5 Ways Apple Helped with their Amazing Work During this Pandemic

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Apple CEO Tim Cook. (File Photo: IANS)

1. The App:

Apple has updated its coronavirus screening app with new information about COVID-19 symptoms and mask tips.

Apple on Friday issued a new version of its app with updated symptom information and recommendations from the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

New symptoms that could be signs of COVID-19 include chills, shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of smell or taste.

Previously known symptoms of the disease include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is responsible for COVID-19, the CDC said.

Apple also updated its app with tips related to cloth masks, including creating a mask, how to properly wear it and sanitise it.

Apple in late March launched a COVID-19 website and app with a screening tool and other information about the new coronavirus pandemic.

“To help you stay informed, understand symptoms and take proper steps to protect your health, Apple has created a COVID-19 website and a US app in partnership with the CDC,” tweeted Apple CEO Tim Cook.

2. Employees:

Apple has announced that it has shipped 7.5 million face shields to healthcare workers worldwide and continues to ship more than 1 million of these every week to health care providers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said that our worldwide network of supply chain partners, logistics and operations folks in every part of the company “were also sourcing more than 30 million masks for frontline medical workers, enuring they’re donated to places of greatest need in every region around the world”.

“While our product teams were preparing to launch a new iPad Pro, Magic Keyboard, MacBook Air and the new iPhone SE, all of which have been very well received by reviewers and consumers alike, they were also working with our suppliers to design, test, manufacture and distribute more than 7.5 million face shields,’ Cook said during an earnings call this week.

“We continue to ship more than 1 million of these every week to the doctors, nurses and medical personnel on the frontlines,” he added.

Cook said that Apple’s COVID-19 screening app has been downloaded more than two million times, and the web version of the site has been accessed by 3 million unique visitors.

In March, Apple announced that it was donating 10 million masks to fight COVID-19, and was using its supply chain sources to help distribute these around the world.

“How we have responded, what we have been inspired to do, tells an important story about Apple’s great durability as a business, and the enduring importance of our products in our customers’ lives,” said Cook.

3. United States Government Tracking:

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a new document that covers ‘preferred criteria for digital contact tracing apps like the one launched by Apple and Google.

The CDC paper outlines key features public health organisations must look for in a contact tracing or ‘exposure notification’ platforms, with the recommendations closely following methodology implemented in Apple and Google’s tedchnology.

According to CNBC, the CDC said that the minimum criteria for contact notification through apps include manual notices, which suggests a centralized system.

“But it also says that a preferred system under its criteria includes anonymous, automated notifications, like those provided by decentralized systems”.

In the paper, the CDC detailed guidance on “minimum” and “preferred” criteria to be implemented in contact tracing apps and platforms.

In addition to anonymous reporting and notifications, preferred tools can be configured for real-time synchronization of data with public health authorities, support data export when opt-in consent is received, provide automated reminders to exposed contacts and allow users the ability to delete or revoke consent at any time.

“Further, the CDC recommends an open source architecture with offline data entry and cross-platform compatibility, much like Apple and Google’s project,” reports AppleInsider.

A key aspect of the Apple-Google solution is decentralization, with users able to store gathered contact information — anonymized Bluetooth identifiers — on their phones.

Some countries, like the UK, France and Norway, are pushing for a centralized network that stores user information on a server maintained by government authorities.

The UK has decided not to use the framework proposed by tech giants Apple and Google for its NHS coronavirus contact tracing app.

NHSX, the digital arm of the country’s health organisation, is creating a centralised app.

The framework proposed by Apple and Google is a decentralised one, meaning that the tracking information will not be stored in a central server.

Apple and Google this week released the first version of their exposure notification (earlier called contact tracing) Application Programming Interface (API) to select developers associated with public health authorities (PHAs) around the world.

Aimed at helping developers begin testing in anticipation of the API’s release in mid-May, another goal of the release is to encourage feedback that will help improve the various features, the tech giants said in a statement.

4. Testing Sites:

Apple adds COVID-19 testing sites to its Maps across US

Apple has added COVID-19 testing sites to its Maps app across the US, covering all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

With the new update, users can search for COVID-19 testing locations or view them on the Maps directly.

Apple Maps will be able to show information like the place name, the associated healthcare provider, contact phone number and website. It will also surface information about the type of testing location, hospital, and the nature of the site, reports 9To5Mac.

