More and more people are worried about the detrimental effects of long-term significant phone use, something that has been linked to loneliness and depression.
At its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple (AAPL) rolled out a new, long-awaited digital health feature, addressing these rising concerns. The features will help users understand their own phone use, from the amount of time spent on the phone itself to more detailed breakdowns.
Apple’s Do Not Disturb function that blocks notifications is gaining functionality to allow it to turn off when a person
leaves a location, like a movie theater, or when a specific amount of time passes. The new operating system, iOS 12, will also feature new tools to manage notifications, grouping them together to trim things down.
The Siri tool will also suggest notification changes for apps that are not in use.
For some users, the biggest feature in digital health is Apple’s new “Reports App” app that delivers weekly reports about phone usage, individual app usage, and more granular data about how often the phone is picked up (“pickups”) and when.
To correct any issues, Apple has a companion app called “Screen Time,” which establishes custom limits for overall phone usage, app usage, content, and time usage. When a user’s self-allotted time is up, there is a notification advising them to stop.
(A user can ignore the notification like a snooze button.) For parents, the tool allows them to monitor their children’s usage as well as their own, and even give an “allowance.”
When a child reaches the limit, they are cut off. These moves from Apple come after strong voices from its own investors calling for Apple to focus on the healthy use of its products.
Earlier this year, prominent investors Jana as well as the California State Teachers’ Retirement System had been concerned about the digital well-being and brought the issue up as a reputational issue the company needed to face.
The two investors control around $2 billion of Apple stock.
Following the comments, Apple had teased these features, referring to them as parental tools earlier in 2018. “[Apps] try to draw us in for fear of missing out,” said Apple’s Crag Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering. “We may not even recognize how distracted we’ve become.”
The Cupertino, California-based company follows Google’s well-being tools in the Android P operating system. Google’s tools have a feature called “Dashboard,” which contains detailed insights about user habits, allowing someone to see how much time they are spending — or wasting — on YouTube and other apps.
These new tools in iOS 12 and MacOS are accompanied by new features from Apple in the realm of augmented reality, showing the tricky balance companies have between promoting immersiveness as well as digital well-being.