Apple Releases iOS 13.5 and iPadOS 13.5 With Exposure Notification API and Face Mask Detection for Face ID

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today released iOS 13.5 and iPadOS 13.5 to the public, with Exposure Notification API, faster Face ID unlocking when wearing a face mask, a new option to automatically share selected health data with emergency services, and more.

Bug Fixes for Blind and Low Vision Users in iOS 13.5 and iPadOS 13.5

Our testing suggests that the following pre-existing accessibility bugs have been resolved in iOS 13.5 and iPadOS 13.5:

At the time of writing, we are unaware of any new bugs for blind or low vision users in today's releases. However, as we always stress, we can make no claims on the completeness or accuracy of our testing. We are only a small team, and it is simply impossible for us to test all devices, configurations, applications, and use cases. Accordingly, to help us ensure that the information on this page is as complete and accurate as possible, please let us know in the comments of any fixes; enhancements; or regressions that you find in your own use of iOS 13.5 or iPadOS 13.5.

General Changes in iOS 13.5 and iPadOS 13.5

According to MacRumors, iOS 13.5 and iPadOS 13.5 also patch two security vulnerabilities that affect the Mail app on the ‌iPhone‌ and the ‌iPad‌:

One vulnerability allowed an attacker to remotely infect an iOS device by sending emails that consume a significant amount of memory, while another allowed remote code executions.

Release Notes

Apple's full release notes for iOS 13.5 are as follows:

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.

Note that iOS 13.5 and iPadOS 13.5 were initially released as iOS 13.4.5 beta and iPadOS 13.4.5 beta, but when the Exposure Notifications API was announced, an SDK update was required, which meant that the version numbers also had to be updated.

How to update

iOS 13.5 and iPadOS 13.5 are available via Over-the-Air Update (Settings > General > Software Update) via Finder on a Mac with macOS Catalina, or via iTunes on a PC or Mac with macOS Mojave or earlier.

Before updating, we strongly recommend making a full and complete backup of your device (either locally or in iCloud, depending on personal preference). This will ensure that, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong during the update process, you will have a current backup on hand in case a device restore becomes necessary. Also, if using OTA update, we recommend plugging your device into a power source for the duration of the download/installation process, so as to prevent the unlikely event of your battery going dead during the update.

More information on how to update the software on your device is available on this Apple Support page.

As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on these updates. Do you like the new features and changes? Let us know by adding a comment below.

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Submitted by WellF on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Nothing seems to have changed after the update. No new errors.
I noticed that in the last whatsapp update, voiceover won't speak the words / characters you type. I didn't notice that in any other app, thus I'm guessing it is something with Whatsapp. Has anyone experienced something similar?

Submitted by Nikola Jovic on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pretty much what the title says, this bug was also fixed.
The audio destination option also no longer appears with Air-pods connected, previously this was a bug and the option was incorrectly present but did nothing.

Submitted by Ramy on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

After updating, I tried searching to find if any app or something is installed to see what will it do regarding the covid-19, but can not find any. any ideas?

Submitted by Niki on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Does anyone know if you can disable them notifying you if you've been in contact with an infected person? I don't want them tracking me!

Submitted by Usman on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

As I do not want to be tracked, I am going to safely stay at 13.4.

Submitted by Usman on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

for anyone interested, here's how to disable covid19 exposure tracking on IOS 13.5 according to
Open the Settings app.
Scroll down and tap on Privacy.
Tap on Health.
Tap on COVID-19 Exposure Notifications.
Tap the toggle to turn the feature off.

Submitted by Tyler on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

For the COVID-19 exposure notification API to work, you will need to download an app from a public health authority in addition to having iOS 13.5 installed. It is my understanding that a number of countries and several US states are currently testing apps that will work with this feature, but none have been released as of yet.

You can view more information by going to Settings > Privacy > Health > COVID-19 logging, but I don't believe the functionality can be turned on until an app that takes advantage of it has been installed.


Submitted by turner42 on Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Because both Google and Apple are concerned about privacy, the tracking option for the apps that will eventually work with iOS 13.5 is off by default.
so, you do not have to opt out, you have to opt in.
So, upgrading to 13.5 will not open you to tracking unless you want to be tracked. Also, that won't even be an option until apps are released to use this feature. As for knowing when such an app is released, I suspect you would have to be hiding under a rock not to hear about it when apps are released.

I find it funny that folks are already tracked by google, facebook and others, but it seems offensive to be clearly told you're been tracked. Not that I think it is right though.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Thursday, May 21, 2020

I downloaded a covid tracking app and the apple covid 19 and sign in and still does not work with tracking on privacy. Can not turn it on.They do not even suggest an app to use. There are many. The one I got is covid 19 tracking.

Submitted by Chris Hill on Thursday, May 21, 2020

I have tried in mail, messages, and notes to type on an external keyboard. I usually keep my software keyboards set to speak letters, and my hardware keyboards to speak nothing. This works fine in Messages and Notes, but mail speaks letters, and sometimes will even throw in a phonetic to make the process even more distracting. I've tried two different keyboards with the same result.

