With the outbreak of COVID-19, the entire world has had to adapt to new norms and big changes that none of us are used to. It isn’t often we experience something so massive, so devastating, and so dangerous that we’re all forced to shelter in place and wait for the “all clear” from our state leaders.
Not only does this mean the human race has to adapt to all the changes, but out daily technology habits also need to somehow fit the mold that’s compliant with the rules and regulations introduced by the government.
Apple wants to make that transition easier. The company is introducing three new features for the iPhone that aim on making navigating the novel coronavirus easier and a bit less stressful. Mind you, these fall in line with other features the company has released such as a dedicated COVID-19 app, new sections on coronavirus-related news in the News app, and more.
Here’s a breakdown of each of them.
1. Coronavirus contact
It’s no secret that Apple and Google have partnered to introduce a new feature on iOS and Android that can literally tell you when you’ve come in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Apple just released the third beta of iOS 13.5 yesterday that brings the core functionality of the feature to your iPhone.
The feature is powered by Bluetooth which is used to track what devices you come in contact with without recording your location. Using an app provided by a health agency, if you were diagnosed with coronavirus, your health information would sync to your phone. Then, if someone were to come in contact with you, they would receive a notification on their phone that they better get tested. It’s a pretty ingenious solution to the problem of not knowing who has coronavirus and who doesn’t.
Right now, the feature is still in testing phases, but Apple is now letting developers work on implementing its API so we should see the first round of apps get released soon. The same can be said on the Android side.
2. COVID-19 testing stations in Apple Maps
If you do get alerted by your phone that it’s a good idea to get a test, Apple Maps will make it easier to find somewhere to get one. Apple has updated the application to show you where your nearest testing area is located simply by searching “COVID-19 testing” minus the quotes. It’ll give you hours, directions, and other information based on each testing area. Apple Maps will also remind you that you may need a referral before getting a test.
A bit of a disclaimer: while Apple Maps should show you each testing site in your area, the feature isn’t live everywhere. However, it should show you more testing locations than Google Maps which is missing some major hotspots like New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
If you’re in a supported location, you should get this feature regardless of your iOS or iPadOS version.
3. Unlock your iPhone, even with a face mask on
One of the biggest problems with Apple’s Face ID is the fact you can’t have anything obstructing your face if you want to unlock your iPhone. That’s normally not a problem, but in a world where we’re now all required to wear a mask, it’s become quite an inconvenience.
With iOS 13.5, Apple will be making it easier to get into your phone when wearing a face covering. If Face ID detects a mask, it will instantly display the key pad on which you can enter your PIN. Before, you’d have to hope Face ID would fail enough times quickly enough so that you could get into your device. This change should make the unlocking experience exceptionally more pleasant.
I don’t know when Apple plans on shipping iOS 13.5, but given the fact they just dropped the third beta yesterday, there’s a good chance it’ll roll out to the public in the next few weeks.
Of course, as time progresses, I’m sure Apple will make the difficulty of living in a coronavirus world a bit easier. But as states begin reopening and the world starts turning once again, having these features on your iPhone will prove to be invaluable.
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