Some new Huawei phones and some old ones cannot run the NHS contact tracking application that is being tested on the Isle of Wight, NHSX said.
Dr. Geraint Lewis, who is responsible for developing NHS Covid-19 applications, said that this new tool will only work with newer operating systems on Apple and Samsung phones.
Speaking to BBC Radio Solent, he said cell phones must have the ability to run Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and be able to run Apple iOS 11 or above or Android 8 and above.
Some listeners have contacted radio stations to say that the application, which was being tested on the island before it was launched nationally, did not work on older devices.
Dr Lewis said: “There are three reasons why applications might not work on certain smart phones, it’s good the development team hasn’t had time to support that phone.
“For example the Huawei phone, we haven’t gotten there yet, but we hope to do it soon.
“The second reason is that if the cellphone itself doesn’t have a thing called Bluetooth Low Energy in it, certain older phones don’t have BLE and that is the technology we use to measure the distance between cellphones.
“The third reason is the operating system, we currently support iOS version 11 and above and Android version 8 and above, so if you can update the operating system that hopefully can help.”
A spokesman from Huawei said it was working to ensure the application would work on all of its devices, adding that the majority of Huawei smartphones had access to the Google Play store from where the application could be downloaded.
Meanwhile, other listeners complained that the application drained the battery on their cellphone, but Dr. Lewis said that it was designed to be low energy and only used 1% of the battery in his cellphone and asked people with problems to provide feedback to NHSX.
Dr. Lewis explained that Android phones are asking for permission to use location services because the system combines with bluetooth permission and he has written to Google to show that this is “confusing”.
He added: “This is not a tracking application, it does not know geographically where you are, all that is measured is the distance between your cellphone and others.”
Explaining how the application works, he said: “If you download the application, it starts taking anonymous measurements of how far you are from other application users and stores that information anonymously on your mobile.
“If you later experience new symptoms of coronavirus, fever or persistent cough, then you can choose to send that information to the NHS, then we will notify people you know close and then arrange a virological swab. Tests are sent to your door in a few hours.
“The system exists to protect the whole community, so if enough people download and use this application everyone will be protected regardless of whether they themselves have a compatible cellphone.”
He added: “The great advantage of an application over a more traditional form of contact tracking, is that you can almost make an industrial process, it can send notifications very quickly to people as soon as they develop these symptoms which is the time when they most contagious of them. “
Dr Lewis said that 55,000 people had downloaded the application so far but it was impossible to say that it all was on the Isle of Wight.
A spokesman from Huawei said: “We are working with relevant partners to ensure the application works on all Huawei devices. Huawei smartphones have been sold in the UK for almost a decade.
“During that time we have sold millions of devices and have become market leaders throughout Europe. All Huawei smartphone devices in the UK are based on the Android operating system. The majority have access to the Google Play store, where the NHS Covid 19 application can be downloaded. “
An NHSX spokeswoman said: “The majority of those who have Huawei phones will be able to download and use the application because most devices run Android and can use the Google Play Store.
“For the small number of Huawei devices that use AppGallery, NHSX works hard to provide support.”
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