Apple's next software update for the the iPhone will make it easier for users to register as organ donors. The company is adding the new feature to its Health app, and will let users sign up to become organ, eye, and tissue donors "with just a few taps." Registrations submitted on the iPhone will be sent straight to the National Donate Life Registry. The feature will be available in fall this year when iOS 10 is launched, although the software will also be available via a public beta later this month.
A shortage of organ donations has been a longstanding difficulty in the US, and Apple CEO Tim Cook told the Associated Press that the problem hit home for him after the death of the company's co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011. Jobs suffered from a rare type of pancreatic cancer, and eventually received a liver transplant in 2009 after enduring what Cook called an "excruciating" wait. Jobs even turned down the offer of a transplant from Cook himself, according to one biography of the Apple co-founder.
The National Kidney Foundation says are currently 121,678 people waiting for lifesaving organ transplants in the US, with 100,791 of these in need of a kidney. Each day, an average of 22 people die in need of an organ transplant, while a patient is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes. In May, the White House announced a new effort to close the gap between "the 95 percent of Americans who support organ donation and the roughly 50 percent who are registered organ donors," pledging to work with Facebook, Google, and Twitter to improve awareness. Now it seems Apple can be added to that list.
"With the updated Health app, we’re providing education and awareness about organ donation and making it easier than ever to register. It’s a simple process that takes just a few seconds and could help save up to eight lives," said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, in a press statement. "Together with Donate Life America, we’re excited to deliver this new feature to iPhone users in the US with iOS 10."
Apple first announced iOS 10 at its Worldwide Developers Conference last month, with SVP Craig Federighi calling the software update "the biggest iOS release ever for our users." It might not be appear to be as dramatic an overhaul as iOS 7 was in 2013, but it features the most significant visual tweaks seen since then, with a completely revamped lockscreen experience and major redesigns for apps like Music, Maps, and News. Developers can currently access an early beta of the software, with a full release expected later this year alongside the launch of the next iPhone.