Google’s Digital Wellbeing will be integrating with the company’s Chrome browser in Android Q, recently spotted changes in the Chromium code repository suggest. Encompassed under the codename ‘Chromeshine’, the new Chrome features would work similarly to how Digital Wellbeing already works on compatible Android handsets. In effect, that means it would act as a way for users to self-limit the amount of time they spend online or on a given site.
The Android variant of Digital Wellbeing already allows users to set a timer for applications, so the new feature will mostly apply directly to websites themselves. After turning the feature on by tapping the “Connect to Digital Wellbeing” option in Chrome’s Privacy settings menu, users will be able to set limits on their usage of Facebook, Amazon, or any other site they’d like to spend less time scrolling through.
The Android-based tool, already available on a limited number of mobile devices, will then utilize Chrome’s ‘PageViewObserver’ API to monitor usage locally. Once a user has reached a site’s allotted limit, Chrome will effectively block access by filling the page with a message indicated that access to the site will be restored “tomorrow.”
The only caveat to using the tool for the purpose of limiting browsing time, for the time being, seems to be that incognito mode will be completely ignored by Digital Wellbeing. That means users could effectively use Chrome's somewhat more private mode to bypass the limits they've set for themselves, rending the integration mostly useless.
Hints at better availability for Digital Wellbeing
The commits do point out that Google does not currently plan to allow access to the data pulled from the integration to be used or seen by other applications. The search giant highlights a number of security risks and the need for much deeper opt-in controls before that can happen. That doesn't necessarily mean it won't lead to at least some improved functionality for Android smartphone users though.
Digital Wellbeing -- despite being rolled out in beta form to the Google Play Store for select handsets, made available on Android One platforms, and available by default on Google's Pixel devices as of several months ago -- is not widely available. With more features coming to the tool, there's a reasonable chance more devices will begin to see the wellness suite.
Integration directly on the Chromium side of things could additionally hint at the possibility that Chrome OS users could see the features in the future too. While arguably not as useful on a laptop device as on a smartphone, Chrome OS is shifting to more hardware variations such as a wider array of dedicated tablets and already supports Android applications. So it is a feature that would fit right in on the platform.
The Digital Wellbeing Chrome features are already all but ready to go and only await activation with Android Q but it will still be quite some time before Chrome users get to take advantage of them. Google most likely won't be announcing Android Q in an official capacity until the upcoming annual Google I/O 2019 developers conference in May. From there, it typically takes months for the update to be prepared and even longer before OEMs have a chance to integrate the update with their own UX overlays.
When the update finally does land, it's also expected to bring several other landmark features to the OS, including a dedicated system-wide dark mode and better support for RCS messaging. The former of those is self-explanatory but the second of those should enable text messages and associated apps to function more like chat clients.