Sunday, August 16, 2020

Apple Watch Needs A Thermometer - With Heart Rate and Oximeter and Other Health Data, It Could Help Users Avoid Spread Covid

 Apple will release the next Apple Watch in less than 2 months.  There are a lot of rumors out there but there is no concrete evidence what new medical sensors will be included if at all.  While oximeter is the likely candidate given the era of Covid we live in (and Apple likely has been working on it for years), another overlooked feature is just as important it not more so:  a thermometer.

When I was little, electronic watches was all the rage.  Watches that play games.  Watches that has a number pad on it for doing calculations.  The Apple Watch can do all that.  But I also had a Casio watch that was able to give me the temperature.  I did a search on Amazon and found that Casio still sell watches like these.  For you kids out there, sure look and feel a bit vintage.

The Casio one measure the temperature outside, not body temperature.  But fear not, such a technology already exist and Apple should be able to build a body temperature sensor into the Apple Watch.  

During the initial month of the Covid lockdown in Asia, I often saw someone outside of a building taking temperature of people before they are allowed into the building.  I thought that was pretty cool.  We see that here in the US but it's not enough.  Often, the infected are asymptomatic and able to spread the disease.  With the right combination of sensors, we might be able to detect possible infections before symptoms develop.  In a study, researchers found signs of Covid infection 9 days before symptoms developed using watch sensors.

Consider if Apple Watch, which already has a heart rate sensor, is paired with an oximeter and body temp sensors, it would provide even better warnings about Covid infection and perhaps even earlier warning signs.  

A ring called Oura has a body temp sensor that is widely used by the NBA in the current season at the Orlando Bubble. With the Oura, the user is able to get a wide range of data on his or her body through the day, it even tracks sleep.  This allows the user or in the case like the NBA, to see the readiness of its players and see if they could be suffering from any ailment like Covid.  

An Apple Watch with similar sensors could also do the same thing, and possibly more given that there is a bigger market for it than the Oura at this point.  With more data, volunteers could also allow researchers to pool more information regarding health and diseases.  A variety of early warning signs could be developed not just for corona viruses but others as well.

And I could really use something like this for my Apple Watch.  There are been times during the last couple of months when I thought maybe I was infected.  I could not tell if it was just allergies or something worse.  Of course, once I turned on the air filter and after half an hour or so, my symptoms went away. Perhaps with these sensors in my Apple Watch, I could save myself from worrying about nothing.  After all, I had not gone out during my allergy period so it was not likely I had caught Covid.

Oh, if I want all that now, I can get the Oura.  However, I'm not a ring person. As great as the Apple Watch is, well, let's just say that I tolerated it on my wrist.  I would not want something that I have to wear 24/7 on my fingers.  

Bottom line is that there is much improvement that Apple can make to the Apple Watch.  It's impact has been felt widely, mostly from people staying or getting healthier, but also from people saved by the watch because it had warned them of a previously unknown medical condition.  With the oximeter and body temperature sensors, the Apple Watch and save tens of thousands more if not millions during this pandemic.

Note:  Here is a link to the Apple Watch at the Amazon store if you like to help out.  I don't know how much I would get from Amazon if you buy your gears from them through my link but anything would sure help.  

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Apple Can Be Hard To Work With But iOS Is Their Platform So Their Rules

By now, developers and users are taking sides - those who think that Apple is taking away the livelihood of developers by syphoning off 30% of what users pay in the App Store, limiting the freedom of choice for users, and being a big mean faceless corporation versus those who think that since Apple invested billions to create a safe, secured, and easy to use platform and playground with an app store that has created millions of opportunities for developers and users.  Oh, and that Apple has paid developers hundreds of billions, facilitated more than half a trillion dollars of transaction in 2019, and created more than 2 million jobs in the United States because of its economic activities since 2017.  

Attention to Apple's App Store practices, as well as those of Google's, has gained attention as lawmakers look into the supposed outsized influence of Big Tech and social media has on the public.  On July 29th, the CEOs of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple were brought in front of House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law to face questions regarding their alleged unfair, anti-trust, and monopolistic behaviors.  If you saw any part of that, it was mostly grandstanding by the Republicans regarding perceived unfair practice of silencing fringe right conspiracies and falsehoods and almost nothing to do with how the business practices of these companies are illegal.  The Democrats were more on target with their questions but their minds seem made up even before the hearing.  Of course, there a few other companies like Microsoft and the telecoms that should have been there as well.  Sorry, guys.  Perhaps next time.

