Google and Apple, the developers of iOS and Android, have teamed up to work together on a corona tracing function for their operating systems. Now the time has come and the new function is ready. Countries and authorities can now submit and publish their apps to Google and Apple.
This is how corona tracing works
With corona tracing, smartphones in the vicinity exchange data keys and save them. If a user registers as infected, their keys are transferred to a server and the smartphones of the other users can compare them. If a hit is found, an anonymous warning is sent to the contact person concerned.
However, for this to work, Android smartphones and iPhones must be able to communicate with each other. Until now, access to the Bluetooth function has been heavily regulated, particularly at Apple, for data protection reasons.
Nothing works without apps
The functions built in by Google and Apple are developer interfaces, so-called APIs. These enable apps to use certain system functions. The tracing itself is only possible by installing an appropriate app. Each country must develop its own app and convince its citizens to install it. So far, 23 countries on five continents have requested access to the interface. Germany is also there. However, the German app should be available next month at the earliest.
iOS tracing requires update
An operating system update is required on the iPhone to receive the newly developed tracing function. The iOS 13.5 update released yesterday brings this functionality with it. Older iPhones that don’t run iOS 13 will not get the update. This means that just over 80 percent of all iPhone users worldwide can install the update.
After the update you will find the iOS tracing function in the settings under Data protection -> Health -> COVID-19 contact protocol. The function is switched off by default. As soon as an appropriate app is installed, you will be asked whether you want to activate the function. In the settings, it is also possible to view contact checks and to delete your own contact log.
Android tracing comes automatically
Unlike iOS, Android users don’t need to install an update. This is because only 3-4 percent of all Android smartphones worldwide have the latest Android version 10 installed. Even though the update has been available for 9 months. This is because updates are not distributed by Google itself, but by the individual manufacturers.
So that the Android tracing function reaches as many users as possible, Google delivers the update past the manufacturers via the Google Play Services. This happens automatically on all smartphones with Android 6 or newer. Nothing needs to be installed by the user. The function simply appears automatically in the settings of your smartphone.
Since older Android versions also receive the update, around 86 percent of all Android users worldwide can access the function.
As with iOS, however, the option is disabled by default. Google and Apple set this condition when planning the common interface. The option can only be activated when a corresponding app is installed. This will then ask in a popup whether the tracing function should be activated. The generated random IDs can be deleted and the contact notifications deactivated in the system settings.
Incidentally, Huawei smartphones without Google Play Services should also receive the tracing function. Here, Google is working with Huawei to find a solution.