Apple has launched a new beta program for iOS (via 9to5Mac), with the latest build of iOS 8.3 (which includes advanced Message filtration features) acting as the first seed. The expanded program allows non-developers to opt-in to receiving pre-release software builds on their device, and in exchange, Apple expects both patience with bugs and feedback regarding what needs fixing.
The public beta program for OS X launched last July, offering up to 1 million users (per Apple’s own program cap) early versions of Yosemite or OS X 10.10 prior to its official release. The program offers pre-launch builds ahead of their general release on the App Store, but on a more intermittent pace compared to the developer-only seeds, meaning they are likely more generally stable than those releases.
Apple’s test program for OS X was designed as a way to help the company get feedback and usage testing from a group of users who more closely resembled the broad spectrum of average consumers who would make up the bulk of the eventual end-user group. OS X was likely seen as a good test bed to see if this approach to software development had legs, before it was trialled with the much larger group that makes up the global iOS user community.
iOS opening up to non-developer beta testers should mean more bugs found and zapped prior to launches, as well as better looks at coming features before they official launch. It should also help Apple cut down on the gray market practice of people signing up for developer accounts and then charging people to be added to their device provisioning list for early access to preview software.
As of right now, the new beta program is being offered selectively to existing members of the pre-seed software program. If you are chosen, the site will offer you instructions on installing a configuration profile from your iOS device that sets up your phone to get the pre-launch builds in addition to those in the main channel.