Technical companies continue to talk about digital wellbeing lately. The idea is to ensure that smartphone and app users not only wipe their hours in a tapping, rolling stupor, and that the time on the digital devices is targeted and lasts only as long as necessary. At its annual developer conference in June, Apple announced a feature that addresses this called screen time. It allows iOS users to monitor how much time they use in each app they open, as well as set daily limits for app usage. Since then, some apps like Facebook and Instagram have introduced similar features: an activity panel where you can see your time spent in the app as a chart and do things like time constraints or snooze notifications to get a healthier balance of your digital life. The last attempt to solve the problem came with the launch of Android 9 Pie this week. Google's digital health initiative, known as Digital Wellbeing, seems to be the best approach so far.
In recent years, research has shown that our use of smartphones is becoming increasingly problematic. «Telephone Addiction» has increased mental health problems: For example, a study found that young people who spend more time with monitors are more likely to experience psychological problems, including depression and increased suicide risk. In January, a couple of Apple shareholders asked Apple to investigate the issue of smartphone addiction in children. An investigation found that 50 percent of teens feel addicted to their phones. The growing survey has pushed OS makers and app makers to take steps to curb smartphone obsession.
Although Apple and Facebook's options focus on giving the user more information and openness about using the smartphone, Google takes a slightly different approach. Google's digital wellness, currently in beta, gives you a glimpse of using smartphones as a circular graph, showing you the total time spent on the handset in the center and colored arcs that indicate how you split the time between apps. Below you can see how many times you have locked up your phone that day and how many messages you have received. These statistics are similar to what other platforms are offered, but Google's goal is not only to provide you with tools to better manage your smartphone – it's making your phone faster.
In an interview with Android Central, Android user experience manager E.K. Chung explained that Android 9 is about more than just limiting your time in specific apps. Pie Interface "is about high efficiency, making interaction with your device more meaningful and efficient so you can get things done and then return to what's very meaningful in your life," said Chung.
A key way Google is to accomplish this is through Android Ps navigation. Like the iPhone X, the new Android OS builds heavily on motion rather than on the screen and back buttons. One of the goals of this switch is to "pull, combine, prioritize, and clarify" different Android features and navigations, making the system easier and more close. For those used for the old three-button navigation with a back button, home button and app switcher available at the bottom of the screen, it can be a small learning curve. Finally, it should save time, though. One change was to make the app tray a less used component. Instead of accessing a button on the phone's home screen, you can access it by swiping from the bottom of the screen twice. In its user survey, Google found that 60 percent of the time a user searched for was found in the first swipe, which offers shortcuts to the five last-used apps – the new multitasking screen.
Early feedback from those who have been tried by both Google's digital well-being and Apple's screening time, says it's "a bit more thoughtful and elegant", although it's still early days for both. As more phones get the ability to upgrade to Android P-it's only on Pixel phones for now – it's probably clear if these interface tweaks have a significant impact on how often users open and stare on the phone screens. After many years of largely ignoring the problem, it's a great step that both app manufacturers and operators of the OS now take the idea of digital health and smartphone addiction seriously.