Today, Google released a collection of new apps meant to encourage users to minimize their smartphone usage. The apps are part of the company’s ‘Digital Wellbeing’ initiative, which aims to ensure ‘life, not the technology in it, stays front and center.’ As Daily Mail reports, Google describes the apps as 'experiments' and with their release the company is encouraging other Android developers to think of their own unique ways to enhance users lives instead of distract from them.
The first app listed on Google's Digital Wellbeing page is called Unlock Clock, a simple plugin that keeps track of how many times users unlock their phone throughout the day. Every time they reach for their phone and unlock the home screen, they’re shown a counter that displays the number of times they’ve already unlocked their phone in stark white numbers. The numbers are displayed after entering the unlock code on the homescreen and before gaining full access to the phone to make sure users see them.
Post Box focuses on the ways users can fixate on their phones without actually unlocking them. The app focuses collects all users notifications from various apps and instead of sending them out one by one, saves them for a bulk delivery at set times during the day. You can have notifications delivered as few as once and as many as four times each day, and the app can be disabled at any time in case of emergencies or important occasions.
We Flip enlists a user's friends in a playful competition to see who can avoid looking at their phone for the longest. It’s meant to encourage groups of friends to focus on each other instead of their phones when they’re together. Users join the app and at the same time everyone flips a switch to turn their screens off. A timer then keeps track of who in the group was the first person to look at their phone and how look it took before they checked.
Paper Phone is another unique option that lets users select which apps they’d like to use during the upcoming day, and then print all the relevant information from those apps on a sheet of paper they can carry throughout the day. Users can select a handful of contacts whose address or emails might be needed, map directions to a specific location, daily lesson from a language learning app, or a new crossword to work on during a commute.
Desert Island asks users to pick a handful of their most essential apps, say, Gmail, Camera and Calendar, and then blocks access to all other apps on the phone. Whenever users unlock their phone they see a white minimalist background that shows a list of only those apps they’ve selected as important.
Similarly, Morph allows users to create groups of essential apps for different times of day or different days of the week. Users can list a small number of apps to show during the work day, a different set of apps to make available for home use, and another set of apps to use during holidays. Users can program when to transition between app groups so it happens automatically throughout the day.
If users would like to try and create their own wellbeing experiments, Google has posted open source code and some basic tutorial information on the Digital Wellbeing site. Users can submit their projects to Google for review and a potential featured spot on the Digital Wellbeing site. 'The more people that get involved the more we can all learn about building better technology for everyone,' Google says in a post on the website.