Contact tracing apps on iPhone 12

Coronavirus contact tracing apps on the iPhone 12 may stop working after restoring from the iCloud backup of your old phone. The issue has so far been seen with the UK’s NHS COVID-19 app…

BBC News reports that some were seeing an error message for the app.

Unfortunately, you can’t run this app. This could be due to:

A restriction in your settings (for example, if this is a company phone).

Another app on your phone is using the same technology and stopping this app from working.

In fact, it’s just that permission to allow Exposure Notifications is not restored from an iCloud backup.

The issue arises if apps are transferred from an older iPhone via an iCloud Backup data transfer, which is common practice.

In what appears to be an oversight, when Apple transfers apps over, the phone does not ask owners to enable the permission and it is not obvious that it needs to be done. As a result, the app cannot enable the Bluetooth-based matching functionality it needs to work.

This can easily be addressed by making a change within the Settings menu.

Users should:

  • select Notifications
  • then tap on Exposure Notifications
  • then turn on the Allow Notifications option

Although the BBC report only covers the NHS app, it’s likely to affect other contact tracing apps on the iPhone 12 if they also use the joint Apple/Google API.

The NHS contact tracing app has so far been installed by around 18 million people. It also provides an easy way to comply with the law requiring check-ins at pubs and restaurants by allowing the user to scan QR codes on entry.

As with other data, these visits are stored only on the phone, and work in the same privacy-protecting way as the main contact tracing feature: your phone periodically downloads locations where an infection has been reported, and you will be alerted if you have a matching check-in stored in your phone.

A recent report covered the messy situation in the US where contact tracing apps are concerned.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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