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iOS 13.5 simplifies unlocking iPhone with face mask, adds contact tracing API

Apple has released iOS and iPadOS 13.5, which will simplify the process of unlocking a phone without a face mask and includes the new contact tracing API to assist in the fight against Covid-19.

The significant update, which is rolling out worldwide today, offers faster access to the passcode-entry screen without the device attempting a Face ID unlock first.

Those wearing masks have been frustrated by Face ID’s failed attempts to identify their face before they’re given the option to type in their passcode instead. In iOS 13.5, a quick swipe up from the bottom of the home screen presents the option instantly.

The other major addition is the Apple and Google-made Exposure Notification API, upon which coronavirus contact tracing apps will be built by various health authorities around the world.

Related: Best iPhone 2020

The back-end tech uses Bluetooth signals emitted by all smartphones to monitor who people have come into contact with.

If one of those people registers as testing positive for coronavirus, all of the people who recently came within a dangerous distance will be notified. Those people can take the necessary precautionary steps of self isolation, or visiting a testing facility to get checked out.

The API is considered to be a key addition to the fight against coronavirus although, as of the current plans, the UK government will not be making use of the Apple/Google tech. It is opting to trial a custom-built platform on the Isle of Wight before a roll out across the UK.

A Reuters report today points out that Apple and Google are still engaged in talks with the UK government on potentially adopting the API, which is deemed safer for the public and less of a drain on battery life.

This feature will only work once a contact tracing app has been installed on the smartphone, but Apple and Google are working on building the functionality into their operating systems and we may see the fruits of that in iOS 14.

iOS 13.5 also includes an alteration to Group FaceTime calls, which will no longer automatically make the current speaker the largest thumbnail image. Apple hopes this will make the feature more appropriate for work-based calls during our extended time away from the office.

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