Mixed in with the wealth of new features Google has announced at its I/O 2018 event have been some that should seem very familiar to parents. More directly, they’re probably most akin to Disney’s parental control features encompassed in its Circle with Disney subscription service. That recognition shouldn’t be too surprising since Disney has been offering its service for several years. Its service allows parents to keep an eye on their children’s’ screen time, manage the content they consume, set pauses in connectivity, and turn off access at bedtime. Of course, one major difference is that Circle with Disney requires a piece of hardware which ordinarily costs $100 but which is currently on sale for $79. After that, the service only works on devices connected to that hub unless users buy a $4.99 monthly subscription. That allows up to 10 devices to be managed at once but management is via software that needs to stay installed for things to work smoothly. Google’s own solution, on the other hand, is software and comes baked into the upcoming Android P mobile operating system. However, that’s not to say it’s all that different.
Beyond the fact that Google’s Android P solutions for screen time and app management are free as part of the new OS, both Disney’s Circle with Disney and Android P perform effectively the same functions. Now, it could be argued that Circle with Disney is more comprehensive in that it allows an adult user to manage things, whereas Google’s solutions are end-user managed. Moreover, Circle with Disney has been around for years, so it might be difficult to imagine that its service wouldn’t be better than Google’s efforts. Given that adults are supposed to be more responsible to begin with, however, that’s not much of a variation at all. Furthermore, Google’s advantage in working with its own OS at the system level may mean that it actually works better. Meanwhile, both provide a means to limit apps, software, or content being accessed and each is embedded with more general tools to keep tabs on how much screen time is used. Each has a quick and easy way to put things on hold, with Google’s new Do Not Disturb Mode and Disney’s pause feature. Both offer a bedtime feature that effectively ends use at a specified time. Google’s feature doesn’t go quite as far, only turning on Do Not Disturb and adding a greyscale filter over the screen. Both tools are app managed.
That’s not to say that Google has copied Circle with Disney and there are already tons of software options for managing one’s screen time. However, it’s interesting to note that Google’s recently announced Android P features do basically appear to be a variation of Disney’s service but built for adults instead of children. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either since both offer an effective solution to the emerging problems associated with screen addiction and overuse.