Tuesday Morning News
It’s iOS 12 release day, which means reviews from all your favourite outlets and updates for all your favourite apps. There’s a recap of all the new features on Apple’s website, as well as a roundup of neat tricks you might have missed by TechCrunch. Meanwhile, Ars Technica says that iOS 12 runs faster on older hardware, thanks to performance improvements being a big focus for Apple this time around.
Siri Shortcuts is another big one this time around, with Workflow being replaced on the App Store in favour of Shortcuts. While that will get you started with system-level actions, the real power of Siri Shortcuts lies with third-party apps, many of which have already been updated: The Verge has a list of Siri Shortcuts from third-party apps you can try right now, and MacRumours has a similar list. Of course, if all of this is lost on you and you’re not sure where to start, Apple has some great getting started documentation.
Screen Time is the other big feature in iOS 12 I’m interested in, and whether you’re an individual looking for more insights into how your device is used in order to be mindful of just how much time you’re spending (or wasting, as the case may be), or a parent looking to control the amount of time your kids spend in certain apps, Screen Time is ideal for both those purposes. The MacStories overview of Screen Time says that it’s a powerful tool for monitoring and managing device usage, even if it’s a lot to start off with.
With nary a peep heard about AirPower at Apple’s event last week, more than a year after it was originally announced, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark in thinking that the product is dead. After all, all traces of the product besides a single image have been removed from the Apple website, and now blogs are calling AirPower “doomed to failure“, due to the multitude of engineering problems associated with a multi-device wireless charger. AirPower was unlike anything else on the market at the time, and although Apple likes to be ahead of the times, it’s possible they were a bit too forward-thinking on this one.
TechCrunch asks a similar question. If Apple had samples of AirPower charging mats out at last year’s iPhone event, what could have possibly happened for them to do such a massive back-pedal on a product that undoubtedly showed so much promise? They suggest it’s possible Apple are plagued not by engineering issues, but manufacturing/production ones — either way, with no official word from Apple, all we can do is speculate. AppleInsider says there was always going to be some kind of special sauce that allowed a charging iPhone to display charging information about other, also wirelessly-charging devices, not to mention the complications introduced by imperfect placement, compounded by AirPower’s ability to charge multiple devices simultaneously.
AliveCor CEO and ex-Google employee Vic Gundotra says he was surprised by Apple’s use of “alternative facts” on stage last week, specifically the one where Apple COO Jeff Williams said that the Apple Watch Series 4, with built-in ECG, will be the first over-the-counter ECG device sold directly to consumers. AliveCor has been selling their Kardia and KardiaBand products over-the-counter for years now, and although both require either connection to a smartphone app or an Apple Watch, respectively, both are capable of delivering ECG results directly to consumers with the condition that a doctor needs to review your first reading, after which point you’ll be able to see your own ECG.
The Verge explains what FDA clearance for the Apple Watch Series 4 actually means, starting with the limitation that they’re not intended for use by anyone under the age of 22. There’s the usual cautions that the ECG and irregular heart rhythm features are not supposed to replace traditional methods of diagnosis or treatment, and you might also be interested to know that the Apple Watch Series 4 falls into the same class of low-risk medical devices like condoms, pregnancy test kits, and also things like hearing aids, acupuncture needles, and even powered wheelchairs.
Even so, as part of getting FDA clearance via their de novo pathway, Apple had to provide data both to show that the Apple Watch Series 4 did what it was supposed to do and that it was safe to use. The FDA reviewed data from one of Apple’s Heart Studies performed in conjunction with Stanford University, where half the participants had pre-diagnosed afib and the rest did not. The good news is, the ECG on the Apple Watch successfully identified over 98% of the participants with afib, and over 99% of the healthy participants without a heart condition.
A post on Reddit by someone who claims to be an emergency physician tells us about the diagnostic capabilities of the ECG on the Apple Watch Series 4. As a single-lead ECG measuring Lead I, just about the only thing the Apple Watch will be able to do is measure the rate and rhythm of the heart, which it turns out is very useful for screening for afib. It’s not a continuous measure of your heart’s electrical activity, only when you’re actually taking an ECG, and it won’t be able to tell you about any other heart condition besides high or low heart rate.
We’re pouring one out for the recently discontinued Apple Watch Edition this morning. While I’ll happily admit the first Editions were priced well outside of reality, the ceramic build introduced with the Series 2 was exactly where they should have been from the beginning; still carrying a premium price tag, but with the components to match so you didn’t feel as bad about spending that much on technology that was going to be obsolete in a couple of years.