Curbing screen time is very trendy in tech circles at the minute. There have been huge movements to change app design, turn it black and white and even calls for manufactures to step in and stop people using them so much. So it was no surprise when Apple took to the stage, only a few weeks after Google i/o and launched pretty much the same thing. ScreenTime is a quintessential Apple response to outside pressure, a way to highlight the latest Silicon Valley worry – but it is hugely important people pay attention.
Taking its design inspiration from Apple Health, ScreenTime is built right into the setting of every iPhone that will run iOS12 (and that’s most of them). Displaying graphical data about app usage, notification tallies and even how many times you pick the device up – you could be forgiven for thinking it was a step too far. However Apple have found a very safe ground where there is no scolding no matter how much you use your device. No set amount for how you use the apps that are installed, simply well presented data that will hopefully make some users think about the things it shows.
No one thinks it is Apples (or manufactures) place to tell you how you should use a device, but I am so happy that at last there is coherent data people can see. If this sparks a change in usage, they can be guided to a healthier way of life. For far too long I have overheard awkward conversations from average people trying to explain to others just how much they are using their phone. Finally the place exists to show them, a place to send them to look into where they are spending their time and leave the decisions up to them.
Time is a metric you never get back. Time is something we all know we need to make the most of, return the most value from it. I’m not advocating that every one works harder, or that everyone starts jumping from planes or becoming hedonists – but value is a very personal thing and users can now make the decision themselves. If they take away great value from engaging on Twitter for 4 hours a day – brilliant, that is great to hear. If they take great pride from being the person that everyone communicates with so recieve 500 iMessages a day – again perfect. Yet at its very core ScreenTime provides an almost real time view of how much of it is spent on a device and offers a few tools to help, should you decide to cut down.
Along with improvements to Do Not Disturb and notification handling Apple are moving into a very unique place. They make a serious amount of money from selling you the device, but also from the apps you purchase from the store. They do not profit from your personal data nor the level of engagement you have with a device. Google however – Do.