The moment you’ve been waiting for is here – the final release of iOS 13.5 is now available for Public Beta Program participants. Usually, a release this late in the iOS cycle wouldn’t be a very big deal. After all it’s nearly summer, virtual WWDC is in just a couple of months, and the iOS 14 beta will be coming soon after that.
Usually right now all we see from this stage of iOS development are bug fixes and a few hints of what’s to come as developers seed late-stage iOS builds with code for the next.
Because of COVID-19, however, this release is very different. Mainly because of Contact Tracing.
Found under Settings > Privacy > Health > COVID-19 Exposure Notifications the Contact Tracing API allows officials to contact you if you’ve come into contact with someone in the past 14 days that then pops up with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. Data shared is random and anonymous. There’s no personally identifying information other than the random ID that the API assigns your device.
Apple’s FAQ on Contact Tracing is quite informative and does a great job of summing up how it works and protects you, but I’ll give you the high-level view.
If someone you’ve been in contact within the past 14 days enters a positive COVID-19 diagnosis into an app that uses the contact tracing API and they agree to upload their beacon data, you’ll receive a notification that you’ve possibly been exposed. You won’t be told where or by who, all the system will have is a random ID associated with your device. After 14 days, all that beacon data goes away.
This option isn’t turned on unless you have an app that uses this API or if it’s allowed in your country. If it’s not yet allowed, you won’t even have the option to toggle it on or off.
Some public officials don’t think that Apple or Google’s Contact Tracing implementation goes far enough. The anonymizing of data is at the core here. Officials say they need that specific location data to be able to best protect the public, that without it, this all just a nice experiment with no real ability to change outcomes. That said, I think that taking a first step that leans towards protection of privacy is the right move.
Quickly Bypass Face ID
The other crucial public health update in iOS 13.5 is that Face ID will now immediately default to a PIN request when you’re wearing a mask. It’s a minor update, but an important one. Getting frustrated with your phone and yanking down your mask to unlock it completely defeats the purpose of wearing a mask in the first place.
What Else Is New?
Automatic face zooming is a fun feature, but it’s also kind of annoying when you’re using FaceTime for a business meeting (or a virtual happy hour) and you want to see everyone without the call enlarging the window of the person who’s talking (or just happens to cough really loudly). Go to Settings > FaceTime and under Automatic Prominence toggle off the Speaking feature. Now everyone will stay in their respective windows.
Sharing songs, albums, and playlists to Facebook and Instagram Stories is, funnily enough the one and only feature actually listed for iOS 13.5. Everything else is undocumented in the latest release notes.
This week’s version history is clean and shiny with nary a bug or fix. That’s to be expected since this will be the build that’s released to the general public. That said, you can still download tomorrow’s general release build and submit any bugs you might find. They’ll get addressed in the iOS 13.6 beta.
How Do I Sign Up?
For the Face ID enhancement alone, I think everyone should hop on the latest public beta as soon as possible. This late in the game, testing the public beta is a fairly rote affair. In fact, it’s been quite a while since we’ve had any new features of note. Now, once iOS 14 hits our devices, that’s a whole new ball game.
Until then, head to the Apple Beta Software Program page with the device you want to enroll and sign up. Then download the beta profile and reboot. Go to Settings > General > Software Update and check for the latest build. It will queue up and install on your device.
iOS 13.5 will be released to the public tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest. But, if you’re a Public Beta Program participant you can grab the public release software right now. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend it. It’s possibly the most important late-release iOS build we’ve ever had.
It’ll take a week or so for the folks in Cupertino to get the next iOS beta rolling, so expect iOS 13.6 sometime next week or even early in June.