Curious About iOS 18? Here's How to Download the Beta on Your iPhone

Big changes are coming to your iPhone with iOS 18; you can experience the new features today by downloading an early developer version.

Nelson Aguilar
Nelson Aguilar is an LA-based tech how-to writer and graduate of UCLA. With more than a decade of experience, he covers Apple and Google and writes on iPhone and Android features, privacy and security settings and more.
Nelson Aguilar
5 min read
iOS 18 iPhone15 Pro Max Home Screen

iOS 18 will be available to the general public starting this fall.

Viva Tung/CNET

Have you been craving more customization options for your iPhone's control center and home screen? Do you want to lock and hide some of your apps? Or do you just want to schedule text messages to send later? Well, you won't have to wait much longer -- iOS 18 comes out this fall.

But if you don't want to wait at all, you can download iOS 18 right now -- as long as you're fine with running a developer beta on your iPhone.

Read moreApple Announces iOS 18 at WWDC 2024. Here's What to Know

Apple this week announced iOS 18 at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), its yearly developer seminar. The latest iOS update brings new features like a redesigned home screen, a customizable control center, locked and hidden apps, text messaging via satellite and a huge redesign to the Photos app.

And, of course, there are all the new AI features.

Watch this: iPad OS Finally Gets Calculator App

While the general public release for iOS 18 is slated for later this year, Apple has already issued the first iOS 18 developer beta, which you can download immediately, as long as you're enrolled in the Apple Developer program.

The Apple Developer program has long required a fee to join, at $100 per year. But last year, with the release of the iOS 17 developer beta, Apple created a free tier of the Apple Developer program, which allows you to download any developer betas for free -- as long as you have an Apple ID.

If you want to try out iOS 18 today, here's how.

Why you might not want to download the iOS 18 developer beta

Let me just say, just because you can download the iOS 18 developer beta for free, doesn't mean you need to, or should.

Early developer betas, such as this one, are intended for developers to test their apps on upcoming versions of iOS. It's also a way for developers to identify and report bugs, which helps Apple improve the software before it's released to the general public. And that's a major reason why you may not want to download the iOS 18 developer beta on your phone -- the bugs.

A software bug, or any other glitches, can make your phone unstable. You may not be able to use some of your favorite apps, and even if you can, you may deal with apps that crash unexpectedly. The performance of your entire phone could be affected -- the developer beta could make your phone lag or lead your battery to drain faster than usual or even overheat.

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See all photos

With all that said, I've downloaded developer betas on my personal iPhone for the last decade, and haven't faced any major issues. It's mostly just annoying when an app crashes or my battery dies quickly, but I've always managed.

If you have a backup iPhone, you should definitely use that for the iOS 18 developer beta, because you won't need it everyday, so you won't feel the full effects of any bugs or other issues. But if you don't have one, running iOS 18 developer beta on your primary should hopefully be fine.

And in case you still want iOS 18 but don't want to deal with the developer beta, there's always the more stable public beta for iOS 18, which should release later this month. You can sign up here for that.

What to know before you download the iOS 18 developer beta

Before you start downloading the iOS 18 developer beta, there are a few things you should know:

  • You need a supported phone. iOS 18 will run on the iPhone XS and later.
  • Update your phone. It's best to update to the latest general release before updating to a developer beta. The latest iOS version is currently 17.5.1. You'll at least need to be running iOS 16.4 if you want to download the iOS 18 developer beta as an over-the-air update.
  • Also, back up your phone. You need a backup if you ever want to go back to iOS 17. To back up your phone, go to Settings > your name > iCloud > iCloud Backup > Back Up Now. You can also back it up to your computer.
Using iCloud Backup on your iPhone

If your iPhone doesn't automatically back up, you can do it manually through your settings.

Screenshot by Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Now, you're ready to sign up for the Apple Developer program.

How to enroll in the Apple Developer program for free

As I mentioned, there's now a free tier of the Apple Developer program, which allows you to download any developer beta without paying. Using the Apple ID that's connected to the device you want to update to iOS 18, do the following:

1. Go to the Apple Developer website, hit the three-dash menu in the top-left and then tap Account in the menu that appears.

2. Sign in with your Apple ID.

3. Finally, read through the Apple Developer Agreement, check all the boxes and hit Submit.

You won't get full access to the development tools that the paid Apple Developer program membership offers, but you'll have access to the iOS 18 developer beta. If you're a developer, you should consider signing up for the paid version.

creating a free Apple Developer Program account for iOS 17

You can then scroll to Software Downloads to check out everything you can install, including the iOS 18 developer beta.

Screenshot by Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Install the iOS 18 developer beta over-the-air on your iPhone

You can download the iOS 18 developer beta manually, but the easiest way to do it is with an over-the-air update -- just like you would download and install your regular iOS update. After you sign up for the Apple Developer program, you should see the option to download the iOS 18 developer beta in your settings.

To download the iOS 18 developer beta over-the-air, here's what you need to do:

1. On your iPhone, go to the Settings > General > Software Update.

2. Next, go into Beta Updates and tap the iOS 18 Developer Beta option.

3. Finally, go back and tap Download and Install under the new "iOS 18 Developer Beta" option that appears.

Note: If you don't see the iOS 18 beta option, you'll need to wait.

iOS 18 developer update on iPhone
Screenshot: Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Enter your passcode, agree to the terms and conditions and then just wait for the update to install on your iPhone. Depending on your internet connection, the entire process should take about 10 or 15 minutes.

Once your phone reboots, you should be running the iOS 18 developer beta.

You can also download the iOS 18 developer beta with your Mac

The problem with an over-the-air update is that it requires a certain amount of storage, so if your storage is nearly full, you won't be able to use the option in the previous section. Fortunately, you can use your computer to update to the iOS 18 developer beta.

1. On your Mac, go to this Apple Developer Program download page, find "iOS 18 beta," click Download Restore Images and download the iOS beta software restore image for your iPhone model.

2. Connect your phone to your computer and enter your device passcode or hit Trust This Computer.

3. Open a Finder window and then click your device in the sidebar under Locations.

4. Finally, hold down the Option key, click Check for Update and choose the iOS 18 beta software restore image you just downloaded from the Apple Developer website.

iOS 18 beta download on Mac

If you have no storage on your iPhone, this is the way to go to get iOS 18.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

The iOS 18 developer beta software will begin to install on your iPhone. Wait for a few minutes and when your phone reboots, you should have access to iOS 18.

For more, check out how you'll soon be able to use your iPhone on your Mac.