Apple's iOS and iPadOS devices received an update to version 13.5 this week and it adds some meaningful, but unusual features. In some ways, almost every part of this update relates to the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, Apple and Google teamed up to develop a system that aids in coronavirus contact tracing. For those unfamiliar with the term, contract tracing is simply the process of keeping track of people an individual has had contact with, over a period of time. During this pandemic, the hope is that if we can keep track of the people a person who tests positive for the coronavirus goes near, we can slow the spread by requesting those people isolate themselves or seek testing.

Related: Apple & Google Partner To Combat Coronavirus With Contact Tracing

The cooperative efforts of Apple and Google begat an API that uses a phone's Bluetooth to let the user know if they've been in contact with someone who reports testing positive. Since this is an API and not an entire app, developers will be able to use this data in contact tracing apps without having to handle the tracing process themselves. This is obviously convenient for app developers, but it's also great for us (assuming we trust Apple and Google) because we know the source for our movement data is this exposure notification API from a reputable company. This feature is being added to iPhones and iPads this week, hence the 13.5 updates, but it will also exist on Android devices.

In addition to the optional contact tracing support baked into this update, we'll also see a tweak to Face ID. As a concept, Face ID was at odds with the CDC guidelines about wearing masks. Since the technology can't identify a person through a mask (if it could, it probably wouldn't be nearly as secure), people would have to let it fail multiple times before being prompted to input a passcode to unlock their devices. This update streamlines that process, allowing Face ID to recognize the user is wearing a mask much faster, and skip to the passcode entry prompt. It's not the most elegant solution, but it's probably the best we'll get without having to purchase entirely new products.

The last big feature of the update relates to the pandemic in a less direct way. Group FaceTime has a weird design choice that makes the chat bubble of the person who's speaking grow larger as they make sounds. Things like background noise made it frustrating to look at the screen since they would cause the bubbles to move around the display, constantly changing size. The app is seeing more use these days, as people turn to video chatting during social distancing, so this update adds the option of turning the size changes off.

More: How to Group FaceTime: From Turning off Moving Faces to Blocking Numbers

Source: Ars Technica