Apple has celebrated Earth Day for many years, but the company has more going on for 2021 than ever before including an environmental justice initiative, content tie-ins across several services, and an Apple Watch challenge.
Posts tagged with "apple watch"
In the latest update to his popular podcast app, developer Marco Arment has shipped a completely overhauled version of Overcast for Apple Watch. The update not only resolves some longstanding issues with the old Watch client but also debuts playback speed controls, chapter skipping, and show notes for the first time on the Apple Watch.
When you first open the new Apple Watch app, Overcast will spend some time fully syncing with its iPhone counterpart. Once this initial sync completes, you’ll gain access to the new interface. Instead of the previous three-page, horizontal-scrolling layout, Overcast for Apple Watch now features a much simpler design. At the top, you’ll find large buttons to manually request a sync with your iPhone and to access the app’s settings.
February is Black History Month, and Apple has announced a long list of ways it is celebrating across its products and services. In a press release the company said:
Apple is bringing customers a variety of new and updated collections and exclusive content that highlight and amplify Black creators, artists, developers, and businesses. From curated features across the App Store, Apple Music, the Apple TV app, Apple Books, and Apple Podcasts, to new Apple Maps Guides, the Apple Watch Black Unity Collection, Today at Apple sessions, and more, here is a look at what is in store across Apple’s products and services this February.
In the App Store, Apple is featuring stories with Black developers and highlighting social justice apps along with entertainment and gaming apps. The month-long feature extends to other services too:
- Music will feature Black musicians and include related content like playlists, essays, videos, and custom artwork
- Maps Guides, which has seen many updates recently, will feature Black-owned businesses in collaboration with EatOkra
- The Apple TV App will include ‘Essential: Stories That Honor Black Families,’ plus two free episodes of The Oprah Conversation featuring ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’ by author Isabel Wilkerson
- Apple News will have curated topic groups and Apple Books will showcase a collection of relevant books and audiobooks
- The Podcasts app will highlight Black voices including Michelle Obama, Joe Budden, Phoebe Robinson, and Baratunde Thurston, plus an extended promotion of shows featuring relevant topics
- Fitness+ will spotlight songs from Black artists, and the first Time to Walk episode for February will feature author Ibram X. Kendi who will discuss racial justice and resiliency
- Today at Apple will feature virtual sessions and tutorials moderated by Kimberly Drew with Black artists including typographer Tré Seals, creative director, filmmaker, and photographer Joshua Kissi, and visual artist, photographer, and educator Shan Wallace
- Shot on iPhone will feature 30 Black photographers
On the product side, Apple has introduced the Black Unity Collection that includes a limited-edition Apple Watch 6, a Black Unity Sport Band, and a Unity watch face. Apple is also supporting six groups dedicated to promoting and achieving equality and civil rights in the US and around the world. The Watch and Sports Band will be available beginning February 1st and the watch face will debut with watchOS 7.3, which Apple says will be out later today.
The Black Unity Sports Band and Unity watch face, which changes dynamically as the Watch moves, include the green, red, and black colors of the Pan-African flag, and the Sports Band has ‘Truth. Power. Solidarity’ laser etched on the inside of the band’s fastening pin. Similarly, the limited-edition Watch has ‘Black Unity’ etched in the Watch’s crystal back. Apple will also kick off a special month-long Unity Activity Challenge on February 1st that is achieved by closing Move ring at least seven days in a row.
As rumors suggested earlier this month, Apple has launched a new Fitness+ feature called ‘Time to Walk,’ which the company’s press release describes as “an inspiring new audio walking experience on Apple Watch for Fitness+ subscribers.”
Jay Blahnik, Apple’s senior director of Fitness Technologies, explains that:
“Walking is the most popular physical activity in the world, and one of the healthiest things we can do for our bodies. A walk can often be more than just exercise: It can help clear the mind, solve a problem, or welcome a new perspective. Even throughout this challenging period of time, one activity that has remained available to many is walking. With Time to Walk, we’re bringing weekly original content to Apple Watch in Fitness+ that includes some of the most diverse, fascinating, and celebrated guests offering inspiration and entertainment to help our users keep moving through the power of walking.”
The workouts will be downloaded automatically to your Apple Watch and can be accessed there and from the Fitness+ tab of the iPhone’s Fitness app. Each workout is around 25-40 minutes long and includes stories told by well-known guests who tell inspirational and entertaining stories about their lives. The stories, which were recorded while the guests walked, are coupled with images that automatically play on the Apple Watch and a short playlist of songs at the end of each story that is meaningful to the guest. Also, as soon as you start playing a Time to Walk story, your Watch will begin a walking workout. If you use a wheelchair, Time to Walk changes to Time to Push and starts a Wheelchair Walk Pace workout.
Apple says new guest stories will be introduced each Monday through April. The first four episodes include singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes, country music star Dolly Parton, NBA player Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors, and actor Uzo Aduba who starred in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.
Walking is a great time to listen to audio. I look forward to trying Time to Walk, which have not yet appeared on my Apple Watch or iPhone. The integration with Fitness+ and the Workout app is nice, reducing the number of apps you need to visit before starting a walk while listening to something. I don’t expect Time to Walk will replace my music and podcast listening when I go for a walk, but the chance to hear interesting stories from well-known guests is a welcome alternative to those other mainstays of my workout routine.
Time to Walk should be available soon and is part of a Fitness+ subscription.
