Apple Warns VoiceOver Users Not to Install watchOS 7 Beta 4 or the first Public Preview (Update: issue resolved in beta 5)

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Update 18 August: Apple has today released beta 5 to developers, with the release notes stating that “VoiceOver is now functional.”

Update 10 August: Apple has today released the Public Preview of watchOS 7, and it appears that it does indeed not work with VoiceOver as was the case with last week's developer release.

Apple's Beta Program page for watchOS 7 currently carries the following warning:

“Please note VoiceOver isn’t functional in watchOS 7 beta 4. If you rely on VoiceOver, don’t update to watchOS 7 beta until this issue is resolved.

Original Post

Apple has released watchOS 7 beta 4 to developers; with the release notes warning that VoiceOver users should not update:

“VoiceOver isn’t functional in watchOS 7 beta 4. If you rely on VoiceOver, don’t update to watchOS 7 beta until this issue is resolved. Enabling VoiceOver in watchOS 7 beta 4 might also cause a significant battery impact.”

If you have installed a previous beta version of watchOS 7, we recommend that you temporarily remove the watchOS beta configuration profile so as to prevent the automatic download and installation of beta 4.

The watchOS 7 beta is currently available to developers only, but for the first time ever, Apple is also planning on a public beta of watchOS. Apple had originally said that this would be released in July, but this did not happen and Apple’s Beta Software Program website still lists the watchOS 7 public beta as “coming soon.”

Accordingly, it's possible that Apple may release beta 4 of watchOS 7 as the public preview. If this is the case, people intending to take part in the Beta Software Program need to be aware that once you update to watchOS 7 beta, the only way to downgrade back to watchOS 6 is by sending your Apple Watch to Apple, and that this service is only available in selected countries.

If you have access to the watchOS 7 beta, either through Apple's Developer Program or the upcoming watchOS Beta Software Program, we strongly recommend that you do not install a beta release until there is confirmation from Apple in release notes that the issue with VoiceOver has been resolved.

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Submitted by Lielle ben simon on Thursday, August 6, 2020

Club AppleVis Member

Thanks for your warning. it's shame to Apple that Voice Over users can't be aible to use the beta software because that Voice Over is extreamlly buggy. What's going on apple?

Submitted by Joe on Thursday, August 6, 2020

Club AppleVis Member

I will never understand folks who install betas and then are surprised something isn't working right.

Submitted by neosonic2 on Thursday, August 6, 2020

Not only is it a beta release, but it is specifically a developer beta release, not a public beta release. This means that the only people that should be getting their hands on it are registered Apple developers anyways, thus making this a non-issue for the general public. I am sure that once Apple releases the public beta of watchOS 7, issues like this will have been resolved to provide a more stable, but still unquestionably pre-release, version of the software.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

In reply to by Joe

Explain them how blind people can participate with the beta program if they can not use voiceover? That would be like if apple tell sighted people that the screen can not work well.

Submitted by a king in the north on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Sighted normal users aren't meant to use it either. Features are often disabled, as well.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

In reply to by a king in the north

Not to the point that they can not use the watch. Even my cat knows this.

Submitted by Blinken223 on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Although I do agree that beta's are usually "buggy", especially developer beta's, there are blind developers out there. For Apple to willingly release a developer beta that breaks a key feature used by the blind community, in my book, is unacceptable.

What if the developer beta would have made the screen blank and useless to the sighted community? Then we wouldn't hear the end of it from tech blogs and tech journalists. Does that mean, that because we're a small percentage, that we should just take it sitting down and not speak up? I say no!

I do plan on sending Apple a polite email letting them know that releasing a developer beta that prevents blind developers from testing and providing feedback is unacceptable and that I am surprised that Apple would have allowed this to happen.

Submitted by burak on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Voiceover, even a key feature, as you said, is a feature. And you're often warned that betas might brake features. Since voiceover is a feature, it's in the list of stuf that can brake. The screen is not a feature, it's a primary tool of the phone.

Submitted by fatih on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

In reply to by burak


It's one thing to not entirely get Voiceover access during initial setup or initial installation. That's still not at all ideal, but as said before in this thread, it's a beta. That however said, to just *totally* key word here, *totally!* not have Voiceover at *any* another key word, *any!* point of use... I agree. That's totally unacceptable. Not just kind of unacceptable, but totally, beta or not, public or not.

