Apple’s upcoming watchOS 8 is adding a slew of fun new features to your Apple Watch; portrait mode wallpapers, GIF sharing in Messages, and setting multiple timers at once are just some of the awesome changes to explore. With the watchOS 8 beta, you can try out all these new features right now. But here’s our advice: Don’t.
To beta, or not to beta
So, all betas come with risks. When you install beta software on your device—whether that be an iPhone, laptop, or Apple Watch—you’re installing software that isn’t finished yet. It’s your experience with that software that helps developers catch any bugs or issues that they can fix before they release the software to the general public.
Sometimes, the bugs are just minor annoyances. Other times, however, they’re terrible, and make your device unusable. Apps crash, animations are sluggish, the whole system freezes or reboots unexpectedly…anything can happen.
Usually, there’s a way out of this beta trap—you need to delete the beta from your device, then restore it to factory settings to return to a stable, non-beta version of that software. The drawback there is that you will lose any data you didn’t back up before installing the beta in the first place, but hey, at least you got that beta off your device. But that’s not the way watchOS does things.
Why Apple’s watchOS beta is different
With watchOS, however, it’s a completely different story. Apple doesn’t let you downgrade to an earlier version of watchOS after installing new software. Once you install the watchOS beta, that’s it; you’re stuck with that potentially buggy, unstable OS until Apple’s next update.
That’s not to say that there are widespread reports of issues with watchOS. We’re not saying, “if you install this beta, your watch is toast.” Your Apple Watch could be totally fine on the beta, just like many other beta testers’ watches are. The issue is, if the beta doesn’t react well to your watch, there’s not much you can do about it.
In the event something goes wrong, all you can do is wait for Apple to release an update to the beta that hopefully fixes the issue you’re having, or wait for Apple to send out the final RC (Release Candidate), which is the same software the general public gets.
Why can’t you downgrade your Apple Watch’s OS?
The reason why is simple: the Apple Watch has no way to physically connect to an external device like an iPhone or Mac. It communicates entirely by wifi and Bluetooth. If your watch’s software were to corrupt, which is possible during a downgrade, you wouldn’t be able to plug it into a device to help restore it. If the corruption affects the watch’s wifi and Bluetooth connections, there’s no way for you to communicate with the watch.
That scenario would result in a bricked Apple Watch that you would need to send over to Apple for a possible fix. That doesn’t really line up with the marketed “fun and convenience” of the Apple Watch, so the company avoids all that as best they can. That, unfortunately, means no OS downgrades.
So, unless you’re willing to take on those risks, we say don’t bother. WatchOS 8 will be here sometime this fall, possibly even by next month. Still, if you simply can’t wait, just know you’ve been warned. If anything does go wrong, at least the official release is right around the corner.