Hands on with Android 9 Pie's Digital Wellbeing: Phone control for those without self-control

As they say, "If you do not have health, you have nothing." Most of us probably do not realize that there is more to the subject than just diet and exercise, and how we use our phones can also have an impact. There was a time when our work / life balance was separated by a real physical distance, but thanks to the magic of cell phones, we can all take home our work in the form of notifications of life interruption. Not to mention the constant dribbling of dopamine from social media, which keeps us all navigating like zombies and consuming the best years of our lives envying the lives of "influencers" on Instagram, or learning random and useless facts from Reddit.

Some of us are painfully aware of the negative impact these things have on our lives, as well as the so-called FOMO that we experience when we isolate ourselves, but Google's new Digital Wellness toolkit can help when it comes to exercising a little self-control

The function was initially shown by Google in this year's I / O, but throughout the Developer's Previews it was never revealed. I had personally assumed that I was being retained for Android 9.1 and Pixel 3, but it was released yesterday through its own application and independent beta program.

After spending the last day playing and testing the various functions included, I think I have a very good idea of ​​how it is. It's worth noting that there are still more inbound features: after all, it's a beta version. At least one main feature, the "Shush" gesture shown in the keynote that enables Do Not Disturb mode, is not currently present, although the former AP editor and current Googler Liam Spradlin says it will be soon .

Of course, I could have learned how to configure and use the functions of the application in a day, and I can know how they look and behave in use, but I can not know how well-being digital will have an effect on my life in such a short time. To that end, I will keep track of my long-term thoughts once I have had the opportunity to see how these characteristics impact my daily life.


To start with Digital Wellbeing, you will need a Pixel phone in Android 9 Pie, either one of the Pixels 2016 or a Pixel 2 or 2 XL. If you meet that prerequisite, the official way to obtain digital well-being on your phone is through the beta program. You will have to register with your email address and wait for an invitation to the test program. However, once you log in, all you need to do is install the application that enables the feature from Play Store.

The other way to obtain the function is simply loading the APK from APK Mirror. You will still need a Pixel device (although there are temporary solutions for other phones that have Android P), but you will not have to wait for an invitation, which may take up to 24 hours.

Once things are set up, Digital Wellbeing will appear in your Configuration app as a new option under Accessibility. As I see it, there are four main parts in the Digital Wellbeing package, so let's go one at a time.


Probably the biggest problem with our collective digital well-being is that most of us are not. I'm even aware of how much time we spend using our phones. They are small insidious devices full of applications that are introduced into our lives in ways we do not consider. I know that when I'm not actively doing something, in the best case it will be a few seconds until I've reached my RSS reader, Google News or Reddit, and it almost does not matter in what context or configuration it is. .

Enter the Board. It gives you a comfortable and easy to analyze overview of the use of your phone, presented in an attractive way, almost / r / with very beautiful information. With it, you can conveniently track your day-to-day screen time. Along with the pie chart and the data in the overview of Digital Wellbeing, which are actually a part of the Board, as far as I'm concerned, you can determine your worst application offenders at a glance. It's all there, easily visible (although interrupted, sometimes).

That information will be useful in the next part of the Digital Wellbeing package.

App Timers

Once you know what apps Too often, App Timers within Dashboard will help you set limits if you want to see a real change in your life. And it's surprisingly firm in the way they apply, too. Once you run out of time, the game is over. The only way to access the application is to admit the defeat, re-enter the configuration and deactivate the timer. This is not just a warning that you can easily ignore and pass, passing conveniently aside your inability to exercise self-control. Unless you actually enter and acknowledge the defeat by manually removing the restriction you placed, the application will be blocked until midnight.

Just before you reach your limit, a warning notification will appear to warn you that you are approaching. After hitting the wall, the application is "paused" and can not be executed again until midnight / morning. The icon of the application is also dimmed, and trying to open it again is with the message "The application is not available." Again, the only way to disable it is to enter the settings for digital wellness (although there is a shortcut available through the "More information" button in the notification).

Some people probably complain that this kind of approach is bad, that there could be emergencies where you would need to access an application and the extra time could be fatal, or that it is draconian and that what we need most is a warning. These people are wrong. Remember: every restriction you impose through App Timers is one that responsibly establishes itself. If you're locking yourself in a basic application like your dialer or SMS messages, that's your fails.

Application timers are meant to be used for things like social networks, in which endlessly we move mentally through a feed of fables, photos and nonsense. I know that I spend too much time during the day on Reddit, and now when I set myself limits on how much I use my client of choice, I know I will follow them. In fact, going to the settings to deactivate it would be a defeat too palpable.

Wind Down

Of all the features in Digital Wellbeing, I think Wind Down could end up being my favorite because it's the one that forces you the most to be aware of your actions. When it's enabled, it's incredibly simple. Wind Down simply changes your screen to be monochromatic. It's not a big deal, is it? But imagine all the applications that would aspire without color.

When combined with Night Light, it also means that your phone goes through a progression at the end of the day, which directly stimulates you to disconnect.

Night Light, for the unknown, gives color to its red screen at certain times based on a configurable intensity and schedule. Personally, I go to the sunset / sunrise (and I would like the transition between states to be more fluid). The deactivation is similar, since it pushes the screen even more so that it is monochromatic at certain times to discourage use.

For me, that means that my screen starts to turn red when I stop working in the summer, and it becomes monochromatic when I really should be in bed. Not having a color screen during some hours of the day does not really eliminate any functionality, but it makes you very aware of the fact that you are using your phone when you should not. Reddit and Twitter simply do not have the same feeling without color, partly eliminating a bit the sense of reward, we all consume without thinking a food with content that provides dopamine.

Screenshots made in Wind Down mode are still full. color, so, instead, enjoy a picture of my phone tucked in bed.

It's hard to turn off, too, and that's something good . You have to delve into the configuration of Digital Welbeing to activate or deactivate it, there is no easy to toggle in the quick settings as if it were Night Light if you decide to change your mind.

Between Night Light and Wind Down, my day should have a better sense of progression.

Notification Management

There are two other things that Google is apparently billing as part of digital well-being, but each of them has a pre-existing configuration: administer notifications and do not disturb. None has changed too much in this implementation. Manage notifications takes you exactly to the same panel you will find in Applications and notifications -> Notifications -> See everything in the last 7 days, and Do not disturb is exactly what you will find in Sound -> Do not disturb.

Even so, Google has included them as part of the Digital Wellbeing package because they work together with the other features above in a two-pronged approach to decrease the use of the phone. The Instrument Panel, Application Timers and Wind Down are ways to limit your overall dependency on superfluous applications, while Manage notifications and Reduce the distraction of the Do Not Disturb cover for applications where can not give up. By reducing your interruptions through notifications, you can keep your phone out of your hands.

The same, different place.

I am not a family man, but those who have children will surely appreciate another way to improve the time they spend with their family. Our own Artem has to juggle with his personal life and his children along with the operation of a technological news site and APK Mirror, a package of responsibilities that I do not envy. Undoubtedly, there must be times when you need to disconnect – if not for your own sanity, at least for your family – and reducing notifications is one way to achieve it.

This combination of existing notification management tools, along with a greater awareness of the ways we use our phones through the new Board can improve our lives, I'm sure. And with the new tools available in Digital Wellbeing, we can act better on that productive impetus for self-improvement.

I will use digital well-being to impose a lot of limits on my life in the coming days, and in the meantime & # 39; I'm not sure I'll ever get to the "JOMO" that Google CEO Sundar Pichai described, I know, with the right self-control, I can certainly achieve a better work / life balance on my phone.

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