Apple iOS 9, OS X El Capitan betas now out in the wild

It's the first time the iPhone and iPad maker has provided nondevelopers early access to a major upgrade of its operating system for mobile devices. Plus: the beta release of the next Mac OS.

Nigel Manuel
Nigel Manuel is an editorial intern for CNET News. He has worked for multiple local-news outlets and got his start at a radio station in his home state of Tennessee. He attends the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He's an avid gamer who watches TV and reads on the side.
Nigel Manuel
3 min read

Apple took the wraps off iOS 9 at WWDC and it is now available for public testing. James Martin/CNET

An early version of Apple's next two operating systems, iOS 9 for mobile devices and OS X El Capitan for Macs, went live to the public on Thursday.

Apple showcased the updated operating system, which powers the iPhone and iPad, at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in June. While the polished version likely won't appear until the fall with the release of the next iPhone, anyone who had signed up earlier and been approved by Apple can now download the beta version of iOS 9.

This marks the first time that the company has allowed non-developers early access to the beta version of a major update to its iOS operating system. The company previously released to the public a minor update to iOS 8. Most people, however, will want to wait until the bugs have been ironed out before taking a dive into iOS 9.

Watch this: New features in the iOS 9 beta

Along with iOS 9, Apple also is making available the beta of its next Mac computer operating system, dubbed El Capitan. Some of the key new features included advancements for Apple's Spotlight search function, allowing users to ask it about the weather, for example, or find stock prices and sports scores. The company also enhanced its search functions in apps like email, where users can easily find messages they hadn't yet responded to.

In addition, Apple also made it easy for two Mac apps to run on the screen at once, a function called "split view." But one of the most important parts was performance. Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, said at the company's developer conference last month that apps now start faster, and the computer can switch between them quicker too.

Though the invitation to try out the latest iOS may be tempting, some caution is urged. This is a beta version of iOS 9, which means that there may still be some bugs in the software, some that may cause your phone to behave differently or to lose sensitive data. The beta version of an operating system is used by developers to create apps and to work out the kinks before it is widely released.

In June, the company detailed features of the new operating system . The update will see a more involved Siri that can search photos and videos based on date and location, and an improved search window. Also included in the operating system is an improved maps app that will have transit instructions, battery life extensions and additional features for the preinstalled Notes app.

iOS 9: Here's what Apple's new mobile OS looks like (pictures)

See all photos

The iPad version of iOS will include most of the same things that the iPhone version gets, with a few more features. Multitasking gets beefed up with a split view where you can work in one window with another one open and a slide-out app window that will allow you quick access to apps without leaving the current app.

The side-by-side feature is only available on the iPad Air 2 while the slide over and picture and picture will be available in both of the iPad Airs, and the iPad Mini 2 and 3.

iOS 9 will work with the iPhone 4s and above, the entire iPad mini line, the entire iPad Air line, iPad 2, and iPads 3rd and 4th generation. iOS9 will also be compatible with the 5th generation iPad Touch.

-Shara Tibken contributed to this report.

Updated at 11:55 a.m. PT: To note that the betas are out.