The latest iOS 13.5 has just been released by Apple and you should download it now. This update includes a crucial feature that couldn’t have arrived soon enough. iOS 13.5, which is designed to stop face masks taking away the convenience and security of Apple’s Face ID system, which lets iPhone X or more recent handsets unlock and authenticate payments after scanning users’ faces. Unlike previous iPhone biometric security systems, like Touch ID fingerprint scanners, this is more secure, works with gloves and can unlock the phone when the sensor – or your hands – are wet.

However, as the ongoing global public health crisis has demonstrated, Face ID is far from an ideal solution when health officials and governments across the globe are urging people to wear face masks in a bid to stop the spread of the potentially fatal COVID-19.

At the moment, users wearing face masks – which must cover both your mouth and nose to be effective – have to wait for Face ID to fail twice before iOS will load the option to input your back-up PIN or alphanumeric passphrase.

With iOS 13.5, Apple has reduced that wait. So, if you’re wearing a mask, you’ll now be able to unlock the handset right away with the passcode instead of waiting for the Face ID to fail. Of course, this will only impact those who own an iPhone without a Home Button. Older models, or the new iPhone SE, will not see any changes – since the fingerprint sensor works well with a mask.

And that’s not all new inside iOS 13.5.

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The mobile operating system brings support for contact-tracing apps, which a number of governments believe will be instrumental in returning life to some kind of normality during the ongoing pandemic.

Apple has partnered with Google to create a cross-platform system designed to preserve users’ privacy – while still allowing Android and iOS-powered smartphones to keep tabs on who you’ve been close to.

The Exposure Notification API uses Bluetooth Low Energy to determine whether – at some point during the last two weeks – you’ve passed someone who later test positive for the novel coronavirus. All of this happens anonymously to restrict the amount of health and location data stored on iPhone and Android owners.

As it stands, the NHS is trying to build its own system so that it is able to keep more of that data, which it believes will be crucial to keep tabs on the spread of the coronavirus throughout the population and help stop the spread. However, this means it will not be able to use Bluetooth connections in the background at all times – like those created by Google and Apple.

Here’s the full update notes from Apple: “iOS 13.5 speeds up access to the passcode field on devices with Face ID when you are wearing a face mask and introduces the Exposure Notification API to support COVID-19 contact tracing apps from public health authorities. This update also introduces an option to control automatic prominence of video tiles on Group FaceTime calls and includes bug fixes and other improvements.”

iPhone owners who want to update the operating system to the latest version should head to Settings > General > Software Update to kickstart the installation of iOS 13.5.