The UK has so far rejected Apple and Google’s coronavirus contact-tracing technology in favor of a government-created, less-private solution. However, test trials of the app have revealed a number of issues. Test users on the UK’s Isle of Wight report the app doesn’t work at all on certain iPhones, and those devices that do work are quickly having their batteries drained.
While it was recently reported that the NHS has been considering moving to the more private and efficient system from Apple and Google, no official announcement has been made.
Geraint Lewis, development leader at the health service’s technology group NHSX, recently appeared on the local BBC Radio Solent station to explain how the app works and to answer criticisms of the app. Lewis responded to many listeners’ calls about the app not working.
“[One reason] why the app might not work on a particular smart phone,” he said, “[is that] the development team has not got around to supporting that particular phone.”He also said that Apple iPhones require iOS 11 or later, and Android ones need version 8 or later. “So if you can update the operating system that should hopefully help,” he added.
The iPhone 5s, which debuted in 2013, is the oldest iPhone that can run iOS 11. Meanwhile, large numbers of Android devices cannot run Android 8, which was released in 2017.
However, Lewis indicated that app compatibility isn’t a problem. “The system is there to protect the whole community,” he said, “so if sufficient numbers of people download and use the app everyone will be protected regardless of whether they themselves have a phone that is compatible.”
Lewis said the NHSX app relies on Bluetooth Low Energy, meaning older phones that don’t have that feature cannot use the app. He also remarked that since the app uses BLE it is not draining users’ batteries.
When a listener complained that it does indeed drain his device’s battery, Lewis asked users to send feedback as part of the trial. The UK government expects to roll out the app nationwide in the coming months.