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Artificial Intelligence

Australian Government To Invest $19 Million In Artificial Intelligence Healthcare Research

The Australian government announced this week that it will be investing $19 million into artificial intelligence-based health care research projects that are designed to prevent, diagnose, and treat a range of health conditions. This investment comes as an obvious reaction to the current Covid-19 pandemic that has killed over 500,000 individuals worldwide, however, the technology would also be widely beneficial for a slew of diseases/illnesses.

The money will be distributed over the course of three years and will be given to five different projects that are listed in the official investment plan for the government.

One of the projects involves the Center for Eye Research in Australia, which will be receiving $5 million of the investment. The center has recently developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that could detect certain eye and cardiovascular diseases and the money will help bring that technology into a more feasible reality for the common individual getting an eye exam.

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The University of New South Wales will also be receiving $5 million of that investment for a new project that is focused on using AI technology to help diagnose and treat mental health conditions many University students face such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. This is a major development for University mental health resources in general in Australia.

Another $7 million from the investment will be put towards two projects that are being developed by the University of Sydney. One of the projects involves translating AI networks online to support clinical work and research in neuro-diseases, such as brain cancer. To simplify it, AI translation allows the technology to scan entire research sources in a matter of seconds to pull specific pieces of information in regard to a specific neuro-disease – in this case – or patient’s case to hopefully find something that’s useful, and otherwise wouldn’t have been thought of in terms of patient treatment.

“AI will be used to understand which interventions, or components of therapies provide the vital, active ingredients, and why they are more effective for some patients and not others,” said Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

The second project coming from the University of Sydney also benefits student mental health. This project is focused on using machine learning to improve young adult’s mental health. The aim is to shorten certain trial periods of mental health treatments for young people so they spend less time figuring out ways to treat and manage their specific issues, and instead can just be given the proper treatment right away.

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The remaining $2 million from the investment will be shared between St Vincent’s Institute of Medical research and Victoria, Australia. St Vincent’s is currently developing AI technology that will potentially change the way individuals screen for breast cancer. The Victorian government invested an additional $1.5 million into the budget as a means of establishing Victoria as one of the “leading destinations for AI technology within the Asia Pacific region,” according to the Minister of Medical Research and Digital Economy Jaala Pulford.

“It is essential to ensure our hospitals are using modern and effective technology to complete important tests and procedures and review in a timely manner because it improves patient outcomes,” health minister Roger Cook said.

The Victorian government is also specifically working with other companies to create a private fund of $8 million to be distributed among 32 AI upgrades within the current AI technology being used by the government.

This investment will hopefully allow Australian government officials, healthcare professionals, and mental health workers to make quicker decisions in terms of critical procedures and patient treatments, without losing any effectiveness of course.

Apple Software

Apple Announces New Software Updates With Pandemic In Mind

Apple held their annual developer presentation this week and brought a slew of new products to make users’ lives much easier while they’re stuck at home. Overall the company announced a brand new set of wearable devices, a new iOS software interface, new Mac software and so many more updates for the devices we find ourselves using even more now that most of us are still enduring statewide lockdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

This event is one of the few major keynote presentations that comes from the company every year. Typically these events happen in person, but for obvious reasons this year it was purely digital. The spring developer conference that took place this week normally debuts a wide range of internal updates, which for fellow tech nerds like myself is just as exciting as a new iPhone launch, which typically occurs during Apples fall keynote conference. 

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This developer conference was no different, as one of the biggest upgrades that Apple announced was the ability to use multiple products at once with the least amount of lag or technical difficulties. The goal was to make using every device within your home as smooth of an experience as possible, especially considering the world will continue to be staying home indefinitely until this pandemic is over. 

According to Gizmodo Magazine, “the big push here was the ease with which you can use multiple products with the least amount of trouble. Apple says it has open-sourced HomeKit/the Home app to prioritize privacy and ease of use, so that when you add a smart device and set it up through the iOS 14 Home app, it’ll automatically suggest various automation options.”

If you’re a smart home fan you may already own smart bulbs that connect to your phone/Bluetooth devices, and now, Apple is rolling out a new feature with iOS 14 known as “adaptive lighting.” This will allow users that own smart bulbs to change the colors you see in specific rooms automatically based on user preference. 

