Google's coronavirus 'contact tracing' update won't come to ALL Android phones – how to check if yours will get it

GOOGLE'S "contact-tracing" coronavirus tech will be delivered using its Play Services – but won't arrive on all Android smartphones.

The system – built in partnership with Apple – will power the new NHS app that's designed to reveal if you've been near a coronavirus victim.

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Last week, Apple and Google told how they had partnered to build a contact-tracing system.

This will use low-energy Bluetooth signals to log how, when and where phone owners come into contact with each other.

Users who have tested positive for COVID-19 can flag this, allowing the app to warn any other user who may have come into contact with them.

But only select Android phones will be able to access the systems.

The update will be pushed using Google Play Services, and will arrive on all Android phones using Android 6.0 Marshmallow or later.

If you're using a phone on an older version, you should make sure to update your software.

Google released Android 6.0 in October 2015, so some Android phones bought before then might not be able to get the update.

The situation is also tricky for anyone using a Huawei phone.

That's because US restrictions mean that Google cannot offer Play Services on newer Huawei handsets.

To get around this, Google is publishing a detailed framework of how the system works, so third-party companies can make their own versions.

Huawei could decide to use this, though it hasn't been confirmed.

How to check Android version and update

Here's the official guidance from Google…

See which Android version you have

  • Open your phone's Settings app.
  • Near the bottom, tap System And then Advanced And then System update.
  • See your 'Android version' and 'Security patch level'.

Get the latest Android updates available for you
When you get a notification, open it and tap the update action.

If you cleared your notification or your device has been offline:

  • Open your phone's Settings app.
  • Near the bottom, tap System and then Advanced and then System update.
  • You'll see your update status. Follow any steps on the screen.

NHSX – the health service's tech wing in the UK – is said to be working at "breakneck speed" with Apple and Google.

"We believe this is important in helping the country to return to normality," one Whitehall insider told the Sunday Times.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is now reportedly looking at ways to get people to install the app – as at least 60 per cent need to for it to work efficiently.

One idea being considered is allowing those who do to resume normal work and home life, say the reports.

The 'contact tracing' will play a vital role in managing the deadly virus, according to health experts.

The system will work by emitting unique Bluetooth signals and then phones within around two metres can record information about their encounters.

Those who test positive for coronavirus can then opt to send an encrypted list of the phones they came near to onto Apple and Google.

The system will then trigger alerts to those who have potentially been exposed to the killer infection.

Medics would then need to confirm that a person has tested positive for COVID-19 before they can send on the data.

Will the app be safe?

Here's what Google says the app does and doesn't do…

  • Doesn’t collect personally identifiable information or user location data
  • List of people you’ve been in contact with never leaves your phone
  • People who test positive are not identified to other users, Google or Apple
  • Will only be used for contact tracing by public health authorities for COVID-19
    pandemic management
  • Doesn’t matter if you have an Android phone or an iPhone – works across both

The rare collaboration should accelerate usage of apps which aim to get potentially infected individuals into testing or quarantine more quickly and reliably.

The logs will be scrambled to keep infected individuals' data anonymous.

However, to be effective the system would require millions to opt into the tech and therefore trust the companies' security safeguards.

Apple and Google said their contact tracing system will not track GPS location.

In other news, the UK Government has launched a coronavirus chatbot on WhatsApp.

Facebook is delivering "verified" coronavirus info daily to the top of News Feeds.

And, we debunked some of the most outrageous coronavirus conspiracy theories.

What else do you think tech giants should be doing to help tackle the coronavirus crisis? Let us know in the comments!

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