The testing locations will appear with a red medical glyph icon, and a special banner in the Apple Maps card.

The new testing sites in Apple Maps follow the company launching a web portal to let healthcare providers submit their information to be shown on Apple Maps.

Apple also updated its new Mobility Trends website, which provides free access to data about how people are getting around their cities and regions during the COVID-19 crisis.

5. Education:

For 12-year-old Saisha and her mother, lockdown has brought in an immense opportunity to create engaging learning experiences at home.

Beyond the morning online school classes, the mother-daughter duo is learning something else together: Sifting through Apple iPad that has an in-depth collection of apps and books for remote learning that is empowering both parents and kids.

The home app and book collection is designed to support institutions and educators to enable remote learning for all students, no matter where that learning is happening.

As a parent, the device has not only been a boon for Saisha and her mother in these social distancing times but also for thousands of people sheltering at home across the country.

“From BrainPOP Featured Movie to DreamBox Learning Math, from Civilisation AR to 3DBear, the app list is endless. The kid is even enjoying ‘30 Creative Activities for Kids’ which is for children less than her age. We have realised that iPad is more than just an entertainment device but also a great learning guide,” Saisha’s mother who lives in Noida told IANS.

Tablets like iPads are now being seen as a great device for kids these days, both from the entertainment and education points of view.

Apps and guides on iPad are helping bring creativity and coding to any learning environment.

The 30 iPad-based educational activities for kids are designed to help at-home learning for children ages 4 through 8 years old, or pre-kindergarten to second grade.

Some activities are personify something, capture a time-lapse video, see colour in slo-mo, go on a phone walk, storyboard your daily routine and find shapes in nature, etc.

According to Navkendar Singh, Research Director, IDC India, if the use case is education-specific, iPad is seen as a great option because of dozens of well-designed education apps, from both parents and kids’ point of view.

“It is, in fact, a separate growth line for Apple, in India as well. And with this new way of schooling at home, self-learning will become important going forward,” Singh told IANS.

Not just helping students in classrooms or coders at various developers’ hub, iPad has found another success in remote learning for all-age kids at home.

“Here, Apple can really own a niche. Only challenge being pricing for iPads but with iPad Mini and iPad 10.2-inch 2019, Apple has gone aggressive on that front as well,” Singh noted.

Apple iPad mini (fifth generation) with major internal upgrades starts at Rs 34,900 for the Wi-Fi model (64GB) and Rs 45,900 for the Wi-Fi+Cellular model (256 GB).

The 7.9-inch device houses the latest A12 Bionic chip with Neural Engine that will process engaging AR experiences, photo-realistic effects in 3D games and stunning graphics performance within apps.

The iPad mini is also compatible with Apple Pencil (first generation available for purchase separately for Rs 8,500), Bluetooth keyboards and lightning connector – proving to be more than just a device for parents as well as their kids.

Downside: Delays

The coronavirus pandemic that is creating havoc on global supply chain around the world has forced Apple to delay mass production of its upcoming iPhone 12 series by around a month, the media reported on Monday.

According to a Wall Street Journal report citing people familiar with the move, Apple is pushing back the production ramp-up of its flagship iPhones by about a month.

“Apple is forging ahead with plans to release four new iPhone models later this year, people familiar with its plans say. The phones, some with 5G connectivity, will vary in price and come in three sizes – with 5.4-inch, 6.1 inch and 6.7-inch OLED screens,” claimed the report.

In the normal course, Apple launches its flagship iPhones of the year in September.

The WSJ reported that Apple will still manufacture new iPhones in July to September period, but the mass production delay means there may be shortage of new iPhones in an all-important festival season.

Apple has also reportedly postponed the launch of its 5G compatible iPad Pro with 12.9-inch mini-LED display till next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a report in China’s Economic Daily News, the tablet was expected to launch in the second half of 2020 alongside the next-gen iPhone lineup, which is also expected to bring 5G connectivity with Apple’s in-house developed antennas.

Meanwhile, Nikkei Asian Review reported last week that Apple has notified several of its suppliers that it plans to boost iPhone production, “despite some suppliers’ belief that orders could end up being significantly lower”.

Production will be split between the newly announced SE and the fall’s 5G lineup.

Apple is expected to produce 200 million iPhones this year, about 10 per cent lower than the estimate before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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