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Apple working on preventative healthcare technology, CEO Cook reveals

 

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Monday said the company is investigating technology that could help identify health risks at an early stage, similar to heart monitoring features introduced with Apple Watch.

Cycle

Apple Watch’s new Cycle app tracks menstrual cycles.

Cook commented on Apple’s contributions to the healthcare space during a panel, suggesting what started with heart health tracking on Apple Watch could soon branch out into other areas of interest.

Current Apple Watch models are equipped with sensors capable to detecting atrial fibrillation, or AFib, a common heart arrhythmia that can lead to stroke in some patients. Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5 go a step further and include an FDA-approved electrocardiogram function for more accurate readings.

As the first FDA-approved consumer device to incorporate an ECG, Apple Watch is an early entrant in what appears to be a burgeoning crossover sector that joins consumer tech with healthcare.

“I’m seeing that this intersection has not yet been explored very well. There’s not a lot of tech associated with the way people’s healthcare is done unless they get into very serious trouble.”” Cook said in a Q&A session with IDA Ireland CEO Martin Shanahan, according to Silicon Republic. IDA on Monday presented Cook with the inaugural Special Recognition Award for Apple’s 40 years of investment in Ireland

Most Apple Watch heart monitoring features, like AFib detection, are inherently preventative and can potentially reduce healthcare fees or even save lives.

“I think you can take that simple idea of having preventive things and find many more areas where technology intersects healthcare, and I think all of our lives would probably be better off for it,” Cook said. He added that the cost of healthcare can “fundamentally be taken down, probably in a dramatic way” by integrating common healthcare technologies in consumer devices.

“Most of the money in healthcare goes to the cases that weren’t identified early enough,” Cook said. “It will take some time but things that we are doing now — that I’m not going to talk about today — those give me a lot of cause for hope.”

Apple is known to be at work on multiple health-focused initiatives, though none have been formally announced. A recent patent filing from December, for example, suggests the company is developing methods of using Apple Watch to detect Parkinson’s Disease and diagnose tremor symptoms. Similar initiatives, like the sound monitoring Noise app and menstrual cycle tracking Cycle app, were announced and subsequently released with watchOS 6.

The Apple chief also touched on AR, once again calling it the “next big thing” in tech. Cook has long been bullish on the prospects of AR, which are being borne in iOS app releases.

“I think it’s something that doesn’t isolate people. We can use it to enhance our discussion, not substitute it for human connection, which I’ve always deeply worried about in some of the other technologies.”

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Masimo sues Apple over Apple Watch patents, alleged theft of trade secrets

Medical technology company Masimo on Thursday filed a legal complaint claiming Apple infringes on 10 owned patents with its Apple Watch device, and stole vital trade secrets through the hiring of key personnel.

Apple Watch Series 4

Lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the suit alleges Apple Watch, including the latest Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5 models, leverages technology covered by ten Masimo patents. Specifically noted in the case is intellectual property detailing Apple Watch health features like heart rate monitoring.

According to the filing, Masimo is a pioneer of non-invasive physiological monitoring techniques having developed a wide range of technologies to track patients’ pulse rate, arterial oxygen saturation and other parameters using nothing more than transmitted light.

In particular, Masimo invested heavily in the evolution of photoplethysmograph, or PPG, technology. While exact methodologies differ, PPGs at their most basic level sample readings from light transmitted into, and subsequently reflective off of, body tissue. Results can then be obtained by calculating attenuation of light from constituents in the human body, specifically blood.

The company’s Signal Extraction Technology (Masimo SET) solved a variety of problems that plagued traditional PPG hardware, improving reliability and accuracy of reporting of physiological signals derived from the PPG, the suit reads. Masimo went on to develop other non-invasive technologies measuring total hemoglobin, carboxyhemoglobin, and methemoglobin.

