Changes to Garmin’s Beta program make early access easier
One of the perks of being a Garmin user is the ability to participate in their Beta program, providing early access to their latest software updates before they hit public release. In a recent email sent to program participants, Garmin announced changes that will streamline the process.
The company introduced the new public Beta program and forum back in May 2022. This allows users to receive Beta software updates automatically, through Garmin Connect Mobile or via Garmin Express. The functionality has gradually been expanded and now includes most of the recent crop of watches. For non-compatible devices, such software updates still need to be downloaded and installed manually.
The company is now implementing the first significant changes since the launch of this Beta program.
Unified public beta bug reports section
One of the changes involves the bug reporting structure within the program. Garmin says it has listened to the feedback from its community and decided to consolidate all bug reports under the public Beta bug reports section.
Starting with the next quarterly cycle, the public Alpha bug reports section will no longer exist. In fact, this has already been removed. The hope is that this will ensure a more efficient approach and enable quicker responses from Garmin while promoting transparency.
But that’s not all!
Over the air updates for all versions of the software
The second update is even more significant. Garmin has now made it possible for brave folks to download Alpha versions of the software via OTA (Over the Air). Essentially, these types of updates are now referred to as “First” or “Early” Beta updates.
The company will post information about changes to the software in the Announcements forums as usual, signalling those who want to download the update. For the Alpha, users can download the update by connecting their Garmin device to a Wi-Fi network and navigating to the Main Menu > System > About > Check for Updates. This will initiate the download of the Alpha software.
For those not interested in adopting the update earlier, there is no need for action on their part. They simply need to wait for the automatic download to be pushed to their watch OTA, which will happen when Garmin is ready to progress to the next Beta phase.
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While the public Beta program provides access to new and exciting updates, it is essential to note that downloading Alpha versions of software does carry some risks. Because these versions are still in testing and may not be stable, users may experience unexpected issues while using them. Garmin will, of course, do everything possible to resolve any issues that are reported, but users should be conscious of the risks and proceed with caution.
The following products will be included on the revised Beta cycle. What they have in common is that they all have WiFi. We expect Forerunner 265 and 965 to be added to this list soon.
- Edge 1040 range
- Fenix 6 and 7
- Epix Gen 2
- Forerunner 255 Music, 945 LTE and 955
- Forerunner 955
- Venu 2 and Venu 2 Plus
Scope for confusion?
The company’s intention is to make the process of installing updates smoother and more efficient. But it will be interesting to see how this works in practice.
There might be scope for confusion with users inadvertently installing early versions of software. It is also not clear whether it will be possible to downgrade to an official version of the firmware. The changes kick in with the next quarterly update cycle which starts very soon.
So remember, the distinguishing factor between Alpha (“Early Beta”) and Beta updates is that the installation of the first needs to be initiated manually. The second arrives automatically to your device. So to avoid the Alpha, simply take no action.
As before, to get in on the fun you’ll need to register for the Beta programme. This can be done by navigating to the Garmin Connect web dashboard and logging in with your user details. Then click on the picture of your watch in the top right-hand corner and select Device Settings. You should see a message that says “Join Beta Software Program“.
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