Apple Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL) couldn't wait until Monday to release the sixth beta version of iOS 7, as the Cupertino, Calif.-based iPhone-maker unexpectedly seeded iOS 7 beta 6 to developers on Thursday evening. Until this point, Apple has kept a relatively predictable release pattern of its iOS 7 beta builds for every two weeks; though last month's iOS Developer Center security breach threw off the release pattern by a week, the iOS 7 beta 5 was the only beta release apparently affected, arriving just one week off schedule. Apple had still managed to release iOS 7 beta 2, iOS 7 beta 3 and iOS 7 beta 4 exactly two weeks apart.

Apple is still technically on schedule, as iOS 7 beta 6 arrives just weeks ahead of the anticipated wide release date for iOS 7 in September (we believed it would be Wednesday, Sept. 18 for awhile now). Apple will likely announce the public release date for iOS 7 on Sept. 10, which is the date most reports are saying Apple will reintroduce iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks amid two new iPhone models (we called it first, y'know). Previous reports had said iOS 7 beta 6 would be the final beta build before the iOS 7 gold master, the final beta release that signifies iOS 7 is ready to release to the public.

The sixth beta release of iOS 7 is listed as build "11A4449d," as opposed to “11A4449a” for iOS 7 beta 5, “111A4435d” for iOS 7 beta 4, “11A4414e” for iOS 7 beta 3, and "11A4400f" and "11a4372q,” the listings for the iOS 7 beta 2 and iOS 7 beta 1, respectively. Apple added major fixes and new functionality for iPad and iPod users in the second iOS 7 beta release, and iOS 7 beta 3 delivered more polished features, including a thicker, redesigned default font, more options in the lock screen, a more natural-sounding Siri, among other changes. Apple added still more polish in its two prior releases, as iOS 7 beta 4 introduced an updated lock screen and redesigned icons for Safari and AirPlay, while iOS 7 beta 5 felt faster and smoother to use with a complete redesign of the Settings icons making them easier to distinguish and other new icons and interface tweaks. Comparatively, the iOS 7 beta 6 release is a rather small update, as the file is only 13.5 MB large; in all likelihood, this means iOS 7 beta 6 features a critical bug fix for a problem iOS developers may or may not have discovered yet. If the issue weren't small, Apple likely would've waited to release the iOS 7 beta 6 update next week.

Impatient Apple users need not wait until next month's public release date of iOS 7 to start experimenting and developing on the new iOS; users can download, install and live with iOS 7 right now. Obviously, iOS 7 is still in its final stages of beta so it's not immune to errors and bugs, but iOS 7 is currently working very smoothly on most iOS devices, especially with the new beta 6 release. Any registered iOS app developers can access, download and install iOS 7 beta 6 for free, but unregistered Apple fans who can’t wait for the public release date of iOS 7 would need to pay the $99 licensing fee to access iOS 7 ahead of its public release date.

Users who've already downloaded any prior iOS 7 beta release will be able to download the iOS 7 beta 6 update over the air. But if you've yet to download or install any iOS 7 beta and you'd like to try iOS 7 beta 6, check out our step-by-step guide on how to download iOS 7 to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch below.

Before You Download iOS 7 Beta 6

Before downloading any beta for iOS 7, users should always back up their iPhones, iPads and iPods to iTunes. Be sure iTunes is running the latest version by clicking the “Check For Updates” option in iTunes or simply visit the Mac App Store on your computer to make sure the software is current. Also, you'll need to register your device’s UDID with IMZDL, which is the largest source of Apple betas for iOS and OS X, and you'll also need to know your device’s identifier; for example, a Verizon iPhone’s identifier is A1429, while an AT&T iPhone’s identifier is A1428 -- this is important. Once you have this information and everything’s backed up and up to date, you can begin the process of downloading and installing iOS 7 beta 6.

Apple iOS 7 Installation Guide

1. Download the iOS 7 Beta 6 file for your specific iPhone, iPad or iPod model off Apple’s website. We've listed the direct download links to the iOS 7 beta 6 links below, so just find the right model and download away -- just remember, you need to be an Apple iOS developer or pay the $99 registration fee.

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad (4th generation Model A1458)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad (4th generation Model A1459)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad (4th generation Model A1460)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad mini (Model A1432)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad mini (Model A1454)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad mini (Model A1455)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad Wi-Fi (3rd generation)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (AT&T model)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (Verizon model)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad 2 Wi-Fi (Rev A)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad 2 Wi-Fi

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G (GSM) 

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G (CDMA)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPhone 5 (Model A1428)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPhone 5 (Model A1429)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPhone 4S

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPhone 4 (GSM Rev A)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPhone 4 (GSM)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPhone 4 (CDMA)

iOS 7 beta 6 release - iPod Touch (5th generation)

Apple developers and users who've already paid the $99 fee will need to log in to access the download files for iOS 7 beta 6. Once downloaded, the iOS 7 beta 6 file will show up on IMZDL, but it could take a little time.

2. Open up iTunes, and choose Restore your iPhone with the iOS 7 beta 6 file. On a Mac, make sure you’re holding down alt/option when you click Restore, and on Windows, hold down Shift when you click Restore to iOS 7 beta 6.

3. To find the iOS 7 beta 6 file for restoring your iPhone, find the downloaded iOS 7 beta 6 file on your computer, which should be the most recently downloaded file that ends with “.ipsw.”

Congratulations! Once the iOS 7 beta installation is complete and your iDevice reboots once or twice, you'll be able to experiment with iOS 7 beta 6 on your iPhone, iPad, iPad mini or iPod Touch. For users downloading an iOS 7 beta for the first time, the whole process to convert your iOS 6 to iOS 7 may take about 40 minutes to a full hour or more, so definitely keep your device plugged into a power source during that time.

For those unversed in the latest mobile OS from Apple, iOS 7 features a complete revamp of the style, colors, icons and textures of iOS to make it a familiar but entirely new experience. But iOS 7 isn’t just a cosmetic update; iOS 7 offers game-changing new features and tools to make iOS 7 the most intuitive and most useful iOS release to date. Most notable among the new iOS 7 features: the helpful Control Center that contains quick access to important settings; the built-in parallax that shifts the background image in response to one’s movements; a new way to multitask apps; the AirDrop feature for sharing photos or documents with other iPhone users in the area; and much more.

We predicted Apple would introduce iOS 7 and its two new iPhone models on Sept. 10, but as far as release dates go, we believe iOS 7 will release to the public one week and one day later on Wednesday, Sept. 18. With regards to iPhone, we think Apple will release its new budget iPhone two days after the iOS 7 release date on Friday, Sept. 20, while the high-end iPhone 5 successor, the iPhone 5S, will release two weeks after that on Friday, Oct 4 -- the two year anniversary of the iPhone 4S and one day prior to the two year anniversary of Steve Jobs' death. 

For more on iOS 7, check out our visual guide to learn more about the new design, some surprise features we discovered in the very first iOS 7 beta, plus our collection of 80-plus screenshots of iOS 7. What do you think of iOS 7? Do you plan to download and install iOS 7 beta 5 or are you looking forward to its public release date this fall? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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