Submitted by Perry Simm on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

I have repeatedly been acused of an entitlement attitude here on the forum for demanding that, for example, Apple Arcade include at least some accessible titles. However, complaining about VoiceOver breaking in a developer beta is objectively idiotic, and I recommend some cheese to go down with the whine. And before anyone cries "Insult! Insult!" I want to make it clear I have called out some behavior as idiotic, not a person.
Cheers Perry

Submitted by Chris Gilland on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

OK, I get that Voiceover is a feature, and being a beta, can be broken. I can accept that willingly. What I *can't* accept is it not just being broken, but entirely being non-existant. I'm told that this isn't a matter of Voiceover being there, but just not functioning. If you go into settings, accessibility, I'm told Voiceover isn't even there, period. This isn't a matter of being broken. It's a matter of it not even existing in the first place. That's where the difference comes in here. Breaking it, yeah, ok, fine. It's not good, but again, you're right 100 percent. It's beta. Fair enough statement on others' parts. Beta/breaking it isn't where my objection is, nor do I feel it's where others is either. What we're ticked about is the fact that it's totally been left out of the framework altogether. This is a big enough core feature, no pun intended to Apple employs, LOL! that this should have been at the very least caught.

As others have pointed out, VoiceOver is a feature of Apple devices. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, it may be "vital" to some, "useful" to others, and "never used" by still others, but regardless it is still a feature of Apple products, including the Watch. And the primary point of a developer beta, or any other beta release for that matter, is to add new and improve upon existing features, with the caveat that they could be buggy, broken, or otherwise in the middle of being added or upgraded at any point in time during the beta period, and any given beta release could see them being completely usable, completely unusable, or anything in between. If one is not happy about the state of a feature as it appears in a specific beta release, then one is simply obliged not to upgrade to said beta release, especially when upgrades are not forced.

At least Apple had the courtesy to document in its release notes that VoiceOver, a feature, was unavailable in the developer beta release in which this occurred. This informed people who depend on VoiceOver that they should probably stay on the current beta release, else they risk being unable to use their device without significant sighted assistance until a new beta is made available. Apple and others should absolutely ensure that features such as VoiceOVer or other assistive technologies used by people with disabilities are working properly in public releases of software, but by its very nature there is no guarantee of this in pre-release software. It's the very definition of pre-release, in-development, constantly-changing, unstable software.

Submitted by neosonic2 on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

In reply to by Chris Gilland

Do you know that it wasn't caught by Apple employees? Do you know that just because VoiceOver may or may not appear in the Settings app (which, you admit, is based on something you were told, rather than something you have seen first hand by looking at the visual interface of watchOS yourself), that this means that VoiceOver was just all of a sudden removed from watchOS by Apple developers? Are you secretly an Apple employee who is involved in the development of the watchOS platform and knows for a fact that this was anything more than the accepted consequences of running pre-release software? Features break, or don't appear in other applications as they should, or become unavailable or unusable, and then they are repaired in future beta releases, and the cycle continues until finally the software is considered developed enough to be ready for a public release. Beta releases are by their very nature unstable, and this includes all kinds of things happening. While I don't work for Apple, I have been involved in the development of beta software and services for other entities in the past, and I am confident that Apple engineers would not have maliciously or intentionally broken or otherwise left out VoiceOVer support in watchOS, and that this is simply, as I said earlier, a consequence of pre-release software development. Of course I don't know for sure as I am not an Apple engineer, so I could very well be wrong, but I am giving Apple the benefit of the doubt because their engineers are only humans and software development, especially pre-release software development, is not perfect.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

In reply to by Perry Simm

As Spock would say to you, Your statement is illogical. You are not getting the point and.

Submitted by Blinken223 on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

I completely understand that developer betas often times break things and that VoiceOver can be seen as a feature, mainly to the sighted community, but to a blind person, a screen reader like VoiceOver is the only means to interact with a device. Breaking a crucial feature that is heavily relied by blind users is unacceptable, especially when blind developers who need VoiceOver if they wish to test.

Let's say Apple were to push a developer beta that prevents sighted developers from tapping the screen and for the watch to perform the action of the item that was tapped. Basically making the screen useless. You tap something on the screen but nothing happens. Well, that, for starters, would have never been pushed out as a release, but if Apple would have gone through with it, and even warned developers before updating, you wouldn't hear the end of it from the sighted developer community. Many would complain to Apple and would have every right to do so.

So why, as a blind community, when something so crucial to us breaks, should we just sit down, shut up and not say a thing.

