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How to fix COVID-19 exposure notifications on your new iPhone 12

Published Oct 27th, 2020 4:32PM EDT
iPhone 12 bug
Image: Apple

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  • Apple brought COVID-19 Exposure Notifications to iOS 13 earlier this year, but some iPhone 12 owners are running into error messages when they attempt to use contact tracing apps.
  • It appears that using an iCloud Backup to transfer data from an old iPhone to an iPhone 12 turns off exposure notifications, though it’s not clear why.
  • You need to turn exposure notifications back on once you’ve moved to your new phone.

If you have upgraded to a new iPhone at least once over the past few years, you probably know how simplified the process has become. Once you’ve taken your new iPhone out of its box and powered it on, the transfer of data from your old phone happens almost automatically. Of course, it’s not a perfect system, and it appears that the COVID-19 exposure notifications that Apple added in iOS 13.7 are causing issues for iPhone 12 early adopters.

According to a BBC News report, some iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro users in England and Wales have noticed that once they have finished their iCloud Backup data transfers, they start receiving error messages when they attempt to open the NHS Covid-19 app. Thankfully, there’s a simple fix, no matter where you live.

If you are experiencing any issues with an app that takes advantage of Apple’s COVID-19 exposure notifications, you should be able to fix them by opening the Settings app, tapping Exposure Notifications, scrolling to the bottom, and selecting Turn On Exposure Notifications. You can also just delete the COVID-19 tracking app that you’re using and reinstall it, but you’ll lose the locations that you’ve checked into.

As The Verge explains, the issue does not appear to be specific to the National Health Services COVID-19 contact tracing app in the UK. The site restored an iPhone 12 from a backup and found that exposure notifications had been turned off, which suggests that it might be a problem with iOS 14 to be addressed in an update.

“Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread,” Apple said in a press release about Exposure Notifications from April. “A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.”

Contact tracing is key to finding and limiting the spread of outbreaks before they lead to spikes in infection rate, the likes of which we are currently seeing all around the United States. In addition to downloading a COVID-19 tracing app, you should also wash your hands, wear a mask, and avoid large gatherings, especially indoors.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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