iPhone 12 is supposed to be a blowout upgrade. But COVID-19 could change that

Apple's iPhone 12 lineup

This year, Apple introduced four iPhones, ranging from the iPhone 12 Mini to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.


Apple

This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

Apple’s iPhone 12 family hits the market at an extraordinary time — with the coronavirus pandemic leaving tens of millions of people out of jobs and kicking off a recession that has thrown everything into a state of uncertainty. The new phones feature a boxier look, a magnetic attachment called MagSafe and, yes, super-fast 5G, but the price tag of these typically premium gadgets may be more important than ever. 

Rivals have already responded to the economic and health crisis. Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S20 FE, a budget phone with high-end specs wrapped in a plastic housing that helps push its price down to $700 from the $1,000 price tag for its standard cousin. Google cut the price of its flagship Pixel 5 by $100 from the previous year’s model to $699. 

On Tuesday, Apple announced its $699 iPhone 12 Mini, a handset the company says is the smallest 5G phone in the world. The Mini is nearly identical to the iPhone 12, only with a 5.4-inch screen, compared to the larger one’s 6.1-inch screen. Both have the same new, sharper screen technology, “ceramic shield” screen protector system, faster A14 Bionic processing chip, and the new MagSafe charging and accessories system.

A smaller phone for the same price may come across as a price hike, which is likely why Verizon and Apple are offering that people can turn in phones as old as 2017’s iPhone X and buy the $699 iPhone 12 Mini

Renewable Technology Will Take Starring Role As Energy Recovers From Covid-19

The global energy system is in a state of upheaval, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has “caused more disruption than any other event in recent history, leaving scars that will last for years to come,” says the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its latest World Energy Outlook (WEO).

“But whether this upheaval ultimately helps or hinders efforts to accelerate clean energy transitions and reach international energy and climate goals will depend on how governments respond to today’s challenges,” the report adds, suggesting that the next decade will be pivotal to both recovering from the current crisis and to tackling climate change.

Global energy demand is set to drop by 5% in 2020, with energy-related CO2 emissions down by 7% and investment in the sector 18% lower than the previous year as the pandemic-induced lockdowns around the world depress economic activity. Global energy demand will not return to pre-crisis levels until 2023 under current policy intentions and targets, or 2025 in the event of a prolonged pandemic and deeper slump.

Slower demand growth will keep oil and gas prices lower than before the crisis, while the drop-off in investment increases the risk of future market volatility.

“Renewables take starring roles in all our scenarios, with solar centre stage,” the WEO states, adding that “solar projects now offer some of the lowest cost electricity ever seen”. Supportive policies and maturing technologies are enabling very cheap access to capital in leading markets and solar PV is now consistently cheaper than new coal- or gas-fired power plants in most countries.

In the Stated Policies Scenario, renewables meet 80% of global electricity demand growth over the next decade. Hydropower remains the largest renewable source, but solar is the main source of growth, followed by onshore and offshore

New research database can help shape the most effective and efficient response to COVID-19

Researchers around the world can tap into a new inter-disciplinary online database of COVID-19 research – allowing them to search for new partners, resources and funding to boost the global battle against the virus.

Launched today, the international open-access database for ongoing research activity COVID CORPUS aims to encourage collaboration and reduce duplication between researchers across all academic disciplines working on Covid-19 research.

Through its easy-to-use interface, the database will allow researchers and funders around the globe to coordinate, collaborate and network to help shape the most effective and efficient response to COVID-19 and its many impacts.

University of Birmingham experts in Computer Science and Medicine worked with the Institute for Global Innovation to create the database, which includes all disciplines of research, including health-related, socio-economic, behavioural, educational, cultural, science and technology.

Fighting COVID-19 requires the academic community to share ideas early in the research process and avoid duplication. If there was ever a time to embrace openness in research culture, it is surely now. COVID CORPUS will play a vital role in reducing duplication of effort and allow researchers from around the world create new partnerships and better understand the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.”


Tim Softley, Professor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer, University of Birmingham

The portal includes research funded both by external agencies and resources at the University of Birmingham. Users can search for projects, resources or funding calls in a specific discipline or topic or keyword. They can also read about the project and contact the lead investigators, as well as registering their own on-going research projects, resources or funding calls.

Professor Hisham Mehanna, Director of the Institute for Global Innovation and Institute for Advanced Studies, commented: “This is the only online database to capture

Commentary: COVID-19 contact tracing apps: Choose the technology wisely

There has been significant interest in leveraging smartphone apps for contact tracing, a public health strategy that involves tracking people who are COVID-19 positive to identify disease hot spots. Traditionally this is done by workers on foot and over the telephone, and we know this labor-intensive method works — it has helped in the elimination of smallpox and in curbing the spread of sexually transmitted infections. However, the efficacy of the app-boosted method is still unknown.

Unfortunately, pressure to ease lockdowns has led to a mad dash to develop and use such apps for COVID-19, resulting in a wildly different array of options. As public health departments are pushed to follow suit, we must be careful about which technologies we adopt.

Several dozen states and companies have already started developing and using digital tools. In the spring, Utah released an app, called Healthy Together, which was built by a social media startup that used Bluetooth and GPS data to augment in-person contact tracing. While the GPS location tracking feature was shut down over the summer due to poor uptake and app mistrust (only 200 users had opted to share location data), the app still tracks proximity relative to other app users. The result? A haphazard app that does not retain the ability to identify COVID-19 hot spots, yet still tracks some data.

North Dakota’s app also uses location data, but unfortunately was found to have been sharing data with Foursquare and Google’s advertising system. While the company developing North Dakota’s app has since updated its privacy policy, its case highlights another important issue. Both North Dakota and Utah’s apps require sharing location data with the state public health department. This centralized storage approach lends itself to partnership between public health departments and contact tracing apps, but is also invasive and

Fujitsu’s Fugaku supercomputer helping fight COVID-19 in Japan

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Fugaku


Image: Fujitsu

Japanese scientific research institute RIKEN is home to the world’s top supercomputer, with Fugaku being jointly developed with Fujitsu.

Fugaku is expected to be in full operation soon, but it is being used already by researchers in Japan for various matters, one of which is the country’s fight against COVID-19.

“We anticipate Fugaku to be used for a wide variety of applications, including those of high concern in the general public around medical and pharmaceuticals, disaster and environmental, energy and production … also industries from materials to general manufacturing,” RIKEN Center for Computational Science director Satoshi Matsuoka said.

“But one very important area there is how we fight against COVID-19 and we have quickly stood up this program, COVID-19 program, even as Fugaku was being built, and, in fact, we did this in less than one month.”

Speaking as part of Fujitsu’s digital ActivateNow conference on Tuesday night, Matsuoka said the program has been receiving “stellar results”, mostly due to the computing resources available to scientists matching the entire high-performance compute capacity in Japan.

“For example, we’re finding some existing drugs, drugs that have approved for other purposes like heart conditions or high blood pressure or parasites to be immensely useful against COVID-19,” he said.

“So if these are proven to be effective, then we may have these antiviral drugs — it’s very cheap, very low side effect, and can be used to not only cure COVID-19 but serve as preventive drugs to be pre-administered to people at high risk.”

Matsuoka said RIKEN teams are also working on mitigating COVID-19 transmission through detailed droplet analysis.

“We’re finding that masks are very effective, also finding shields are effective in the workplace,” he said.

He said these findings are being used to provide guidelines by industry, but also by