Apple’s New Accessibility Initiatives

Apple has announced that they are providing even more features for those with disabilities. There are a couple of things to highlight including SignTime, Assistive Touch, eye-tracking hardware support, support for bi-directional hearing aids, and improved voiceover support.

SignTime

SignTime is a new service, available starting today, May 20th, 2021 which will allow users to communicate with Apple Retail and Customer Care representatives through a Sign Language interpreter. This is accessible right from within the browser. If a customer is in an Apple Store and needs an interpreter, they will be able to use SignTime to communicate as necessary. There are three different languages available for users, American Sign Language (ASL) in the US, British Sign Language (BSL) in the UK, and French Sign Language (LSF) in France.

There is another new feature, for those with limited mobility called AssistiveTouch.

AssistiveTouch

AssistiveTouch is a feature for the Apple Watch that will detect subtle differences for the Apple Watch that will allow users to be able to interact with the Apple Watch. This is done by the Apple Watch detecting differences in muscle movements and tendon activity to be able to sense the intension. 

This will be a significant leap in terms of inclusivity for those who may have limb differences so that they can be able to use the Apple Watch, the same as anybody else.

Those who have limb differences are not the only ones seeing some improvement. 

Eye-Tracking Support for iPad

There are those who may have motor issues and these issues would still want to be able to control an iPad. Later this year the iPad will support hardware eye-tracking devices through the Made for iPad, or MFI, program.

With the Eye-Tracking support users will be able to move the point on the iPad, solely use the eye-tracking hardware. This, like AssistiveTouch, will allow users with limited mobility to use an iPad, just like other users.

Bi-Directional Hearing Aids

There are different types of people throughout the world. There are some users who may have difficulty hearing certain things. Apple has provided some features, like “Listening Mode”, which allows you to use your iPhone or iPad as a way to increase volume.

While this may work for some users, there are those users who need other types of auditory assistance. Those users may need hearing aids. Apple has updated their MFi program to support bi-directional hearing aids. According to Apple, “The microphones in these new hearing aids enable those who are deaf or hard of hearing to have hands-free phone and FaceTime conversations”.

This will be a great way of allowing those with hearing issues to have Hearing Aids that will allow them to natively use their phone hands-free and participate in FaceTime conversations. 

Exploring Images with VoiceOver

Over the last few years Apple has been improving their object detection through machine learning. While this has been great for object detection, facial recognition, and much more. One benefit that all of this work has is a new feature that Apple will be releasing is the ability to explore images with VoiceOver. 

For those who are visually impaired, you will be able to use VoiceOver to detect objects within an image. This goes beyond what users have experienced thus far by being able to describe details about people, like their position with a photo. Beyond this, for things like receipt VoiceOver will be able to go column by column, row by row. This includes being able to provide header information. 

Closing Thoughts

These new initiatives for Apple will be great additions to be more inclusive of additional people who may mobility, hearing, and movement issues. It is good to see Apple add this, but I hope that Apple adds more assistive technologies over time.

Source: Apple

Apple Announces “One more thing” Event

Today Apple announced an event titled “One more thing”. This is slated for November 10th, 2020 at 10:00 am Pacific Time. This event will follow the same format as previous events this year and be live streamed. It is expected that this will be the event where Apple unveils the first Apple Silicon Macs, but there may be more.

As is the case with other events, I will have my predictions for what we will see, a recap of what was announced, and well as a predictions results post.

Apple “Time Flies” Event Recap

Apple held its “Time Files” event livestream event today. It was not a live event, but a pre-recorded one. The style of the video was very similar to that of Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference. We saw different parts of Apple’s campus with different people in each area. Today’s event focused on two products, the Apple Watch and the iPad. Let us look at what Apple announced for each.

Apple Watch

Today Apple announced two new Apple Watch models, the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE. These two models are similar, yet still different. Let us cover the aspects that are the same between the two models.

Common Features between Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE

There are a number of common features between the new Apple Watch Series 6 and the new Apple Watch SE. The first of these is the case sizes. Both come in 40mm and 44mm varieties and both have a Retina screen. Next is a feature that was added in the Apple Watch Series 5, fall detection. This is a great feature for those who may be prone to falling and need to be able to contact someone in the event of a fall. This is present in both models.

There is a new feature that is available on both models, a new Always On Altimeter. The Altimeter will be able to inform you, in real time, of your elevation. This is great if you are doing some hiking and want to see how high up you have gone.

