Singapore's contact tracing app isn't mandatory because it doesn't work on iOS

Trace Together
Trace Together (Image credit: Lianhe Zaobao)

What you need to know

  • Singapore's TraceTogether contact tracing app has been a bit of a letdown.
  • The minister in charge has admitted that it does not function properly on iOS.
  • That's because Singapore is using a partly-centralized database, meaning the Bluetooth function of the app is restricted.

A Singapore government minister has admitted its contact tracing app has not been made mandatory because it doesn't really work on iOS.

As reported by Mashable SE Asia:

But Singaporean authorities discovered a fatal flaw with their contact tracing app. It works fine on Android, not so much on iOS devices. The app, TraceTogether, hasn't been made compulsory for Singaporeans for this very reason, according to Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan.

The report notes that "real-time Bluetooth scanning" is suspended on iOS when the app is running in the background, making the app "incredibly inefficient and cumbersome on iPhones."

Balakrishnan says that Singapore has had "repeated discussions" over both technology and policy with Apple, but that they have "not yet been able to find a satisfactory solution."

Back in May a BBC report noted that the Singapore TraceTogether app was only being used by about 20% of the population and that there had been a "resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the country." That report notes that Singapore had said it would "fall in line" with Apple's remit of a decentralized system, and a spokesperson said:

"We are working with Apple and Google to make the app more effective, especially for iOS users"

This most recent report however seems to suggest that since then, Singapore has not managed to make the necessary adjustments. Only a quarter of the population has downloaded the app, but as mentioned, the government has not made the app mandatory because of its poor iOS performance.

Australia has also fallen foul of issues with its iOS contact tracing app, repeatedly claiming that the app would work despite warnings to the contrary.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9