Apple releases iOS 12.5 for older iPhones with support for COVID-19 notifications

Apple released iOS 12.5 for older iPhone models today, bringing support for COVID-19 upgrades. This is a major change, as it extends contact footprints to iPhones that don’t support iOS 14, including devices like the hugely popular iPhone 6 series.

Here’s what Apple has to say about the release of iOS 12.5:

iOS 12.5 allows you to choose the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications system for your iPhone. System availability depends on support from your local public health authority. For more information see covid19.apple.com/contacttracing

Apple also adds that iOS 12.5 includes additional “security updates” and that the release is recommended to all users. Apple also released watchOS 6.3 for older Apple Watch models today, bringing “major security updates” for users.

How does COVID-19 notification work?

When a user enables the feature, the device will regularly send a beacon with Bluetooth, which includes a random Bluetooth ID. When two people are close to each other, their phones will exchange and record these Bluetooth IDs.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, they can voluntarily report the positive test to the Exposure Notification application for their region. The Exhibition Notification API will also download a list of the keys for the signposts confirmed as belonging to people confirmed positive for COVID-19, and will check against that list. If there is a match, the user can be notified and advised on the following steps.

Privacy is a temptation of the Exposure Notification API. Perhaps the biggest privacy protection in Google’s API and Exposure Notification API is that local data doesn’t play as well as it works. The two companies say these apps should collect as little data as possible, and local data is not needed for this Bluetooth-based access.

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