If it was a small VoiceOver glitch, that would be fine, but one where a crucial feature that is heavily relied by those in the blind community is completely broken and can't even be used by blind developers, in my book, I find that unacceptable.

So like the sighted community, we have every right to bring this to apple's attention and, in a polite and respectful manner, voice our thoughts.

Your argument is called into question when one realizes that Apple did warn VoiceOVer users (and, in your analogy, would have warned the sighted developer community) of the inability to use the VoiceOver assistive technology feature (and yes, it is a feature by the very definition of the word feature, regardless of how useful it may be to one community or another) before releasing the developer beta in question. Perhaps this means that Apple was not aware this feature would break before the developer beta was released (which is often the case in pre-release software development especially when in a CI/CD scenario); perhaps Apple needed to stick to its release schedule and was unable to resolve the problem before the developer beta could be released; perhaps something entirely different happened that is unbeknownst to us. Whatever the case, though, Apple did provide a clear and concise warning. It was aware of the issue. The response of its users should then be to hold off on upgrading to said developer beta if they need the feature to which the warning pertains. Apple does not force people to upgrade to new beta releases. Heck, it isn't even legally required to warn users about feature instability because, as stated before, this is the very nature of pre-release software and people, especially developers (as opposed to the general public for public beta releases) should know what they are getting into before installing such a release, but Apple provided the warning nevertheless, most likely as a courtesy to its developer community. If someone is impacted, they should simply not install the update and wait for the next update (or a subsequent update) that fixes the unstable feature.

This course of events is entirely acceptable because not all software issues can be discovered and fixed before a beta release is issued, especially since beta releases by their very nature tend to produce more issues than they solve anyways; that's the whole point of beta testing. I don't know what, if any, your background in software development, quality assurance testing, CI/CD paradigms, or devops may be; I simply posit that a valid, clear, concise, and timely warning was issued by Apple, and users who are effected can read such warnings and choose not to update their software accordingly if they feel the feature in question is too relied upon to be acceptable in an unusable or unstable state.

Submitted by Chris Gilland on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

In reply to by Perry Simm

Perry, I apologize if I had anything to do with your comment either directly or indirectly. Absolutely you are entitled to your opinion. I happen to disagree with it, but that's OK. You have the right as does anyone to voice your opinion, and I do not accuse you of anything you mentioned... at least, not purposely. No hard feelings here, no anger nor annimosity. It's all good as far as I'm concerned. Your opinion is valid, and I respect you for voicing it, even if I don't fully agree.

First off, I've obviously seemed to in some way offend you by my comments. Let me assure you that doing so was absolutely not at all my intentions, and therefore, I stand up and willingly apologize.

Let me clarify a few things.

First, no. even secretly, I am not an Apple employ. I know someone who is, but that's irrellavent. I myself, no. I am not an employ. Never have been.

I, too, have beta tested many many different products, both hardware and software in the past, and have been told that I was a very huge asset to the teams which I worked with.

If i were an Apple employ, I probably would, just out of ethical morality reasons not post anything here, as doing so would be, in my opinion, a conflict of interest.

If i came across that I was accusing Apple of leaving Voiceover out, then I apologize. You did however make one assumption which not only is incorrect, but I do take slight minor offense to.

You stated I claim something based on assuming without seeing visually.

this is not true.

I have more than one apple watch which I own. One which I use regularly, and one which I hardly ever use. The one I hardly ever use, I did update to seed 4, as I wanted to see first hand how accurate these claims were about Voiceover. Sure enough. It didn't work. I then showed the watch to my mother, who is completely sighted, and lives with me in the same household. She looked, and told me that visually Voiceover is not even in the settings on my particular watch. Maybe it is for others, but I can only go based on what my mother told me, and I don't think she would lie to me. Further, I also got a second opinion just to be sure. I called Aira, and had them also look, and the agent there I spoke with also told me the same exact thing, that it was visually not there within the settings.

I don't accuse Apple of purposly doing this. I agree. They probably didn't catch it. I just find it slightly surprising that something this major of a core feature of the watch would have gotten missed.

I understand where you are coming from, and in most cases, I completely agree with you, actually. I probably wouldn't have been quite so strong coming with my words as you were up here, but I do totally get it. I get entirely your point.

I don't think it's fair though to come at me challenging if I'm a secret insider. That was a little bit rude, with all due respect.

I might not be one who most agree with up here, but even still, I've not treated you with any hostility have i? I'd like to think I've been quite civil to you in this message, have I not? Can I not please have that same civility in return? That's all I ask.

