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Want to try out the newest features in Snapchat The 15 Newest Snapchat Features You Need To Know About The 15 Newest Snapchat Features You Need To Know About Few apps update quite as frequently or as dramatically as Snapchat. The app's most recent update featured a major overhaul that offers brand new features, new filters, a new font and tons of confusion. Read More or Instagram before anyone else? If you’re an Android user, you can do exactly that.

With support for beta testing built right into the latest version of the Play Store, you can now try out cutting-edge versions of most of your favorite apps long before they’re officially released.

What Is a Beta?

First of all, what exactly is beta software What Does "Beta Software" Really Mean? What Does "Beta Software" Really Mean? What does it mean for a project to be in beta and should you care? Read More ? In short, it’s the stage in the development of an app (or an operating system, or a website) where it is opened up to people who aren’t part of the development team to test.

The app will be functional but incomplete, and it might be buggy and unstable. Beta testers uncover bugs, usability issues, and suggest new or tweaked features that will improve the app.

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Every new app, and every update of an established app, will go through some degree of beta testing. By taking part in the tests, you get to see all the app’s new features before anyone else.

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There are different types of beta program. A closed beta makes the app available to only a limited number of people, often in controlled conditions (such as people using a specific Android device), while an open beta is available to everyone.

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The whole process can take some time, and there’ll usually be several beta versions along the way. The feedback from testers is taken on board, and each version is better than the previous one until, eventually, the app is ready to be released officially.

How to Beta Test Android Apps

Earlier this year, an updated version of the Play Store app was released that enabled users to opt in and out of beta programs from directly within the standard app listing page, and it could hardly be any easier.

The system is designed for open betas, and most apps have now switched over to this method. The big hitters like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram 10 Cool Tricks to Help You Use Instagram Like a Pro 10 Cool Tricks to Help You Use Instagram Like a Pro We're always covering the best awesome Instagram tricks and ideas. But I'm offering you ten tips and tricks I found that will specifically help turn you into a professional on the social network. Read More all use it. There are still other methods available for closed beta programs. We’ll look at those in a bit.

Find the Beta Program

To get started, open the Play Store, navigate to any app of your choice, and scroll down. If there’s beta program for that app you’ll see a big box labelled Become a beta tester.

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To join, tap the big button labelled I’M IN. You’ll see a confirmation screen warning about potential bugs — tap Join, and you’re done.

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It takes several minutes for you to be enrolled in the scheme. When it’s done you’ll be able to update to any beta version that’s available. You can do this under the Installed tab in My apps & games, or you can also swipe across to the Beta tab to view just your beta apps.

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Normally there’s no issue with signing up to one of these programs, but you might occasionally encounter an app whose program is full.

Leave a Beta Program

To leave a beta program, repeat the steps above. Only now the “I’m in” button has to changed to a LEAVE button. When you tap that, you will be unenrolled from the program instantly, although the beta version you have installed won’t be removed.

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If you want to roll back to the last official release, uninstall and reinstall the app.

Giving Feedback

The other thing you’ll notice when you’re beta testing an app is that the reviews box in the Play Store has been replaced by a Feedback box. You can no longer leave a rating Why You Shouldn't Trust App Ratings on Google Play Why You Shouldn't Trust App Ratings on Google Play You need a new camera app; you open Google Play and find 50. Naturally, you install the highest-rated one. Guess what? You just got tricked. Read More , and your comment about the app won’t be visible to everyone else.

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Use this box to send comments, bug reports, and other suggestions directly to the developer.

Find Beta Apps With Early Access

Sadly, there’s no simple way to find apps that are available for beta testing, so you just have to check each of your apps to see if that option is there. There is an Early Access category in the Play Store, however, which gives you a sneak peak at apps that have not yet been officially launched.

Closed Beta Tests

The idea of using the Play Store for beta testing is that the apps are available to everyone. Some developers prefer closed betas, maybe because the app is in an earlier stage of development and may be less stable, or maybe because they restrict the number of testers or control the types of device the app is being tested on.

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To test these, you need a direct link to the app. This might be a link to the Play Store, where the app is unlisted and won’t show up in searches, or it may be on the developer’s website.

Most commonly, you’ll get this link by joining a Google+ community or Google Group 10 Ways To Make The Most Of Google Groups 10 Ways To Make The Most Of Google Groups Once Google Groups was on the cutting edge of online social interactions. Social media is now the elite. With an upgrade recently, Google Groups has come out to create an identity of its own. Read More for the app, which is still required for the Twitter beta. In some instances, like with the Spotify beta, you might even need prior approval before you can join the group.

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Once you do, you’ll get an option to opt in to the program, and after a short delay, the app will be ready to download in the Play Store.

For brand new apps, especially those from smaller developers or those that share their work through the XDA Developers forums, the file of the beta app might be distributed directly. In these cases, you’ll need to know how to sideload apps How to Sideload Any File onto Your Android Phone or Tablet How to Sideload Any File onto Your Android Phone or Tablet You may have come across the term "sideloading" before, but what does it mean? And how can you go about sideloading apps or files? Read More before you can install them.

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On top of all this, there are also a few apps that offer unofficial beta testing. Just search beta in the Play Store to find many more on offer.

The Best Android Betas to Test Right Now

So, now you know what beta apps are and how to get them. But where do you find them? If you’re ready, it’s worth checking all of your installed apps to see if there’s a beta available — there are likely to be more than you think.

In the meantime, here are 15 of the best Android apps 10 Best Android Apps Not in the Play Store 10 Best Android Apps Not in the Play Store The Play Store isn't the end-all-be-all of Android apps. If you've never ventured outside of it, you're really missing out. Read More to get you started. Open the links in the Play Store app on your phone to opt in to the betas; it currently isn’t possible to do so through the desktop version.

Your Favorites?

Beta testing is a fantastic way of getting a peak at where your favorite apps are heading. You can have the first look at a redesign of Spotify, get in on hot new titles like Prisma, and help shape brand new apps like the awesome Twitter client Flamingo.

And concerns about stability are often unfounded. Well established apps like the peerless Nova Launcher Nova Launcher - Even Better Than The Default Android 4.0 Launcher Nova Launcher - Even Better Than The Default Android 4.0 Launcher Up until Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) came along, Android’s interface felt somewhat less polished than iOS’s. But with Android 4.0, Google made a clean break with the previous visual style for Android, introducing Holo... Read More are normally so good there’s no reason not to choose the beta over the official release. And even if you do have problems, opting out is simple.

Do you use any beta apps on your Android device? Which ones would you recommend? Let us know in the comments.

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