During the hearing, questions directed at Apple CEO Tim Cook was in regard to the App store policies and the 30% take that Apple levied on app developers to run the store.  From the recent fight initiated by Basecamp, developer of Hey email app, to this week's Fortnite fight started by Epic Games when it decided to add its own payment system to the app, thus violating both Apple and Google's store rules, resulting in the popular gaming app getting removed temporarily from both app stores.  In both cases, it was about money no matter what Apple or the developers are saying.

For developers, they simply don't want to pay Apple thirty cents per dollar.  For developers, they want to keep that 30% cut they're currently giving Apple.  Okay, not all developers.  Just like 99% of them.  Some might actually lower the price of their app and pass the saving to the consumer.  Right.  These are all first world issues.  

For Apple, they are basically saying that the 30% cut they take helps them keep the App Store running smoothly, curated, secured, and easy to use (this part is arguable).  On top of that, Apple most certainly make some money, not all of its cut gets through back into the store.  And if Apple does make a profit, so what?  After all, it has developed highly sought after devices and has spent decades acquiring valuable customers, as in those who are more likely to spend money than, say, those on the Android platform.  This is why developers has consistently made more money developing for the iPhone and iPad than from the larger Android market even though there are more app downloads on Android than on the iPhone and iPad over all.

And as Apple has said, developers have choices of app stores to sell on.  Android, Windows, Mac, and other indie ones.  The only difference here is that on the iOS and iPadOS platforms, there is only Apple's store.  So there are choices.  But developers want to sell to iCustomers so they have to accept Apple store, regardless of whether the developer, customer, you, or I think is fair or not.  Just because it isn't fair does not mean that it is not legal.

When I first heard Steve Jobs said that Apple was taking a 30% cut of all app sales, I was frankly surprised as how high it was.  I did not think it would fly with developers.  And for years, developers did not complain.  Well, not openly anyway.  The way I see it, these issues are coming up now only because developers are making money and they see how much they have to give up to Apple.  When the revenue was at zero, Hey's developer nor Epic said to Apple, "I want to charge my customers direct so if you want to keep my app off the store, so be it".  It was only after they've collected tens of millions that they decided they want even more.

Apple is also at fault - the rules are mostly clear but they did not think of all eventualities.  That's fine.  But when an issue comes up, Apple should admit that it is not clear and it will figure out how to deal with it.  It needs to provide developers clear answers and confidence that Apple will work with them.  However, it does appear that Apple has time and time again dropped the ball on this and failed to give clear concise answers.  If this continues, Apple could walk itself into troubles not only with its users but also lawmakers who do not always have a clear understanding of technology or existing laws governing antitrust.  

Here is an article from Tidbits I found very balanced regarding complaints about the Apple Store.  Do notice at the very top is the 30% cut that developers do not like paying.  I find the more compelling complaints are being Sherlocked, services that complete with Apple being at a disadvantage, and that not all developers are treated the same that result in arbitrary rulings.  The article does complain that Apple products and services are so sticky which makes it harder for users to leave and competitors to complete which I find to make zero sense - you want Apple to lower the quality of its products and platforms and make its services more sucky and less reliable?

Back to the benefit and riches that Apple has facilitated again.  For the sake of argument and say that 80% of the $50 billion in App Store payout is for gaming, let's look at the size of the video game industry world wide.  For 2019, the US market is $18.4 billion and the global market is about $135 billion (Statista, Archive).  Also Nintendo's 2019 revenue was about $11 billion.  By any standard, the App Store has generated a large percentage of the global gaming sales.

Regarding the transaction value through its ecosystem, I would be very interested in seeing the jump in revenue for 2020 as more people spent their time at home and shopping online.  As for the total number of jobs Apple has helped created or had a hand in creating, that figure is likely much bigger than 2017 - back then, Apple was not involved in the creation of games for its Arcade subscription or in the production of videos and films for the Apple TV+ service.

No one knows at this time how the battle between Apple and Google on one side and Epic on the other will play out.  Epic is losing a lot of money and so are Apple and Google.  However, as a percentage of total revenue, it is unlikely the loss of Fortnite revenue will even register on the tech giants' next quarterly earnings.  

