The new app for contact-tracing has launched in England and Wales today – but it could produce thousands of ‘false positives’, you may need a software update, and if you have an iPhone 6 or older it won’t work. Here’s the full list of phones that do work
Get our daily coronavirus email newsletter with all the news you need to know direct to your inbox
Huge numbers of Brits will be unable to use the long-awaited NHS coronavirus app because it only works on newer phones.
The Covid-19 app finally launched in England and Wales overnight – and uses Bluetooth tracking to alert users who spent time within two metres of a coronavirus sufferer.
The app also allows users to check in to pubs using a QR code, making it easy to then alert them if there’s an outbreak. Businesses are now required by law to display the official NHS QR code posters.
And it allows people who do get symptoms to book a test and see a live ‘countdown clock’ to the end of their self-isolation.
Users must have a phone capable of supporting either the Android Marshmallow (v6.0) operating system or Apple’s iOS 13.5, in order for the Bluetooth tracking to work properly.
That means people who have an iPhone 6 or older, or older Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy phones, won’t qualify.
Other people who have phones which do work with the app may need to carry out a time-consuming software update before they can download it.
The decision could disadvantage thousands of poorer or older smartphone users who do not have the latest tech.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted the app could not be used by everyone but defended the requirements, saying: “It needs the accurate version of Bluetooth for it to work as accurately as possible.”
He told BBC Breakfast: “I appreciate it isn’t universal because not everybody’s got either a phone or a phone that works for this app.
“But the vast majority of us do and the more people who download it, the safer we’ll be.”
One said: “Typical – it does not work on my iPhone 6. Not everyone will have the latest iPhones – incredibly frustrating.”
Another sent a message to Mr Hancock saying: “Tried to download @NHSCOVID19app but it doesn’t support iPhone 6.. Hi @MattHancock can I please get some monies to buy the new iPhone?”
But other Twitter users gave short shrift to those who cannot use the app. One said: “Seriously, who is still running with an iPhone 6 or older. Might was well be running a Nokia 3310 – so many apps just don’t work on phones that old.”
Another said: “I’m struggling to see how this is a government failing, though. The iPhone 6 came out 6 years ago. In that time, technology has moved on a long way. A track and trace app would likely kill a phone of that age.”
The app finally launched nationwide today after the first failed version only worked on a tiny minority of iPhones.
It will alert people when they have spent more than 15 minutes in close proximity with someone who later tests positive for Covid-19.
The app can give users who’ve been exposed orders to go into self-isolation for 14 days, in order to protect their friends and loved ones. For people suffering symptoms themselves, the period is 10 days.
But it’s understood the app can produce “false positive” results, claiming someone has been within two metres when actually they were further away.
The false positive rate was as high as 45% in early trials. Officials yesterday said that has improved by 25% during the pilot stage but the overall false positive rate is unclear.
Orders to self-isolate through the app are not enforceable by law, and people who breach them will not be fined.
However, it is a legal requirement to self-isolate if you are told personally to do so by the separate NHS Test and Trace service.
People who breach that law could be fined £1,000, rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders, from Monday.
Officials are working on the assumption that the app could have a “meaningful impact” if at least 15% of the population use it.
But Matt Hancock claimed even two people using the app would be a good thing – despite the tiny chance of them meeting each other.
He told Sky News: “Even if only 2 people downloaded it and they came into close contact and 1 had tested positive, then it would work for the other.”
The Health Secretary told BBC Breakfast that the more people who download the new coronavirus app across England and Wales “the better”, adding it was good “for your community”.
Government disclaimer: The following is a list of Android and Apple smartphones that have been successfully tested with the app. If your phone is listed, and you’re having difficulty installing the app, please make sure you’re on Android Marshmallow or iOS 13.5 or above.
If your phone is not listed, it may not have been tested yet. It may still work as long as it satisfies the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 4 or above and Android Marshmallow (v6.0) or iOS 13.5 or above.
News – NHS coronavirus app only works on newest phones – full list of compatible ones