Apple releases iOS 13.5 beta with COVID-19 contact tracing feature

The first release gives developers the tools and API they'll need to build apps and services to track and alert you of potential exposure.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

Apple on Wednesday released a developer preview of iOS 13.5 that includes the first version of its upcoming COVID-19 contact-tracing feature. The update is only available through the developer portal. 

Apple and Google announced a contact tracing feature for iOS and Android devices on April 10. 

The feature will use randomized tokens and the Bluetooth functionality of your phone to broadcast and scan for other users who are within a few feet of you for a set amount of time. Your phone will then log those tokens, and if someone tests positive for COVID-19, an alert can be sent to your phone letting you know of potential exposure. And it does all of that anonymously. We go through all of the details about how it works and the potential privacy implications in this article

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The first beta includes all of the necessary tools and APIs for public health authorities to begin building apps and services to implement the feature. It's unclear when the API will be finalized, including when we will begin to see apps from health departments made public. Currently, there's a setting in the iPhone's Privacy section to turn COVID-19 exposure notifications on or off. 

Google also released an update through the Google Play Store adding the API to Android devices, according to Bloomberg

Apple also added a new streamlined process for users to unlock a Face ID-enabled iPhone while wearing a face mask. Instead of having to swipe up multiple times to trigger the passcode prompt, you can now swipe up on the screen and enter your PIN code.

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