17+ ways Apple is responding to coronavirus

Teams across Apple are attempting to find ways to respond to the pandemic that's engulfing the globe.

Apple, iOS, macOS, iBooks, WWDC, coronavirus
Hakan Dahlstrom (CC BY 2.0)

Apple is attempting to do as much as it can to contribute to the global response to the Coronavirus pandemic. We’ve identified 17 things Apple has done so far, quite apart from the work it will be doing behind the scenes to fix its supply chains, in the fight.

Apple warned its investors

Apple in mid-February warned investors that it would fail to meet its previous estimated revenue targets of $63 billion to $67 billion. At the time, it cited lower customer demand in Greater China, but this now seems to have become a global problem. The company’s stock continues to decline, though most analysts anticipate recovery toward the end of the year.

WWDC will be held online, not in place

Apple will not hold its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose this year. Instead of inviting thousands of the most important people in its community to get together in one place, the company will hold its conference online instead. It promises its show will still be packed with information.

Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering said:

"I look forward to our developers getting their hands on the new code and interacting in entirely new ways with the Apple engineers building the technologies and frameworks that will shape the future across all Apple platforms."

No March event?

Apple had been expected to announce new products during a March special launch event. These were thought to be new iPad Pro models, new Macs and the iPhone 9/iPhone SE device. Apple did announce Macs and the new iPad Pro in a March press release, but th launch of its new, lower-cost iPhone may have been delayed on a lack of demand and logistical problems.

Sharing the wealth

Apple has donated in excess of $15 million to help support treatment of the sick and mitigate the economic impact of the crisis. This has included substantial donations in Italy.

The company also supports two-to-one corporate matching for any employee donations that relate to coronavirus. The company is presently sourcing and donating millions of masks to health professionals in the U.S. and Europe.

“To every one of the heroes on the front lines, we thank you,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a Tweet.

Siri gets smarter

Siri can now help you figure out whether you are suffering from COV-19. When you ask it a question such as: “Do I have the coronavirus?” you’ll be guided through a series of questions to help you answer the question. You’ll be advised to stay home or to request further help if your symptoms appear severe.

App Store help

The company is promoting telehealth applications in the App Store when customers ask Siri about coronavirus. It is accelerating the reviews process of COVID-19 applications from reputable sources to help make sure users have the best available information rather than false or misleading information.

Apple News gets proactive

There are lots of conflicting claims around COV-19. This is confusing and at a time when the global message needs to be utterly clear, Apple News has moved to curate the content it provides. It now provides a COVID-19 news section offering what it calls “verified” reporting from what it calls “trusted news outlets."

On iOS and iPad OS devices you’ll find a hand-picked set of headlines and links to a detailed coverage page.

Staying in? Read a book

Apple’s Books store in the U.S. now offers a small collection of free books (including audiobooks) for adults and children to keep you occupied while remaining isolated.

Oprah has an Apple TV+ show on the topic

Oprah has announced a new Apple TV+ show that will focus on the pandemic.

"Oprah Talks COVID-19” is a new free to view Apple TV+ series featuring remote discussions with leaders and others affected by the disease. Oprah wants to provide insight, meaning and tangible advice to help us through the crisis. 

Apple has closed its retail stores

Apple closed all its retail stores in China. Those stores are now open, but it has closed its stores everywhere else on the planet.

The idea here is to limit contact between groups of people. Unfortunately, some customers whose devices were being repaired by Apple Geniuses may have been told they can’t now pick up their item until the stores open once again.

Apple has committed that hourly workers will continue to receive pay “in alignment with business as usual operations."

Adopt remote working

Apple has moved to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China. It is urging workers to work remotely if they can. It is also urging those who must attend the workplace physically to  stay at least two meters apart.

There have been reports that Apple’s culture of secrecy is making remote work quite hard to do – but that’s only to be expected, and problems have a tendency of getting solved. The company is also deep cleaning all its sites and offices.

Caring for employee health

Apple is introducing new health screenings and temperature checks across all its offices. The company has also moved to accommodate employees who need to take a leave of absence to accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19 — including recovering from an illness, caring for a sick loved one, mandatory quarantining, or childcare challenges due to school closures.

Promoting credible information

Apple is promoting official government information videos via iTunes/Apple Music in the U.S., and also on its home page.

Reduce bandwidth demands

In line with other streaming media providers, Apple has committed to reducing the resolution of shows streamed through its Apple TV+ network in Europe.

Curating podcasting content

Apple’s podcasts app now features a row of reputable Coronavirus-related content. The company is also focusing more on personal development topics through its podcasting service.

Maintaining support

MacRumors cites an internal memo to Apple Authorized Service Providers in which Apple says its network of authorized repair shops will receive maximum payouts for qualifying product repairs for the months of March and April.

Apple Card assistance

The consequences of what is taking place are impacting everybody and creating real hardship for many. Apple Card users have been told that if they need help making it through, they can enroll in a new customer assistance program that will allow them to skip their March payments. 

You should pay attention

Apple isn’t doing all of these things out of a sudden attack of altruism or as a contribution to some twisted form of April Fool’s joke.

It is doing them because it knows we face a global problem that, if left unchecked, will overwhelm global health provision services, cost vast numbers of lives, and generate an economic slow-down akin to the Great Depression, or worse.  

Some of those consequences may now be unavoidable.

Cook recently said:

“There is no mistaking the challenge of this moment. The entire Apple family is indebted to the heroic first responders, doctors, nurses, researchers, public health experts and public servants globally who have given every ounce of their spirit to help the world meet this moment. We do not yet know with certainty when the greatest risk will be behind us.”

That Apple is applying the full extent of its energies in this attempt should make even the greatest cynic wake up to the need to practice social distancing, hide indoors and wash their hands.

Those small steps seem the least we can do for medical staff across the entire planet who are even now risking (and in many cases, losing) their own lives on the front line of our struggle against this disease.

Are you an Apple, iOS or Mac developer who is offering free services, or augmenting existing ones to help in this struggle? Please drop me a line and I'll let people know.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

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