The UK will switch to the Apple and Google model for its COVID-19 test-and-trace app, as attempts to develop the original app did not work well enough on Apple’s iPhone, said the government on Thursday.
A smartphone app developed by the NHS was initially expected to release in May, but did not happen due to software problems.
Health minister Matt Hancock appeared to blame Apple for its fault, adding that the Google-Apple system would benefit from work done on the abortive NHS app.
"As it stands, our app won’t work because Apple won’t change their system, but it can measure distance. And their app can’t measure distance well enough, to a standard we are satisfied with," Hancock said at the daily news conference.
"So we’ve agreed to join forces with Google and Apple, to bring the best bits of both systems together," he added.
Those in charge of running the programme admitted that the change of tracking app was unplanned but denied that it was a setback, emphasising that they did not want to rush out an app which fell short of standards.
The NHS app tested on the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of England, was found to work well on Google’s Android operating systems but not on Apple iPhones.
However, the government wants further improvements to the Google-Apple platform, meaning that the original hope of a launch in May is set to be missed by months rather than weeks.