Apple Releases iOS 13.5 With Exposure Notification API, Face ID Mask Updates

Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 13.5, major updates that come more than a month after the launch of iOS and iPadOS 13.4.1. iOS 13.5 is a major health-related update that brings many features related to the ongoing public health crisis.

The iOS and ‌‌‌iPadOS‌‌‌ 13.5 updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the updates, go to Settings > General > Software Update. Apple has also released iOS 12.4.7 for older devices, with the update bringing security fixes.

The iOS 13.5 update introduces the Exposure Notification API created by Apple and Google, which is designed to allow public health authorities to create COVID-19 contact tracing apps with the aim of slowing the spread of the virus.

Exposure Notification is a behind-the-scenes Bluetooth-based API that will be incorporated into apps created by public health authorities in each country. It does not work without an accompanying app installed, but Apple has added details about Exposure Logging in the Privacy section of the Settings app.

There is an Exposure Logging toggle that will let users opt out of participating in COVID-19 exposure notifications if a COVID-19 app is installed, and the section will provide details on which public health app a user has downloaded.

iOS 13.5 lays the groundwork for Exposure Notifications, and now that the update has been released to the public, health apps from governments and health authorities will be able to be released. So far, more than 22 countries have signed up to participate, and apps that use the API should be coming in the near future. From Apple and Google:

What we’ve built is not an app — rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better. Each user gets to decide whether or not to opt-in to Exposure Notifications; the system does not collect or use location from the device; and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to report that in the public health app. User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps.

Today, this technology is in the hands of public health agencies across the world who will take the lead and we will continue to support their efforts.

Apps that take advantage of the ‌Exposure Notification‌ API will use Bluetooth to communicate with the smartphones of the people around you, and you will be provided with notifications should you come into contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 that chooses to share that information. Google and Apple have focused heavily on privacy with the ‌Exposure Notification‌ API, and full details on how ‌Exposure Notification‌ works can be found in our guide.

In addition to creating a foundation for apps to use the ‌Exposure Notification‌ API, iOS (and ‌iPadOS‌) 13.5 make it easier to unlock an iPhone or iPad with a passcode when wearing a mask, due to the large number of people that are regularly wearing face coverings.

With the update, the passcode interface is displayed more quickly when an iOS device detects that a user is wearing a mask that obscures the face after the person swipes up, so it’s quicker getting into an ‌iPhone‌ using a passcode than before.

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