Apple is planning to add Covid-19 testing facilities to its Maps app and has quietly launched an initiative to get healthcare providers to sign up via a page on its website. In addition, Apple will allow users to add them through the "add a missing place" feature that already exists.
Apple has taken an aggressive stance in the fight against Covid-19. The company is especially vulnerable to the disruptions caused by the pandemic and has thrown its considerable resources and influence behind a range of efforts to stop its spread.
The company has donated more than 20 million face masks from its supply chain, is manufacturing face shields, has launched a site to help individuals determine whether they should be tested, and is partnering with Google on a technology to aid in contact tracing. This latest effort is another example of how the company is leveraging its technology and reach to provide real-world help to its users.
For what it's worth, Google and Apple have long competed against each other over maps. For years, Google was far ahead of Apple, though the latter has come a long way. Recently, Apple Maps has earned largely positive reviews for an updated interface that includes far greater detail and public transit directions--something that had been conspicuously missing before.
And Apple's version of Maps also has a major advantage over Google in that it doesn't keep track of your location history. Apple doesn't even receive your location information beyond what is needed to show you directions, and it doesn't collect or store it. It also only uses your location anonymously, meaning it doesn't associate it with personal information or use it to serve you ads.
That could be a major consideration for users when it comes to how their information is collected, especially in an area as sensitive as Covid-19 testing. If people are worried their information might be tracked, it's understandable they might be anxious about using a feature that has such personal implications.
That's exactly the problem Google could have, though it's one the company should deal with. The reality is that far more people still use Google Maps, meaning that millions of Americans would benefit should the company implement it.
That's because public health experts agree that testing is one of the most important factors for returning to whatever sense of normal comes after this pandemic. Right now, one of the greatest challenges is that it's been difficult for individuals to find available testing in their location. As testing capacity increases across the country, it will be more important than ever for people to be able to easily find and access testing facilities.
Apple and Google are in a unique position to help people on a massive scale. Apple is clearly moving in this direction. Now it's your turn, Google.