Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) unveiled iOS 8 on Monday during Apple CEO Tim Cook's WWDC 2014 keynote speech, with Cook calling it “the biggest release for iOS since the introduction of the App Store.” IOS 8 touts a number of new features for the iPhone and iPad, including new notification functionality, or widgets, and compatibility with third-party keyboards from developers like Swype.

Whereas Apple gave the mobile operating system a complete visual design overhaul with iOS 7 last year, this year it focused on integrating several new features into iOS 8 for iPhone and iPad. Click here for a full rundown of all of iOS 8's new features.

Apple said it will schedule a wider release date for iOS 8 sometime this fall, but it made a beta version of iOS 8 available for developers to download and install immediately. Apple developers can access the beta for free, but iPhone users eager to check out iOS 8 right now can also access the beta before its official release date.

For anyone willing to pay the $99 annual fee, iOS 8 is available for download from Apple immediately, but it's still only a beta release, which means it's much more useful for developers than regular users and likely contains software bugs and other errors. 

Before You Download iOS 8

Before downloading the iOS 8 beta, iPhone users should make sure their version of iTunes has been updated to the latest version, then back up their devices. To check if iTunes is up to date, click “Check for Updates” in the program or visit the App Store to make sure all software is updated.

To download iOS 8, your iPhone or iPad's UDID must be registered with IMZDL, a popular source for iOS and OS X betas. You will also need to find out your device’s identifier: While an iPhone on AT&T uses the identifier A1428,  a Verizon iPhone uses the identifier A1429. Once you have this information and have backed up and updated your device, then you can download and install iOS 8 beta 1.

Apple iOS 8 beta 1 Installation Guide

1.) Download the iOS 8 beta file for your specific iPhone or iPad model from Apple. Developers -- and users who pay the $99 fee -- will need to log in with their Apple ID user names and passwords to access the beta release. After that, the file should show up on IMZDL.

2.) Open iTunes and choose “Restore your iPhone” with the iOS 8 beta. On Macs, hold down Alt/Option when clicking “Restore.” Windows users should hold the Shift key when clicking “Restore.”

3.) Check your “Downloads” folder for the iOS 8 beta 1 installation file, which should end with “.ipsw,” the file extension name for iPhone firmware files. The iOS 8 beta 1 installation will use a lot of battery power, and it may take some time to complete.

Please note that Apple has a few other caveats for those who want to install iOS 8 beta 1. Here are the warnings from the company’s official website:

  • Be sure to back up your devices using the latest-version iTunes or through iCloud backup prior to installing iOS 8 beta. After installing iOS 8 beta 1, you can restore your device using either the latest version of iTunes or through your iCloud backup.

  • This version of iOS is intended only for installation on development devices registered with Apple’s Developer Program. Attempting to install this version of iOS in an unauthorized manner could put your device in an unusable state, which could necessitate an out of warranty repair.

  • Devices updated to iOS 8 beta 1 cannot be restored to earlier versions of iOS. Only registered development devices will be able to upgrade to future beta releases and the final iOS software.

  • To determine the proper download for your iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, or iPhone 5, click here. To determine the proper download for your iPad Air, iPad mini, or iPad (4th generation), click here.

  • You can now submit bug reports directly to Apple’s bug tracking system using the built-in Bug Reporter app. You can find Bug Reporter in Notification Center in iOS 8 beta.

  • Use of Family Sharing in iOS 8 beta is subject to the Family Sharing terms. Learn more about Family Sharing here.

  • Xcode 6 beta, iOS 8 beta, and OS X Yosemite Developer Preview are pre-release software. Your use is subject to and licensed only under the terms and conditions of the iOS Developer Program License Agreement (“iOS PLA”), including any applicable consent to collect diagnostic data set forth therein. If you have not agreed to the iOS PLA, you are not permitted to use this software.

Apple's iMessage will also receive some new features with iOS 8, including the ability to add and remove contacts from message threads. The iMessages app includes a new gallery to view images sent in chat, and it will give users the ability to send voice messages and images with a single tap. 

Think you'll enjoy using iOS 8 beta 1 on your iPhone or iPad? Let us know what you think about it in the comments below.