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In terms of home security Apple is also stepping up their game and releasing a brand new system that will allow users to specifically designate zones of their property that they want to closely monitor while excluding all other areas. This way users will be notified right away of any activity that’s taking place in those specific areas of the home. Users can also use facial recognition features for close contacts that have been tagged in photos to allow your security system to recognize when certain family or friends arrive at your house. 

If you own an Apple HomePod, it will be able to notify you with who’s at the door, while your Apple TV can then display a video overlay of the security camera located at the door to show you a live feed. 

Apple TV in general is getting a few software updates as well which will support multi-user functionality for Apple Arcade. Apple TV will also begin supporting Xbox controllers for Apple Arcade and will provide picture-in-picture support for multi-player gaming. 

Besides that all new Apple device announcements are still projected to be made in the beginning of September as usual, but users will be able to have access to a majority of the upgrades mentioned above within the coming two months. 

Corona Outbreak

Coronavirus Outbreak In Beijing, China Worries Health Officials

Beijing, China is reinstating strict lockdown measures and massive coronavirus testing after a brand new group of cases for Covid-19 appeared in the metropolitan’s vast food market. The government’s main concern is getting a full-on second wave of the virus, as many health care experts have warned that a second wave of the virus in general would likely be much worse than the first wave. 

Initially, Beijing reported 36 new cases of the virus as of Monday June 14th, combined with new cases that appeared last week that’s 79 new infected individuals. The cases are reportedly linked to the Xinfadi market in the southern part of the city. This market is mainly known for carrying fresh fruit and vegetables and has since been shut down. 

China’s government in general has had one of the quickest and most effective methods of containing the spread of this virus, especially when compared to how federal governments abroad have handled the pandemic. Beijing was considered to be one of China’s “safest” cities in regards to the virus after the country effectively stopped the spread of the virus a month ago. Now, the possibility of a second wave has their government scrambling. 

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Citizens, however, are already taking to social media to speak out against the “wartime measures” that the government is implementing in order to prevent a second wave. For example within the Fengtai district of Beijing, where the Xinfadi market is located, officials announced that the launch of a “wartime mechanism” as well as the creation of a command center would be made to curb the spread. 

The Global Times is a tabloid that recently took to Twitter to share a video of a paramilitary police force wearing intense gear and patrolling the market after it was shut down this past weekend. Authorities have also implemented a mandatory lockdown on 11 residential areas that are near the market. The lockdown in those areas is so strict that residents won’t be able to leave their property; all of their food and daily necessities will be delivered right to them. 

Beijing has also set up 193 testing facilities within its city alone and has since tested more than 76,000 residents; 59 tested positive. Fengtai district specifically has also collected test samples from almost 9,000 individuals who were working in the Xinfadi market, so far 6,000 of those samples have been tested as negative for the coronavirus. 

Within the testing they also were able to interview and contact-trace the virus based on each individual’s personal accounts. The Beijing government also released a public statement urging any citizen who visited the market self-quarantine for 14 days. 

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Public school classes were scheduled to resume this week in Beijing, but that has since been cancelled. Life in Beijing was reportedly almost completely back to normal before this week. Multiple businesses, schools, restaurants and malls reopened. This was a testament to China’s intense handling of the virus, as they essentially completely eradicated it before fully reopening. 

“There is no way Beijing becomes Wuhan 2.0. The world will see China’s powerful capacity in controlling the epidemic, including (the) government’s strong leadership, respect to science, public’s willingness to cooperate and nationwide coordination of control measures. We will win again,” Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of Global Times, wrote in a post.

Beyond just the market, Beijing authorities are still trying to trace the direct source of the outbreak. Initially the virus was detected on a chopping board for fish used by a seller of imported salmon at the market, which has led officials to fear that the virus contaminated a lot more citizens than they currently believe. 

Investigations are still underway, but if China’s response to these new cases is anything like their initial response to the pandemic, residents should be okay as long as they continue to listen to national health and safety guidelines.

DoorDash

Food Delivery Workers Fear For Their Safety Battling Curfews And A Pandemic

For the past few months, delivery/gig workers have had to navigate being an “essential worker,” making minimum wage, and battling a global pandemic while going out and working during a time where the government is telling everyone to stay home. Now, many are facing the challenges of figuring out how to work around thousands of protests and early night curfews enforced aggressively by the nation’s police force. 

