Life isn't easy for anyone right now. That's true for businesses and individuals. Over the past two months, the world has completely changed in so many ways from how we work, to how we teach our children. One of the few bright spots has been the ability for people to remain connected through technology, even while maintaining social distancing.
The problem is, not all technology was ready for a world where almost all interaction is remote, and in many cases, people have found that there are plenty of situations where it's lacking.
For example, unlocking your iPhone with FaceID is next to impossible while wearing a mask. Sure, you still have the option to use your passcode, but normally that's only after your device tries--and fails--to scan your face several times.
Now Apple is adding some features to its next developer beta version for iOS 13.5 that will address that and other needs in order to make life a little easier.
Contact Tracing API
The first major change relates to the joint effort between Google and Apple to create technology to allow public health organizations to develop apps that assist in contact tracing. Apple has begun seeding the API to allow those developers to roll out the functionality more broadly in mid-May.
Considering the importance placed on contact tracing by health authorities in getting us back to some version of normal, this is an important step. It also gives us more information about exactly what these apps may look like. Along these lines, it's also worth mentioning that on Tuesday, the company added Covid-19 testing locations to Apple Maps.
The next feature directly addresses the Face ID challenge I mentioned earlier. If you're wearing a mask and your iPhone can't read your face, it will eventually prompt you for your passcode. The struggle is that it can take a few seconds before it does. The latest beta version, however, will prompt the lock screen to display the passcode keyboard immediately.
Of course, it's not lost on me that this suggests masks may be a thing we'll need to deal with for the foreseeable future. That's not something I'm particularly happy about, but I'm grateful that Apple recognizes how our current circumstances impact our ability to interact with our devices in the ways we've grown used to and is making changes accordingly.
Apple is also making FaceTime a little more useful by enabling the ability to keep the grid view during a call. Currently, the app automatically enlarges the view of whoever is talking. Now, you'll be able to keep all of the participants visible, similar to the interfaces of Zoom or Google Meet. To enlarge another participant's view, simply tap that person's video. Apple is making this feature optional, and it can be enabled in the FaceTime settings.
It's also worth mentioning that all of these features are in beta, meaning there's always a chance they could change or be removed before the final release. Still, I think it's an important lesson about how much we've come to depend on technology and how much we depend on tech companies to continue coming up with creative ways for their devices to help us stay connected.