Getting OTA updates out the door is no easy task, especially with carriers standing between the OEM and users. That's why Motorola has long used soak tests with small groups of users to hammer out bugs before the final certification. HTC has just posted details of its own "HTC Preview" program that does essentially the same thing.
The information was posted in HTC Elevate, which is HTC's private community where it works with users to promote its devices and services. Members of Elevate also get the occasional freebie for participating in the community. The full FAQ follows, but we're not going to post the signup link—sorry.
Q. What do I need to do after completing the registration?
A. At this time, just sit back and relax. As soon as we are able to match you to an upcoming user trial, we will reach out to you directly.
Q. Will I need to sign an NDA?
A. If you are invited to participate in a user trial, you will be required to sign an NDA before starting.
Q. I have a friend/relative/co-worker who would be great for this program. Can I ask them to register?
A. At this time, we are only making this registration open to select groups, one which is Elevate US users. Please do not share the details of this program with anyone else at this time. When the program launches publicly in the future, you’ll be more than welcome to invite them.
Q. Will I be using my own device or will one be provided during a user trial?
A. It depends on the user trial. In some cases, we will provide loaner devices and in other cases, you will use your own. This will be communicated up-front when we invite potential candidates.
Q. What happens if my device requires warranty services during the user trial?
A. Your device may encounter an issue which will require warranty service in such cases, please contact HTC Care for immediate attention. You may encounter problems going through your carrier due to the unofficial software loaded on your device.
Note: This is only for warranty service, that is, if the device has any physical damage you would need to file an insurance claim (if applicable).
Q. What if I want to leave the user trial before it ends?
A. If you choose to leave a user trial early and are using your own device, you will need to send your device in to HTC Care to have it flashed back to the latest commercial SW.
If you are using a loaner device, you will just need to return the device (a prepaid shipping label will be provided).
Q. What type of user trials would be conducted? Would it just cover maintenance release (MR) or new products as well?
A. Most of the user trials will be of the software nature (i.e. MR updates and HTC app Play store updates) but there will also be user trials for hardware when we launch new products as well
Q. How long does a user trial run?
A. This depends on the purpose of the user trial and again, this will be communicated up-front when we invite potential candidates. Generally, user trials last between 6 – 10 weeks, with some ending earlier and others getting extended beyond that.
Q. I have more questions about this program. Who can I contact?
A. Feel free to sound off in the thread below.
So it's pretty standard stuff as far as private testing goes. Those accepted into the program have to sign NDAs—loose lips and all that. If something goes wrong with the phone, you might have to contact HTC to straighten it out instead of the carrier. If you want to leave the test, you have to let HTC re-flash your phone to the regular firmware.
HTC Preview is mostly for OTAs, but it may cover hardware too. No details were available about what sort of devices that might include. If you want in, you'll have to wait for Elevate to open up for new users, which it does on occasion. HTC Preview will eventually be available to the general public, but there's no timeline for that—just "in the coming months."