This past Thursday, a video went viral on Twitter that showed a food courier out doing deliveries being arrested by multiple NYPD officers for being out past curfew, even though essential workers have been exempt from the curfew restrictions. The employee worked for a food delivery service known as Caviar, which is owned by DoorDash, and a spokesperson for the company recently made a statement regarding the video, claiming that they were “alarmed by it and we’re gathering information and are in contact with City officials to determine what transpired.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that the incident is “NOT acceptable and must stop.”

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This wasn’t an isolated incident either, several other videos have been circulating online that seem to depict multiple delivery workers being arrested, assaulted, and yelled at by officers for simply doing their job or walking home from work; something that’s especially common in large metropolitans like New York City. 

In multiple media interviews with these employees, many have reconsidered their current employment during a time of justified civil unrest, however, for many this is their sole source of income, and quitting a job during one of the worst recessions the US has ever endured is daunting, especially if you’re making minimum wage. 

DoorDash has responded to their employees having to navigate through crowded city streets, police officers, and working with small businesses that have closed on days due to protests, but are listed as open on the app, by incentivizing them with $1-$4 bonuses on certain orders; I’m sure you could imagine how less than enthused some employees were. 

“I think it’s crazy, with everything on fire and giving me a $2 bonus — it’s because they know people have to work. I lost my previous job earlier this year and turned to delivery services like DoorDash as a financial lifeline. Since I didn’t know the pandemic was going to hit, I didn’t have much money saved,” an anonymous DoorDash employee told the media

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DoorDash has also released a statement in which they claimed that their employees’ health and safety was top priority, and that they are “tailoring operations based on the guidance [they] have received from governments.” Other popular food delivery services like GrubHub and Postmates have issued similar statements. 

The unemployment rate in America is currently at 13.3%, and over 30 million individuals have lost their jobs since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Workers for essential services like DoorDash are now at a crossroads of choosing their health and safety or minimum wage employment during a time of political unrest and economic turmoil. Many are forced into choosing the latter. 

“For those who are making ends meet by delivering food and groceries during the pandemic, this is going to be another source of anxiety, insecurity, and economic instability. Gig workers are disproportionately people of color, many of whom have already experienced police harassment,” Veena Dubal, a labor law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, said about the curfews. 

The curfews themselves aren’t only harmful for employees in terms of potentially being arrested, but also because it limits the amount of business these essential services are able to receive, which leads to even less money being made. New York has since lifted its curfew, but other major cities still have them in place, so many protesters are now calling on their lawmakers to allow them to express their first amendment rights the way they were originally intended; at any hour of the day or night.

Rental Car

Rental Car Industry Has Come To A Halt Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Rental car companies typically account for about 10% or more of annual new car sales in the United States. It’s estimated that anywhere from 1.7 million to 2 million new cars were purchased through rental companies in 2019 alone. However, like most industries in the world right now, the coronavirus pandemic has caused rental car companies to suffer greatly. 

Rental car companies get around two-thirds of their business from airport locations, but obviously not a lot of individuals are utilizing those facilities at the moment. In fact, the rate of flying via airplane in the United States has decreased by a whopping 94% since the beginning of April. As a direct result of this drop-off, way less people are needing to rent cars. 

Hertz recently made headlines when they announced that they were filing for bankruptcy last week as a result of missing multiple payments to their group of lenders due to a massive drop off in new car purchases. Hertz’ main rival, Avis Budget, has been able to keep themselves in business by immediately cutting off all plans to sell new cars when the pandemic began, and by planning to continue cutting purchases of new cars by 80% within the coming months; Avis is still struggling and losing money, but because of this quick thinking they’re remaining economically viable for now. 

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Enterprise has also found themselves in a relatively viable position as well, however, it’s important to note that even the rental companies that are doing the most “successfully” amid the pandemic still have to deal with lots upon lots of thousands of unused cars that they normally would be gearing up to sell to third-party dealers right now.

