The Canadian federal government has announced COVID Alert will soon work for older iPhones, thanks to the release of iOS 12.5 yesterday.
“Great news for iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 Plus users! You’ll soon be able to download and use #COVIDAlert. Apple has released iOS 12.5 on those phones, and this includes the Exposure Notification Framework & low-energy Bluetooth that #COVIDAlert uses,” explained Canadian Digital Service (CDS) on Tuesday afternoon.
The update to COVID Alert isn’t out yet, as CDS says “We want to make sure everything is working correctly before you download it. So our team is busy testing with these phones to find and fix any bugs that may pop up.”
“Watch this space – we’ll let you know when it’s ready for you to download and start using!”, said CDS.
Great news for iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 Plus users! You’ll soon be able to download and use #COVIDAlert.
— Canadian Digital Service (CDS) (@CDS_GC) December 15, 2020
COVID Alert currently requires an iPhone that can support iOS 13.5 or higher. In other words, an iPhone 6s or newer.
With Apple’s release of iOS 12.5 and adding support for its Exposure Notification framework, the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which missed the cut for iOS 13, will now be supported.
Critics of COVID Alert had mentioned before how the app did not support older iPhones. That was not related to the app itself but rather Apple adding support for older devices to the Exposure Notification framework.
“iOS 12.5 lets you opt-in to the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications system for your iPhone. System availability depends on support from your local public health authority,” explains the release notes from iOS 12.5 yesterday, which also mention unnamed security updates.
Canada’s COVID Alert app is based on Google and Apple’s exposure notification framework, which leverages Bluetooth on devices for anonymous “handshakes” in the background. The app does not use GPS info or collect any user data. It has been vetted as safe by Canada’s privacy commissioner and provincial counterparts.
When someone tests positive for COVID-19, they can anonymously alert others that may have been in contact using COVID Alert, by obtaining a one-time-use key from their provincial health authority.
Provinces currently supporting COVID Alert:
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
- Northwest Territories
Still waiting for:
- Alberta (SHAME!)
- British Columbia (SHAME!)
As of December 13, COVID Alert has been downloaded 5.7 million times, with 8,853 people voluntarily entering in one-time keys, according to the federal government.