In 2013, prior to the launch of the original Apple Watch, Apple approached Masimo with a potential deal that would integrate the medical firm’s technology into an as-yet-unreleased product. Following what appeared to be fruitful initial talks, Apple stepped back and in 2014 began to hire key Masimo personnel including former Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs Michael O’Reilly and Cercacor CTO Marcelo Malini Lamego. The tech giant has adopted identical strategies in the past.

Cercacor is an offshoot of Masimo, having been spun out from the main company in 1998 as “Masimo Labs” and later renamed. While the two companies share a cross-licensing agreement, Masimo does not own Cercacor.

Masimo and Cercacor warned Apple about potential legal violations, but the iPhone maker went on to pursue patent applications covering topics similar to those already patented by the medical technology firms. Lamego, named as an inventor on many of these patents, was “intimately involved” in the development of corresponding technologies at Cercacor and Masimo, suggesting the executive aped the sensitive IP on behalf of Apple.

In addition to infringement and trade secrets claims, plaintiffs seek correction of inventorship on five patents, the subject matter of which Lamego allegedly obtained from discussions with Masimo or Cercacor employees Ammar Al-Ali, Mohamed Diab and Walter Weber. The suit claims Al-Ali, Diab and Weber are inventors of the IP “regardless of patentability.”

Masimo seeks an injunction against Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5, damages for patent infringement and theft of trade secrets, and court fees, among other relief.

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Apple Watch styles drop to $169 (record low prices); AirPods fall to $139 at Amazon

 

Fresh early Black Friday markdowns have been issued at Amazon, with Apple Watch devices dropping to new record low prices thanks to discounts of up to $350 off. Meanwhile, Apple AirPods have received another price cut, knocking the earphones down to $139 while supplies last.

Apple Watch and AirPod deals at Amazon

New Apple deals

Kicking off the pre-Black Friday sale, Amazon has dropped prices on several Apple Watch devices, with Series 3 models as low as $169.99 and Apple Watch Series 4 styles up to $350 off.

According to our Apple Watch Price Guide, these the best deals available on the devices found below.

The AppleInsider Price Guide also picked up a new discount on 2019 Apple AirPods with Charging Case. Now $139 after an additional $5 price drop, this is the the lowest price on record at Amazon for the handy earphones. At press time, the AirPods are in stock and ready to ship, without an extended wait like the one to two month delay found on Apple AirPods Pro.

For the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers, stay tuned to AppleInsider for exclusive savings and the lowest prices on Apple hardware and accessories. Looking for deals on Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro? Check out our savings guide for discounts of up to $438 off.

Apple Watch Series 3 for $169

Apple Watch Series 4 up to $350 off

Apple Watch Series 5 up to $80 off

2019 AirPods on sale

Additional Apple deals

AppleInsider and Apple authorized resellers are also running additional exclusive savings this month on Apple hardware that will not only deliver the lowest prices on many of the items, but also throw in discounts on AppleCare, software and more. These deals are as follows:

  1. Save up to $438 on Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro
  2. Best early Black Friday deals on everything Apple
  3. Apple AirPods Pro are on sale
  4. Pick up a 2018 13″ MacBook Pro for $1,399
  5. 2019 15″ MacBook Pros drop to $1,999

Interested in additional Apple hardware? See if there is a Mac, iPad or Apple Watch deal that will save you $100s by checking out prices.appleinsider.com.

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Apple rolls out watchOS 6.1 update for Apple Watch Series 1 through Series 5 owners

 

Not only does watchOS 6.1 add compatibility with Apple’s new AirPods Pro, but it can now be loaded on the Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2.

Apple Watch and watchOS 6

Apple Watch and watchOS 6

Apple’s watchOS 6.1 release has been in testing since just a week after watchOS 6 was releases for the Apple Watch Series 3 and newer. Beyond the new device compatibility, it doesn’t appear to have much in the way of new features for the user.

