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.’
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.
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Google’s Unlock Clock (pictured above) will show Android users how many times they’ve unlocked their phone during the day before each new unlock
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 (pictured above) will save all a users notifications and send them as one package anywhere between one and four times a day
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 (pictured above) lets friends in the same room add their names to an app that times how long the group stays off their phone and lists who in the group was first to pick their phone back up again
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 (pictured above) lets users print a paper version of all the relevant information from their phone that they’ll need on any given day
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 (pictured above) creates a minimalist interface that only gives users access to the apps they choose as essential
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.
Morph (pictured above) lets users create groups of apps to make available at different times throughout the day or week, such as work-related apps during work hours, entertainment apps in the evenings, or travel-related apps during holidays
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.
Google’s Digital Wellbeing initiative wants to help ensure ‘life, not the technology in it, stays front and center’
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.
HOW SEVERE IS SMARTPHONE ADDICTION?
With the average age for a child to get their first phone now just 10, young people are becoming more and more reliant on their smartphones.
Worrying research from Korea University suggests that this dependence on the technology could even be affecting some teens’ brains.
The findings reveals that teenagers who are addicted to their smartphones are more likely to suffer from mental disorders, including depression and anxiety.
Other studies have shown people are so dependent on their smartphone that they happily break social etiquette to use them.
Researchers from mobile connectivity firm iPass surveyed more than 1,700 people in the US and Europe about their connectivity habits, preferences and expectations.
The survey revealed some of the most inappropriate situations in which people have felt the need to check their phone – during sex (seven per cent), on the toilet (72 per cent) and even during a funeral (11 per cent).
Nearly two thirds of people said they felt anxious when not connected to the Wi-Fi, with many saying they’d give up a range of items and activities in exchange for a connection.
Sixty-one per cent of respondents said that Wi-Fi was impossible to give up – more than for sex (58 per cent), junk food (42 per cent), smoking (41 per cent), alcohol (33 per cent), or drugs (31 per cent).
A quarter of respondents even went so far as to say that they’d choose Wi-Fi over a bath or shower, and 19 per cent said they’d choose Wi-Fi over human contact.