One of the ways to personalizes the Apple Watch is by picking the finish for the watch. Both models come in an aluminum finish and are available in Silver, Space Gray, and Rose Gold.

Apple Watch Series 6 Exclusive Features

The biggest area for the Apple Watch is regarding Health. There are a variety of sensors already present on the Apple Watch. Sensors like the ECG, fall detection, heart sensors, and ECG app. There is a new sensor being added to the Apple Watch Series 6, a Blood Oxygen app. This app will be able to inform you of your blood oxygen level, with a simple 15 second test. This is possibly through the use of infrared to analyze the color of your blood and the color can determine the oxygen saturation level.

The Apple Watch Series 6 comes in more than just the three colors mentioned above. It also comes in two additional aluminum finishes, Blue and (PRODUCT)RED. It also comes in Stainless Steel and Titanium versions. The Stainless Steel color choices are Silver, Graphite, and Gold. The Titanium color choices are Titanium (Silver), and Space Black.

New Bands

Besides the finish of the Apple Watch, many also customize their Apple Watch through the use of different bands. To go with the new Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE, there are some new bands. A lot of them in fact. There are some new Hermes Fauve Barénia Leather Attelage bands in both single tour and double tour varieties, five new Sport Band colors, seven new Sport Loop colors, three new Nike Sport Band colors, and three new Nike Sport Loop colors. There are also two entirely new types of bands, the Leather Link and Solo Loop.

Leather Link

Apple Watch Leather Link Watch Band

According to Apple, “The Leather Link features handcrafted Roux Granada leather made in France. The band elegantly wraps around the wrist and magically attaches with flexible molded magnets that gently flex to help maintain a secure, comfortable fit throughout the day.”. The magnetic links will allow you to adjust the band to the perfect fit for your wrist.

The Leather Link band comes in four colors, Baltic Blue, California Poppy, Saddle Brown, and Black. These will work with the 38/40mm or the 42/44mm Apple Watches. Each Leather Link band is $99. They have a bit of a wait time, anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the model.

Solo Loop

The Solo Loop is made of a silicone rubber that is designed to stretch. There are no clasps, buckles, or any other item to adjust. Each Sport Loop is designed to be slipped on and off the wrist easily. Because there are no attachment mechanisms, they are designed to fit on your wrist, therefore there is a sizing guide that will allow you to determine the proper band size. The band sizes range from 1 to 9 on the 40mm Apple Watch and 4 to 12 on the 44mm Apple Watch.

There are seven different color options. These options are: Deep Navy, Ginger, Cypress Green, Pink Citrus, White, Black, and (PRODUCT)RED. Each of these is $49 and they will begin arriving on Friday. There is a second type of Solo Loop, the Braided Solo Loop.

To quote Apple, “Each Braided Solo Loop features a unique, stretchable design that’s ultracomfortable and easy to slip on and off your wrist. Made from 100 percent recycled materials, the 16,000 polyester yarn filaments in each band are interwoven with thin silicone threads using advanced braiding machinery then laser cut to an exact length. The 300D construction offers a soft, textured feel and is both sweat-resistant and water-resistant.”

The Braided Sport Loop comes in five colors. These colors are: Inverness Green, Black, Pink Punch, Atlantic Blue, and (PRODUCT)RED. The Braided Sport Loop comes in the same size configurations as the silicon Sport Loop, and these are $99 each.

There is one last thing to note about the Solo Loop and Braided Solo Loop. These are not compatible with all watches. The Solo Loop and Braided Solo Loop bands are only compatible with Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Series 4 or newer. Therefore, you will not be able to use these on the Series 3, or earlier models.

Family Setup

There is one new feature for the Apple Watch, which is compatible back to the Apple Watch Series 4 and that is Family Setup. There are many people who would like to be able to get an Apple Watch for the child or an elderly parent. This has not been possible because an Apple Watch has to be paired with an iPhone. That changes.

Family Setup allows you to setup another Apple Watch using your iPhone. When you do this, the Apple Watch will be independent and allow the Apple Watch to function on its own.

Family Setup makes it possible for the entire family to benefit from the important health and safety features of Apple Watch, like Emergency SOS, while Maps, Siri, Alarms, and the App Store provide greater independence without needing an iPhone. In addition, parents will have peace of mind knowing they can reach their child and identify their location, and that all personal data stays securely encrypted. With watchOS 7, the whole family can also take advantage of optimized features that enhance the overall Apple Watch experience.