Submitted by Snorlax on Wednesday, August 12, 2020

This just blows my mind in trying to understand how people are getting bent out of shape when something breaks with in a beta. Please remember and I know that you know this, but you always take that gamble and risk when you use beta on your primary device. Sure, I get it and it is frustrating when a beta goes wonky and we can't use that beta. That is the risk you signed up for and as mentioned you really need to read those Read Me by Apple in every update on beta. Please don't beta test if this is going to put a halt on your life and work simply because you want to beta test on your primary device. You only have one people to blame and be pointing finger and that is yourself. Apple can't be the fault here as they stated very clearly in the notes before you update to the next beta. Nobody here knows the reasoning behind this and there may be a very good logical reason behind why this was omitted in Beta 4.

It’s simple as that.

This just blows my mind in trying to understand how people are getting bent out of shape when something breaks with in a beta. Please remember and I know that you know this, but you always take that gamble and risk when you use beta on your primary device. Sure, I get it and it is frustrating when a beta goes wonky and we can't use that beta. That is the risk you signed up for and as mentioned you really need to read those Read Me by Apple in every update on beta. Please don't beta test if this is going to put a halt on your life and work simply because you want to beta test on your primary device. You only have one people to blame and be pointing finger and that is yourself. Apple can't be the fault here as they stated very clearly in the notes before you update to the next beta. Nobody here knows the reasoning behind this and there may be a very good logical reason behind why this was omitted in Beta 4.
It’s simple as that.

Submitted by Blinken223 on Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Alright, let me start by saying that I respect other people's opinion and I'm not angry with anyone. I am not a developer nor do I ever plan on installing any beta software on any of my devices.

So people might be wondering then why am I voicing my opinion about this if this doesn't affect me in any way.

I've listened to many podcast from Jonathan Mosen, David Woodbridge and they all seem to understand what I'm trying to say.

Yes, betas are far from perfect and will, in most cases break things, that is the whole purpose of betas, to find the bugs and report them so they can be squashed and fixed. And yes, Some may say that VoiceOver is just a feature, although I still believe that it is a crucial feature for most blind users as if you take it away, most of us, including myself, would be left unable to use these devices if VoiceOver would be gone.

The point I'm trying to make is that, if something like this would have happened to sighted developers, where something crucial breaks that prevents them from even using the device to test, they would have brought this to Apple's attention and would have deemed it unacceptable that something this crucial should have been caught before it was even pushed as a beta, heck from what I've heard from others, something so crucial should have been caught in alpha testing and never gone to beta.

Jonathan Mosen said it best, if something like this is unacceptable to the sighted community, why should it be acceptable to the blind community.

Submitted by burak on Wednesday, August 12, 2020

I'm sorry, my intent is not to offend you in any way, but I think this is acceptable simply because blind people are the minority. Being the minority unfortunately changes the perception about the significance of a feature.

Submitted by Canyon Sullivan on Thursday, August 13, 2020

I would rather get a new update every two weeks. Google only ships beta updates to the core OS three months out of the year and only for Pixel devices. Unacceptable! I can see it now. The NFb, Food and Drug Administration, and Federal Trade Commission form a public private partnership. The FDA says all home test kits must have onboard TTS. Recruiters must have braille displays, screen readers, and TTY equipment and they must have staff near by that know how to use it or risk imprisonment.
Stock trading software can not be updated until charts are 100% accessible. I'm exaggerating here but only slightly.
"This is insane, completely insane. Because one lone blind person means that hundreds of people have to be annoyed all night with the ticking at the crosswalk. And I thought to myself, that is the tyranny of the minority. That is the tyranny that comes from good intentions. Because nobody is saying that blind people shouldn't have assistance of one sort or another so that they can cross the street in relative safety." "All these people
living around any given intersection with this constant ticking noise all night... It would deteriorate their quality of life severely because you really need sleep." Gonzalo Lira

I do apologize myself to others, I may have sounded a little overly passionate on this topic. There are many with differing opinions and that is perfectly fine. Sadly yes, the blind community, in many companies eyes, we are just a minority.

I just fear that if we don't stand up and say something, that companies will keep treating us as minorities. I am hopeful that if we do stand up and say "Enough is enough", that maybe companies will hear us and start treating us differently.

I know, some may say that there's no point in saying something as they've done it for so long and their words kept being ignored, then what is the point, and part of me is like that as well. But even though my voice has been ignored for so long, a small part of me still has hope that change can be done. So I keep fighting the good fight regardless.