Technophile

iOS 12, watchOS 5, and the focus on digital well-being

Mirza Mohammed Ali Khan | Updated on: Jun 06, 2018
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There’s been enough and more that’s been said about limiting time we spend on our smartphones. With most of our lives being organised and looked after on those five or six inches of screen, it does become difficult to put the phone away. Meal times, time to be spent with family, and even our bedtime is being eaten away, with most of us being glued to the screen.

We are all aware of the problem and this year, the tech giants that are behind these very gadgets are taking notice and offering solutions to help us limit smartphone usage. Apple and Google, the companies behind iOS and Android, the operating systems that almost all of us use at least one of, are taking the lead.

At Apple’s WWDC on Monday, the California-based company presented its latest software, the iOS 12. Apart from bringing in a lot of functional changes that are bound to make the user experience simpler, the company debuted features that will help users keep track of how much they use their smartphones and the apps that take up their time.

Let’s begin with the ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode. This has been around on smartphones for ages. But Apple has made it more intuitive and has added a feature with which the screen dims when users go to bed, and all notifications are hidden. It can also be set to turn itself off at a specified time to resume normal functioning. Google introduced a very similar setting when it previewed Android P earlier. With its new ‘shush’ mode, a user just has to place their smartphone with the screen facing down to stop all notifications. Android’s DND mode also transforms your screen to a very unappealing black and white display when you want to wind down during bedtime. Users can tell Google Assistant when they want to start winding down and the phone does the rest.

These features are bound to have a positive impact on sleep and we can slowly expect to start seeing them in other Android-based software from different smartphone-makers. And this has happened in the past, albeit in an opposite manner — for example, the night mode or the blue light filter that is now ubiquitous was integrated in stock software after third-party apps became popular.

Apple also brought in features with which parents can control how and when their children use Apple devices. For example, parents can set limits on how long a game can be played for, or other apps can be used for. Facilitating this and for general use as well, Apple has introduced a feature called ‘Screen Time’, which provides users with daily and weekly activity reports. These reports have information such as how often an app is used and for how long, and how many times the iPhone or iPad is picked up. Again, we’ll see a very similar feature in Android P called ‘Dashboard’, which will give users such information.

Apple also showed off other updates on the iOS 12, including group Facetime, to talk to multiple people simultaneously. Memojis, customised Siri shortcuts and a new ‘For You’ tab for pictures were other notable updates. It will be available this fall on all iPhones starting with the 5s.

Digital health is now an important part of the technology discourse. And it’s indeed great that companies are now owning up and taking responsibility for the ways in which their products could have a negative impact on users’ lives. And well, we have less reasons now to not put that smartphone away; especially when its makers want us to!

Published on June 06, 2018

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