Google’s Digital Wellbeing
A couple of years earlier, Google introduced the world with Digital Wellbeing, an Android-based app usage tracker that helps users track phone usage and curb their addiction to the screen. It was Google’s way of letting users know how it wanted people to spend some time away from phones, which ultimately helped the company brand itself as some sort of a digital philanthropist. But only if this Digital Wellbeing Initiative had been launched sooner, Google might have had its way. Digital Wellbeing was not an innovation at Google’s part but was a Google-branded project adapted from other app usage tracking applications of the same kind.
Google Goes Creative with Digital Wellbeing App Experiments
Later, to improve Digital Wellbeing’s reach, Google upgraded it as an in-built feature in Android smartphones. But before that reached a wider audience, in-app activity trackers were integrated within apps like Facebook and Instagram. So now, Google Creative Labs and Google’s Special Projects initiative has taken upon themselves to develop experimental Digital Wellbeing apps for users. The purpose is to divert users from their phones by some unique and creative means rather than prompting them with a tracking alarm to aware them of their screen time on Android phones.
Top Google’s Digital Wellbeing Apps And Experiments
Google has been working on such experiments for a while now, and they have been joined by three new such creative Digital Wellbeing applications very recently. Here are the best Google’s Digital Wellbeing applications [apart from built-in Digital Wellbeing and experiments you must check out:
Morph, in the literal sense, means to change from one image to another. Here, in this Digital Wellbeing experimental app by Google, your phone would morph one mode over another at a particular time or place. This way, you can block certain apps for a specific time period and keep only the critical one in use. Learn how Morph works for your Android phone to help you track phone usage through its features below.
- Morph allows you to set different modes for your phone with specific apps included in it. For example, create a mode called Entertainment, and add all music streaming and video streaming apps in there.
- Once the apps are selected, you can set a time of activation and deactivation for that particular mode. You can also set a place of activation as well.
For, e.g., set your home as the location and 9:00 PM as time. This is when people usually get back home from work. This way, whenever you reach back home, you’ll have your entertainment dose lined-up on-screen.
- You’ll have to set Morph as a default launcher application for your Android phone.
- In case you’re using Morph as a launcher at a random time, you may switch between modes, which also allow access to All apps at once. For that, you may grant Notification Access to Morph.
2. Post Box
A basic Android Digital Wellbeing application by Google, Post Box offers an extensive detox from your day-to-day routine of clearing out notifications. Post Box limits your access to your notifications and helps you maintain a major distance from your social media addiction.
- Post Box blocks every app notifications that you’ve enabled on your phone settings in simple steps.
- Post Box blocks notifications for Maps, Calendar, Photos Music, News, Banking, etc. It’ll require notification access for the same.
- You can set four timers through Post Box in a day. All your notifications would appear only at these four instances while you can rest off your phone for the rest of the day.
- Post Box can be disabled by quitting it through the phone settings without hassle.
Desert Island is a launcher application from Google, designed as a part of its Digital Wellbeing experiment. Instead of helping you track phone usage, It directly restricts you from accessing your Android applications, apart from some critical ones. This way, you can hide apps on Android and refrain from extensive use of your phone and only unlock it for significant uses.
- Desert Island acts as a launcher application for your Android phone, which only allows 7 applications of your choice to be on the home screen.
- The rest of the applications besides the chosen seven are blocked from access.
- You’ll need to set Desert Island as your default launcher on your Android device so as to allow it to execute its digital wellbeing goals.
4. We Flip
In case you’re looking to collectively reduce your screen time on Android phones along with your family members, then We Flip is the digital wellbeing app for you. No, it’s not some app usage tracker for social media or others; but in fact, it is a kill switch to cut you off from your phone completely. You can connect with the nearby Android devices of your group and then collectively flip the switch on-screen to put your phone on sleep-cum-hold. And then, just enjoy some moments of peace with your friends and loved ones.
- It acts as a collective Digital Wellbeing app by connecting to nearby devices via Bluetooth.
- Once connected, connected users can simultaneously flip the switch and then be off their phones.
- The sleep session runs until one of the members flip the switch again to turn on their phone.
- This way, you can track phone usage for yourself and for the group and see how long you and your friends can hold off without looking at their notifications.
5. Unlock Clock
As the name suggests, it’s a clock count for you to track phone usage. The app acts as a live wallpaper for your Android home screen, which would display a number. The number would automatically increase by one, every time you unlock your phone.
- This Digital Wellbeing experiment allows users to track how many times they unlock their phones in a day’s span.
- The app, once downloaded, is added to your phone’s live wallpaper list instead of the app drawer. For phones not running on stock-Android, you’ll have to download the Google Wallpapers app via Play Store to access it.
- To enable Unlock Clock, set it as a live wallpaper for your screen. Now, just begin tracking your phone usage. You’ll be prompted to reduce your screen time as your unlock clock exceeds.
Activity Bubbles is also a wallpaper activity tracker application developed under Google’s Digital Wellbeing experiment. Here, if you set Activity Bubbles as your wallpaper, you would see more and more bubbles covering your screen as you unlock your phone.
- More of a Digital Wellbeing wallpaper, unlike Unlock Clock, Activity Bubbles is listed as an application in your app drawer, and hence, can be directly activated from there.
