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Google just launched a handful of clever apps to help you spend less time on your phone

Google just launched a handful of clever apps to help you spend less time on your phone

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More tools for balancing life and tech

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How would you feel if your phone’s wallpaper displayed a running tally of the number of times you unlock your device every day? Ashamed? Indifferent? If you’ve got an Android phone, Google is now giving you that option — plus other new initiatives that are part of the company’s ongoing Digital Wellbeing effort.

As noted by Android Police, Google has released several new Digital Wellbeing “experiments” in the Play Store. The one I mentioned above is called Unlock Clock. “Unlock Clock helps you consider your tech usage, by counting and displaying the number of times you unlock your phone in a day,” the app description reads. Once installed, you can find Unlock Clock inside of Google’s Wallpapers app and set it as a live wallpaper.

Another experiment, Post Box, is a rethinking of how we receive notifications. Instead of incessantly hitting you with push alerts throughout the day, Post Box lets you choose a time (or several over the course of the day) when you’d like to take them all at once. You can pick just once a day or have up to four notification deliveries. There’s also an “I need to see my notifications now” option that can be selected at any time if you fear you’ve missed something important by bundling everything together on a schedule like this.

Next up is Morph, which is an Android launcher that shows different apps based on time of day or your location. You can set the obvious environments like work or home, but Google’s example also shows situations like “holiday” where you might want to minimize app time and be more present with others. There are already other Android launchers that offer similar time-and-place personalization, but Google’s new experiment looks incredibly straightforward if that’s what you’re after.

Speaking of time with others, another new Digital Wellbeing experiment is called We Flip. If everyone installs the app on their phone, you can all join the same session and flip a switch that starts counting the amount of time the group has gone without anyone unlocking their phone. This is clearly meant for family and friend time where people want to make a mindful effort to take a break from tech.

But let’s be real: eventually, someone is going to break. After someone inevitably unlocks their phone, the session is over and everyone sees a summary. We Flip will also tally up “peeks,” or times you looked at your lock screen without fully unlocking since that’s half-cheating.

The last of these new Digital Wellbeing experiments is called Desert Island. As the name implies, Desert Island is meant to help you focus on only the essential apps you need for a certain task or on a particular day. You pick the crucial apps — a maximum of seven — and then start a 24-hour challenge of seeing if you can stick to only that software and nothing else.

You can still open all of the other apps on your phone, but you’ll be called out for it when Desert Island serves up its summary report. Like Morph, this is an entire launcher, which might put some people off from trying it since they’ll have to switch away from their current Android home screen.

Google is encouraging developers to take inspiration from these early examples and come up with their own Digital Wellbeing experiments using a “Hack Pack” and various APIs. “The more people that get involved the more we can all learn about building better technology for everyone,” the company wrote.

Are you going to give any of them a shot?

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