Try before you buy: Tech giants roll out free developer builds

7 Jun 2023

Image: © AndSus/

Companies like Apple and Google are releasing beta versions of upcoming products to help developers make apps for their stores and to get feedback before full releases.

Public feedback is used by many indie developers to fine-tune a product before a full release, with bigger companies utilising this resource in recent years.

Various tech companies have been offering free beta versions of upcoming products to get feedback from users and open the ecosystem for developers. Sites like YouTube and Twitter have released certain features early for paid subscribers, to get extra testing and feedback before a release.

OpenAI follows a similar method, with products like Dall-E 2 being opened to select users before being released to the wider public.

Two big tech companies jumping on this idea are Apple and Google, to benefit of their competing operating systems iOS and Android.

Apple’s free developer betas

Apple has taken a new step by letting users access developer builds of its upcoming OS software for free. Users are able to download developer builds of iOS 17, watchOS 10 and macOS Sonoma by using their Apple ID. These new builds were only announced earlier this week by Apple at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

The free version comes with the option to test the new software on a device and report bugs to Apple. Previously, users could only access developer builds by signing up to a developer programme, which costs $99 a year.

This paid programme still offers features separate from the free access, such as code-level support, app distribution on the App Store and access to developer tools.

Apple is also working on supporting developers for VisionOS, the new software designed for the company’s mixed reality headset, Vision Pro. The tech giant plans to release new supports for developers in July, such as developer kits to work on new apps and compatibility evaluations to test apps designed for the iPhone or iPad on the new headset.

Google developer builds

Apple isn’t the only big tech company rolling out developer builds for its products, as Google has a similar framework in place for its Android rollouts.

The upcoming version of the company’s software, Android 14, was released in a developer preview in February. This version was designed mainly for developers that had Pixel devices.

The company released its first beta version of Android 14 in April, to support both developers and “early adopters”.

“Android delivers enhancements and new features year-round, and your feedback on the Android beta program plays a key role in helping Android continuously improve,” Google said in a blogpost.

Google’s ‘developers’ site features a list of tools to help users seeking to make apps on Android, including training classes, sample projects to show code and a list of behaviour guidelines.

The tech giant is also focusing on user feedback in its current AI push. Google’s annual I/O event last month revealed a wave of upcoming AI products and services. Among these developments was the launch of Labs, which is a space for people to get an early look at new services.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic