Leading into the expected June debut of iOS 14, Apple has been testing what was expected to be the final beta version of iOS 13 — previously numbered “13.4.5.” Today, the company is changing up the beta cycle with the release of iOS 13.5, a revised version that includes the coronavirus exposure notification tool it co-developed with Google.
Prior to now, features in the new iOS point release were relatively trivial, including an updated music link sharing feature for social networks, and bug fixes. But the addition of the exposure notification tool is significant, enabling users of both iPhones and Android phones to optionally cooperate in sharing anonymized location data, flagging potential COVID-19 contacts. If a user is diagnosed with the virus, an anonymous notification can be passed on to people who were within Bluetooth proximity of the user’s phone, alerting them to the prospect of infection.
Apple and Google have worked aggressively to build trust in their contact tracing solution, adding additional privacy-focused features into the system last week, though it remains unclear whether a critical mass of users will actually adopt the feature, and whether it will practically deliver positive results. The United States and some EU countries have backed the initiative, accepting the tech companies’ approach to decentralization and user privacy, while the United Kingdom has signaled that it will instead rely on its own app and sharing solution.
Described as “beta 3” as it’s carrying forward the release cycle from iOS 13.4.5, iOS 13.5 is available now for download from Apple’s developer site, as well as an over-the-air update for iPhones running the prior beta OS. The prior iOS 13.4 beta cycle took 1.5 months from start to finish, and the final version of iOS 13.5 is expected to be released in May.
Additionally, Apple’s software development tool Xcode 11.5 has also been released with developer API-level support for the feature. Android 6+ phone users are gaining support for the exposure notification feature through a Google Play Store app today, as well.