How do I sign up for the Android Beta Program?

If you're eager to try Android 7.1 and have an eligible Nexus or Android One device, the Android Beta Program is for you.

Like many big software projects, Android is made better by open beta testing. As part of Google's new maintenance release schedule, we'll see scheduled periodic updates outside of any bug or security patches and major version changes. The first will be Android 7.1.x and is expected in early December of 2016. But if you're willing and able to run beta software on your phone, you can sign enroll in the Android Beta Program and get the first taste today!

The Beta Program has a schedule of updates and device builds. The current Android 7.1.1 Developer Preview build is available (as of October 2016) for the Nexus 6P, the Nexus 5X, and the Pixel C. Preview two is scheduled to be a near-final version and will add the Nexus 6, Nexus 9, the Nexus Player and the General Mobile 4G (an Android One phone). The final release will apply to all the beta-eligible devices and the Pixel line and will be released to AOSP and OEM channels.

Getting started is easy. Grab your phone and have a read about the program as your first step, then follow along to get started.

Android Developer Preview Program Overview

Now that you know what you're getting yourself into — don't worry, these aren't completely broken builds but there will be bugs — you need to open Google Chrome and visit the signup page. you'll be required to sign in with your Google account and if you have two-factor authentication enabled (and you really should) you'll need to provide the auth code.

When the page opens you'll have a bit more reading to do, and while you really should read it, the gist of it all is that once you enroll you'll get an Over The Air update to Android 7.1.1 beta. When the preview build is updated, you'll get another OTA to the next build. This continues until you have the final release build. Two things to note:

  • You are still enrolled in the Android Beta Program and when the preview for the next maintenance release is available, you'll get another notice to update.
  • If you leave the Android Beta Program, you'll get a different OTA update and it will wipe all the user data from your device.

All clear on how it works? Good deal. Scroll down the page and you'll see your eligible devices listed. Tap the Enroll Device button alongside the one you want to try the Developer Preview build on.

Next, you'll see the terms of service agreement. You should read every word, and then click the links that explain the full terms if you have any questions. Seriously. Your personal data is priceless, and when you're giving it to a company you need to know what to expect in return and how they will take care of it.

You can expect to see some app crashes, or maybe need to reboot to connect to Wi-Fi or other bugs.

If you agree, check the box and press the Join Beta button. Your phone will be registered (this only takes a few seconds) and you'll get a notice that everything went OK and that you should be seeing a notice to update soon. That can take anywhere from a few seconds to an hour or so to happen, but most of the time you'll see the update notification right away. When you open the notification you'll be able to download and install the update and be running the Android Developer Preview.

Every time you reboot your phone (or it reboots itself which can happen with beta software) you'll see a notice that reminds you that the device is running experimental software. Typically, the beta builds are usable. You can expect to see some app crashes, or maybe need to reboot to connect to Wi-Fi or other bugs. When you run into them, you should take a mental note of what you think happened. Talk to others running the same software in the forums, and if you can pinpoint a bug and reproduce it, hit the Android developers up on Twitter or Google Plus to find the best place to report it.

More: How to manually update your Nexus or Pixel

Most of all, remember that things aren't supposed to be stable. You might even find yourself in a situation where you can't count on your phone working the way you need it to. Be sure you're OK with this and know that you can't count on your phone during an emergency and plan ahead. We're not trying to scare anyone and neither are the multiple warnings from Google, but nobody wants to see you in a bad situation with no way to get help.

Beta software testing can be fun. you get early access and are able to play with things that aren't quite finished or aren't there for everyone. Understand what you're signing up for and enjoy it!