September 22 2022
Written by David Simpson
When Apple released the iPhone 14 and iOS 16 this month to critical acclaim, Abel Weldaregay could just sit back and smile. The 2020 Old Dominion University graduate has played a major role in developing the outstanding features of the phone and the operating system.
Weldaregay is a Core OS software engineer on the Power team at Apple. For the iOS 16 project, he led a group that worked to reduce the power consumption of a redesigned, customizable lock screen — which was often advertised.
Weldaregay, responsible for DRI (Directly Responsible Individual) Advantage for the Energy Team.
The goal, he said, is to find the sweet spot between power and user interface “so that users can make it through the day without having to plug in their phones, while also enjoying a great user experience.”
The lock screen was the top update in Apple’s promotions for the new operating system. Make your iPhone yours with all-new ways to personalize lock screen, “Preview page has been read.” View favorite images, customize font styles, and view a suite of tools to get information at a glance. “
CNET called it “the most substantial update to the iPhone lock screen to date.”
Wildarijay said the overall iOS 16 project took a year, starting with the idea stage. Months later came the “raw” versions of the app developers, followed by developer comments. In June 2022, Apple previewed the system at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which was held online.
“Throughout the year, it was kept a secret, and we were really working hard,” Wildarigay said. “Finally at WWDC it became public, and we saw how the public received it, the excitement around it, and how they were consuming the new updates and lock screen.”
Its impact on Apple’s new releases didn’t stop there. It has also been the DRI power feature of the Dynamic Island element on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models.
The dynamic island replaces the empty pill-shaped hole in the top center of the screen. The company’s iPhone 14 Pro page describes Dynamic Island as “a true Apple innovation that’s hardware, software, and something in between. It bubbles out music, sports scores, FaceTime, and more—all without putting you off what you’re doing.”
cheerful? Absolutely. But for Wildarigay, there was also a lot of work to do.
His team worked to reduce the energy impact of scenarios inhabiting the dynamic island – music, voice memos, etc.
“It was one of the most challenging projects I’ve worked on, but also one of the most exciting and rewarding,” he said.
His route to Silicon Valley was to pass through Norfolk. He majored in Computer Science at ODU, where his studies helped prepare him for his role at Apple. Most useful were CS410 and CS411, Senior Design courses. He said they gave him a chance to bring a project from a high-level idea into a fully designed prototype.
“They also gave me the opportunity to work on a software team that tackles a real-world problem, improving my teamwork and technical skills.”
In CS410, he impressed coach James Brunell by proposing a mobile app project, SeizSmart, and leading the team he works on. The app is designed to detect the onset of epileptic seizures, and uses a smartwatch that runs a trained neural network. It captures information about the seizure and can alert caregivers and first responders. Brunel described the project as “very successful and innovative”.
His wife, Lecturer Professor Janet Brunel, was Weldaregay’s advisor. She recalls that “he was always up to the challenges, excelling and setting an example of how to be a leader for future computer science disciplines.”
Weldaregay was a research assistant in the Applied Research Laboratory at Ajay Gupta. Gupta, Director of the Computer Resources Department, appointed the student because of his positive attitude in solving complex research problems.
“He proved me right, by proving he had a knack for critically evaluating a problem and solving it by applying a unique but simple solution,” Gupta said.
Weldaregay lives in San Francisco, where in his spare time he walks, plays basketball, tries new restaurants, reads and works on side projects.
He takes the company’s shuttle to Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California – an hour’s flight – and makes use of that time by using Wi-Fi and working all the way.
It’s a demanding job, but he loves it.
“I have a really big passion for the products,” he said. “So it’s always easy to move on, because the work is so exciting that it doesn’t necessarily look like work.”
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