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Apple and Google are trying to help you reduce your smartphone compulsions

Google and Apple are experiencing their "Alfred Nobel moment". Nobel was the Swedish inventor of dynamite who also created the Nobel Prize.

Yesterday, Apple presented a series of features at its conference of WWDC developers that are intended to help you spend less time on your smartphone. This followed similar moves by Google at last month's I / O conference. Because these features take time to develop, it is unlikely that Apple has simply seen Google's ads and decided to copy them.

In any case, there is now a feeling, at least in some segments of society, that something is wrong with technology and that it is doing bad things for us and our children. In this context, the new tools of Google and Apple to help users get rid of their dependence on devices can be seen as a sort of moral response to a growing societal problem.

Specifically, what Apple announced yesterday was a number of new controls in iOS 12:

  • Do Not Disturb: Hides notifications for a designated duration (for example, during the night). A new "sleeping mode" will darken the screen to ease the transition to sleep at night. Google has proposed something similar called Wind Down as part of its "digital wellness" ads to I / O.
  • Notification Controls: iOS 12 provides new controls on when and how notifications are sent, including bulk notifications that allow users to manage multiple notifications simultaneously.
  • Screen time and downtime: These give users data about their time spent with applications. People will receive "detailed daily and weekly activity reports". There are also tools to limit the time spent in applications. (Again, this is very similar to the controls introduced by Google last month.) There are also new parental controls on apps and a tool called Stop Time that allows people to plan "time away from l & # 39; screen. "
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There is a cynical answer to all this, but I think these tools are useful. This is another question if they will actually be used.

What I find interesting (and it's consistent with other "mea culpas" in technology), is that companies that once considered themselves as benevolent influences on our economy , our politics and our culture were now trying to apologize I've created – even when they are trying to make you buy more of their devices.

About the author

Greg Sterling is a contributing editor to Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about the link between digital media and consumer behavior in the real world. He is also vice president of strategy and ideas for the local research association. Follow him on Twitter or find him on Google+.