coronavirus

Apple closing down internal Slack channels where employees debate remote work

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Slack
Solve the problem or delete the channel?
Photo: Stephen Phillips/Unsplash CC

Apple is closing down internal Slack channels to stop employees discussing remote working options, reports Zoe Schiffer from The Verge.

Many Cupertino employees are currently engaged in a Cold War of sorts with their employer over the remote working arrangement coming out of the coronavirus pandemic. As the arguments flare up among staff, Apple has taken the step of shuttering the Slack channels where these are taking place.

Apple sells 33% more iPads in 2020 than it did the year before

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iPad
How tablet shipments break down.
Photo: Counterpoint Research

The global pandemic was bad for many industries. One sector it was good for was the worldwide tablet market, led by Apple’s iPad. According to a new report by Counterpoint Research, Apple sold a third more iPads in 2020 than it did in 2019. In the first quarter of 2021, it expanded its share to a massive 37% of the global tablet market — including hitting an all-times sales record in Japan.

“The basic iPad models accounted for 56% of the overall iPad shipments in Q1 2021,” said Senior Analyst Liz Lee said. “The iPad Air and iPad Pro series came next with 19% and 18% shares, respectively. Since consumers are constantly concerned about prices and portability, the latest iPad 8 emerged as the top-selling model. Launched in October 2020, the iPad Air 4 ranked second on the bestseller list as it was a huge hit with consumers looking for cost-effectiveness as well as high specifications.”

Apple Stores in US will start dropping mask requirements this week

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Why Apple Watch’s iPhone unlock will change your freakin’ life
Wave goodbye to masks at some Apple Stores.
Photo: Ivan Samkov/Pexels CC

If you’ve been dreaming of seeing the bottom half of people’s faces in Apple Stores (odd dream, admittedly!), you’ll get your wish starting this week as many Apple Stores in the U.S. begin loosening their mask requirements.

This comes as major retailers are increasingly getting back to normal as the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Apple has been one of the more cautious parties when it comes to in-store mask policies. The likes of Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Costco have already ditched mandatory mask rules. But Apple was said to be holding back.

Seattle study will loan participants Apple Watch to see if it can help predict COVID

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Apple Watch Series 6
This could prove to be a game-changer for Apple Watch capabilities.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Can the iPhone and Apple Watch help predict illnesses like COVID-19? That’s the question being asked by researchers from Apple, the Seattle Flu Study, and the University of Washington — and you can help them answer it. And get loaned an Apple Watch for the duration of the six-month study for your troubles.

The study is currently recruiting for participants who live in the greater Seattle area. Participants must have “higher than normal risk of respiratory illness because of frequent exposure to other people through work or other activities, health conditions, or other factors.”

Apple and Google block UK contact-tracing app update over privacy concerns

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The NHS COVID-19 app relies on a framework jointly developed by Apple and Google.
Apple and Google teamed up to build their contact-tracing API last year.
Screenshot: NHS

Both Apple and Google have blocked an update to England and Wales’ Department of Health contact-tracing app, built using the tech giants’ API.

The update was intended to be released to coincide with the relaxation of lockdown measures in the United Kingdom. However, it apparently breached one of Apple and Google’s main rules: Apps built with the contact-tracing technology are not allowed to gather location data that could track users.

Coronavirus delay may have fanned flames of iPhone 12 anticipation

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iPhone 12 review
The iPhone 12 has been a big hit for Apple.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, one of the many, many impacts of the spread was the delaying of Apple’s iPhone 12 series. While Apple and its suppliers were able to claw back some of the lost time, the iPhone 12 devices were ultimately pushed back to late October and early November, rather than the usual September release.

But while this might have been frustrating for Apple and customers alike, a new piece of research suggests it may have actually been a net positive. According to Counterpoint Research, the delay could turn out to have been a prudent move for Apple. It reports:

Coronavirus game dev blasts Apple’s blanket ban of COVID-19 apps

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Corona Control Game
Too hot for the App Store? That's what temperature checks are meant for.
Photo: Florian Mueller

When Florian Mueller submitted his latest game to the App Store, he didn’t think it would end with him filing a complaint against Apple with the European Union, the U.S. Department of Justice and other antitrust authorities around the world.

But that’s exactly what happened after Apple rejected his Corona Control Game due to its COVID-19 theme. Google, which barred Mueller’s game from the Google Play store, is also named in his complaints.

Germany-based Mueller, who has another career as a blogger on legal issues, is not happy with how Apple and Google handled his game submission.

“When [Apple and Google] rejected the game at the beta-testing stage, I was indeed surprised that they took issue with it in such a fundamental way they wouldn’t even let us distribute it to testers,” Mueller, 51, told Cult of Mac.

Apple Watch could spot COVID-19 symptoms a week before it strikes

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Apple Watch Series 6
Two studies suggest Apple Watch could be a useful diagnostic tool.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Smartwatches such as Apple Watch could detect COVID-19 infections a week before the wearer feels sick or would test positive for the novel coronavirus, two medical studies suggest.

Since such devices can identify subtle changes in heart rate that might indicate an early infection, they could spot asymptomatic individuals, who make up a sizable proportion of COVID-19 cases.

New lockdown measures close all Apple stores in the UK

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apple.store.regent.street.london.1
It's not clear when Apple Stores in the UK will open again.
Photo: Richard Shrum for Cult of Mac

Apple temporarily closed all its brick-and-mortar stores in the United Kingdom on Tuesday as a result of new COVID-19 lockdown measures imposed by the government.

Twenty of the 38 U.K. Apple stores were already closed due to coronavirus. However, new national lockdown measures that came into place Tuesday shuttered the other 18.

