Google's I/O 2019 event has come and gone but the search giant isn't done laying out improvements expected to land with Android Q later this year, including those it has planned to help users stay active on their devices less.
The incoming changes range from improved visibility of app timers and giving users granular control over exactly when their Wind Down schedule is active to something as simple as letting them put limits on time spent in Chrome on a given website.
Google is going beyond features that are already in or closely related to existing features too. Starting in Android Q, users will gain the ability to set “Gentle notifications.” Presumably enabled on an app-by-app basis, user-selected notifications won’t appear like others since they won’t produce a notification sound, vibrations, or take up space on the lock screen. Instead, they’ll only be visible in the extended segment of the notifications UI below Quick Settings.
Along those same lines and tying into the new Gentle notifications tool, the search giant will also be adding in a “Focus mode” that can be activated via a dedicated tile in Quick Settings. That puts an end to notifications from certain apps and hides their notifications from the above-mentioned pull-down menu -- keeping them out of sight and out of mind.
The last of the new features in Digital Wellbeing will enable users to receive “nudges” when they’ve spent too long looking at their screen based on a self-set screen time goal.
Other additions for Android Q Digital Wellbeing and a portal for expert advice
One other new feature that's being added to Android Q in pursuit of digital wellbeing but not necessarily associated with the Digital Wellbeing app is Family Link.
As previously reported, Google says the integration of the tool will ensure that parents and their children can set time limits and boundaries with better fine-tuning and award extra time as needed. That brings a Material Design refresh, with one-tap access to time limits and blocked app settings without the need to download an app.
Intrinsically linked to that is Google's new web portal at the "wellbeing.google" URL, where families can turn to get advice about how to set those boundaries, to begin with, and helpful tips for including kids in the discussion. The goal of the site, the search giant says, is to help users and their kids manage or prepare to manage the time they spend with technology.
That means the site doesn't just outline tools found in Digital Wellbeing itself. It provides information about other settings in Android and for other technology outside of that as well.
Is this working?
Setting up new user-controlled features that help them spend a little less time looking at their smartphone and more time in the real world is a bold move for a company that's presently dominating the mobile landscape globally. Not only is that exactly what Google is doing with its Digital Wellbeing initiative, but it's also revealed some metrics with regard to how well its program and app are working.
Despite having the ability to easily circumvent Google's tools specifically, the company indicates that users are actually obeying their self-imposed app timer-based limitations around 90-percent of the time. Those who make use of Wind Down to get off their device at the end of the day saw a 27-percent decrease in nightly usage as well.