- Once set, you’d see one small white bubble fall at the bottom of the screen.
- As you began to unlock your device, the number of bubbles would increase. The more times you unlock your device, the more bubbles your screen would fill up with.
- This way, you’ll have a track of phone usage and know how frequently you’re unlocking your phone for checking notifications and surfing the web.
Another live wallpaper for you to keep a live track of phone usage and sustain Digital Wellbeing, Screen Stopwatch runs on your home screen and lock screen continuously whenever the screen is unlocked. It resets itself every new day, thus helping you to track phone usage and know for how long you’ve kept your eyes stuck on your screen.
- It can be set as a live wallpaper for your home screen or lock screen. It is found in the app drawer as a separate application like Activity Bubbles.
- The stopwatch runs in Hour:Minute: Second format.
- It stops when your phone screen goes dark and resumes the very moment it’s turned on.
This is the most unique approach towards digital wellbeing anyone has ever made. Envelope is not just another Google’s Digital Wellbeing app to track phone usage but is also a physical paper to lock your phone in.
Envelope is a paper designed by Google, wherein you can case your phone. Before that, set the Envelope app as the default launcher application on your phone and then case your phone in the paper. From the paper itself, you can type numbers and make calls and can even click pictures [without preview]. Features:
- The application Envelope has to be set as your default launcher app. Once that’s done, keep your phone inside the paper Envelope from Google.
- The paper has got a keypad on it. You can make calls by tapping the paper keypad on the envelope. Your phone-screen would be able to sense the capacitance of your fingers from over the paper.
- You won’t be able to look at the screen anymore. So, your phone would only be used to make calls. You can, however, access the fingerprint lock as the envelope has got a hole in it to access that.
- Once you’re done with your work, you can take your phone out of the paper and see how long you’ve used it.
9. Digital Detox
Digital Detox is more of a Digital Wellbeing extension for Chrome and hence is not available for your mobile phone. It’s basically meant to help sustain a similar sense of digital detox and Digital Wellbeing on the web as well. The idea here is to calculate the amount of daily scrolling on the web in the form of distance traveled. This would allow users to track how much they’ve scrolled through on the web.
- Add the extension to Chrome. Then continue going through your social media and other web scrolls.
- As you scroll, it would be calibrated as a distance traveled and would be directly put on the track of Camino Frances.
- Camino Frances is a pilgrimage route people travel on foot from St. Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
- No, you aren’t walking the path for real, but your scrolling distance would be compared against this 500 miles route.
- This way, you’ll know if you’re scrolling way too much to equal the distance of Camino Frances in 30-35 days. If yes, then you need a digital detox.
Anchor is another Chrome extension created to aware people of the web about digital wellbeing. It does nothing but converts your screen into an ocean. You’d see fish like figures and aquatic bodies floating on your screen. As you scroll down, it’ll be like going down the ocean just like an anchor from a ship does.
- The extension converts your screen into an ocean. You’d be able to see the screen’s content with aquatic beings floating around.
- The screen starts turning dark blue, as it keeps getting dark in the ocean as you go down like an anchor.
- It stops as soon as you hit rock bottom of the ocean. This way, you’d be able to control your habit scrolling through the news feed for long.
11. Paper Phone
Paper Box may help in sustaining Digital Wellbeing and achieving digital detox, but it would lead you to a lot of stress before that. Paper Phone allows users to literally print important details from their phone via a nearby printer.
You can choose for yourself the important details you’ll need that day from your phone, print them through a printer, and then keep your phone aside and use those prints to access those details. Sounds like a headache, right? And a clear waste of paper.
- Choose details to print from your phone. You can choose from Contacts, Pictures, Navigations, Day’s Calendar, Notes, Weather, etc.
- There are limitations in choice. For example, you can choose up to seven important contacts to print only. Similarly, you can choose just one navigation [source to destination] per print [only useful if you can read maps.
- You can’t have Noted from your phone to be printed but can have an empty piece of paper to take notes for the day.
- A PDF would be created of all the details you have marked important for the day. Print them, take it as a booklet, and leave for your work. The idea is to use these papers of information to access any detail rather than unlocking your phone.
- Paper Phone also has games such as Sudoku, which you can print and play on the go.
These Google Digital Wellbeing experiments are being created to spread the awareness of digital detox in unique and creative ways, and some of them are literally exceptional. I used all of them, besides Envelope, as the paper wasn’t available, and I found Morph as the top pick.
Firstly, it’s not keeping you from using your phone but is the only restricting certain app, or we can say it is setting up your phone as per your daily routine. You can keep just Work Apps on-screen while at work and set Morph to switch to Entertainment Mode at the time you usually are at home. This basically helps you divide your time properly and prevents unnecessary waste of time over the phone.
Besides these, the live wallpapers Unlock Clock and Screen Stopwatch are pretty amazing. They aren’t stopping you from using your phone but are nagging you about how long you’ve been stuck to your phone with a glue.
Take Your Pick And Tell Us:
Use Digital Wellbeing app experiments from Google and tell us which one you like the most. These are some good fun experiments and are worth trying. So, pick one and hit the comments section.
Take Note. And disable Digital Wellbeing app when you’re going through our feeds ;).