At the moment, major sports stadiums throughout the country, such as the Dodgers and Angel Stadium in California, have been called upon to store these unused cars for the time being while no one is attending any sports games. The Los Angeles Times posted a photo of these parking lots, joking that it seemed as though Californians were all in the stadium still cheering for their favorite teams. 

“Hertz said it has sold 41,000 cars from its US fleet and another 13,000 cars in Europe in early March, but that the halting of used car auctions and closure of many used and new car dealerships essentially brought sales to a halt. The difficulty in continuing to sell cars is one of the reasons it cited as the cause of its bankruptcy filing. Avis Budget said it already cut its US fleet by 35,000 in the first half of March,” according to reports from CNN. 

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Rental companies are still preparing to sell these cars, however, and are even estimating they can sell hundreds upon thousands of cars; there are currently about 1.5 million unused rental cars in the US. 

All companies are considering some pretty severe price cuts to get rid of the vehicles, which could be extremely beneficial to anyone in the market for a new car. Now, buyers can likely expect to see these companies listing these late-model cars with relatively low mileage, barely any use, and at a significantly lower price than what’s to be expected (depending on the specific car of course). 

“The sales to rental car companies typically are among lowest-margin sales made by the automakers, especially compared to retail buyers who are more likely to pay for the higher priced options. But while sales to rental car companies “aren’t necessarily the most profitable sales, they move the metal, and generate cash that is needed right now,”  said Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting for automotive research firm LMC.

Like all industries throughout the world right now, only time will tell how this pandemic continues to impact business and its economic viability.

What Apple Fans Are Expecting For The Next iPad Pro

Apple recently announced the launch of the next generation for the iPad Pro in March, however, Apple fanatics are already predicting what they’re expecting from the next revision. Apple is fairly cyclical when it comes to their device releases. Depending on the device they typically have a soft update of everything in the winter/beginning of spring months of the year; “soft update” meaning more internalized upgrades that help the device run better. 

Apple’s September Keynote event is when the larger upgraded devices are announced, normally,  hence why fans are already anticipating the next iPad launch, as that upgrade is likely to be a lot more extensive. 

The iPad Pro upgrade in March gave the device a brand new camera system that is similar to that on the iPhone, and a new Magic Keyboard, which is compatible with some older iPad models as well. As previously stated, the main updates to the device were internal, the Pro now has an A12Z Bionic processor and 6GB of RAM.

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One of the biggest changes that will be expected of the next generation iPad will be an improvement in the screen quality. Fans are expecting Apple to upgrade the way they use mini LED’s in the screen in order to improve the display quality and give the device a longer battery life (as it will have to work less to display more quality images). 

Right now all iPads use one large black-light screen that engulfs the entire device. Mini LED displays would be made up of smaller “dimming zones” that can be turned on and off individually depending on what’s being displayed on the screen; in terms of color and image resolution. Mini LED’s would also allow Apple to reach a wider color gradient, which is fairly impressive considering they already have such an advanced spectrum of colors for their displays. 

For the next generation of iPad Pro’s, fans are expecting that Apple will finally give 5G connectivity to the tablets. The newest generations of iPhone are expected to also adopt 5G technology, so it’s likely that Apple will implement it into all of its mobile devices at the same time. 

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On the internal side, the next iPad Pro will likely contain an A14 processor chip, which is still in its early stages of manufacturing in general. The chip, like the 5G connectivity, will also be implemented into the next generations of iPhone; as you can tell, Apple is very much a “two birds one stone” company, and it’s the reason they’ve remained so successful for so long, as they always wait to release new internal upgrades unless multiple devices can also contain those upgrades. 

As of right now it’s fairly unclear how much the next generation of iPad’s will cost, however, the addition of features such as 5G and mini-LED lights, along with an extended battery life and more powerful processor will likely increase the price. The current iPad Pro models start at $799 but can cost up to $1100 depending on the model. 

Normally, as mentioned, Apple saves its bigger launches for their September Keynote, however, thanks to Covid-19 it’s unclear as to when any sort of keynote event will be able to occur again. Fans are predicting that Apple will delay the launch of all these new upgrades, along with their other devices until the beginning of 2021, so for now, only time will tell when we’ll see all these updates actually put into fruition. 

