As the world responds to a global pandemic not seen in any of our lifetimes, the actions of those in the spotlight are often telling. The world over, politicians, scientists, and organizations have responded very differently to COVID-19, some labeled too cautious, others too brash. Some being overly-sensible, others flippant. Diversity in how society has responded to this plight has really divided humanity at a time when we really need more unity than ever. Yet where others have arguably faltered, Apple seems to have achieved a superb balance in the way it has handled the times in which we live. So what has Apple done in the face of a seemingly global catastrophe, and how can we learn from it?
Apple's most recent and direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic was its announcement of a new COVID-19 app and a website, based on CDC guidance. From the press release:
Apple today released a new screening tool and set of resources to help people stay informed and take the proper steps to protect their health during the spread of COVID-19, based on the latest CDC guidance. The new COVID-19 website, and COVID-19 app available on the App Store, were created in partnership with the CDC, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and FEMA to make it easy for people across the country to get trusted information and guidance at a time when the US is feeling the heavy burden of COVID-19.
Apple's new COVID-19 website and app are accessible to anyone in the US, meaning that people can get access to quick, easy and accurate information about the virus. They can ask questions about symptoms, and find out more about travel and movement restrictions, as well as best practices. The best bit, Apple doesn't collect any personal information from you:
Apple is not collecting your answers from the screening tool. To help improve the site, Apple collects some information about how you use it. The information collected will not personally identify you.
Apple is not alone when it comes to innovation, and companies across the world are stepping forward to do their bit in any way they can. One of the coolest stories that emerged this week was the news that UK-based Formula 1 teams were uniting to assist in the manufacturing of ventilators, an initiative it calls 'Project pitlane'. Also in the UK, global vacuum manufacturer Dyson is also stepping in to help build 10,000 ventilators based an a new prototype it calls CoVent.
Apple has also pushed out new content to assist students and teachers who have been forced to work and learn remotely and is offering free consultations online to US teachers.
Like all the companies getting involved, Apple's progress in creating a fantastic tool for information and guidance for people who are worried about the coronavirus epidemic should serve as an inspiration to other organizations that we can all do our bit to help, and that in all industries, not just medicine, there is a part to play.
Apple has also demonstrated kindness and generosity in its response to the pandemic. Earlier in March, it announced that it had already committed $15 million worldwide and that it was matching employee donations to similar causes:
Apple's committed donations to the global COVID-19 response — both to help treat those who are sick and to help lessen the economic and community impacts of the pandemic — today reached $15 million worldwide. We're also announcing that we are matching our employee donations two-to-one to support COVID-19 response efforts locally, nationally and internationally.
Not only that, but it has also donated 10 million masks to medical facilities in both the US and Europe, and CEO Tim Cook revealed that its ops teams was working to help "find and purchase masks from our supply chain in coordination with governments around the world."
Apple had previously announced a substantial donation of medical supplies to Italy's Civil Protection Agency the week before.
Apple was also one of the first retailers that sought to assist in preventing the spread of the disease by closing all of its retail stores globally, even where governments and authorities hadn't mandated such measures yet. Of course, Apple sits in one of the most secure financial positions of any company in the world, so it can afford more than most to lose out on store revenue. Yet, Apple showed absolutely no hesitation in taking all of its staff out of harm's way and choosing not to endanger customers. It could quite easily have waited until it was forced to close stores in its respective markets. Instead, it took the initiative into its own hands, choosing safety over profit.
Despite all of Apple's steps and its response to the virus, it has also succeeded in one further key area, persistence. Whilst much of the world is changing around us quickly, and much of daily life has been altered (perhaps forever), Apple has also found a way to keep business going in some capacity.
First, Apple announced that it would still be going ahead with WWDC 2020 in June with a brand new all-online format stating:
Cupertino, California — Apple today announced it will host its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Now in its 31st year, WWDC 2020 will take on an entirely new online format packed with content for consumers, press and developers alike. The online event will be an opportunity for millions of creative and innovative developers to get early access to the future of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS, and engage with Apple engineers as they work to build app experiences that enrich the lives of Apple customers around the globe.
One of the most striking aspects of Apple's decision to launch new products at this time is that you couldn't really make up worse market conditions if you tried. As noted, all of Apple's retail stores are closed, and economic uncertainty means that for many, new tech is probably not high on anyone's priorities right now. Yet Apple chose to press forward with its new products, giving us all not just a welcome break from the doom and gloom, but also some reassurance that despite current adversity, life must go on in some form or another.
No company is perfect, and no doubt most companies are reacting to the current climate in the way that they think is best, for one reason or another. There's also, it seems, a long way to go before things get back to normal. But in all of this, I for one am glad that Apple, like thousands of other companies and millions of people, have chosen to respond in the way that they have.
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