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All your questions answered about the COVID Safe contact tracing app

The COVID Safe app was released yesterday and many have already downloaded and registered to take part in contact tracing – but there are still a lot of questions being asked about the app, how it works and what devices it will work with.

Here are all your COVID Safe app questions answered:

I am using an older device – will it work with the COVID Safe app?

Android smartphones running Android 6 or later are fine to run the app. But older devices (five years or older) running Android 5, and which cannot be updated, unfortunately cannot run the app.

If you are using an iPhone, the COVID Safe app will work with iOS 10 or later which means it will work on the iPhone 5 or later.


If I am close to a person who doesn’t have the app – will it register within the app?

No, both devices need to have the COVID Safe app installed and running in the background on their devices.

If I am close to a person for 14 minutes and not 15 minutes will anything be registered within the app?

No it won’t. The app needs 15 consecutive Bluetooth handshakes to be registered in the app of each person.

Do I need to be connected to the internet or the cellular network for the COVID Safe app to work?

No, you don’t. Bluetooth works between devices which means the app does not connect to the internet.


Why does the Android version of the COVID Safe app require location permission if the app is not meant to track me?

The Android app says it needs to be granted location access – which does not means your location – to work properly. Experts have all agreed the app is private and secure and does NOT track you.

Can my phone be hacked through Bluetooth if I am running the app?

Not really –  phones are near impossible to hack via Bluetooth and the person would have to be within 10m of you for quite a while before they could even begin. You’re more at risk through wi-fi network or the cellular network which is why you should some protection on your smartphone.

Does the app need to be running in the background?

Yes, it does. If you are clearing and stopping apps to free up more memory on your phone then do it one app at a time rather than all at once because that will shut the COVID Safe app.

Can I still listen to my headphones through Bluetooth if I am running the COVID Safe app?

Yes you can. Your smartphone can handle several Bluetooth connections at the same time so you can keep listening to your headphones and keep your smartwatches, trackers and car connections active.

Will having Bluetooth on all the time run down my smartphone’s battery?

Not really. We already use Bluetooth quite a bit when connecting to headphones, wearable and our cars. It is a low energy connection and the COVID Safe app using Bluetooth should not have much impact on your battery.

Does the COVID Safe app use much data?

The app will use less than 1MB of data a day which includes the data you send or receive from another COVID Safe app if you are together for 15 minutes or longer.

How well can Bluetooth measure 1.5m?

Bluetooth can measure short distances up to 2m and then can detect up to 10m and further. And it does depend on now close the other device is and signal strength. Another minor variable is how well an Android phone can react to an iPhone and vice versa. We suspect an Android to Android and iPhone to iPhone handshake with this app would be stronger.

Is the app really going to respect my privacy?

Yes it is. The government has legislated a change to the Biosecurity Act that will prohibit access to the data generated by the app outside the relevant state and territory health officials who have been authorised by the user to access the data base.

How long will the app hold the data it collects?

The app will delete the data after 21 days.

Can I see the contact data collected by the app?

No you can’t. The data within the app is encrypted and stored securely on your device.

Will my name and number be set to another device if I am in contact for 15 minutes or longer?

No – the device name is not broadcast – just a Bluetooth address that’s then encrypted.

Can I use a fake name when I register with the COVID Safe app?

Yes you can but you can’t use a fake number because it needs this number to verify your registration.

You can download the COVID Safe app for Android and iPhone here.