SONY Controller

Sony Gears Up For The Launch Of PlayStation Studios

The PlayStation Studios brand has been in the works for quite some time, and now that the massive gaming company is gearing up for the release of the PlayStation 5, they’re finally ready to launch their studio brand alongside it. 

Sony, which owns PlayStation, announced that they developed a “new umbrella brand to unite its first-party PlayStation titles,” as video game concepts begin to enter into America’s cinematic universe. The PlayStation Studios brand will be launched on the same day as the PlayStation 5 later this year. 

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“We are really excited about this, over the last few years — and even the last decade — the strength of the titles coming out from our studios has been stronger than ever. We have been thinking about how we unite all of these great games under one brand, and really the purpose of that is to make the consumer understand that, when they see this brand, they’re getting ready for a robust, innovative, deep experience that they’ve come to expect from games coming from PlayStation. So we came up with PlayStation Studios,” says Eric Lempel, senior vice president and head of global marketing at Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Those who purchase a PlayStation 5 later in the year will notice a brand new opening video sequence when they turn the device on. This video will feature classic PlayStation characters from games like Uncharted, LittleBigPlanet, God Of War, and more, all of which are games that will be used as inspiration for future films released by the studio. 

The goal is to have these animated assets/features that PlayStation relies on for advertising their new brand in a lot of other places outside of just the PlayStation console itself. Lempel went on to discuss how he plans on expanding the branding of the new Studio to animated shorts and other products such as packaging and game discs to spread the word. “We think this is a good way to let consumers know that, if they see it, then the quality games they’ve come to expect from us are here,” he claimed. 

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Sony’s PlayStation 4 games/title sequence will also begin to carry out PlayStation Studios branding, however, that transition will likely take place after the initial launch, especially considering that the studio has its hands full with the launch of PS4 games The Last Of Us: Part 2 and Ghosts of Tsushima, which Sony is planning to release this summer. 

Lempel also explained that he wants the PlayStation studio brand to reach new audiences in the gaming world besides just PlayStation gamers. Specifically, Sony wants to call on work-for-hire game developers to work under the companies guidance to bring their visions to life. 

“If our studios are managing the production of these games and working with an external developer, it will still come out under the PlayStation Studios brand. It doesn’t mean that we outright own the developer, but it just means we brought it up as a first-party. In a lot of cases we don’t own the developer,” Lempel said. 

The goal is to expand the brand to a place it’s never been before, and what better way to do so than by bringing in the gamers who have been experiencing what the company has been releasing since its launch.

Woman on her Smartphone

How To Make Your Smartphone Run Faster And Live Longer

All smartphone users can relate to the experience of having your phone slow down or just stop working completely after you hit the two year mark with the device. iPhone/Android users especially know the pain of having your device crack under the pressure of storing all your photos and apps, leading to a reduced battery life, and less than enjoyable experience everyday. 

We need our phones for just about everything, so if you’re a smartphone user who’s noticed that your device has become much more slow/dies a lot easier than it used too, there are a few manual changes you can make that could help extend your phone’s life and avoid making another $500+ investment. 

The most basic fix that we’ve all tried is simply restarting your device. It may seem silly, but more times than not restarting any of your smart devices can help fix any bugs/issues you may be having. Simply quit every application and clear every notification from your phone and turn it off for at least 30 seconds; this gives your phone enough time to properly shut down every application. If you have a phone that’s lacking in storage when compared to other models, doing a weekly restart of your device has been proven to help your device’s performance and battery life. 

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Another simple solution is to check if your phone is due for any sort of software/app updates. A lot of smartphones have the option to automatically update your apps every time a new version is released. This is a smart function to have turned on, because when you have to update every app manually, you can forget to do it after a while and the more those updates build up, the slower your phone will become. 

The same can be said for software updates. One of the major benefits to any sort of system update on your devices is that every update is supposed to be designed to help your phone run smoother, and with less issues. Again, depending on your settings your phone may not notify you when a software update is available, so make sure you check that and update your device frequently. 

We use our phone’s everyday, and within those phone’s we all have a solid 5-10 applications that we all cycle through daily. Other than that we have a myriad of random games we downloaded on a whim one time, a few apps for specific doctors/services we use maybe once or twice a year so we can’t get ourselves to delete the app itself, and much more. Unused applications/old text messages are the two main killers of phone storage; besides photos, obviously. 

