Looking to address growing concerns around increasing device usage, smartphone addiction and social media impacting on mental health, Apple has announced a collection of initiatives focusing on "digital health".
Announced its developer conference in June - and likely to be available in September as part of iOS 12 - Apple hopes the new features will help users regain control and not be constantly lost in their phones.
Here's everything you need to know about Apple Screen Time.
What is Apple Screen Time?
The new Screen Time feature is a core part of iOS 12 and because of that will work will all apps without developers or individual apps having to make any changes for you to benefit.
Found in the Settings app alongside Notifications and Do Not Disturb, the feature will monitor the way you use the device telling you everything from how long you've spent on certain app categories to specific apps. It will even tell you how many times you've picked up your iPhone in a given hour.
Once the data is collection you can then view it in a handy chart to see how much you really use your phone or tablet.
At the end of the week you'll get a report sent to you, so you can see exactly what you've been doing.
Screen Time daily and weekly Activity Reports
Screen Time will monitor a number of things, but specifically the total time a person spends in each app they use, their usage across categories of apps, how many notifications they receive and how often they pick up their iPhone or iPad.
Reporting on app categories
Apple is able to break down the apps using the categories from the App Store so you can see whether you play a lot of games, or spend time in social media, or you're a utilities person.
What's great here is that because that data is picked up from the App Store, and that's all reviewed by a human, you shouldn't find that a game is hiding in a work category.
What can you do with all this data?
The idea is that by understanding how you're interacting with your phone you can then take much greater control, either by taking drastic action like removing the app completely, or by limiting how you use it by setting App Limits within iOS 12.
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What are App Limits?
Apple believes that if you're worried about using a certain app you can set yourself daily or weekly limits to curb your usage. With iOS 12 you'll be able to set a specific amount of time to be in an app.
When that time limit is about to expire you'll get a notification telling you you've only got 5 minutes left. When your time is up, you can choose to override it and carry on using it, but the nudge is supposed to make you realise what is happening, so you can curb your addiction.
It's very similar to how the Do Not Disturb while driving feature works in iOS 11. You can easily choose to dismiss it, but it does make you think about what you are doing.
Blocking specific apps at specific times with Downtime
Monitoring and reporting back is one thing, but you might want to stop yourself from using a specific app at a specific time. This is where a feature called Downtime comes into play. The feature, again found in the Settings app, gives you the ability to schedule a block of time whereby only apps that you choose will work.
While the feature is likely to be used by parents to control the apps available to their children in the run up to bedtime for example, we could easily see it working to stop you from using your work email after hours or social media during work.
You'll also be able to whitelist certain apps so you can still use the phone or messaging features for example.
Screen Time will track how many times you pick up your device
It's not just about monitoring your app usage, but also about how much time you spend interacting with a device. Using a number of signals, Apple will also measure how many times you pick up your phone in a given hour. There is a level of engagement for it to register, but it's about tracking how many times you pick it up.
Talking to people within Apple, anecdotally it is already saying that the pickup stats are incredibly interesting and will surprise many users.
Screen Time works across all your devices via iCloud
Rather than be restricted to just a singul device, the Screen Time feature is based on your iCloud account associated to all your devices. This means a number of things. Not only will you be able to see how you use apps across multiple devices, but also won't be able to cheat the system by using your iPad over your iPhone when you've run out of time on one device.
You can't have multiple users on a single device
While parental controls go a long way to delivering more granular controls, Apple still isn't offering multiple user support on a single device like you can have on macOS, Amazon Fire or Android devices.
Screen Time only works via iCloud account usage on devices. If you have a family iPad, the system will record all app usage regardless of who uses it meaning the system can be easily bypassed. The answer still appears to be that if you want to track what your kids are doing, they'll all need their own iOS devices.
Screen Time lets parents check their kids Activity Reports
While you might want to use Screen Time to control your own use of the phone, one of the key areas that it will be used is for parents to monitor and control the apps their children are using.
Parents can access their child's Activity Report right from their own iOS devices to understand where their child spends their time and can manage and set App Limits for them.
Screen Time lets parents set App Limits for kids' devices
You'll be able to schedule a block of time to limit when your child can use their iOS device, such as bedtime, and use Downtime so they don't get bombarded with notifications.
Screen Time settings are all managed remotely via the parents device, so your kids won't be able to bypass the features, or turn them off.
How is Screen Time like the existing iOS and Android app Screen Time?
That's right, there's already an app called Screen Time from Screen Time Labs that does exactly the same thing.
Apple says that because its own Screen Time is coded in at the operating system level it can manage and monitor things a lot better. The Activity Reports can't be turned off (although you can ignore them), and because it's based on the iCloud account, works across devices.
Of course you won't get cross Android, Fire and iOS support as you can with the existing Screen Time app, and the Apple features don’t go as far as letting you monitor which websites your kids are visiting.
There’s also no way to reward your children with extra time for doing chores around the house - but then the Screen Time app from Screen Time Labs is subscription based for these more enhanced features.
Do Not Disturb gets boosted features
The Do Not Disturb feature, already available in iOS 11, gets more features and control in iOS 12. In the next version of Apple’s operating system you’ll be able to say don’t disturb me for the "next hour" or for the rest of the evening as well as the usual daily schedules.
Do Not Disturb bedtime mode
There’s also a new Do Not Disturb bedtime mode that will not only dim the display, but also hide all notifications on the lock screen until prompted in the morning.
There’s also a new option in Control Center where in can be set to automatically end based on a specified time or location.
New Notifications controls to stop you being bothered
Siri can now intelligently make suggestions for notifications based on a number of factors including things like your location. For example, it will suggest putting your phone in to Do Not Disturb mode if it thinks your at the cinema.
It will also group notifications on the Lock Screen so you aren’t instantly drowned out first thing in the morning or after a long flight. For those who want even more control you’ll be able to have notifications delivered directly to the Notification Center bypassing the Lock Screen altogether.
Screen Time release date and availability
Screen Time comes as part of iOS 12 and therefore you'll need to upgrade all the relevant devices that you plan to use to that operating system. iOS 12 will work on all devices that currently run iOS 11: that's iPhone 5S and above. It is expected to be available in September.