Apple engineers designed protective face mask for employees

Apple is known for its sleek, innovative designs and game-changing products. So it’s fitting that Apple has developed its own version of a product that people around the world use daily: face masks. 

The custom face masks are intended for retail and corporate Apple employees to use to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Apple confirmed to Bloomberg on Sept. 9. 

The masks were designed and developed by the Engineering and Industrial Design teams at Apple, “the same groups that work on devices such as the iPhone and iPad,” Bloomberg reported.

The face masks look like a typical Apple product: They have a minimalist design and reportedly come packaged in a pack of five in a simple white box.

Tech reporter Mark Gurman shared photos on Twitter:

And Canadian YouTube personality Lewis Hilsenteger shared an “unboxing” video of what he says is “the official Apple mask” on Thursday. 

Compared to plain surgical masks, or reusable cloth masks, the mask Hilsenteger unboxes looks quite different.

There are two flaps that extend over the nose (with a “pinch point” over the nose bridge) and underneath the chin to prevent respiratory droplets from escaping. Hilsenteger tried on the mask and said it formed a tighter seal than a standard disposable surgical mask.

Another element that sets the mask apart is a small clip that connects the two adjustable ear loops on the back of the head for a more snug fit. 

The Apple mask is made from three layers of a thick filter material that can be washed. Apple told Bloomberg that the company researched and tested effective materials that wouldn’t put further strain on the supply chain for personal protective equipment. But it’s unclear what material was used to create the Apple mask filters.

N95 masks, which filter out at least 95% of very small particles, remain in short supply, leading healthcare workers to reuse the respirators or wear them longer than intended use.

According Hilsenteger, the instructions in the mask that he unboxed are meant to be reusable, but they can only be worn five times for eight hours.

Unfortunately for Apple fanatics who like to be early adopters of new products, the Apple mask may not be available for consumers to purchase. Apple distributed the masks to employees in September, Bloomberg reported.

In April, Apple announced an effort to produce 1 million plastic face shields per week to give to healthcare workers. (The Center for Disease Control is still evaluating whether plastic face shields alone provide adequate protection.) 

The CDC recommends that people ages two and up wear face masks that have at least two layers of protection, cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the face.

Apple has announced other Covid-19 prevention measures recently. For example, the latest software update for the Apple Watch includes a handwashing feature that automatically detects when the wearer is washing their hands, and starts a 20-second timer. And the new Apple Watch Series 6 announced on Sept. 18 includes a blood oxygen monitor.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment. 

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