Once upon a time (about ten years ago), a smartphone was something that early-adopters would have to impress their friends and colleagues who still owned phones with buttons like a bunch of neanderthal plebs. Now, you’d be hard pressed to find anybody over the age of ten in the developed world who doesn’t have a flat panel of touch-screen glass in their pocket to access the world’s information at the tap of a finger.
As the world becomes more and more connected via social media, the 24-hour news cycle, and over-the-top messaging services, however, many are starting to find that they’ve actually become more and more detached from the immediacy of their surroundings. Where other manufacturers of smart devices are packing more and more features to keep users glued to the screen on their phones, Google has come up with a range of new features and options designed to help you keep your usage under control, and limited so that you can look up, wake up, and smell the roses.
Digital Wellbeing is focused on the notion that great technology should improve life, not distract from it. Despite modern technology making the phones in our pockets all-in-one devices, from hi-res photography to slo-mo video; high-speed HD streaming to a plethora of apps that can send money to friends, order a pizza or book a flight overseas, the versatile nature of smartphones has made them damn-near impossible to put down for many. With a new dashboard-style display built into the Pixel 3, however, managing this daily usage has become very easy (and a quick heads-up, you might be surprised just how much you use the damn thing after all).
Apart from the dashboard, there are other features designed to make some downtime away from your smartphone a reality, including new “App Timers”, which will limit the amount of time you can spend on each app per day (super handy for compulsive Twitter users, and those who find themselves going down the YouTube rabbit hole more often than they’d care to admit.) There’s also a dynamic “Do Not Disturb” mode, which stops all visual and audio notifications.
For making evenings more restful, Google has also created “Wind Down”, which incorporates Do Not Disturb mode with a grayscale screen right before bedtime.
This all functions in conjunction with Google Assistant, a voice-activated digital assistant that actually works. By using voice commands, users can keep their phone out of their hands and away from the temptation to overuse it, making for a more organic, user-friendly experience, and one which ideally won’t give anybody square-eyes (but will give them better sleep, and more time with their faces to the world).