Do you wish you had more control over demands on your attention?
Thankfully, Google is adding a new feature to Android that caters to users who want to find the right balance with technology. Called the Digital Wellbeing dashboard, it's in the Android settings menu and is designed to show your smartphone usage habits. It also provides access to helpful tools like app limit timers and a “wind down” mode to help you focus on going to sleep.
Digital Wellbeing was not included in the initial Android 9 Pie release. But, if you have a Pixel device, you can test a beta version.
Here's what you need to know.
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What is Android Pie?
Android 9 Pie is the next major mobile operating system update for Android phones and tablets. It's currently rolling out to Pixel and Essential phones as an over-the-air update. However, this "official" release does not include all the features shown off at Google I/O, including Digital Wellbeing. These will come to Pixel devices sometime this autumn and even more devices sometime after that.
For more information about Android Pie, see our guide:
What is the Digital Wellbeing dashboard?
At I/O 2018, Google unveiled new features in Android Pie, it's latest update to Android devices. One of the new features in Android Pie is the Digital Wellbeing dashboard. Google described it as being part of its new "digital wellbeing" initiative, in which it's focusing on helping people be healthier both in their real lives and in their digital lives. Google found that 70 per cent of people want help with digital well-being.
When people are given the tools to easily disconnect, they can enjoy their lives more and be fully present. Sure, while a lot of the time we spend on our phones is really useful, some of it could honestly be spent on other things - like that sewing project you've been wanting to get done or those garden beds you've been eager to build. So, with the dashboard, Google's adding key capabilities to help you manage screen time.
How to try the Digital Wellbeing dashboard
If you have a Pixel device, and you’ve already installed the latest Android 9 Pie OS update, which is now rolling out to Pixel devices as an over the air update, you’ll be able to try out the new software tool ahead of its official launch sometime this autumn.
Google said that trying Digital Wellbeing does not require joining the full Android beta program. So, that’s pretty neat.
To get started, follow these steps:
- Install Android 9 Pie on your Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, or Pixel 2 XL.
- Go to Google’s Digital Wellbeing Beta website.
- Enter your email address.
- Select “yes” for the “Do you have Android Pie on your Pixel?” question.
- Soon after, you’ll get an email with an invite to begin testing digital wellness.
- Click the link in this email to accept the invite and begin testing.
- Within 24 hours, you’ll see Digital Wellbeing appear in your Android settings.
- There’s nothing to download, install, or update.
How does the dashboard work?
The Digital Wellbeing dashboard in Android's setting menu allows you to see how much time you've spent in apps during the day, how many times you've unlocked your device in a day, and how many notifications you received in a day. Google said you will be able to drill-down on any of these things. For example, you can tap on an app, like Gmail, to see how much you used the app on, let's say, Saturday.
Developers will be able to provide even more detailed breakdowns so that you can see just how you're spending time in their apps. Google said it's allowing them to do this so that you can determine whether you're experiencing "meaningful engagement" in any given app. For example, Google's own YouTube will be getting a 'deep link' so you can view your total watch time across mobile and desktop.
Here's a full list and an explanation of how they're intended to work on your device:
Note: Digital Wellbeing is currently in testing, so the capabilities listed below are subject to change.
Through the dashboard, Android Pie will let you set time limits on specific apps. So, for Snapchat, for instance, you can set a timer for 15 minutes or 30 minutes or 45 minutes. Then, your device will nudge you when you're close to your time limit, gently reminding you that's time to do something else. Even better, for the rest of the day, that app's icon will be greyed out to remind you of your goal.
Do Not Disturb
Google is making improvements to its existing Do Not Disturb function. It said people have told them notifications are too distracting, so, going forward, Do Not Disturb will silence not only calls and texts but also visual interruptions that pop up on your screen.
This new tool is part of Do Not Disturb. It works like this: when you turn your phone over on the table, it will automatically enter Do Not Disturb, so you can focus on being present. No pings, no vibrations, no distractions. Of course, in an emergency, if you still want to be reachable, you can set up 'Starred Contacts' - these are people who will still be able to get ahold of you, even if Do Not Disturb is switched on.
Wind down mode
Finally, if you're the type who loves to check your phone right before bed but then ends up spending an hour or more on it, you may be interested in this tool. You'll be able to tell Google Assistant what time you aim to go to bed, and when that time arrives, it will switch on Do Not Disturb. It'll then fade the screen to greyscale, which Google said is far less stimulating for the brain and can help you to set the phone down.
Don't worry. All the colours will return when you wake up.
When will Digital Wellbeing be available?
Digital Wellbeing is in beta until this autumn, before expanding to Android One and other devices “later this year". Again, if you want to test the dashboard before then, you'll need to join the new beta - after installing Android 9 Pie on your Pixel.