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Coronavirus

iOS 13.5 is here to make your iPhone COVID-19 contact tracing ready

After nearly two months of beta testing, Apple’s new iOS update is finally here. Not only does it address bug fixes and stability issues, it actually helps the iPhone adapt to your lifestyle in the age of COVID-19.

For one, now your iPhone will be able to open much more quickly if you’re wearing a mask. But more importantly, it also includes the underlying code developed in tandem with Google that will make contact tracing and exposure notification possible for smartphone users. Tap or click here to see how this program works.

You can get your phone up-to-speed by installing the update today. Here’s what’s new, as well as how you can install it on your iOS device.

The first post-pandemic iOS

Apple’s iOS 13 has finally evolved to help users cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, the update adds the underlying code for Apple and Google’s joint contact tracing system, now called Exposure Notifications.

It’s not a direct part of the operating system, as third-party vendors and health authorities will be using Apple and Google’s API to develop contact-tracing apps. Tap or click here to see how Apple and Google collaborated on this new update.

But once you allow your phone to provide these alerts, the specific apps will be ready to work right away. The entire program works using background Bluetooth signals that exchange with other devices. Get too close to someone with a positive test result and you’ll get the notification. All your data is randomized and encrypted as well, which makes it secure and private.

That’s not the only notable feature in iOS 13.5. Previously, mask-wearing users would experience issues using Face ID to unlock their devices, and had no to share their medical data with first responders digitally. The new iOS 13.5 update addresses both those issues, and adds several other new features tailored to the strange world we live in now.

In the case of Face ID, masks used to outright block the feature altogether. Users would have to wait until Face ID failed to be presented with their passcode, and this issue would crop up in other parts of the phone like Apple Pay and the App Store. Now, you can skip the wait and enter your passcode just by swiping up.

And in the updated Health app, you can add your medical ID and data and set it to automatically share with dispatchers when you call 911. If the 911 system where you live supports the technology, the dispatcher will receive the data thanks to a background process on your phone. And you won’t need to take any additional steps other than opening the Health app and giving it permission to share the data.

Related: Tap or click here to see 9 new features in iOS 13 you’ll use time and time again

Another feature update involves FaceTime. Previously, speakers in group calls would see their icon grow larger while others shrank. This is fine for small calls, but with so many people relying on video chat for work and socializing now, it can be troublesome to look at. Now, iOS 13.5 keeps your icon the same size no matter how many people are present.

How can I get the new iOS on my device?

As with any Apple update, open the Settings app on your device and tap General, followed by Software Update. Tap Download and Install to finish the process. It’s a big update, so this step may take some time to complete.

Once your phone resets, there’s still one more step you’ll eventually need to complete: enabling the exposure notification API. You can’t, however, enable the feature until a supported contact tracing app is released.

When that happens, follow these steps on your iPhone:

  • Open Settings and tap Privacy
  • Tap Health
  • Tap on the menu labeled COVID-19 Exposure Logging. It should say “Off” by default
  • Toggle the switch next to Exposure Logging into the “On” position.

Until then, your iPhone will be contact-tracing ready. And when you step outdoors for your errands, this time you won’t even need to worry about fiddling with your mask for Face ID.

For Android users, Google is also rolling out an update this week for Play Services that’s compatible with smartphones running 6.0 and later.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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