Apple: No more sneak-peek previews of iOS unless you pay for the privilege
iGiant shuts dev beta loophole
Sorry, early adopters, cash-strapped developers or anyone else that wants to test developer builds of iOS and iPadOS before public betas are available – the latest beta is doing away with configuration profiles that allow any device to download dev-only builds.
iOS 16.4, which entered public beta recently, may make life easier for developers who work on apps for Apple's mobile OSes as it will add the ability to enroll in betas for a device right from the Software Update menu in the Settings app.
The new feature will be automatically enabled on devices enrolled in the Apple beta program for developers with a paid dev account, which costs $99 (£82) per year, on devices they're logged into with that AppleID.
But there's a kick in the teeth for everyone else: "In future iOS and iPadOS releases, this new setting will be the way to enable developer betas and configuration profiles will no longer grant access," Apple said.
A loophole, to be sure, but a welcomed one
For those unfamiliar with Apple configuration profiles, they were used to change a device's update channel from regular releases to beta or dev updates. Configuration profiles are files and until recently Apple made no attempts to restrict their use, meaning developers were free to share config profiles – something that many did until last year.
For a developer who didn't want to pay, or members of the public who wanted early access, a trip to one of several websites, like BetaProfiles or IPSW.dev, provided an easy way to access the profiles and instructions on how to install them.
Those websites shut down in August last year after receiving letters from Apple lawyers threatening litigation if they didn't cease and desist from sharing beta profiles.
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Such profiles were never really intended for public distribution. The warnings issued alongside developer builds of iOS are dire, including that test builds can come with device-killing bugs. As such, Apple warned, those builds should never be installed on production hardware or an individual's primary device.
While perhaps an understandable move on Apple's part – who knows how many developer betas it issued to those who didn't pay for the privilege – the move is likely to impact small-scale developers too. Those who don't pay for an Apple developer account have limited access to tools and services, and no way to distribute apps beyond their own devices. Now such developers will not be able to test their software on the newest iOS builds either.
Apple's public beta builds will still be accessible to those enrolled at beta.apple.com, but it's unclear if configuration profiles would be eliminated from the public beta process in favor of the new Software Update option in Settings.
The Register contacted Apple to learn more about how the change will affect public betas, as well as any possible changes to its use of configuration profiles for other purposes, like mobile device management. Apple answered, but only pointed us to a website covering the installation of developer betas that we already linked to.
We asked for more direct answers, but didn't get a response before publication. ®