In short: With Android 9 Pie, Google debuted Digital Wellbeing which was exclusive to the Pixel line of smartphones, until now. With the latest app update to Digital Wellbeing in the Google Play Store, it is now compatible with Android One devices that are also running on Android Pie. The app is still technically in beta, but it is beginning to expand to other devices now, instead of the small number of users that own a Pixel device, which is definitely a good thing. Those that want to check out Digital Wellbeing and keep an eye on how much you are using your smartphone, can do so by downloading the app on the Play Store, though you do need to sign up for the beta first. Some users of Android One devices (largely Nokia models, as those are really the only ones that have Pie as of right now) are noting that they are not receiving Digital Wellbeing just yet. So this could be a US only launch.
Google has been working with manufacturers to start rolling out Android 9 Pie to other smartphones, especially those in the Android One program. That is partly because one of the major features of being in that program and having an Android One smartphone are the fast, stock Android updates. Though, Google is not completely responsible for pushing out those updates fast. The OEMs also need to rely on their component partners, this is mostly Qualcomm. As is also needs to release binaries for those processors so that they can be updated. This is why smartphones with higher-end chipsets are updated first, because those are the ones with binaries released first. And that is also true with the Android One smartphones. So the Nokia 7.1 and Nokia 6.1 are getting updates ahead of other Nokia smartphones right now.
Background: Digital Wellbeing is something that Google launched at Google I/O back in May, and it really started a new trend among tech companies. Digital Wellbeing is a feature that Google has included in Android 9 Pie to get users to use their smartphones less. Which seems a bit odd seeing as Google makes a ton of money from us using our smartphones so much. But the reason for this two-fold. Google wants us spending more time with our friends and family, and getting out to see the world. Instead of being glued to our screens all-day long. And Google also wants to improve our health. There is research that shows, that if you are looking at a screen all-day, your eye sight will deteriorate among other things. This is why a lot of people that work in tech who are in front of screens all day, wear glasses or contact lenses now.
With Digital Wellbeing, you can set limits for yourself, on how much you are actually using each app per day. Say you want to spend less time on Twitter or Instagram, you can set a limit for it, and stick to that limit, as Digital Wellbeing won’t let you open the app again unless you override it. You can also set a bedtime for yourself, and the phone will turn to grayscale as it gets closer to your bedtime. That is going to force you to stop using your phone and actually go to bed, instead of staying up all night on Twitter or another app. Google has also added some other features here, including one with Pixel 3 where you can flip the phone over to put it in do not disturb mode. Especially good for when you walk into a meeting, just flip the phone over and you’re good to go. There are also a few other features here, like being able to see how many notifications are coming from each app, or how many times you’ve unlocked your phone today. It’s a pretty good feature to have, especially if you are looking to limit how often you are using your phone and how long you use it.
Impact: Expanding Digital Wellbeing to more people is a really good thing for Google, as it does mean that it is getting closer to coming out of beta. Digital Wellbeing isn’t technically an Android 9 Pie feature. Many associate it with Android Pie because it only works on Pie, and it was also announced with Pie. But it’s actually an app that works separately from Android Pie. While it’s not on other Android Pie devices like the Essential PH-1, Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Sony Xperia XZ3, that is likely only a matter of time. It being a Pixel exclusive was likely not a way for Google to get more people to buy a Pixel, seeing as it came out about two months before the Pixel 3. This was likely so that Google could test it a bit more, and having a small group of users testing it was better than just sending it out to everyone. Though one could also argue that there aren’t many on Android Pie right now anyways, which is also true.
Google isn’t the only one with Digital Wellbeing features on its smartphones, Apple also included the same features on its smartphones with iOS 12. And in fact, Apple does a better job with it. Providing weekly reports showing you how much you used your phone and in which particular apps you used it in the most. That is actually a pretty nice feature, as you can see if you used your smartphone less this week when compared to the previous week – the page will also show you how much more or less you’ve used your phone this year. Facebook is also adding these to its apps – Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram – so you can use Facebook less. If you have an Android One device, or a Pixel running on Android 9 Pie, then you can sign up and start using Digital Wellbeing. You are going to need to sign up for the beta, which you can do so here. Afterwards, you’ll be able to download and install the app. It may take a few hours before the Play Store registers that you are in the beta.