The wait is almost over. Announced during the annual WWDC (the Worldwide Developer Conference) in June, Apple is set to release its latest update — iOS 12 — promising to improve the overall speed, efficiency, and usability of Apple devices. Nothing groundbreaking was unveiled with this update, however, Apple’s Digital Health strategy has sparked a thought-provoking conversation.
You may be in denial… But it is estimated that around 210 million of us are guilty of technology addiction. Whether it’s getting too engrossed in seemingly harmless cat videos or being unable to leave your phone in the other room for an extended period of time, we’re all have some sort of tech dependency. There’s also a push to unplug, to take a digital detox every now and then, to counter the potential negative effects of too much screen time.
Us consumers aren’t the only ones noticing the tech addiction phenomenon as it grows — even Apple executives have expressed that all this savvy tech isn’t always so healthy. But, instead of banishing iPhones and such for life — I mean, come on — developers are focusing on filling their products with healthier content to ultimately create better relationships with tech for the future.
The question is: will it work?
So, what exactly is Apple bringing to iOS 12?
Developers are introducing several new time management features as well as some optional apps geared towards helping you manage the time you spend on your device. Now you can see just how long you spend typing, scrolling, and swiping.
There’s a new app, Reports, that will display a dashboard and provide an ‘activity report’ — a summary of the time you spend on your phone. You will be able to see a breakdown of how often you use your favourite apps, which of them are sending you the most notifications, and how often you pick up your device over an hour — something we all do without even realising it.
Really want to test your willpower? Through Reports you can set up your device to notify you when you are going over a time limit on an app. For example, if you know you spend way too long scrolling through Instagram you can hop onto Reports and set it to let you know when you have already spent, say, 30 minutes on it that day. Then, well, it’s up to you to decide if you actually want to quit that app or scroll just a little longer.
Another new feature is a jazzed up addition to Do Not Disturb which already exists on IOS 11, straightforwardly named: Do Not Disturb At Bedtime. Now, you can not only automatically silence notifications at night, but your iPhone won’t illuminate with notifications while the device is locked. It will also dim past a certain time — a feature that easily beats wearing those blue light blocking lenses, right?
You will be able to access these settings under Bedtime Mode in the same place as the current Do Not Disturb settings. You can also set your own schedule for when it begins and ends each day. It won’t prevent you from using your phone completely, it just ensures that no new notifications will come through to draw you to unlock your screen when you’re trying to get some much-needed shut-eye.
How does all this stack up against Google?
Just like its competitor, Google has also introduced its own health-related features with Android P. The latest update, like Apple, includes a usage dashboard, showing all the time you spend on each app. It also has the option to set time limit notifications to let you know when it’s time to take a break.
These updates may appear pretty similar, are there any differences? Well, it’s arguable that Google’s strategy is just slightly more aggressive.
Apple’s pretty lenient with its rules, giving you just a heads up when you reached your limit. Google, not so much. While you can completely disregard a time-warning notification on iOS 12, it becomes less about willpower and more about following the rules with Android P. Instead of just a notification, your phone will unapologetically lock you out of the app if you exceed your time limit. May sound like a savage move, but apparently, that’s what it takes to get people to look up from their phones these days.
It doesn’t stop there. When it comes to getting some sleep, Google has gone just a step further. Where iOS 12 will dim the screen of your device, Android P’s Wind Down setting will set your colour tone to grayscale, so your screen won’t be as aesthetically pleasing. Not sure about you, but Instagram definitely interests me less without those chromatic sunsets. Oh, and Android P also has Shush mode, which silences incoming phone calls and texts triggered by just setting your phone screen face down.
Apple is really trying to encourage users to think about how they make their choices. Users will receive weekly reports (ironically, through notifications) while Google will just offer the information through the dashboard that will need to be accessed. Apple definitely takes the cake for being able to educate users, rather than just stopping use.
It goes without saying that there is a way for parents to monitor their children’s tech usage, too. Apple does this effectively, more so than Google, by letting parents remotely control their child’s device usage. Android’s parental controls can only be set up within the device itself, making it less accessable and convenient to take precautions.
This is great and all, but what about Apple’s profits?
To get users as addicted to technology as we know they — we– are, tech company engineers had to do some serious research. Sean Parker, Facebook President, stated that Facebook’s design exploited the weaknesses found in the human psyche to addict users. Safe to say all this research paid off for Apple’s profits, but are we starting to feel the negative impact on our brain and mental health?
Almost every other major developer has already taken steps towards producing a product that addresses consumers’ health concerns. Apple and Google can, and should, use the brand loyalty leverage they have to take initiative to encourage healthier tech habits. It’s also highly possible that gearing their products toward this increasing interest in digital detoxing, brain health, and parental screen-time monitoring could gain traction and popularity.
Apple presents itself as a trusted, quality brand, and people expect their products to be designed with their health and happiness in mind. While this hasn’t always been the case, Apple’s has consistently had an innovative, ahead-of-the-game image. If they can’t at least match every other developers’ digital health policies, that image is at risk. Apple is not only capable of delivering healthier content through its devices, but to some degree, it is obligated to.
The question now is, which system update, if either, will captivate the attention of health-conscious users? Will we feel more motivated by Android’s more aggressive tactic, or stand true to Apple’s user-friendly, gentle reminders? Honestly, it could go either way and comes down to personal preference. Positive changes are on the way, but ultimately our health doesn’t come down to Apple or Google or even Instagram: it comes down to the choices we make ourselves. So, now that you’ve read this article, why not put the device down and go get out there.