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Are you ready to break up with your phone?



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There is a growing sense of unease among many smartphone owners about the amount of time we're spending on our devices.

Google told me about 70% of the Android users wanted to "find a better balance" in their tech use.

But this puts the tech sector in an awkward spot. How can it help its customers from their phones when, for many companies, their business model relies on them doing the opposite?

Both Apple and Google released this year digital tools ̵

1; called Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing respectively – which let iPhone and Android users see how much time they spend on various apps and how often they pick up their devices.

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Media caption WATCH: Rory and lily addicted to their phones? , which has only been released by a handful of phone brands so far.

For those who have seen it, the results can come as a bit of a shock.

On my first day with Android's Digital Wellbeing tracker, I unlocked my phone 200 times and spent more than three hours on it. This was alongside working a long shift in the BBC newsroom and being mum. I'm not horrified, but I was still horrified, to put it politely.

  • How much screen time is 'too much'?
  • Confessions of a smartphone addict

Rose La Prairie is a London-based engineer who was on the team who developed the tool.

She told me that the tech giant was well aware people might feel "guilt or shame" when confronted with the data for the first time , so designing the interface to be non-judicial was crucial.

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Google

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Rose La Prairie developed the Android Digital Wellbeing dashboard
                

            

"Part of it was making sure we didn't like big red arrows or big green arrows, or trying to make a judgment, or an assessment, of what is good or bad," she said.

"When it comes down to it, when we talk to people, it very much depends on the individual, so what's good for me might not be good for someone else."

Ms. La Prairie thinks that most people should be able to self-regulate by using the product.

"For some people see the data will be enough, it's that reminder of how you spend your time and what you do on your phone. " she said.

"There will be some people who will need a little extra reminder, and I put myself in that camp."

For those people, the dashboard can be set to mute notifications, make the phone display go black and white at a certain time (such as bedtime) and set an alert after a certain amount of screen time on an app.

But it's not really in Google's interests for you to not be on your phone, is it?

'Good experience'

Unlike Apple's hardware-focused business model, Google is advertising-driven and that very much requires eyeballs on screens.

"I think what we really care about is making sure users have a good experience, "Ms. La Prairie says.

"People want to figure out how they use their devices in a different way and we really want to make sure we can help users with that." the phone off. "

The mobile phone industry's response to the issue is, well, interesting. Some companies believe that they can use our big screen smartphones with the help of… smaller screen smartphones.

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JUSTIN CHUNG

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Is a tiny phone the answer?
                

            

Devices like the Nokia phone from HMD Global and the tiny Palm phone are marketed as companion devices – in Nokia's case with less functionality, in Palm's case just smaller – to give us a break from our main device.

"It's "It is a little bit ironic that they are trying to sell you a little phone to do the same thing [as your big phone]."

Ultimately, Mr. Wood believes it really comes down to willpower.

"You can have all the different types of gadgets but it's down to you as an individual how much you want to spend time on your phone," he said

Catherine Price wrote the book with her baby and was one of the babies watching her and she was watching her mobile.

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Catherine Price

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Catherine Price says she is happier using her phone less
                

            

"I did not want that to be here impression of a human relationship, but I also didn't want it to be the way that I was living my own life," she said.

"Breaking up with your phone does not mean dumping your phone or throwing it under a bus, it just takes a step back to create a relationship that is actually good for you. It's becoming friends with your phone. " Ms. Price lists a 30-day plan to reclaim this "friendship". Here's top tips include:

  • Turn off all the notifications you can bear to. Just leave the ones you actually want, for me that are phone calls and text messages because they are real people trying to contact me, in particular, in real time, plus my calendar and maps
  • rearrange your home screen so that it only contains apps that have a practical purpose that are not tempting. Your home screen should not have email, or social media, or the news or a dating app, or games. Put them into a folder on an interior page you can see their icons, you have to actively open them
  • Get your phone out of your bedroom. You will need to have something on your bedside table that takes the place of the phone… like a book.
  • Get a standalone alarm clock. If your phone is your alarm clock you are guaranteed that your phone will be the first thing you interact with in the morning
  • There is a plug-in called Facebook Demetricator, which tells you how many times your post has been "liked" . You can go back to see what people have liked, but you're not going to be compulsory when you get to 20 and 25 gets to 30, it can help break that habit.

As for me – I've got over the shock of seeing how often I reach for my phone.

'Feel guilty'

I still find myself on my device, having picked it up to, say, check the weather forecast, only to find myself on social media 10 minutes later, still with no idea whether or not I need an umbrella.

That said, I used to use my handset for work, to navigate my way around, and to keep up with the endless communications from my children's school. I tell Ms La Prairie I like to be able to differentiate between time well-spent on my smartphone and time wasted.

Apparently I'm not the only one.

"The way we think about is intentional and unintentional, and people really care about the unintentional because it makes you feel guilty," she tells me.

"A great version would be how to crack that utility, and distinguish between intentional and unintentional. "

So is 2019 going to be the year we break up with our phones? Analyst Mr Wood isn't convinced.

"For me, 2019 is the year when people are going to be more aware of the amount of time they are spending on their phones," he said.

"But breaking up with their phones? That's a very big ask. "


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