Apple announced today that it is expanding its partnership with (RED), a relationship that spans fourteen years and has raised nearly $250 million to fund HIV and AIDS programs around the world, offering prevention, testing, and counseling services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted HIV/AIDS programs around the world, so earlier this year, Apple’s (RED) contributions were redirected to the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on HIV/AIDS programs.
According to Apple’s press release:
These funds have allowed for additional contact tracing in South Africa, helped secure critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and emergency medical equipment in Ghana, and enabled the purchase of motorbikes to deliver HIV treatment to local communities that have been unable to seek in-person health services due to COVID-19. Apple also donated millions of PPE units to the Ministry of Health in Zambia, including both surgical masks sourced from its supply chain and face shields designed and produced by Apple.
Apple’s support of (RED) continues this year with donations of 100% of all eligible proceeds from PRODUCT(RED) devices to the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response through June 30, 2021. The company will also donate $1 of every purchase made using Apple Pay on apple.com, or in the Apple Store app or an Apple retail store through December 7, 2020.
Apple is working to raise awareness of World AIDS Day too with red logos and window displays in retail stores, features on the App Store, tie-ins with Apple Music and The Ebro Show on Apple Music 1, and a special Watch Now collection in the Apple TV app.
Separately, Apple issued a press release about its donation of PPE to healthcare workers in Zambia to help them combat COVID-19 and HIV. Working with Zambia’s Ministry of Health, Apple donated:
millions of units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Ministry of Health in Zambia. That includes both surgical face masks Apple sourced from its supply chain as well as face shields designed and produced by Apple.
As the press release explains, the donations have protected front-line healthcare professionals and provided patients with the confidence to continue their treatments for HIV.
While a tumultuous software release would have been fitting in a year like 2020, watchOS 7 will find no such infamy. Stoically iterative, this year’s update to the Apple Watch operating system is lacking in surprises. But is that such a bad thing?
We spent years on the wild frontier of watchOS design and experience. As fun as it was to deconstruct each year’s crazy changes, the results were a product that didn’t yet know its purpose. These days that’s no longer the case. The Apple Watch exists primarily as a health and fitness device, and secondarily as a lightweight interface for many of the tasks you do on your iPhone each day. Also, it’s a watch.
watchOS 7 is all about health and fitness, plus some love for the Apple Watch’s watch-ness with a big supply of new faces and face-related features. A few more reasons to use your Watch instead of pulling out your iPhone are also sprinkled in, such as the new Shortcuts app and cycling directions in Maps.
While it may not be the most exciting annual update, there’s not much to complain about with the overall direction of watchOS 7. As always though, we can still dive deep into the implementation of the new features. Let’s break them each down and see how Apple did with watchOS 7.
Fitness+ is designed to work exclusively with the Apple Watch, requiring an Apple Watch Series 3 or later. When it launches, it will cost $9.99/month or $79.99/year, or it’s included as part of an Apple One Premier plan – and no matter how you get it, Fitness+ will offer Family Sharing support. There will also be a 1-month free trial for all users, or three months free for anyone purchasing an Apple Watch from September 15 on.
Apple Fitness+ brings studio-style workout experiences to your Apple devices in a way that uniquely integrates with the Apple Watch. As a workout video plays, live metrics from your Watch will display in the corner of the screen so you can easily keep track of things like the duration of your workout, heart rate, and calories burned. You’ll also see your Activity rings on-screen, providing convenient updates on your progress as you exercise.
Today in what would normally be an iPhone-led September event, the Apple Watch was able to serve as headliner since new iPhones won’t be coming until October. It was a fitting change because Apple had news to share about not one, but two new Apple Watch models: the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE.
These two devices follow Apple’s strategy with the iPhone, where there’s a flagship line plus a more affordable option that uses a mix of old and new parts. The Apple Watch Series 6 includes a new blood oxygen sensor, improved always-on display, S6 processor, an always-on altimeter, and new finishes. The Apple Watch SE also features the always-on altimeter and a similar design, but without the new color finishes, it includes the S5 processor from last year, but it doesn’t get the blood oxygen sensor nor does it include an always-on display. A new software addition is another key incentive for both the Series 6 and SE: Family Setup, which enables children to be Apple Watch users without having their own iPhones.
Both new Apple Watches are available to order now, and will ship this Friday, September 18. Here’s the full run-down on each new device.
Brian Heater at TechCrunch has published a detailed explanation of how the upcoming handwashing feature for Apple Watch works:
The feature, which is built directly into the forthcoming version of watchOS, is designed to work like fitness tracking in a number of ways. For starters, if the user opts into it, it’s designed to automatically trigger when handwashing is detected, starting a countdown timer of 20 seconds. The accelerometer is the key piece of hardware here, waiting for the specific handwashing pattern — which apparently adopts a number of different methods, depending on who’s actually doing the scrubbing.
The system uses machine learning models to tackle different methods, but the system gets an additional nudge from the Watch’s microphone. Along with motion, the app listens for the sound of running water. Even that’s not enough, though — after all, eco sinks have become increasingly popular, meaning that there’s often less water sound to be listening for. The sound of squishing soap takes care of that last bit. It’s got a unique enough audio signature so as to confirm that handwashing is taking place.
Interestingly, the piece notes that this feature has been in the works for years, it isn’t simply a reaction to the current pandemic. I haven’t tried the feature yet, but I’m anxious to see if it works as advertised. If it’s unreliable, I’ll surely leave it turned off, but if it works well it could be a valuable aid to preventing the contraction of COVID-19. At the very least, I’m always happy to see Apple explore new areas of health.