6 votes

Promoting Time Management on Mobile Devices

I had this idea for a phone that would be a feature phone, but with a Google or an Alexa powered assistant so it could have most of the functionality of an newer phone, but not as many avenues to become lost within it. Probably wouldn't be that big of a market for it, but going off of that idea, what sort of changes would you like in phones to promote less mindless engagement sessions and allow users to better manage their own time. Is this more the responsibility of the end user to manage their own time, or can more be done at an OEM, GUI, or otherwise have these functionalities baked into the phone?

2 comments

  1. bilbodwyer Link
    Well we can see from Google and Apple's conferences last year that "digital wellbeing" is the buzzword of the moment. It's been recognised that a lot of people feel that there are problems with...

    Well we can see from Google and Apple's conferences last year that "digital wellbeing" is the buzzword of the moment. It's been recognised that a lot of people feel that there are problems with how much we interact with our phones, and the two biggest leaders in the industry have to be seen doing something about it. So some would argue that the onus is indeed on the smartphone makers to help users to limit their interactions with their mobile device.

    But this presents a big problem for Apple and Google: apps want your attention, and don't want your eyeballs to be on anything else. If the platforms that these apps are distributed on begin to become too effective at managing your time and/or addiction, you're less likely to be playing with app XYZ. If the developer of XYZ relies on ad revenues and user data to make money from her app, she's going to potentially be hit hard by a platform that's encouraging its users not to interact so heavily with their phones, meaning that fewer ads get served, and less data is gathered. Whatever platform she's on starts to get a reputation as bad for developers, and the developers of all kinds of apps start to go elsewhere. The users start to notice that all the cool, exciting apps are on a different platform, and slowly the balance starts to shift away from the OS that encourages users to be better about their interactions, and towards the service that doesn't care, and just wants to make money.

    Which is probably why in Android 9 and iOS 12 all of the digital wellbeing stuff is off by default (in terms of app timers etc at least, I know that iOS at least serves up screentime reports without having to set them up). OEMs and platform developers want to be seen to be doing something, because it would be terrible optics for them to ignore this "problem" that's being drummed up in the media more and more. But on the other hand, if they go too far (enforcing limits out of the box, for example), they will just end up harming themselves. It would be worth watching the WWDC and Google I/O 2018 presentations, specifically for the digital wellbeing sections. If memory serves, they're quite implicit about this being in the hands of the user, and all being self-tailored to your own needs. That last one is especially interesting for Google, a company that prides itself on being able to predict what we want before we even realise it.

    So ultimately, we need to take responsibility for ourselves, right? Well, maybe. You have to remember that a lot of these apps and services have huge teams dedicated to tweaking the interface over time to make it more addicting. That little buzz of dopamine when you get an Instagram like, the ding when you get a Facebook message, the notification of a new video on YouTube... They're all designed to suck you back in and keep your attention on their app.
    Does that make them bad actors? Hard to say, and worth spending some time developing your own thoughts about I think. To my mind they're acting within the tenets of capitalism, exploiting psychology to make a few more quid (and everyone does this by the way - supermarkets put the more expensive products at eye-level; sales; prices like £19.99 trick you into seeing £19, not £20; etc). It's not evil, it's just the world we live in.

    2 votes
  2. acdw Link
    I personally use a DNS adblocker app to block Reddit from my phone; it'd be nice to have an app that could block certain sites/apps/apis on a timer basis (like LeechBlock for Firefox). Regardless,...

    I personally use a DNS adblocker app to block Reddit from my phone; it'd be nice to have an app that could block certain sites/apps/apis on a timer basis (like LeechBlock for Firefox).

    Regardless, I think it could be done in the app space. I don't think there's a need for a "baked-in" solution past vendor support for that functionality.

    1 vote