The most important iOS update in years is going to drop within a week, judging by the latest developer release.
Apple has seeded the iOS 13.5 GM (Gold Master) to the developer community, which signifies the completed version of the software is about to land. iOS 13.5 brings two important features pertaining to the fight against Covid-19 (via 9to5Mac).
Firstly, an update will make it easier for users to unlock their handsets if Face ID is unavailable because the subject’s features are obscured by a face mask. Within iOS 13.5, the company is making access to the passcode option a little more straightforward, which will cut down the amount of time it takes to securely unlock an iPhone.
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Secondly, the release brings the Exposure Notifications API that will power many nations’ coronavirus contact tracing apps. It’s a collaborative effort with Google that’s based on underlying Bluetooth technology. It’s designed to inform smartphone users if they’ve been in close proximity to a person who has identified themselves as testing positive for Covid-19.
Those who receive the notifications will be able to take the appropriate precautions of self isolation, alerting family members, and perhaps arranging a coronavirus test for themselves.
Right now, the NHS’s contact tracing app will not be powered by Apple and Google’s work, with the health service currently trailing its own app on the Isle of Wight despite concerns over battery drain and full compatibility with iOS devices.
It’s still possible the government will change tack, judging by reports last week, although it prefers an approach where data is centralised and able to be cross referenced with other information. Apple and Google are intent on keeping user’s data on their phones in a decentralised manner in the hopes of maintaining user privacy and thus encouraging greater adoption.
iOS 13.5 will also be joined by iPad 13.5 when the company drops it, likely some time within in the next 7-days or so. It’s not clear whether there’ll be more important features along for the ride too.