The watchOS 6.0 release in September included a slew of new features. That update included an Apple Watch-specific App Store and new watch faces. New faces include Solar Dial, Modular Compact, Gradient, California, Numerals Duo, and Numerals Mono. Several existing watch faces were also updated with new design elements.

New to Apple Watch with watchOS 6 was a redesigned Reminders app, and new versions of Apple’s own Audiobooks app, Calculator, Voice Memos, and Noise.

Cycle is a new enhancement for watchOS 6. Users can track their menstrual cycle right from Apple Watch and get intuitive notifications which is all synced to the accompanying Health app on iPhone with iOS 13.

How to get watchOS 6.1

The update requires at least 50% battery life to install as well as a connected iPhone with a compatible iOS version. To update Apple Watch, users should place Apple Watch on a charger and launch the Watch app on their iPhone. From there, Head to General > Software Update.

As of this release, Apple Watch Series 1, Series 2, Series 3, Series 4 and Series 5 are all supported by watchOS 6.1, although some features may be limited to the newer models.

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Weekend deal roundup: Apple Watch 5, iPads, Macs up to $700 off

Weekend Apple deals are delivering cash savings on everything from the Apple Watch Series 5 to Vega MacBook Pros and iMacs. Many of the markdowns at top Apple Authorized Resellers are in addition to bonus perks, such as free expedited shipping and no interest financing offers.

Apple deals weekend roundup

Apple Watch 5 deals

The week’s best deals include markdowns on the brand-new Apple Watch Series 5. Featuring an Always-On Retina display, more storage and the S5 SoC (system on a chip), the Apple Watch 5 has a number of new features. And best of all, a variety of styles are already discounted, with savings of up to $50 off standalone models or 50% off LTE watches at Sprint.

A small sampling of the deals are highlighted below —the rest can be found in our Apple Watch 5 Price Guide.

Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS Only)

Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular)

50% off Apple Watches at Sprint

Mac deals

Apple MacBook Pro deals


2019 MacBook Pro laptops are just one of the product lines discounted

Mac computers are also on sale, with markdowns on everything from 12-inch MacBooks for $899 to $550 off this 2019 MacBook Pro. For even more deals, check out our Mac Price Guide.

12-inch MacBooks

Apple’s 2019 MacBook Air just $899

Clearance MacBook Airs from $849

Closeout 13-inch MacBook Pros from $1,079

Up to $300 off 2019 13-inch MacBook Pros

2019 15-inch MacBook Pros

2019 15-inch MacBook Pros w/ Vega 16 graphics

2019 15-inch MacBook Pros w/ Vega 20 graphics

Mac mini

2019 iMacs

Clearance iMacs from $949

Apple TV deals

Apple TV deals


The Apple TV 4K is on sale exclusively for AI readers

Both the 32GB and 64GB Apple TV 4K are discounted exclusively for AI readers for a limited time at B&H Photo. It also comes with a free 1-year trial to Apple TV Plus for added value.

Exclusive Apple TV 4K deals

iPad deals

Apple iPad deals


Find cash savings on current and closeout iPad models

Those in the market for a new tablet can find instant savings on new and closeout iPad and iPad Pro models, with a full list of deals in our iPad Price Guide.

Brand-new 2019 iPad 7th generation on sale

Closeout 9.7-inch iPads from $249

11-inch iPad Pros (Late 2018)

12.9-inch iPad Pros (Late 2018)

AirPod deals

AirPod deals


Apple’s new AirPods are up to $30 off

Deals on Apple’s wireless earbuds are also still going strong as we finish out September, with savings of up to $30 off.

2019 AirPods

Additional Apple Deals

AppleInsider and Apple authorized resellers are also running a handful of additional exclusive savings this month on Apple hardware that will not only deliver the lowest prices on many of the items, but also throw in discounts on AppleCare and accessories. These deals are as follows:

Interested in additional Apple hardware? See if there is a Mac, iPad or Apple Watch deal that will save you $100s by checking out prices.appleinsider.com.

