By Chand Bellur
May 3, 2020 at 2:30 p.m. PT
- Apple released a COVID-19 app in late March, with a screening tool and tips for staying safe.
- The app, updated again in April, added state-specific COVID-19 information.
- Apple once again updated the app, adding more COVID-19 symptoms, in addition to mask-wearing tips.
Apple’s COVID-19 App Provides Accurate Information
No one alive today has gone through anything like this. Today’s novel coronavirus pandemic is a plague and economic collapse like nothing before. When times are tough, conspiracy theories gain traction. Apple’s COVID-19 app offers a centralized location for veritable information about the disease.
Partnering with the Coronavirus Taskforce, CDC, and FEMA, Apple’s COVID-19 app helps the public understand how to stay safe and what to do if they’re infected. Frequently updated, the app provides clear, concise information to the public.
One criticism of the app is that it’s relatively thin soup. With all of Apple’s technical prowess, the COVID-19 app is underwhelming. It’s mostly static content that anyone can find on the CDC or other official websites. Nonetheless, since Apple has around a billion end-users, this is an effective way to transmit a simple message. Apple’s internal advertising capabilities in the App Store have pushed this app front-and-center, ensuring a high level of adoption.
The COVID-19 app only works with iOS 13.1 and above. This means that older iPhones cannot use the app. The lack of backward compatibility is unfortunate because low-income customers may be using older iPhone models. It’s also puzzling, given the app’s lack of sophistication. From all appearances, it’s simple enough to run on iOS 4.
Apple Adds Mask Tips and New Symptoms to COVID-19 App
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. This is a new disease, never seen before. Humans have no immunity to it, and we’re learning new things about the virus every day.
When COVID-19 first emerged, only a few symptoms were associated with the disease. Healthcare professionals advised people to be aware of fever, shortness of breath and a dry cough.
Today, we’re well aware that COVID-19 is a mysterious disease, with symptoms including loss of smell and taste. Some have reported hallucinations; however, this symptom has yet to be made official. The CDC mentions that there are other symptoms; however, their list can help diagnose most cases.
Apple’s COVID-19 app update also expands on mask usage tips. The app now teaches users how to make cloth masks. It also provides information on where to wear a mask and how to sanitize one.
Overall, Apple’s COVID-19 app is beneficial to society. It would be better if it worked on older iPhone models. This glaring omission may widen the gap between the health outcomes of poor and middle-class individuals.
For many low-income people, a smart-phone is their sole technological bridge to society. Although Apple offers a web-based version of the app, there’s no mention of it in the App Store. Users with older devices may look for information elsewhere, perhaps finding an incorrect source. At a minimum, Apple needs to steer older devices to its COVID-19 website.