As expected, Apple has pushed out public betas for two of its four main software platforms – iOS 12 and tvOS 12. That means anyone with a compatible iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple TV can now test out the next version of the operating system, in return for a few bugs and the occasional crash.

Apologies to Apple Watch owners – Apple doesn't provide a public beta of watchOS, so you'll have to keep waiting. As for the macOS Mojave public beta, it's expected in the near future, but is currently listed as "coming soon" on the beta testing website.

Apple's beta software is usually relatively stable and polished, but it is still software in its testing phase, so you run these updates at your own risk – and make sure your data is backed up before you get started. If you have any concerns about losing data or not being able to use particular apps, wait for the stable versions to arrive later in the year.

We've already seen all these four operating systems previewed at Apple's WWDC 2018 developer conference, so we've got a pretty good idea what to expect – though features may get added or cut between now and the official releases.

First up is iOS 12 for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches (every device that can run iOS 11 will also be able to run iOS 12). Siri Shortcuts lets you customize Apple's digital assistant, Memoji lets you create cartoon avatars of yourself, and there's a Screen Time feature for analyzing and limiting how much time you spend on your gadgets.

You can add to that a bunch of smaller tweaks and updates: improvements to augmented reality performance (and a new AR app called Measure), group video calls in FaceTime, smarter searching and sorting in Photos, and upgrades for News and Stocks too.

The tvOS 12 software for Apple TV has the least number of new features out of the four platforms, but if you take the plunge now you can still make use of Dolby Atmos audio support and a few visual tweaks. The update also enables support for third-party, Siri-ready remote controls, though we haven't seen any on the market yet.

We're still waiting for the macOS 10.14 Mojave public beta, but when it arrives, you can try out the desktop operating system's new Dark Mode, play around with the Stacks feature that automatically cleans up your desktop for you, and try out some new apps for the desktop, like Voice Memos and News.

Siri is getting smarter on the Mac too, and there are the same upgrades to Photos and FaceTime as there are on iOS. The Mac App Store has been given a new lick of paint, making finding and installing apps a much more pleasurable experience, and Finder gets a few tweaks for improving the way you can browse through your files.

Bear in mind that not all of the features we've listed and that Apple has previewed have been added to the beta yet. Some other features need specific devices to work, so you need an iPhone X to be able to play around with Memoji, for example.

If you want to take the plunge with this new software on an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple TV, head to the public beta sign up page and log in with your Apple ID. Follow the instructions on screen, and once you've enrolled your devices, you'll get the public beta software (and subsequent beta updates) over the air as normal.

When the final, stable version of your software arrives in a few months' time, your device gets upgraded normally, and you can also leave the beta program whenever you like. As we've said, we're still waiting for the macOS 10.14 Mojave public beta at the time of writing, but it usually drops close to the ones for iOS and tvOS, so watch this space.

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