Apple has released iOS 13.7 and iOS 13.7 to the public, an update to the iPhone operating system that includes changes to the Exposure Notification feature, removing the need to install a public health app beforehand.
Available to download just six days after the only betas were offered for testing and confirmed for release earlier on Tuesday, the over-the-air update for iOS 13.7 and iPadOS 13.7 can now be installed on iPhones and iPads. It is offered as an automatic installation for users who have set up their devices in that way, and can also be installed manually via the Settings app.
The key change for the version is a new feature to allow users to opt in to Apple’s Exposure Notification system without needing to download an app produced by their country’s public health authority. However, the feature will still require the relevant public health organizations to support it for it to work.
A developer framework built by Apple and Google for both iPhone and Android devices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the system works by collecting anonymous Bluetooth identifiers from devices that get close to the user’s own smartphone. The identifiers are stored locally on the device rather than on a centralized server, though that data will be used to help warn those other users with an alert if the user is infected.
The use of Bluetooth identifiers and decentralized storage is to help ensure user privacy, as is the lack of location recording.
Part of the changes is Exposure Notification Express, where Apple will present localized health instructions to users in the case of suspected exposure. Again, this is done without requiring an app to be installed, but it will require some involvement by public health authorities.
While the developer framework is only usable by a public health organization, the update will assist in cases to help collect data for areas that do not currently have an official app, or one exists but the user declined to install it.