Friday, July 24, 2020

Don’t Hold Your Breath For iPhone 12 and Apple Pencil

The countdown for the next iPhone upgrade has started.  It depends on when the clock started but with a September iPhone event less than two months away, Apple fans and people with older iPhones or Android switchers are gearing up to get their hands on the iPhone 12 even in the midst of an pandemic and uncertainties going forward.  Along with the anticipation the plethora of news and rumors, mostly rumors, about what is new with Apple’s mobile devices.  One feature many iPhone users are likely hoping for is Apple Pencil support.  It ain’t happening this year.

With iOS 14 instruction and betas widely available, users have a good idea what Apple has planned.  A lot of times, new features in iOS 14 are not in the beta until after Apple announces new hardware and the features exclusive to the new devices.  Some new camera features in the native camera app were not in the iOS 13 betas until after Apple released the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro.  It’s like that is the case with iPhone 12/12 Pro and iOS 14.

However, there are smokes that point to what Apple have planned.  For example, form factor leaks were on Twitter for at least a month.  Just this week, specs of possible batteries for the 2020 iPhones have become hot topics.  And earlier this year, news that the green iPhone Pro could make way for a blue one this year (which would be a shame).

As for Apple Pencil, the best reference of the pencil to an iPhone was a post back in June from an Apple blog site that mentioned Apple Pencil support on the iPhone is a wanted feature.  At this point, even a sketchy rumor about it would be greatly appreciated.  Alas, there has been nothing on this front.

This is unfortunate given that another rumor about the 2020 iPhone Pro is that it will have a bigger screen with a smaller notch than the current iPhone Pro.  With a screen that is close to 7”, having Pencil support would allow users greater productivity even if it may cannibalize iPad sales.  But even that is unlike unless users buy the iPhone Pro over the closest iPad competitor in terms of size, the iPad mini.  And Apple would definite want users to buy an $1000 iPhone Pro over a $400 iPad mini.  It is unlike that the iPhone Pro will cannibalize the 11.5” and 12.9” iPad Pros just because the iPhone Pro now supports the Apple Pencil.

If anything, it’s high-end Android devices that could take the brunt of an Apple Pencil supported iPhone Pro.  With better support, the Samsung Note could see its sales take a deep dive.  And for Android fans, it might be all that bad in the long term.  The Note really has no competitors unless Apple decides to step into this segment of the mobile market.

Another plus for Apple is the sales of more pencil accessories. Starting at $99, consider if even just 10% of the iPhone Pro users buy one, it is a sales of hundreds of millions if not billions in additional revenue.

Apple Pencil support is coming to the iPhone.  It makes sense for Apple to bring this feature to the iPhone.  After all, picture-in-picture, a previously much sought after iPad only feature for the iPhone, made it into iOS 14 (even for the original iPhone SE), users will eventually be able to draw or scribble on the iPhone with a native pencil support.  When?  Well, Apple is very busy even during a pandemic.

Apple is in the midst of a move from Intel to Apple Silicon (use of iPhone and iPad chips in the Mac), augment reality, and perhaps even the Apple car.  And with the iPhone sell well, maybe support of the Apple Pencil for the iPhone falls in the middle of all that.  Or Apple is waiting for the tech to mature even more and additional uses for the Pencil that iPhone users can benefit directly.  But it’ll come.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

iPad - Next Major Upgrade Should Include Longer Battery Life

The 5th generation iPad Mini is my laptop.  I’m semi-productive on it and I am very satisfied with what I can do with it.  And with the lockdown and working from home, I have begun to explore more of what I can do with it including shooting and editing video with it.  It means I am spending more time with it and not only consuming media, I am doing more CPU intensive tasks with it.  So I think it’s time that Apple rethink what an all-day device means if Apple expects us to use our iPads for more than just play.  Ten hours of battery life is so 2010 (when the original iPad was introduced.

Ten hours might have been adequate in 2010.  Maybe even through most of the decades but as more users use productivity apps, that might even be fine.  From what I gathered, many users use their iPads to write and even do some light video work.  But for the next decade, iPads with 12 to 15 hours of battery life is needed.  And at some point, I think Apple will release iPads with longer battery life starting at the top with the iPad Pro line. 

