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iOS Update Includes COVID-19 Exposure Notification API for Contact Tracing

On Wednesday, May 20, 2020, Apple released a group of operating system updates to the public. While most changes made are of the typical “bug fixes and other improvements” variety, two of these updates also added something quite important to our current world: the Exposure Notification API.

iOS & iPadOS Updates

iOS 13.5 and iPadOS 13.5 also include a way to speed up access to the passcode field for devices with Face ID when you are wearing a face mask. But it’s the Exposure Notification API that is the biggest change. This is an Application Programming Interface to be used by iOS and iPadOS programmers creating contact tracing apps for public health authorities.

Apple and Google have worked together on the Exposure Notification API, which is designed to allow people to be notified that they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or future viruses without compromising on security. For details on how the API works, check out this Apple web page.

The most important thing to remember is that the API needs an app to be installed by the user to work, and at this time very few contact apps have been developed and released to the public.

iPadOS 13.5 Update Release Notes

One other change for iOS 13.5 and iPadOS 13.5 is the addition of an option to control the automatic prominence of video tiles on Group FaceTime calls.

Other OS Updates

Since tvOS is not a mobile operating system, the update to tvOS 13.4.5 is primarily a bug fix and performance enhancement tweak. The update is available for all fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV units.

Apple also released an update to HomePod’s firmware (13.4.5) and a bump to watchOS 6.2.5.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve has been writing about Apple products since 1986, starting on a bulletin board system, creating the first of his many Apple-related websites in 1994, joining the staff of The Unofficial Apple Weblog in 2008, and founding Apple World Today in 2015. He’s semi-retired, loves to camp and take photos, and is an FAA-licensed drone pilot.
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  • Reading between the lines, it seems Apple may be actually using a retinal scan to ID a user wearing a mask. That would be less complicated than devising a new algorithm for identifying someone whose bio-metric facial features are obscured.

  • Thank You, for the clarity that your article offered.

    BUT, it begs for the answer to the next question. That question is -since one cannot ‘un-upgrade’ from IOS 13.5 – “How does one control and/or limit the intrusion that some unnamed ‘future contact tracing or notification’ APP has on our device once the API and that APP is installed?”

    • Apple indicates that all apps with contact tracing will require user permission to run. The API is just the interface that developers will use to create these apps. In and of itself, it is benign.

      • Thank You!

        That is welcome news and helps assuage my concern about unwanted intrusion.