Apple boots secret partying app from the App Store

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Vybe Together
No longer to be found in the App Store.
Photo: Vybe Together

Apple has booted an app from the App Store accused of helping promote secret indoor parties during COVID-19 lockdowns.

The Vybe Together app was connected with a TikTok account (also removed) that promoted New York-area parties. While its creators claim that they weren’t encouraging law-breaking behavior, clearly both Apple and TikTok disagreed.

Response to coronavirus outbreak on Mythic Quest set upsets crew members

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Mythic Quest: Quarantine“ is coming to Apple TV+.
Mythic Quest is wrapping up its second season of filming.
Photo: Apple TV+

Coronavirus cases continue to spike around the U.S. and the world — and the set of Apple TV+ shows is no exception. With several positive COVID-19 tests having been reported on the set of Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, the show creator and one of its lead actors Rob McElhenney sent out a message to staff, Variety reports.

But not everyone was happy about it.

Remote-working Apple engineers use AR to guide technicians in China

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Apple augmented reality has business potential
Apple
Photo: Apple

Apple engineers used remote control robots and iPads equipped with custom augmented reality software to guide technicians in overseas factories, due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Usually Apple engineers make frequent visits to places like China, where Apple carries out manufacturing. However, this year’s coronavirus lockdown has made this impossible — leading to Apple having to make some tech-savvy adjustments.

There’s a massive error with UK’s contact-tracing coronavirus app

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covid.19.coronavirus.graphic1
App may not have been sending out alerts correctly.
Photo: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The UK’s botched contact-tracing COVID app has run into its latest hurdle — this time the fact that thousands of people have been possibly exposed to coronavirus without being told that this is the case.

The reason for this is that the app used the wrong risk threshold to send out warnings. In essence, it assumed that people were too far away for transmission to be possible — even when they weren’t. As a result, “shockingly low” numbers of people received warnings.

Lack of COVID-19 contact-tracing apps shows limits of Apple’s power

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iOS 13.7 contact tracing feature: Life-saver, or NSA spy tool?
It's not Apple's fault. But it's certainly frustrating.
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

Apple and Google moved fast to develop a COVID-19 contact-tracing solution that was both smart and privacy conscious. Unfortunately, more than six months after the companies announced the cross-platform approach to contact tracing, few places in the United States use it.

It’s a tough lesson for the world’s biggest tech company. And one that everyone is a little bit poorer for having learned.

What to expect from Apple’s pandemic-afflicted earnings report

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Apple Q3 2020 earning results come out July 30.
Apple Q3 2020 earnings were almost certainly pushed up by the iPhone SE and weighed down by COVID-19.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

When Apple reports its fiscal third-quarter earnings Thursday, the world will learn how the company is doing in the middle of a global pandemic.

Analysts predict a drop in revenue. But Apple itself previously said it’s seeing an increase in Mac and iPad sales. And investors have pushed the stock up almost 30% this year.

Apple Maps warns users to self-isolate if they travel internationally

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covid.19.coronavirus.graphic2
Apple is doing its bit to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Photo: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

With travel picking up again following COVID-19 lockdown, Apple Maps is now alerting users who travel internationally of localized self-isolation guidance.

The feature was pointed out on Twitter by Kyle Seth Gray, who said he received a message after being at the airport. The pop-up notification pointed him to official guidance online. It also included a message that advised Gray to “stay home and watch [his] health for 14 days” in accordance with rules.

Apple re-closes retail stores in Melbourne, Australia after coronavirus spike

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Apple Chadstone store
Apple Chadstone is one of the stores to re-close.
Photo: Apple

Apple is re-closing four more of its Apple Stores in Melbourne, Australia as coronavirus cases spike again in the region.

Apple Chadstone, Apple Southland, Apple Doncaster, and Apple Fountain Gate will all be temporarily closing down, along with Apple Highpoint, which closed its doors last week. Australian Apple Stores began reopening two months ago, after having been shuttered since March 14.

These are the changes Apple Park is making as employees return from lockdown

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Apple leases new offices near to Apple Park
Apple Park is starting to get back to normal.
Photo: Duncan Sinfield

Just as it has with reopening Apple Stores, Apple is putting protective measures in place to keep employees safe as they return to Apple Park after lockdown.

These measures include optional COVID-19 swab testing, temperature checks, closed kitchens, social distancing measures, and an insistence on face masks.

Apple Stores reopening in the US; here are the safety measures Apple’s putting in place

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Apple Store reopening
From masks to temperature checks, Apple Stores will have some changes when they open their doors again.
Photo: Apple

How will your Apple Store be different when it reopens after the coronavirus closures? In an open letter published Sunday, Apple retail chief Deidre O’Brien shared more details about Apple’s approach to reopening its stores — and the measures it’s implementing.

These include free face masks, temperature checks, social distancing strategies, and more. Apple will also this week begin reopening stores across the U.S.

Stanford study to probe if Apple Watch can detect coronavirus

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Apple Watch alerts user of irregular heart rhythms in sleep
Apple Watch study to look for ways to spot COVID-19.
Photo: Apple

Could the Apple Watch detect if you have coronavirus using data of your heart’s rhythm and respiration? A Stanford University study is planning to find out.

New research, reported on Thursday by Gizmodo, is looking for people with various smartwatches, like the Apple Watch, to be part of a ‘Wearables Data’ study.

Apple to bring essential staff back to offices in phased return

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Apple leases new offices near to Apple Park
Apple employees will return to work in a phased approach.
Photo: Duncan Sinfield

Apple reportedly plans to gradually return its corporate employees to work over the next few months, likely starting with those focused on major hardware projects.

The phased plan will return thousands of Apple workers to locations around the world, including the company’s main campus in Silicon Valley, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.