There are a couple of limitations for the Family Setup. The first is that a cellular version of the Apple Watch is required. This will not work on a GPS model of the Apple Watch. The second restriction is that this only works on the Apple Watch Series 4 or later, including the Apple Watch SE.

Apple Watch Pricing and Availability

The price of the Apple Watch is an important one. The existing Apple Watch Series 3 is still available for the same starting price of $199. The new Apple Watch SE is $279 for the 40mm version, and $309 for the 44mm. There are cellular options for the Apple Watch SE, these are $329 for the 40mm and $359 for the 44mm. The Apple Watch Series 6 starts at the same price as the Series 5, $399 for the 40mm, and $429 for the 44mm. The cellular models are $499 and $529 respectively. The Stainless Steel models starts at $699 and the Titanium models start at $799. All of the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE are available for order today and will start arriving this Friday.

There is one last thing to note about the Apple Watch. the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple Watch Nike do not include a power adapter. Note, this is not the charger, but the little power brick that the charger plugs into. This is being done as a means of helping the environment. I believe that this is actually the case. It just so happens that it will also help save a bit of money, not just through not having to put a charger in each box, but also by reducing packaging as well as shipping weight. All of this adds up over millions of devices.

iPad

The Apple Watch was not the only item announced during today’s keynote. The iPad also saw some updates as well, but not all models of iPad. Only the iPad and the iPad Air were updated today. Let us look at each of these.

iPad

The iPad is Apple’s entry-level device, but even though it is entry level, it is full of features. The new iPad features a 10.2-inch LED screen as well as Apple’s A12 Bionic chip. This is the same one that is in the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max phones. To quote Apple:

The eighth-generation iPad with the A12 Bionic chip delivers a huge leap in performance, with 40 percent faster CPU performance and twice the graphics capability.2 This makes the new iPad up to two times faster than the top-selling Windows laptop, up to three times faster than the top-selling Android tablet and up to six times faster than the top-selling Chromebook. For the first time on iPad, A12 Bionic introduces the Neural Engine for next-level machine learning capabilities, including people occlusion and motion tracking in augmented reality (AR) apps, enhanced photo editing, Siri performance, and more.

In combination with A12 Bionic, the power of iPadOS, and Apple Pencil (1st generation), the new iPad is perfect for drawing, note-taking, marking up documents, and more. With its thin and light design, iPad is portable and durable with ultra-fast wireless performance, support for gigabit-class LTE connectivity, and all-day battery life, giving customers the freedom to work, learn, and connect at home or on the go. With Touch ID, unlocking iPad is simple and secure using just a finger, to keep important information safe.

The biggest change, besides the processor and graphics, is that the iPad is now USB-C. Included in the box is a USB-C to lightning adapter and a 20 watt USB-C power brick.

The iPad comes in the same three colors as before, Silver, Space Gray, and Rose Gold. It comes with 32GB or 128GB of storage, and there are cellular models as well. The price is still the same at $329 for the 32GB Wifi model, and $459 for the 32GB Wifi + Cellular, and $429 for the 128GB Wifi and $559 for the 128GB Wifi + Cellular models. These are available for order today and will arrive starting this Friday.

iPad Air

The bigger of the announcements is the iPad Air. This is not only because it is changed significantly more, but also because of the size difference. The 4th generation iPad Air is now a 10.9-inch model. This is accomplished by taking cues from the iPad Pro design and incorporating them into the iPad Air. The 4th Generation iPad Air has significantly reduced bezels, which allows the screen size to increase to 10.9 inches. This creates a resolution of 2360 by 1640 pixels. All of this is on a Liquid Retina LED display. The screen has a True Tone display that support the P3 Color Gamut and is fully laminated. This means that it includes the oleophobic coating to help reduce fingerprints.

All of this is driven by the A14 Bionic processor, which, according to Apple

…features a new 6-core design for a 40 percent boost in CPU performance, and a new 4-core graphics architecture for a 30 percent improvement in graphics.2 To deliver breakthrough machine learning capabilities, A14 Bionic includes a new 16-core Neural Engine that is twice as fast, and capable of performing up to 11 trillion operations per second, taking machine learning apps to a whole new level. A14 Bionic also includes second-generation machine learning accelerators in the CPU for 10 times faster machine learning calculations. This combination of the new Neural Engine, CPU machine learning accelerators, and high-performance GPU enables powerful on-device experiences for image recognition, natural language learning, analyzing motion, and more.

