Maybe massive corporations do care about us after all. Apple has announced its iOS 12 update, which includes an entire app dedicated to improving your digital wellbeing, one month after Google announced its latest software Android P, which includes the ability to put limits on the time spent using apps and block them after a preset bedtime.
With Apple’s forthcoming Screen Time app you’ll be able to monitor your use of individual apps and certain types of apps. You can set limits for how much time you want to spend in each app, and you’ll be alerted when you’re close to reaching that limit.
You also get activity reports of the time you spend on your phone, which will includes notes on whether you’re using certain apps more than average, plus time spent looking at your phone after your designated bedtime – a big no-no for those looking to improve their sleep.
Apple has also changed the Do Not Disturb and Notification feature in iOS 12, giving you more control over what alerts you receive and when you receive them. There is a new Do Not Disturb mode for night-time, which dims the screen and hides all notifications until the morning. With Notifications you can now choose to get “quiet” notifications from certain apps which will be in your notifications centre but won’t clamour for your attention with a sound, buzz or lock screen message. iOS 12 will also group notifications so you can deal with them all at once after a period of not looking at your phone.
There is also a new Downtime setting, where you can designate a period of time when certain apps are blocked and only certain notifications are allowed through. This can be especially useful to set up on iOS devices used by children. You can also get an activity report on your child’s usage of a device and set time limits on individual apps.
It’s fair to say most if not all of the new features are things that you can already do yourself simply by ignoring your phone, but as concerns over how much time people spend on electronic devices grow (thanks in part to their diabolically clever sticky user experience), it’s good news that Apple and Google are trying to help people stay in control of their phones, rather than the other way around.