How do I get iOS 5?

I should have never opened my mouth. All day today, I've received text after message after email about wanting me to give people iOS 5 for their iPhone or iPad. Technically, I broke the NDA that Apple developers have to agree to in the first place. If you were one of these people, don't be offended, but I can't get it to you.

First, I'm not technically a developer.  I've been using a friend's account.  One that he graciously let me log in to.  But it costs $99 a year to do it and he, not having produced any apps, finally saw that it didn't seem to be worth the money.

I've considered paying the fee to be a developer, but I no longer live in a situation where I can be the only one making financial decisions, and it doesn't make sense for me to pay for the account at this point in my life.

So, I'd like to fill you in on what it takes to get a beta iOS release onto your phone:

  • You must be a registered iOS developer. $99 a year.
  • You must download the ipsw file from Apple's servers.
  • Then, in Xcode, you must update your phone.  This is a clean wipe and you'll want to make sure that you backup all of your contents in iTunes first. You'll be able to re-download apps (and now, music) that you didn't back up and bought from iTunes, but it's safe to back up anyway. You must register with not only the UDID of the device, but also with account's credentials inside of Xcode 4.
  • If it works anything like iOS4 did in beta, you'll have to reorganize everything.  Generally, you'll need an updated iTunes (10.5 for this one) for iTunes even to be able to recognize an iOs5 device connected to it.
  • Apple generally works off of a two week beta cycle, meaning that in two weeks, you'll have to do this all again.
    • It's worth noting that this MIGHT change this year as Apple has switched to Delta (meaning, change) updates that update over the air (much like Android). You might not have to do a clean install on your device for the second beta, but we won't know until the release happens.
Thanks to the generosity of a friend of mine, I tried this last year on my 3GS for iOS 4.  Let me explain my issues last year:
  • I had to do a clean wipe every time.  That doesn't sound like a huge deal, but iOS4 introduced folders. iTunes didn't (at the time) recognize folders. So, every clean install also required new folder alignments, etc. That can literally be hours of work for them to be well organized.  Then, in two weeks, the jig is up and you have to do it again.
    • Again, this may be cleaner this year,
  • Every two weeks, when the new beta is released, the old one is not longer functional. A timer is set and you must renew it before time runs out.  Fun.
  • Some apps don't work.  Literally, my TomTom app was useless because iOS4 changed the way that the apps read the iPhone location data.
    • PROOF: Marco Arment (creator of tumblr and Instapaper) tweeted this today:
      • "Developers: there's a VERY good chance your app needs tweaks to work properly on iOS 5. Not fully backwards compatible. Test like crazy."
  • Some general apps didn't work.  We didn't know it at the time, but Apple was definitely testing some features with the camera app.  For the first two betas, the camera didn't work.
  • There's way more.
All in all, I learned a few lessons: don't update on a device that is "mission critical." Apple says explicitly in their documentation that this is for testing purposes only, and that it should not be used on a phone that someone relies on to get around with. Hence, I put iOS5 on my 3GS last night and spent the day playing with it.  It's not bad, but it's slow and iTunes doesn't back up to it well enough yet,  iCloud (really, the functioning part of what we'd like to use it with) is not fully up and running yet and so playing with the new features isn't fully ready. If I were you, I would wait.  It'll save you money, and think about how good it will feel when you finally get hold of it!
If, though, you still want it, you have a few options:
  • Become a registered developer ($99)
  • Buy a name and password from some dude on eBay ($5-$10) and hope he doesn't take your money and run.
  • Watch all the videos that go up on YouTube by all the people who break their agreements with Apple.
  • Jailbreak your current phone and get some of the features (given, not as well employed) and try them out that way.
  • Search for the ipsw file online, download it, try to install it in iTunes (option-click the restore button) and hope for the best.
Sorry I can't be of any more assistance.  I've decided against putting it on my iPhone 4 or iPad (even though I've been very tempted).