OnePlus first launched the beta programs for OxygenOS in 2016. Since then, their software engineering team has received quite a few bug reports (~200,000) that have helped them to try and ensure that the stable releases are bug-free.
In the past, most people opted for beta programs only to get access to the latest features that OxygenOS offers. 7 and 7T-series users will recall that the "Instant Translation" feature was first made available only on the OB track, and it still hasn't made its way to the stable track.
There have been quite a lot of people switching to beta tracks recently, which introduces two problems:
- The proportion of people who use beta only for new features, instead of helping with bug reports etc has increased
- Their team finds it difficult to deal with the large number of builds per device, per month
A combination of these points could be the reason as to why they decided to reduce the number of beta builds (they effectively halved the frequency).
Closed Beta (down to 2 per month)
Also known as "alpha builds" sometimes, this track will now receive ~2 updates per month, down from ~4 updates per month earlier.
Since these builds are "closed", only a specific amount of people (~100 per device, usually) are allowed to run these builds. OnePlus privately rolls out these builds to the enrolled people, and thus cannot be offered in the app. However, Open Beta builds are of course, available.
CB builds are usually the first testing ground for any OxygenOS release. Only around 100 people per device are chosen to be a "CB tester" - responsible for giving feedback on these bleeding edge builds. These 100 or so people usually give their opinions on new & experimental features, as well as submit bug reports for any unpolished code.
Closed Beta programs have existed for almost all active OnePlus devices in the past. However, at the time of writing this article, only the 7-series and 7T-series devices have an active CB program.
The source post hints that the CB program for 8-series will start soon. We'll publish an article once they announce, detailing how and why should you apply.
Open Beta (down to 1 per month)
Reduced from ~2 updates per month to 1 update per month. These builds are usually promoted from the CB track - new features that have supposedly been well-tested become available to the general public in this track.
This is the final "testing ground" for new OxygenOS features. Once the software engineering team is confident about these builds (or individual features within each build), they're promoted to the stable track.
Official/Stable (unchanged: 1 every 1-2 months)
These builds can be considered as the most stable OxygenOS code, as well as features that have been polished after several rounds of feedback. This is the "default" track on any OnePlus phone - as long as you don't switch to either the CB or the OB track, you receive only stable track updates via OTAs. Once you switch to another update track, you receive updates only for that track. This behaviour is the same across both the Oxygen Updater app, as well as OnePlus' system updater.
OnePlus' software engineering team still collects feedback on stable releases, to ensure the best experience for their users.
Most of you must have already chosen an update method of choice (either stable or OB) within the app's settings. After reading this article, if you feel like switching to a different track, head over to the "Settings" page and choose the "full update" variant of whichever track you want to switch to. You might have to enable "advanced mode" as well.
Do remember, you can only switch tracks if the latest build for that track is a newer build than the current version of whichever track you're on. If you try installing, the "Local Upgrade" screen will inform you that you can't install an older build. In this case, the best thing you can do is wait for a newer build to be released in the track you want to switch to.