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Google launches five new Digital Wellbeing apps

This week Google is launching five new digital wellbeing apps for android devices designed to help people find the right balance of technology in their lives.

These open source apps are available on Google Play for consumers, and on Google’s Experiment with Google platform for designers and developers (along with other experimental apps for voice, AR, VR and digital art).

Built by the Google Creative Lab, these digital wellbeing apps are experimental prototypes, so don’t expect anything too polished. But they do reveal Google’s vision for digital wellbeing.

In a nutshell, Google’s take on digital wellbeing is two-pronged.

  1. First, Google wants to encourage designers and developers to integrate digital wellbeing features into their products. To this end, the five apps are designed to inspire, and offer free access to download code. There’s also a free playbook/hackpack available to help agencies build apps that promote psychological health and balance.
  2. Second, Google is promoting a concept of digital wellbeing around healthy balance and self-empowerment (take back control of your tech). They walk the tagline talk on Google’s two digital wellbeing sites (Google and Android) “New ways to find balance for you and your family” (Android) and “Find a balance with technology that feels right for you”.

To these ends, the five digital wellbeing apps are designed to facilitate (partial) disconnection (towards ‘JOMO’ – joy of missing out on distractive screen time) or reduce temptation in order to either reduce distraction and improve focus, or raise self-awareness of digital habits so people are empowered with the knowledge to act.

  • Unlock Clock: A live wallpaper for your device that shows the the number of times you’ve unlocked your device that day.  Designed to help you better understand your tech use by seeing how often you unlock your phone. (Google Play link)
  • Post Box: Schedule times you want to receive notifications on your device. Outside these times, notifications are held in a virtual holding area, and released when you’ve scheduled them.  Designed to help you minimise digital distractions. (Google Play link)
  • We Flip: A group ‘off’ switch that deactivates all devices in a group, until one person reactivates their device. Designed to help you spend quality time together by switching off from technology as a group. (Google Play link)
  • Desert Island: A simple app that hides all non-essential apps (as decided by you) for 24 hours.  Designed to help you find focus, by challenging you to go a day with only your essential apps. (Google Play link)
  • Morph: An app organisation tool that organise and display apps relevant to your current activity, time or place (home, work, gym, evening etc).  Designed to help you stay focused, and minimise distraction by giving you just the right apps at just the right time. (Google Play link)

Google is encouraging agencies to contribute their own experimental apps and ideas to the Experiment with Google platform, and London-based agency, Special Projects has already uploaded an app called Paper Phone

  • Paper Phone: A printable paper phone which helps you take a break from your digital world.  Paper phone is a printout in a personal booklet format, of the key information you’ll need that day (schedule, maps, contacts, notes etc).

Whether or not our industry will progress Google’s vision that the future of good design is design for good psychological health (aka wellbeing), remains to be seen. At the very least, these digital wellbeing apps provide good inspiration for software, web and app designers.

Introducing Digital Wellbeing Experiments
Unlock Clock by Google Creative Lab
Post Box by Google Creative Lab
We Flip by Google Creative Lab
Desert Island by Google Creative Lab
Morph by Google Creative Lab
Paper Phone by Special Projects
Google’s Vision of Digital Wellbeing

Written by
Dr Paul Marsden
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Digital wellbeing covers the latest scientific research on the impact of digital technology on human wellbeing. Curated by psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden (@marsattacks). Sponsored by WPP agency SYZYGY.