Submitted by Khushi on Thursday, May 21, 2020

I just updated my iPhone.. and went into settings>privacy>health> covid 19 exposure login.
when I tapped on it, it said "covid 19 exposure login/notification is not available in your region."
I'm from India.
and we already have an app named arogya setu which notifies us when we come in contact with someone who's positive.
does this mean that this feature is not in this region? if yes, then I'm disappointed.

Submitted by Jeff on Thursday, May 21, 2020

Reading through these comments, I think there's some misunderstanding about these new features.

FaceID doesn't unlock your phone if you're wearing a mask. It's just quicker to bring up the keypad to enter your PIN when it recognizes that you're wearing a mask.

And all that Apple included in this release regarding Covid19 tracing is an API. Health organizations need to develop the apps to utilize this API. The apps that folks are finding in the app store now are not apps that were developed using this API. That's why they don't seem to work with it.

Here's an article that explains this in clearer terms.

Submitted by AliceP104 on Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thank you AppleVis for your informative article as always.
AppleVis has been my go-to destination for keeping track of iOS 13 developments, especially where accessibility is concerned.
Thanks to the presence of very few bugs and no bugs introduced in this version, I finally updated to iOS 13 last night and I'm very glad I did.
I wanted to upgrade in preparation for when the apps are developed which use the exposure notification API but it is a bonus that some of the accessibility bugs have been resolved too.
Unfortunately, I cannot comment on Smart Invert as I have no useful vision so purely rely on VoiceOver functionality but I hope that that is fixed in the very near future so that iOS 13 is fully accessible to everyone regardless of sight level.

Submitted by Jimmy V on Thursday, May 21, 2020

I updated both my ipod touch 7th gen and iphone 8 to 13.5 last night. Update went really well. I'm so glad that voiceover no longer says text field when there really wasn't one.
For those worried about the contact tracing being on all the time, it's not. It's off by default and can't be turned on unless you have an app installed that makes use of it

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Thursday, May 21, 2020

In reply to by Jimmy V

Can not find an app the works with it. Live in Chicago, did a search try several that I thought would work but no success.

Submitted by Missy Hoppe on Thursday, May 21, 2020

I installed this update yesterday, and over all, I am not noticing any significant differences, good or bad. When I open an email message to read, it still says "actions available" after every single line of the message. That seems rather silly since, at least so far as I know, most email messages should be just a read only text field. I really hope that this behavior is eliminated when iOS 14 is released. Sure, it's a very minor annoyance in the grand scheme of life, but it's hard to comprehend how that kind of bug could have been introduced in the first place.

Submitted by Brian Giles on Thursday, May 21, 2020

In reply to by Holger Fiallo

You could find out when a contact tracing app is available by looking on your state's covid19 website, which is easy to find in Apple's covid-19 app.

I've already found ours, but haven't installed it yet as they have decided to use their own system instead of using Apple and Google's API. Not sure how I feel about that.

Submitted by Bingo Little on Friday, May 22, 2020

Just to reiterate, as the misunderstanding still appears to be continuing in some folk: the track and trace functionality will not work unles your country or state has chosen to use the apple/Google model for its track and trace system. India, the UK, France are three notable countries that, for the moment at least, are not planning to use the Apple/Google API, though in the UK our app is still in the pilot stage so it's possible that could change. So that means that if, say, you're French you're going to get nothing out of this new feature except when you travel abroad to a country that uses it. Mind you, Monsieur Macron has said the French will be able to go on their sacrosanct summer holidays in August, so it might still come in handy. In the UK the NHS has declined to use the Apple API because, as I understand it, the API doesn't share the right sort of information to allow our test, track and trace model to be effective the way it's been set up. Rightly or wrongly, the NHS believes Apple and Google have got the balance wrong in favour of privacy.

Submitted by CertDoctor on Friday, May 22, 2020

Heard on the UK RNIB Tech Talk podcast, that Steve, had some odd voice issues with VoiceOver, switching voices periodically on his new iPhone SE 2020 edition. Didn't think much about it until I from a student today who is having what she describes as being similar, although it seems the voices switch much more frequently. Steven seem to suggest, it cleared itself up after a few days, after perhaps downloading some new voice package updates or something. On older iPhones like the 6s and 7 I've see the voices get completely corrupted, such that neither Siri or VoiceOver works, until you redownload oneof the voices. This later problem I've seen several times, while the switching thing I haven't seen in person yet.

Submitted by Pelle on Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Hi, I have had problems when writing emails and submitting web forms. VoiceOver quite often was silent when I tried to read the editable text word by word or character by character.
Moreover, when I dictated text with my phone in silent mode off, the VoiceOver speech sometimes stopped when it was about to speak out the inserted text.
It seems like both of these bugs have been fixed. My phone is an iPhone 6S, and I use a Swedish voice.