Google has released three experimental apps – Envelope, Activity Bubbles, and Screen Stopwatch – that are designed to help people cut down their phone usage
Do you use your phone too much? Most of us spend hours glued to our phones. Most of the time its for work, checking emails and the like if anyone asks. But if we’re totally honest, most of us spend far too much time looking at and reading completely useless stuff online.
In a bid to show it cares about stuff like kids spending too much time on mobile phones, Google has released three experimental apps that are designed exclusively to help you limit the amount of time you spend looking at stuff on your phone. And they’re called:
- Envelope – OK, this one sounds completely nuts. Basically, you download the app and print out a special PDF that you then wrap around your phone. With the envelope applied, you’ll still be able to access the dialler and the camera app. But that’s it. With your phone seemed inside a paper sarcophagus, you won’t be able to use it – unless you’re making calls or taking pictures. As I said, it’s pretty bonkers…
- Activity Bubbles – This app by Google is far more useful. You install Activity Bubbles on your phone and every time you unlock your phone to do something a bubble is created – and it grows until you lock your phone again. Throughout the day you’ll create many bubbles and, because of their size, you’ll be able to go back at the end of the day and see how much time you’ve wasted on your phone during the last 24 hours.
- Screen Stopwatch – As the name suggests, Screen Stopwatch replaces your phone’s wallpaper with a live stopwatch. Every time you open your phone, the stopwatch starts ticking. Every time you close your phone, it stops. The concept is simple, but it will give you a good idea of how many hours you spend looking at your phone every day. Less weird than Envelope and arguably more useful than Activity Bubbles, Screen Stopwatch is probably the best of a bad bunch here.
Why Is Google Doing This?
It is weird, I admit – kind of like getting health tips from your drug dealer. I mean, Google’s one of the core reasons why you’re addicted to your phone in the first place, so it does feel kind of strange that it is figuring out ways to help you limit the amount of time you spend on your phone.
Mental well being and technology – notably social media, which is predominantly accessed via phones – are intrinsically linked (and not in a good way, either), so from this perspective it does make sense for Google to show that it is doing something proactive in this regard. Spending less time on your phone is definitely a positive, after all.
However, no one in their right mind is going to print out a piece of paper and wrap their phone up in it for the express purpose of using it less. That makes no sense. Having something like a screen stopwatch, however, makes more sense as it gives you an exact metric on the exact amount of time you spend looking at your phone every day.
And once you know this, you can then work to reduce it down over the course of the coming weeks and months. Or you could just, you know… not look at your phone as often and save yourself the bother of having to download these largely useless apps in the first place.
My advice? Delete all social media apps off your phone. Only ever check social media in the morning. Remove all the games from your phone too. I did this years ago and it dropped my phone usage by about 70% overnight. Nowadays, I literally use my phone for calls, music, web search, email, IM, and a little bit of Reddit here and there.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.