By: Carol Vercellino, CEO & Co-Founder and Jay Lyerly, CTO & Co-Founder
Last week’s news was dominated by Apple’s event and the release of iOS 14 – a huge surprise to developers like us. If you missed it or want a quick break down of the new Apple Watch and iPad features, watch our update below. We also talk about the opportunities for health tech innovation around the new blood oxygen and sleep monitoring systems. Plus, what you need to know about iOS if you’re releasing an app.
Jay Lyerly: So, Apple announced a number of things. A lot of people were expecting iPhones, but that’s going to be next month, so they’re just focusing on the Apple Watch and iPad on this one, plus a few extra little surprises.
The big update to the Apple Watch Series 6 is the blood oxygen monitoring sensor – you can manually take a reading with an ECG from previous models, and it also works in the background, monitoring your o2 periodically. Other than that, the new watch also has a faster CPU and is more responsive.
Apple also came out with the Apple Watch SE model, which is an entry-level watch. It’s really interesting because I think Apple feels like the watch has reached a critical level of functionality, and so they’ve locked that in with SE. It’s got cellular servers, GPS, and more, and now that’s good for lots of people. And then you have the advanced line for people who want more cutting-edge features – like the o2 sensor.
As far as the o2 sensor, I think that’s really interesting. They didn’t really talk about the applications of that a whole lot. In the context of COVID, I read that one of the things COVID does is suppress oxygen. So, some people have come in with what they call silent hypoxia, where they have COVID, but they don’t have any of the other symptoms. But it’s suppressed their oxygen levels in their blood, so it’s at a critical level where they’re starting to feel lethargic, and it gets to the point where it starts to affect organs.
One of the things the watch does with the background o2 sensor readings is it can warn you if your o2 level goes down.
The other interesting feature of the o2 sensor is sleep apnea. The watch now has built-in sleep monitoring. They suggest you sleep with your watch on and record that data. With the o2 sensors, that can indicate sleep apnea. It’ll be interesting to see how that gets used in a clinical sense.
CV: As a parent, I’m most excited about the family set up. And I’m wondering if there will be any applications for families to monitor medical information for the future. Do they have that now?
JL: I’m not sure how the family is integrated with the health kit features, but they’re certainly pushing it with both children and older adults – or people in your family who might not have an iPhone. I think it’s especially useful with fall monitoring.
CV: Is fall monitoring on by default?
JL: If you’re under 55, you have to turn that on manually.
CV: What are you most excited about with the iPad?
JL: They bumped two of the lines. There are basically three lines – the iPad, the iPad Air, and the iPad Pro. This past week, they didn’t update the iPad Pro as that was updated in the spring.
With the low end, they bumped it to a new, faster processor and included the neural engine for the first time. That means a lot of the machine learning they’ve been working on can run on that natively now, so it’ll be a lot faster. That’s interesting in that it means that the base machine is still going to have a really long life span. If you’re looking to deploy a healthcare app on that, you can get the low-end machine, but it can still perform really well and do a lot of that machine learning analysis on board, and still have a cellular connection if you’d like.
The iPad Air update was pretty big. They did a big redesign and a lot of the features from the pro line trickled down to that. In my mind, that’s really the workhorse. If you don’t have a whole Mac that you use every day, and you want an iPad to replace that desktop, the Air is where you want to start. It’s got pretty much all the features now, and it’s in that mid-range price tier.
They updated the chip in the Air – it’s really fast. And they added Touch ID in the power button, which is interesting in the context of the iPhone coming out next month.
With the iPhone coming out next month, it’s expected to be on that same A14 chip, and they didn’t really talk about its performance at the event, other than to say it’s faster than the old iPads. So, they seem to be waiting on the big reveal next month to talk more about its capabilities.
CV: iOS 14 came out, and there was a little bit of a surprise that it came out so quickly.
JL: It was a surprise! Tim Cook was on stage and said, ‘We’ll be releasing this tomorrow!’ And all the developers were expecting to have at least a couple of days – usually, we get a week’s notice.
When you deploy a new app on a new OS like that, you have to use the release version of X code, which they don’t release until that announcement is made, so basically all the developers have to download X code, get that installed, recompile their apps, do testing, and ship it off through App Review if they want to be there for the launch date. So, a lot of people were surprised and had a long night ahead of them.
CV: Is there anything in iOS 14 that people need to be aware of for their app?
JL: I think one of the things – out of the gate – that has been really popular has been the app widgets. It’s been in Android for a while, but you can do basically mini applets on the home screen, where you would normally launch apps, and provide content from your app right there.
For example, if you have a weather app, you might put a map or forecast there. Or, the fitness app now has your rings on there, so you can see that updated on your phone in real-time. That’s gotten a lot of press because people have been waiting for a long time.
The other thing that is coming is called App Clips. These are really scaled-down, mini-applications that get installed on the fly. So, it’s the kind of thing where you can go to a parking lot and scan a QR code and get a mini parking lot app to pay for your parking space.
Services like parking spaces, renting a scooter, going into a restaurant, and ordering food, that takes a lot more developer work, so that’s still probably something we’ll see ramp up over the next couple of months.
**The above interview has been transcribed for clarity and brevity.**
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