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The settings in your phone should tell you how often you use certain applications, and how much storage each one is taking up, so make some sacrifices and delete all the apps that you haven’t touched in more than a month. You can also change your settings to automatically delete your text messages if you haven’t gone back to a specific thread of messages for a certain amount of time. For example, you can set it so that your phone will delete any texting conversation if you or the other person hasn’t contacted the other within a week, two weeks, month, etc. 

As previously stated, besides messages and applications, photos take up the most amount of storage on a phone and they do it fairly fast. When your storage is full, your phone is likely to run a lot slower and run out of battery a lot quicker. It would be beneficial to you to own some sort of external hard drive or SD card to put all your photos on once you reach a high enough number. 

Obviously you can also upload all of your cell phones pictures to your computer as well, but an external hard drive will give you that additional layer of security. Services like Google Photos also offer free unlimited storage for photos if you have a google account. The Google Photos app automatically uploads every picture you take/save onto your device and makes it accessible for you anywhere you go where you have access to the internet/ability to sign into your Google account. 

So no matter what solution you try, make sure you do the research and truly exhaust all your options before biting the bullet and buying a new phone. More times than not, the solutions are indeed as simple as they sound and will work.

iPhone SE

Apple Releases ‘Low-Price’ iPhone SE To Combat Coronavirus Demands

In China, Apple recently announced that they would be discounting pricing on all iPhone 11 models, and now with the release of their new low-price iPhone SE models as well, Apple is hoping they’re putting themselves in a better business position to recover economically from the coronavirus pandemic. 

China accounts for about 15% of Apple’s annual revenue, it’s also where a majority of their manufacturing takes place. Apple is waiting to see how their second-quarter reports look before implementing these discounts, especially considering the United States and Europe have closed down all retail business locations in general amid Covid-19 concerns. China will be the only country that will be able to reopen parts of their market to sell these products, as they’ve begun easing out of their lockdown policies.

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“Apple is better positioned than most to experience a rapid recovery in a post COVID world. We see demand as pushed out, not canceled,” analyst Amit Daryanani said.

As Daryanani stated, while consumer spending in general has slowed down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Apple is relatively prepared and equipped to recover. As the second-most valuable tech company in the world, experts from Apple aren’t necessarily worried, but by launching the $400 iPhone SE model, they’re definitely taking some precautionary measures. 

Apple analysts predict that they’ll see a 6% decrease in revenue from this past quarter, and an 11% decrease in general net income. To prepare for this decrease, several online Chinese retailers have discounted their iPhone 11 pricing as much as 18% off of the original price. 

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This isn’t the first time Apple has offered random and obscure online sales for their products as a means of increasing demand in times of economic distress. During the 2008 recession, Apple discounted their Macbook pricing as a means of increasing demand, which ended up increasing Apple’s revenue for that year exponentially.  

As previously mentioned, Apple announced the low-priced iPhone SE model this week, and social media has remained relatively quiet about it. The company, however, is hopeful that momentum will begin to pick up in the coming weeks, as individuals looking to purchase a new iPhone will likely want the cheapest and easiest option for acquiring it during a pandemic. 

“The cheaper iPhone SE could tempt iPhone owners to opt for a newer device, something they might have otherwise delayed in a weak economy. People want to avoid uncertainty in a downturn. Having a brand like Apple that can showcase quality and make people less worried about breakdowns or after-sales service can bring in buyers,”  said Nicole Peng, who tracks the smartphone sector at research firm Canalys.

Initial data has already proved that China’s smartphone market is recovering when compared to what it looked like when this pandemic began. Reports showed that iPhone sales in China increased by 21% last month when compared to sales from this time last year. While experts are still predicting a decrease in net income, this immediate increase in smartphone sales before the pandemic is even over is a good sign for the world’s many businesses/companies, and their economic futures after this quarantine is over.

Amazon App

Jeff Bezos Returns To Manage Day-To-Day Operations At Amazon During Pandemic

As one could imagine, orders for Amazon have reached some record highs during this quarantine, and as those order numbers are increasing, so is the amount of warehouse staff walkouts/strikes against the trillion-dollar company and it’s billionaire CEO.