Smartphones are a modern day necessity, but for all that they enable, they’re also a fount of crippling anxiety. To help combat that, Google is launching five “digital wellbeing” experiments to “help people find a better balance with technology.”
The five experiments are all open-sourced, and each is meant to limit distractions and curtail how much time you spend on your phone. Unlock Clock, for example, is a wallpaper that counts and displays the number of times per day that you unlock your phone. Another titled Post Box aggregates and schedules your notifications so that you only see them a few times per day. Meanwhile, the Desert Island and Morph experiments are focused on limiting what apps you interact with at a given time. While the former challenges you to only use the most essential apps in a 24-hour period, Morph lets you group apps by need such as “Exercise” or “Work.” Lastly, the We Flip app is a digital adaptation of that “game” where everyone in a group puts their phone in a basket during and outing—the first one to pick up their phone loses.
“We hope this platform will inspire developers and designers to create experiments and put Digital Wellbeing at the center of what they build in the future,” Google writes in its FAQ. “These experiments are designed to help people consider their relationship with technology. They can be used for a day, a week, or however long is helpful.”
There’s no shortage of digital detox apps built to help break smartphone addiction. These experiments seem to be an extension of the “Digital Wellbeing” initiative Google announced at I/O 2018 and then introduced later in Android 9 Pie. That said, it is nice of Google to open-source the code for the experiments and provide guidelines so that other developers and designers can submit their own. Whatever is created is currently limited to “recent popular Android handsets,” however. If you’re unsure, Google says the Play Store will notify users after downloading if their phones are compatible.