Living the beta/developer build lifestyle isn't for everyone, but it's a wild ride

Android Beta warning notification on a Google Pixel 6 pro
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Some reading this might know this about me, while others have no clue who I am. Part of that can be attributed to my lack of engagement on Twitter, or really any other social media platform. 

I'm someone who endlessly scrolls Twitter, Reddit, or Instagram without actually posting much or interacting with the content, save for a few likes or tags here and there. But that's not what we're here to talk about. 

Instead, I wanted to talk about how I've forced myself into around 10 years of frustration stemming from the very technology that transformed my life. As someone who's been writing online since graduating high school, my passion for tech has never really wavered. However, that passion also has turned into an obsession with living on the edge. 

Starting with "beta" hardware

God of War on Galaxy Z Fold 3 via GeForce Now

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

The original Galaxy Fold was too expensive for me at the time, but I jumped on the Galaxy Z Fold 2 as soon as I could. Then, I promptly switched over to the Galaxy Z Fold 3 as soon as pre-orders went live. And it's likely going to be the same scenario when the Galaxy Z Fold 4 goes up for pre-order. (Yes, I've already "pre-registered" ahead of the upcoming Unpacked event.)

Foldable phones truly make me feel like I'm living in the future, as I have a piece of technology in my pocket that transforms from a candy bar to a tablet with minimal effort. No longer do I need to carry around two devices with me at the same time, as the Z Fold 3 lets me do practically everything a tablet would anyways. 

And while Samsung has done wonders to improve its best foldable phones, the truth is that these are still "beta" devices, just in a different sense. I'm not sure that even Samsung could have truly expected to ship almost 10 million phones with foldable screens, as it recently confirmed. 

There are plenty of concerns to be had with these devices, as you just need to head over to the r/GalaxyFold subreddit. Stories of spontaneous breaks, the screen protector peeling, and other issues can be found with ease. For as many spontaneous breaks as we see and hear about, there are just as many users (or more) who voice their excitement and pleasure. 

The continued development of the platform is likely to get even better, as Samsung is starting to see more competition in other regions of the world. Vivo's X Fold looks like it could really solve my complaints, but I'm not in a position to drop a boat load of money to import that phone, let alone worry about compatibility with my Verizon SIM card. 

Instead, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 inches further away from a niche device, and more into a mainstream one.

There's another side of the coin to be aware of when it comes to the "beta lifestyle," and that's software. I tell myself that it's because of the work that I do, and that I need to know about or have access to features as soon as they become available. 

That's only part of the truth. 

Beta software is where I live

iOS 16 vs Android 13 - Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Google Pixel 6 Pro

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

If you look through the various apps on my MacBook Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPad Pro, custom-built Windows PC, Galaxy Z Fold 3, and Pixel 6 Pro, you'll see almost as many apps marked as a beta as there are stable. In fact, out of all the devices that I just listed above, there's only one that is not running beta firmware, and that's the Galaxy Z Fold 3. 

If I didn't have a carrier-locked Fold and Samsung's beta program was more easily accessible, that wouldn't be the case. So instead, I end up treating my "beta" smartphone as the only "baseline" device in my arsenal.

As soon as the first iOS 16 or Android 13 Developer Beta was released for either my iPhone or Pixel 6 Pro, it was installed as fast as the Apple and Google servers would let me. It's not so much a rush of adrenaline, but it's almost as great of a feeling as getting a new device that you've been waiting for. 

New features are exciting, and I want to be able to mess around with them instead of waiting the months between the introduction of the new OS and the final release.

When I have the time, I LOVE, scrolling through the Play Store or Reddit in an effort to try and find new apps to use. Recently, it's even gotten to a point where I'm bookmarking tags on Github just so I can look and see if there's a new app in the works that I might be interested in. 

Xbox Controller in front of Steam on Acer Chromebook Spin 713 in tent mode

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

As you might have noticed, I've taken over the reins for many of our Chromebook reviews here at Android Central. With that, I'm not only learning more about the platform, but I'm also early in my discovery of Linux. This means installing Linux apps on the best Chromebooks, as opposed to sticking with what's available in the Play Store or from within the Chrome browser. 

I'm not well-versed in the subject, and often ping our resident know-it-all (in a good way) Jerry Hildenbrand whenever I come across something I don't know. But this isn't the way that Google expects 90% of ChromeOS users to actually interact with its platform. Instead, it's just another outlet for me to tinker with things that are probably best left alone. 

It's not all sunshine and rainbows

Orange Pixel 6 colorway

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

For as much excitement as I have when it comes to watching the progress bar grow as a new software version is released, or when I find that an app I was keeping an eye on is finally available, there's a big catch. 

When you live in an ecosystem of unfinished products, you're bound to run into problems. Obviously, it's a bigger problem if my phone doesn't work properly, but if I'm using a beta version of an app I rely on and something breaks, it throws me out of whack.

When you try to "live on the edge" in this world, you're bound to deal with horrible battery life, features that just won't work or are half-baked, and it's entirely avoidable; for the most part, at least. 

Take my iPhone 13 Pro Max for example. I'm signed up for Apple's Developer Program, despite never having written a line of code in my life. But it grants me the ability to install the first Developer Beta as soon as it becomes available for any of my Apple devices. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 update screen

(Image credit: Android Central)

Just take a look around at the tech space and you'll see claims that Apple's most expensive iPhone is also the battery king. 

And I would definitely agree with that sentiment, being able to use my smartphone over the span of two days if I really needed to. With the exception of some interestingly-designed phones with massive 8,000mAh+ batteries, I have yet to come across any other phone that can do that on a regular basis. 

But over the first few days of having iOS 16 Developer Beta 1 installed, that incredible battery life was gone. I was having to reach for a charger before I was ready for bed, and it just took me off guard. 

Then there's the whole issue of trying to install beta software on the Apple Watch, which can end up rendering your smartwatch completely useless until you can get over to an Apple Store or one of the "Authorized Service Providers." 

You probably wouldn't notice that you were using beta software, until it stops working altogether.

And that's not even going into the different apps that I use on a regular basis that weren't updated with support for whatever changes Apple made. Most apps work just fine, and that's true of both iOS and Android apps when moving to beta software. 

Chances are, you could probably use a beta app on your phone with beta software and not notice any difference. Until something stops working. And usually, it happens when you were trying to get something done, only to find that the beta life bit you in the rear, yet again. 

What keeps bringing me back

Stage Manager on iPad Pro - 2

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Truth be told, I'm not sure why I keep coming back to using beta software and beta hardware in different aspects of my life. I've already debunked the notion that it's because I "need" it for work, because the truth is, I really don't. Well, I do, just not across all of my phones, tablets, wearables, and computers. 

I guess it's just the thrill of new features becoming available and wanting to be one of the first ones to test them out. But the further along I get in this piece, the more I realize that it might be time to just go back to stable for a while. 

Sometimes, I wonder what it's like to have a phone, laptop, or tablet that will just work the way I want it to, without as much of a second thought. 

There are things I might miss, but that's what a baseline device is for after all. Who am I kidding? I'm a masochist who would rather deal with all of the problems associated with unfinished and unpolished software as opposed to not living on the "bleeding edge." What kind of life is that to live? 

Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks, tablets, and wearables

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.