The iPad Air takes many cues from the iPad Air, most notably, its square edges. The square edges allow for the iPad Air to utilize the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil. The iPad Air supports charging the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil right on the top edge, just like the iPad Pro. These square edges allowed Apple to reduce the bezel size. One thing that was not brought over from the iPad Pro is Face ID. Instead, the iPad Air still has Touch ID. However, the reduced bezel necessitated that the Touch ID sensor to go somewhere else. The Touch ID sensor is now moved to the top button. The Touch ID sensor still operates the same way as before, just in a different spot.

Just like the iPad, and the iPad Pro, the iPad Air now uses a USB-C port and included in the box is a USB-C charging cable and a 20-watt USB power adapter.

The 4th Generation iPad Air comes in five colors: Silver, Space Gray, Rose Gold, Green, and Sky Blue. The iPad Air comes with two storage options, 64GB or 256GB. As with the other iPads there is the Wifi-only model and Wifi + Cellular. The price for the iPad Air is $599 for the 64GB model and $749 for the 256GB Wifi-Only model. The Cellular models will cost $729 for the 64GB model and $879 for the 256GB model. The iPad Air will be available in October.

Services

Apple is pushing services, along with hardware, as their future. Currently, Apple has six different services. These services are:

  • iCloud
  • Apple Music
  • Apple TV+
  • Apple Arcade
  • Apple News+

There is a new service to go along with these. This is called Apple Fitness+.

Apple Fitness+

Apple Fitness+ is a new subscription service that will provide you the opportunity to perform workouts whenever it works for you, wherever you might be. This could be out in the park, at the gym, traveling, or just at home.

Apple Fitness+ delivers personalized recommendations to help customers quickly get to their next workout, and uses Apple Watch to provide an engaging, immersive experience to help them stay motivated throughout.Using a custom recommendation engine, Fitness+ considers previously completed workouts and intelligently suggests new options that match the workouts users select most often, or something fresh to balance their current routine. Customers can also use an intuitive filtering tool to choose what is most important to them when looking for a workout, whether it’s the workout type, the trainer, the duration, or the music. For Apple Music subscribers, favorite music from Fitness+ workouts can also be easily saved and listened to later, whether in a workout or otherwise.

Apple Fitness+ will be available later this year and it will cost $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year.

With all of these services, it might be nice to have them all combined into a single bill. Let us look at one last new item, called Apple One.

Apple One

Today Apple announced a new Services bundle, Apple One. Apple One is a combination of different Apple services at different price points. Apple One has three price tiers, “Individual”, “Family”, and “Premium”. The Individual and Family plans will include Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and iCloud Storage. The Individual tier includes 50GB of iCloud Storage, whereas the Family tier includes 200GB.

The Premium tier includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, 2TB of iCloud Storage, Apple News+, and Apple Fitness+. The Family and Premium tiers will allow you to share with up to five family members. If you need more iCloud storage than your plan includes, you can pay for that separately, to supplement what comes with your plan.

Closing Thoughts

Today’s event was just over an hour, but included a whole lot of new products. This includes the Apple Watch Series 6 with its brighter Always On display, the new Blood Oxygen app, and always on Altimeter. The new Blue and PRODUCT(RED) colors are great additions to the lineup.

The new Apple Watch SE is a great way for bringing many of the features of the Apple Watch in a slightly less expensive price point. You get many of the same features of the Apple Watch Series 6, but with the Series 5 processor.

The new 8th Generation iPad is a huge jump in performance with the A12 Bionic and it has USB-C. It maintains the same base price of $329 for a 32GB Wifi model.

The iPad Air has seen the biggest set of changes with a new larger 10.9-inch screen, flat sides, reduced bezels, and the all new A14 Bionic processor. The iPad Air does not get Face ID, instead the Touch ID sensor is now moved to the top button and still functions the same way as before. The 4th Generation iPad Air also supports USB-C as well as the 2nd generation Apple Pencil.

All of the new products introduced today are available for ordering today, and will be available starting on Friday. The only exception is the iPad Air, which will be available in October.

The last item to note is that iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, an watchOS 7 will all be available tomorrow, September 16th.

Source: Apple Newsroom: Apple One, Apple Fitness+, Family Setup, Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, 8th Generation iPad, and 4th Generation iPad Air.

Apple Announces Phil Schiller will advance to Apple Fellow

Today Apple announced that Phil Schiller is going to become an Apple Fellow. Being an Apple Fellow means that he is being recognize by Apple as having a distinguished career and providing extraordinary contributions while working for Apple. Schiller will still be in charge of the App Store and Apple Events.

