced watchOS 5, a new operating system for the Apple Watch which adds a range of new features and interface tweaks to most existing models. (The original Apple Watch can’t install watchOS 5, sadly – that includes the astronomically expensive $10,000, 18-karat gold, original Apple Watch Edition.)
watchOS 5 launches to the public tonight, 17 Sept: here’s how to update your Apple Watch when it does. But if you want to try out the next version of watchOS before everyone else, you’ll need to install a pre-release beta testing version. Be warned that beta versions of software are not finished and may contain bugs.
In this article we explain how to install the latest beta of watchOS on your Apple Watch.
What do I need to install a watchOS beta?
A model of Apple Watch that’s compatible with the beta – any other than the original, first-gen watch can run watchOS 5, for instance – and a reasonably new iPhone running the equivalent beta version of iOS. You’ll also need a developer account, which costs £79 a year.
How to install the watchOS 5 beta
If you’re keen to try out a beta version of watchOS, here’s how it’s done. But be warned that beta software is never as reliable as the public-release stuff, so don’t do this if you’re not prepared for things to go wrong on your Apple Watch. Remember to back up any important data.
Before you install a beta version of watchOS, you’ll have to install a beta certificate on your device. The beta certificate tells your iPhone to look for and allow you to install the watchOS beta directly OTA (over the air), much like a standard software update. Follow these steps to install a beta profile on your device.
Before you try to install the watchOS beta certificate, you’ll have to be running an iOS beta too. (You needed the iOS 12 beta to run the watchOS 5 beta, for example.)
- Log into the Apple Developer Portal on the iPhone paired with your Apple Watch.
- Navigate to the watchOS download page.
- Tap ‘Download watchOS [x] beta Configuration Profile’, for the appropriate version.
- When prompted to choose a device, tap ‘iPhone’ then ‘Install’.
- Enter your Passcode, tap Install and then again to confirm.
- Tap ‘Restart’ to reboot your iPhone and complete the configuration profile installation.
Once your iPhone has restarted, the watchOS beta update should appear as an update option within the Apple Watch companion app. From here, the update process is pretty standard.
Downsides of installing a watchOS beta
Is it worth having a buggy experience, just so you can try out the next version of watchOS before everyone else?
Unlike for iOS and macOS, there’s no public beta for the Apple Watch software. What does this mean? The only way you can install a watchOS beta is by signing up to Apple’s Developer Program, which will set you back £79 per year. We’re not convinced that it’s worth paying £79 a year unless you want to develop apps for the platform, and wouldn’t recommend this option just to go hands-on with the beta.
However, the price of Apple’s Developer Program isn’t the biggest reason to avoid using the beta. The biggest reason is that downgrading back to the original watchOS is quite an undertaking, and generally can’t be done at home. Assuming you’re not prepared to wait for the public versions to catch up, the process involves sending your Apple Watch to Apple.
We can’t really say more than that, as the instructions are under NDA within Apple’s Developers Portal, so instead we’ll say that unless you’re a developer who wants to make sure their apps work with the next version of watchOS, we’d wait until the official release.
When will the watchOS public beta come out?
As we said above, we don’t think there will be a watchOS public beta, although that hasn’t been officially confirmed one way or another. There haven’t been public betas of any previous versions of watchOS, and you’ll note that the Apple Beta Software Program page doesn’t mention watchOS. (It does mention iOS, macOS and tvOS.)