iOS 13, iPadOS, MacOS Catalina available for public beta testing

But beware -- they aren't the finished versions that will launch in the fall.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
4 min read

The public can now download a beta version of Apple's iOS 13 iPhone software. 


If you're feeling adventurous, you can now download the beta version of Apple's upcoming MacOS CatalinaiOS 13 and iPadOS software. The company made the test versions of the operating system publicly available on Monday, giving anyone a taste of the platform.  

Apple unveils its newest software each year in June at its Worldwide Developers Conference. It then releases the operating systems to developers to make apps ahead of the final release, typically in September when its newest devices hit the market. 

In early 2015, Apple started letting the public test its mobile software with iOS 8.3. By  offering the operating system early both to developers and the public, Apple aims to catch more bugs and make sure the software works well before it's rolled out to a broad audience. As with all betas, it's likely some things will change before the final release. And there could be bugs and other issues that come from downloading software still in development. 

Watch this: Apple reveals tons of software updates and a Mac Pro at WWDC

Download the betas at your own risk -- and be sure to back up your devices before you do. As Apple has warned, "since the public beta software has not yet been commercially released by Apple, it may contain errors or inaccuracies and may not function as well as commercially released software." Apple advises people to only download beta software on a secondary device or one that's not "business critical." 

This year saw Apple split its mobile software into two -- iPhones will continue to use iOS, while iPads will now run iPadOS. The dedicated tablet operating system boosts the iPad's productivity features and brings the tablet even closer to its potential as a laptop replacement. At the same time, Apple also has WatchOS for its Apple Watches, TVOS for Apple TV and MacOS for its computers.

iOS 13

iOS 13 brings several new features to iPhones this year, including some notable leaps over last year's iOS 12. That includes dark mode, which replaces a light screen with a darker one. That saves battery life and can make looking at the screen easier on your eyes.

Another big feature coming to iOS 13 is Sign In with Apple. The new privacy tool uses your Apple ID, not your email address, to verify your credentials. Apple said this new tool will keep you from being tracked online in ways you may not realize. Any app that lets you sign in using a third party like Facebook or Google also has to offer the ability to sign in with Apple.

iOS 13 will include a swipeable keyboard, and you can better customize Memoji avatars. The software also incorporates new photo tools like the ability to adjust the intensity of portrait lighting with a slider, other dynamic adjustments and the ability to rotate videos right in the Photos app. 

Siri gets an audio update in iOS 13 to make the digital assistant sound smoother and more humanlike. It also works better with AirPods, the HomePodCarPlay and Safari, letting you create personalized shortcuts using the Shortcuts app and hand off a phone call or music from your iPhone to your HomePod smart speaker. 


Instead of making compromises so iOS would work on phones and tablets, iPadOS lets Apple tweak its mobile software to work better on its iPads. The software will get some features also coming to iOS, including dark mode and a new floating keyboard. 

But it also will get some iPad-only tweaks. That includes expanded Apple Pencil functionality, improved file management and a new version of Safari that will make for a more desktoplike Internet browsing experience. iPadOS also includes a new Home screen layout, enhanced multitasking features and new user interface gestures for cutting, copying, pasting and undoing actions. 

This fall, Apple will release iPadOS, a free software update, for the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini (released earlier this year), all the iPad Pros, the 2017 iPad, the 2018 iPad and the iPad Mini 4

MacOS Catalina

Apple's Macs will see a big upgrade this year with MacOS Catalina. For one, Apple will replace the iTunes app with three separate apps: Apple MusicApple Podcasts and Apple TV

Another big update will let Mac users run iPad apps they can download through the Mac App Store. The project, called Catalyst, makes it easier for developers to build apps that can run on both iPad and MacOS devices. 

With MacOS Catalina, Mac owners will be able to use an iPad as a second screen, much in the way you might use a monitor. The Sidecar program also lets you turn an iPad into a Mac's writing pad with Apple Pencil.

The best features in iOS 13 and iPadOS public beta

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