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Titanium and ceramic Apple Watch variants spotted in watchOS 6 beta

 

A pair of assets have been harvested out of the latest watchOS 6 beta, pointing to new Apple Watch models in ceramic and titanium coming in the fall.

Ceramic Apple Watch

Two new images contained in the most recent run of beta releases the Apple Watch clearly show titanium and ceramic model nomenclature. Data about the new models has been determined similar to how a September 10 date was extracted for the “iPhone 11” launch event.

Titanium and ceramic Apple Watch setup screens from iHelpBR

Titanium and ceramic Apple Watch setup screens from iHelpBR

The images, spotted by iHelpBR come from the on-boarding screens for the Apple Watch, and there are 40mm and 44mm versions. The images are from the animation that plays during initial Apple Watch setup.

After Apple cancelled the gold “Edition” model, the company used ceramic for the Series 2 and Series 3 models. However, Apple didn’t offer a ceramic model for the Apple Watch Series 4, and has never offered titanium.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted in early 2019 that the material would make a return to the Apple Watch. Saturday’s revelations are the first time that titanium has been rumored as a casing material for the Apple Watch. More recently, Kuo has declared that the fall Apple Watch releases will have some screens sourced by Japan Display.

Beyond very small amounts in fabrication, the only other current Apple product that uses a lot of titanium is the Apple Card.

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Apple disables Walkie-Talkie app after notified of iPhone snooping threat

 

Apple late Wednesday said it disabled the Walkie-Talkie app on Apple Watch after being alerted to a vulnerability that allows a user to surreptitiously listen in on another iPhone’s audio.

Walkie-Talkie

In a statement issued to TechCrunch, Apple said it was made aware of the bug through its product security reporting service, which allows developers, researchers and others to flag security and privacy issues via email.

Apple did not specify how the Walkie-Talkie flaw works, but in a statement said the bug “could allow someone to listen through another customer’s iPhone without consent.” A more detailed rundown might be provided in release notes accompanying a consequent watchOS security update. Whatever the case, the vulnerability is apparently serious enough to prompt Apple to deactivate a major platform feature.

The company told TechCrunch that while the bug has not been spotted in the wild, it has decided to temporarily disable Walkie-Talkie until a fix is in place. Apple will keep the Walkie-Talkie app on user devices as a patch is developed and deployed, suggesting the vulnerability at least partially impacts server-side assets.

We were just made aware of a vulnerability related to the Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch and have disabled the function as we quickly fix the issue. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and will restore the functionality as soon as possible. Although we are not aware of any use of the vulnerability against a customer and specific conditions and sequences of events are required to exploit it, we take the security and privacy of our customers extremely seriously. We concluded that disabling the app was the right course of action as this bug could allow someone to listen through another customer’s iPhone without consent. We apologize again for this issue and the inconvenience.

Walkie-Talkie was introduced last year as a tentpole feature of watchOS 5. A modern take on push-to-talk communication methods popularized by two-way radios — and later transformed into a cellular service option by Nextel and other handset makers — Walkie-Talkie enables Apple Watch users the ability to send ephemeral audio messages to one another through the cloud.

Apple’s decision to disable Walkie-Talkie is reminiscent of its handling of the Group FaceTime fiasco earlier this year.

In January, teenager Grant Thompson discovered a particularly insidious bug that allowed any iPhone owner to eavesdrop on another user simply by adding that person’s number to a Group FaceTime call. The vulnerability granted access to a target device’s microphone without user intervention.

As word of the FaceTime exploit spread, Apple was forced to disable the feature until a fix was rolled in an update issued about a week later.

Thompson, whose mother attempted to inform Apple of the bug multiple times a week before it went viral, was ultimately paid a bug bounty and scholarship for finding the flaw.

Apple has not provided an estimated timeline of completion for the Walkie-Talkie fix.

