Australia’s COVIDSafe Contact Tracing iPhone App Needs to Continuously Run in the Background to Work Properly

At the beginning of this week, the Australian government launched its contact tracing app COVIDSafe. Since then, the app has already been downloaded over two million times. The Australian government has based the app of Singapore’s TraceTogether app. Since the app does not use the upcoming official contact tracing API from Apple, it has one major issue.

COVIDSafe does a “digital handshake” with other devices that are within five feet of each other. It then informs users if they have been near a COVID-19 infected person for more than 15 minutes. The issue with the app is that it needs to be always running in the background and users must keep Bluetooth on their iPhone enabled. The app even instructs users to keep the app running and sends out a push notification if it stops running in the background.

The problem is that iOS automatically closes or suspends background apps if they are not used for a long time and it also prevents them from collecting Bluetooth data in the background. Plus, many users are in the habit of manually swiping up and closing apps running in the background on their iPhone. Doing so with the COVIDSafe app, however, will prevent it from working properly. Users are also recommended to not use their iPhone in low power mode since the OS then aggressively manages apps running in the background. This is the same issue that was raised by France as well for its contact tracing app for coronavirus.

None of these issues are found in the Android version of the app since Google does not aggressively manage background apps and also allows them to use Bluetooth and collect data in the background.

Right now, if you live in Australia and have the COVIDSafe app installed on your iPhone, your only option is to keep the app always open or to keep opening it from time to time to ensure that it works properly. The Australian health ministry is working with Apple on this issue and plans on further improving the app.

[Via ABC]