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iOS 13.5 is imminent – here's why its the iPhone update you've been waiting for

TechRadar logo TechRadar 18/05/2020 Matt Swider
a person talking on a cell phone: iPhone face unlock with mask © Provided by TechRadar iPhone face unlock with mask

Apple's iOS 13.5 update is about to make your face mask-wearing life a little easier, with the clearest sign that its next major iPhone software update is imminent.

The GM (golden master) version of iOS 13.5 is now out for developers, and that's always the last update Apple issues before its software updates go public.

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iOS 13.5 features are headlined by a simplified unlock process for Face ID-equipped iPhones if you're wearing a face mask, according to the release notes via 9to5Mac.

That's good news for those struggling with Face ID, as you'll be able to unlock your phone right away with a passcode instead of waiting for the Face ID menu to fail twice, which is how it currently works.

Apple's face-mask-detection feature will work on any iPhone without a home button – so from iPhone 11 to iPhone X, but not the iPhone SE 2 – when you swipe up from the bottom of the lock screen, or need to authenticate with the App Store, Apple Books, Apple Pay or iTunes.

iOS 13.5 supports Covid-19 contact tracing apps

Contact tracing apps have been heralded as an essential step to reopening countries and avoiding the further spread of Covid-19. Apple and Google are leading contract tracing efforts, developing functionality into their smartphone operating systems.

iOS 13.5 includes an 'Exposure Notification API' to support Covid-19 contact tracing apps from public health authorities. No, those critical apps aren't here yet – that's up to individual governments to create or enable – but the framework is ready.

The Exposure Notification API uses Bluetooth Low Energy to determine if, in the last 14 days, you've passed someone and they later test positive for Covid-19 then log it into a centralized database. All of this happens anonymously.

Contract tracing apps will be tech's most important contribution to helping life get back to normal, and iOS 13.5 is the first step toward making that happen.

For the immediate future, however, the ability to unlock your phone faster is the main reason to download the iOS 13.5 update as soon as it launches.

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Stay at home as much as possible to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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