“Phil has helped make Apple the company it is today and his contributions are broad, vast, and run deep. In this new role he will continue to provide the incredible thought partnership, and guidance that have defined his decades at Apple,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Joz’s many years of leadership in the Product Marketing organization make him perfectly suited to this new role and will ensure a seamless transition at a moment when the team is engaged in such important and exciting work. I’m thrilled that the whole executive team will benefit from his collaboration, ideas, and energy.”

Schiller has helped guide Apple’s products as well as its marketing for 30 years. He most recently led the effort to plan and execute Apple’s first-ever virtual Worldwide Developers Conference. The event, notable both for its innovative software and hardware announcements as well as its creative and much-praised execution, set a new standard for what virtual events can achieve in the era of COVID-19.

“It has been a dream come true for me to work at Apple, on so many products I love, with all of these great friends — Steve, Tim, and so many more,” said Schiller. “I first started at Apple when I was 27, this year I turned 60 and it is time for some planned changes in my life. I’ll keep working here as long as they will have me, I bleed six colors, but I also want to make some time in the years ahead for my family, friends, and a few personal projects I care deeply about.”

To go along with this Greg (Joz) Joswiak, who has been a a longtime leader within Apple Product Marketing , will take over part of Phil Schiller’s role, in particular he will be on the Apple executive team as senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

Joswiak takes on the role of senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. This organization is responsible for Apple’s product management and product marketing, developer relations, market research, business management, as well as education, enterprise, and international marketing.

Joswiak brings more than 20 years in leadership roles across Apple product marketing and has served as the vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing for the past four years. Joswiak has overseen the product management and product marketing for numerous breakthrough products including the original iPod and iPhone. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan.

This is a big change for Apple, particularly since Schiller has been at Apple for so long. It was something that would eventual happen. Apple will not be the same without Schiller. As John Gruber stated, “Schiller hasn’t just been at Apple a long time — he’s held the position atop product marketing for, well, as long as I can remember.”

Source: Apple

Apple Commits to being Carbon Neutral by 2030

To quote the late Carl Sagan:

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbour life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit? Yes. Settle? Not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. … To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve, and cherish, the pale blue dot; the only home we’ve ever known.

It is true, no matter how much Science Fiction and the actions of some may provide us the hope of being able to settle and colonize another planet, it is still a long, long ways away. It is not likely that we will be able to colonize another planet in my lifetime, or within the next 100 years.

In order to be able to be able to colonize another world, we need to take care of this one. Apple is doing its part to help protect the one planet that we have. Apple has already been carbon neutral with its global corporate operations, but this goes well beyond that.

Apple is hoping to be carbon neutral not just for global operations, but also for manufacturing, its supply chain partners, and even all of the products it sells. This is a big task, but it should go a long way to helping the planet. From the press release, here is Apple’s ten year roadmap:

Apple’s Climate Roadmap

Apple’s 10-year roadmap will lower emissions with a series of innovative actions, including:Low carbon product design: Apple will continue to increase the use of low carbon and recycled materials in its products, innovate in product recycling, and design products to be as energy efficient as possible.

  • Apple’s latest recycling innovation — a robot the company is calling “Dave” — disassembles the Taptic Engine from iPhone to better recover key materials such as rare earth magnets and tungsten while also enabling recovery of steel, the next step following its line of “Daisy” iPhone disassembly robots.
  • The company’s Material Recovery Lab in Austin, Texas, which is focused on innovative electronics recycling technology, is now partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to further develop engineering solutions.
  • All iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch devices released in the past year are made with recycled content, including 100 percent recycled rare earth elements in the iPhone Taptic Engine — a first for Apple and for any smartphone.
  • Apple decreased its carbon footprint by 4.3 million metric tons in 2019 through design and recycled content innovations in its products. Over the past 11 years, Apple has reduced the average energy needed for product use by 73 percent.

This is just part of their overall strategy. This is a big undertaking and one that I hope they are able to achieve. There are many that claim that being carbon neutral, or even just moving to be more green is not fiscally possible. I disagree with them. Will it be free? No, but nothing is free. This video starring Bill Nye is still accurate, and we all need to do better to help the environment.

We only have one planet, and we must take care of it in order to be able to have not only our species, but many other species, survive. It is good to see companies doing their part to help save our planet, since it is the only one we have.

Source: Apple.com