If you take a look at what’s in the productivity category of the App Store, you still see a lot of writing apps as well as apps your typical mobile warrior will need - organization, meetings, messaging, and collaboration.  And you also see apps that were missing from only a couple of years ago:  CAD (computer-aided design, design, modeling, and photo/video editing apps.  Now, The only things I know about the A-series chips inside our iOS devices is that they are getting more powerful each each and they are more efficient with each generation.  But I also know that they are note quite notebook class chips yet.  And if we are expected to use our iPads as notebook replacements, that means the iPad chips need to work harder which would be a drain on the battery.

This takes me back to something some iPhone users had been asking Apple to do:  give us more battery life and stop making the iPhones thinner and thinner.  And Apple did exactly that with the iPhone XR and the iPhone 11s.  It would make sense for Apple to starting upgrading the battery life for the next generation of iPads so pro users can use their iPads for high-CPU intensive tasks and not worry about the battery life.

And there is another use for the iPad that Apple recently introduced in iPadOS and Mac OS Catalina.  It’s a feature I’ve been using more because I am currently working from home.   For me, it’s hit-and-miss with my iPad mini and MacBook.  It works at intervals and something happens and I get no response from the iPad side.  It could be the MacBook or not, I don’t know for sure. But if it works smoothly, I would be using it more often and that would also be a drain on the battery of the iPad.  

Recently, Apple upgraded the iPad Pro.  It’s the iPad Pro for anyone who did not get last year’s iPad Pro.  It’s a welcoming upgrade but it did not come with a huge jump in performance - on the CPU or battery side.  I don’t know what Apple has plan next for the iPad Pro but I anticipate there to be a multi-year transition to make the iPadOS a cousin to the Mac OS, not just a mere little sibling with only a subset of laptop features.  IPadOS will have more of its own features that allow users to become power users.  I fully expect Apple to upgrade the CPU each year for the foreseeable future.  And this would also be a good time for Apple to make sure the iPad, not just the iPad Pro, have longer battery life to support the future power users.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Should It Be Tim Cook Or Apple As A Company Be Applauded For Its Social Programs, And Would Apple Have Been So Generous If It Was not Apple or With Tim Cook As CEO

I was listening to a podcast today that focused on Apple and Apple products.  One of the hosts described Apple as being courageous in the face of the social and political pressures it had faced over the last three years both from the Trump administration, China's totalitarian regime, and others to today's pandemic raging through the world.  I wondered to myself if the host should have applauded Tim Cook himself or Apple.  There is no doubt that a vast majority of Apple employees share Tim Cook's social and political views.  So much of the employees agrees with Tim's actions and his positions.  And certainly, it has also helped that Tim Cook made many Apple employees very rich during his years as CEO and, hopefully, for many more years to come.

Still, I want to examine this question further:  Tim Cook the man is responsible for all the accolades that Apple has been showered with or should others in the company also share in it as well?  Think for a bit.  Okay, back?  It may not be just one or the other.  As with anything today, there is a scale with Tim Cook on one side and Apple on the other.  And I suspect who deserves the most credit is somewhere in the middle.  

Perhaps in the early part of Tim Cook's years as CEO, he lead the charge with many changes within Apple as a company.  And he had cleaned house during those years.  I don't need to go back and rehash all that.  And Tim Cook, while he appears to be a nice guy, was as certain as Steve Jobs was in that his vision for Apple be carried out.  There were a few rough quarters even as Tim has grown Apple during that time. Today, Apple is the most valuable company in the world that isn't a state backed entity.  All Tim's vision.  

If Tim Cook did not so openly share his political and social views and believe that Apple as a corporation not only have a responsibility to its shareholders but also a responsibility to the society in general, would Apple still be seen as a successful forwarding looking company that is also trying to change the world?  

I think Tim Cook deserved to be seen as the person who made it possible for Apple and other corporations to become more vocal in voicing opinions that in the past corporate boards would stay away from and doing something about it.  And that in turn has paved the way for its employees to more openly support similar efforts.  Okay, mostly liberal and left leaning positions but that is debate for another someone else to take up.

Whatever your political position, President Trump has declared himself a war president and companies like Apple have responded in kind - tens of millions of N95 masks donated, ventilators shipped to hospitals, and Apple even designed face shields for front line healthcare workers.  Apple and others are doing the right thing.  

Tim Cook's Apple, including himself, has stepped up during the world's time of needs.  

Perhaps, the host is right - Apple is to be applauded for its efforts.  After all, this is now Tim Cook's Apple.