Comment: The app economy has been crucial to surviving COVID-19 and social distancing

It feels like every email I receive mentions COVID–19. Every podcast I listen to mentions COVID–19. On Twitter or LinkedIn, you can’t avoid mentions of COVID–19. Our current pandemic is everywhere, and that is probably as it should be. It’s dominating our lives. As I was headed to the grocery store to pick up an online order, I realized how essential the app economy is right now and how much worse off we’d be if this pandemic would have happened even a decade ago. Here are a few ways that the ‘‘app economy’’ that Apple helped pioneer has allowed us to adjust to a ‘‘new normal’’ while we are all stuck at home.

Telehealth

I recently wrote about Virtual Visits from Jamf, and telehealth has undoubtedly been on my mind lately. I’ve had multiple virtual doctor appointments in the past few weeks. So many of my doctor’s visits are about sharing information and getting guidance on the next steps, so being able to do that from the comfort of my own home is wonderful.

I had a telehealth appointment with my allergist while I was out running and took the call from my iPhone and AirPods. Ten years ago, we didn’t have the available bandwidth, device capability, or available applications to do something like telehealth. Going forward, I expect it to be part of the regular treatment routine for minor check-ins. The app economy is transforming healthcare, and I expect that to continue into the future.

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Mobile food ordering and delivery

I am thankful to have a job still, so I’ve been trying to support as many local businesses as possible while they are limited to carry out and delivery. Thanks to apps like Uber Eats, Grub Hub, Door Dash, and others, restaurants don’t have to create their app infrastructure to be able to offer delivery. While the commission restaurants must pay these apps isn’t ideal, it’s great that they at least have an option to provide delivery in a time where people are trying to stay at home as much as possible.

Entertainment and news

While not essential to physical health, we have so many options to stay entertained and stay informed. From a COVID–19 focused podcast section, more streaming video content than we can count from Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV+, etc. breaking news alerts from push notifications, a library’s worth of books on Apple Books and the Kindle app, and millions and millions of songs on Apple Music and Spotify.

We have more entertainment produced in a year than we could consume in a decade. We also have more ways to stay informed during this pandemic as well through online news, social media, etc. Both of these are equally important as we need entertainment to help give us small moments of joy and news to keep us informed about what we need to know to stay healthy.

One thing I’d like to note is how crucial I’ve found podcasting to be during this time period. Instead of relying on a single news source, I can subscribe to multiple podcasts in Apple Podcasts to stay informed. Apple Podcasts is available in 175 countries with over 1 million shows in more than 100 languages. For a worldwide pandemic, podcasting is a worldwide news source.

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Video communication

When FaceTime launched in 2010, it was pretty revolutionary. It was one-click access to video chat with someone over a cell phone. Since then, Apple has added group FaceTime with up to 32 people. Many other video chat products make it easy to stay connected with people. While we can’t physically see all the people we want to see, we can still have face to face chats using products like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Spike, etc.

Wrap-up on the app economy

These are just a handful of examples of the app economy, and I am sure I missed many categories, but they are only a few of the cases I came up with to think back on. Apple didn’t create these apps, but they jump-started the app economy with iPhone OS 2.0 back in 2008. Because of the software they envisioned, developers have been able to build apps and services to keep our world running, keep people connected, and give us hope.

As Apple said in 2009, there’s an app for that.

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