Surprise! Apple isn’t done with iOS 13 yet

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iOS 13.7 developer beta: iPhone's use in the fight against COVID-19 continues to grow.
iPhone's use in the fight against COVID-19 continues to grow.
Photo: Brian McGowan/Unsplash CC

Apple seeded the first beta of iOS 13.7, along with an iPadOS equivalent, to developers on Wednesday. These include a coronavirus-related change Apple considers important enough to justify a system-software update that includes no other new features.

With iOS 14 expected to launch soon, it would be easy to assume that Apple is done releasing new versions of iOS 13. Nope.

iOS 13.7 is all about COVID-19 contact tracing

The release notes Apple includes with this new version state, “iOS 13.7 lets you opt-in to the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications system without the need to download an app. System availability depends on support from your local public health authority. For more information see covid19.apple.com/contacttracing.”

But that’s not quite all. The notes also point out that this update includes other bug fixes.

At present, iOS 13.7 Beta 1 and iPadOS 13.7 Beta 1 are aren’t available to the general public. Testing can only be done by those who have paid a $100 annual fee to join the Apple Developer Program. It’s not clear when, or if, there’ll be a public beta test.

Also unclear is when the final version of this update will be introduced. But it has to be soon, as iOS 14 isn’t that far away.

Apple still updating its COVID-19 Exposure Notifications system

Apple launched a coronavirus contact-tracing tool in earlier versions of iOS 13. This enables Bluetooth “chirps” to anonymously track physical interactions between smartphone users, whether iOS or Android.

If an individual finds out they are infected with COVID-19, the system notifies other smartphone users who’ve come into close proximity with them. The opt-in system could help slow the spread of the disease by warning people of potential infections.

But iOS 13.7 or the earlier iterations doesn’t come with a contract-tracing app, just the tools developers need to build one. Some countries have begun to roll these out, and Virginia recently became the first U.S. state to do so.