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Apple to lead smartwatch growth through 2023, report says

 

Apple will be a primary growth driver of worldwide smartwatch sales through 2023, though its share of the market is expected to see erosion from an onslaught of competitors, according to research firm IDC.

Smartwatches are expected to lead growth in the wider wearable device segment over the next five years with shipments moving from 91.8 million units in 2019 to 131.6 million units in 2023, IDC said in a forecast released on Wednesday. The product category currently accounts for 41.2% of worldwide wearable shipments and will grow to 43.5% at the end of 2023, according to the IDC Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker.

Apple is anticipated to lead the pack and will end the five-year period with a 25.9% share of all watches, the report said. Following behind Apple Watch will be a motley crew of devices running Android, WearOS, Tizen and other first- and third-party wearable operating systems.

“Apple’s…nearest competitors follow by a long margin,” Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC’s Wearables team, said in a statement to CNET. “Android also plays a big role here, but it’s mostly known as a Chinese wearables platform.”

While IDC sees Apple Watch as a clear market leader, the five-year forecast terminates in a number slightly down from recent estimates. In March, the research firm said Apple clinched a 26.8% share of the smartwatch market in 2018 on 46.2 million shipments, up 39.5% year-over-year.

According to IDC, watches and “earwear,” like AirPods, will dominate the overall wearables sector come 2023, combining for a whopping 78.3% share of the market. Wristbands, like those popularized by Fitbit, are predicted to account for an 18.2% marketshare, up only 0.3% between 2019 to 2023.

In total, IDC anticipates 302.3 million wearable device shipments in 2023.

Today’s results are modified down from predictions aired in March, which pegged Apple to take 27.5% of all smartwatch shipments at the end of 2023. The earlier report also quoted total wearable device shipments at 279 million units over the same period.

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Apple’s ‘How to take an ECG’ video teaches how to use the feature on an Apple Watch Series 4

 

Apple has published a new video to its YouTube account teaching people how to use the Apple Watch Series 4’s ECG feature, with the brief video detailing all of the steps required to perform the measurement on the wearable device.

A still from Apple's

A still from Apple’s “How to take an ECG” video

Published on Friday, the 36-second video titled “How to take an ECG” quickly explains how to start the electrocardiogram process, started off by opening the ECG app itself. As the video explains, users have to hold their finger on the digital crown on the side of the device until the 30-second timer expires.

After the test has completed, users can scroll through the results to see more information, including next steps a user can take. This includes an “Add Symptoms” button if the user feels unwell and believes it is worth adding alongside the ECG’s results for future reference by medical professionals.

The new tutorial video is in a similar style to those published in December, with quick clips giving a basic overview on how to use Walkie-Talkie, to remotely locate a paired iPhone, customize watch faces, and other topics.

Apple started to roll out the ECG function to Apple Watch Series 4 users as part of the watchOS 5.1.2 update. The feature is limited only to the United States, due to the need to receive regulatory approval in other territories before being enabled.

Shortly after being made available, the ECG function, which is capable of detecting an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, has already helped save lives. Reports surfaced where users visited physicians and hospital emergency rooms for a full-scale electrocardiogram following a warning from their Apple Watch, which in some cases led to further medical procedures.

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Apple Watch could get more hands-free tilt controls in future watchOS update

The Apple Watch could include more gestures similar to Raise to Speak in the future, after the revelation Apple has explored the possibility of producing more hands-free ways to interact with wearable devices and other hardware.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch

Apple introduced Raise to Speak as part of a raft of updates in watchOS 5 last year. The gesture, where the user raises their wrist up and prepares to speak to the Apple Watch, is automatically treated as an intention to issue a command to Siri, all without saying the “Hey Siri” prompt beforehand.

The gesture is useful for more than dismissing the need for a verbal prompt, as it is a way of interacting with the Apple Watch without needing to use both hands. Most actions still require the use of the free hand, such as by touching the screen or turning the digital crown, and while voice commands are also useful, it may not be a desirable time to use them while the user’s hands are occupied with other tasks.

