Technology Rehab! : Google’s answer to keeping you away from the phone, for your digital wellbeing! (pun intended)
Last year with the debut of Android Pie (9.0) Google introduced Digital Wellbeing, an application focused on detaching you from your digital life so you focus more on living outside the screen-realm. It helps people to try to separate their digital and real-world and it was built into the OS itself. It’s not an app or a feature, it is an entire idea built around the hope for a lifestyle change. It is Google’s step towards accepting the fact that we are, everyday commanded and controlled by our obsession towards tech.
Google wants to battle the harsh effects of too much internet and smartphone usage. This includes mental health issues in teens and youth like introversion, depression, ADHD, etc. This comes with the phenomenon called “fear of missing out” or FOMO – where one is compelled to check what is going on in the social media repeatedly rather than focus on their own lives.
Digital Wellbeing originally supported features like counting the number of times you’ve unlocked your phone, a number of notifications received, and the time you’ve spent in each application, Grayscaling your screen, turning off notifications for when you’re asleep, etc.
Digital Wellbeing Experiment – The Next step towards infusing Digital Wellbeing into your lives, in an aim to detach you from the Digital world.
Last week Google released 6 new apps as an experimental approach – dubbed ‘Experiments with Google’ – at improvising the approach of taking a break from smartphones.
Ever felt like the worst part of missing your phone is missing its physical presence in your hand all the time. Like yeah, you have managed to somehow convince yourself to use it lesser than usual but just its presence in your hand or pocket tempts you to pick it up for a quick glance! Try to avoid that by putting it in your bag, and you feel something’s missing from your pocket or purse. This app tries to handle just that! Paper Phone prints out a replica of a phone with important content from your favourite apps like contacts, calendar, maps. You can then fold it and use it as a personal booklet all day. Customisable “paper apps” like recipes, phrasebooks and notepads let you get things done or unwind in a more focussed way.
Unlock clock is a live wallpaper which displays the number of times you’ve unlocked your phone in a day and you’ll be quite amazed to know how often you do it. Once downloaded from Google Play Store, you will find with the live wallpapers in the google wallpapers app. It displays the number of unlocks done a minimalistic yet large font on a clean grey background. You can set it as your wallpaper and start keeping a count on your unlocks and hopefully try to gradually reduce it.
Morph is a launcher from the set of wellbeing experiment apps. You get to choose which apps you regularly use at home or at work or wherever else, based on time and location. The launcher then creates “modes” wherein at the selected time and location, only the apps in the current mode will be active. Everything else will be snoozed and activated only when their preferred mode is activated may it be via time or location trigger. This application is aimed at separating your work life, personal life, and recreational relaxation very distinctively by totally cutting off access from the others that aren’t currently necessary. You can download it here.
We-Flip is an app that’s supposed to be used when you’re around a group of people. This app searches for phones around you and pairs them together. All members in the group should flip a switch together to start a new session. The session lasts until one person from the group unlocks the phone and then a summary is displayed. It’s more like a who looks at the phone first game and the one who looks first is the loser. Download this app and use it either at your workplace or a family get-together to avoid taking a peek at your phones all the time.
Desert Island is another launcher from the list of wellbeing experimental applications. Unlike morph that restricts access to applications based on your location or the time of the day, desert island aims to reduce your technology dependency to a very minimal amount. You get to choose a maximum of 7 applications from all the installed ones on your phone. The app then snoozes everything else and challenges you to live with only those apps for a day.
As the name suggests, this app has something to do with messages and notifications. Just like the post box in your homes, this app collects all your notifications and delivers them to you at the scheduled time in an organised manner. You get to choose the time at which you want to see the notifications and the app delivers them accordingly. So, if you’re getting annoyed with your phone beeping with notifications throughout the day, go ahead and download post box right away.
Having said all this about digital wellbeing apps, there’s something else you should know. These apps can only be installed on pixel or android phones running on Android 9 pie meaning that only a very small portion of android users get to use it. The earlier versions of Android don’t support these apps yet. So here’s an alternative app which does the work of all these apps single-handedly.
ActionDash looks and feels almost exactly like Digital Wellbeing. The app is divided into five sections which display your app usage, screen time, app launches, notifications and number of unlocks respectively. ActionDash is available for free for all android users, with a paid upgrade that removes ads and offers a few bonus features, like stats beyond 7 days, full black theme, biometric authentication and auto backups to google drive.
It doesn’t have the experimental features yet. But given Google released these a week ago, the developers are expected to follow suit.
And yes, all these apps are open source and are available for development on GitHub. For more developer-favourite info, visit Experiments With Google.