A patent application from Apple published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday for “interacting with an electronic device through physical movement” describes how an Apple Watch could be controlled in a more elaborate manner than currently offered, just by tilting the wrist.

The concept relies on the Apple Watch detecting the user raising their wrist, in a similar way to the current Raise to Speak gesture, but the bulk of the filing details what the users do after the detected raise. By rotating their wrist or tilting their arm, it is suggested the user can select one from multiple different actions presented to them on the display.

While this could be used to prompt actions, it is more likely that such a system would be needed for when a user needs to respond to a notification, without needing to use both of their hands. One example offered is to either accept or reject an incoming call to the Apple Watch.

In one interpretation, the display has a three pronged image that works in a similar fashion to ball-in-maze puzzles. One prong of the M-shaped maze contains an indicator that can be moved to other two lanes, with each representing the response to answer the call or to hang up.

An example of the simple tilt maze used to answer calls in the proposed patent application

An example of the simple tilt maze used to answer calls in the proposed patent application

By rotating the wrist back, the user can shift the indicator in the relevant direction, then tilt to determine which operation they wish to perform, and then rotate the wrist back for a specific period of time to bring the indicator all the way along the path, to confirm the action.

In another way, a single-path lane with two corners can provide two different responses, such as muting a call and hanging up while in a call, with the duration appearing in the middle of the U-shaped path. The indicator can be kept between the two corners while the call is made, but can be tilted and made to reach one of the path’s ends if the user requires one of the two actions to be performed.

The two corner U-shaped path variant in the Apple Watch tilt control patent application

The two corner U-shaped path variant in the Apple Watch tilt control patent application

The concept can also be extended to allow for calls to be answered without the user even needing to see the screen.

When a call is received, the Apple Watch could play a special ringtone consisting of high and low notes in a specific short sequence, potentially for a specific user. To answer the call, the user could perform a series of rotating “flick” movements that matches the ringtone’s notes, rolling away from their face for a high note, and towards for a low note.

An example of the musical notes tilt-cue ringtone concept from the patent application

An example of the musical notes tilt-cue ringtone concept from the patent application

The lifting and rotating mechanic could be employed for selecting and sending pre-made instant messages to contacts. Once the right response is highlighted, the user could keep their wrist still for a few seconds to confirm they wish the message to be sent.

A further tilt mechanic could be used to answer calls by tilting towards the user and holding in place for a few seconds to start the conversation, or away and holding to reject. The same can also be performed by tilting the wrist forward or back, then holding to confirm.

Tilting and holding could be used to answer and reject calls on the Apple Watch

Tilting and holding could be used to answer and reject calls on the Apple Watch

While Apple does produce a large number of patent filings and applications on a weekly basis, their existence isn’t a guarantee that the concepts described will make their way into future products or services. They do however serve as an indication of areas where Apple has shown interest.

For this patent application, employing any of the ideas is plausible for Apple, as it would require only software changes made to watchOS. Since the Apple Watch has tilt sensors and accelerometers for fitness tracking and the aforementioned Raise to Speak, it already has the hardware required to implement such features in the future, if Apple decides to use them.

The application is the latest in a number of other filings where Apple has examined alternative ways for users to interact with devices. For the HomePod, it suggested the creation of a depth map for a room to detect a user’s hands, in order to perform gestures from anywhere in the room.

Gestures have also been considered as a way to control a self-driving vehicle, with actions performed within a designated “interaction zone” able to order a vehicle to do one of a selection of maneuvers. More recently, Apple has looked into force-sensing gloves, which could allow gestures to be performed without a touch-sensitive surface or cameras monitoring the hand itself.

This is also not the first time Apple has considered using wrist gestures with the Apple Watch. Dating back to October 2016, one idea involved adding detectors to the band to detect changes in wrist position and hand shape that alter the stress on the band, rather than using tilt sensors.