Google launches trio of new experimental apps to help people curb their phone usage

To help smartphone owners understand just how much time they spend on their devices each day and therefore control or even reduce this amount, Google has announced three new experimental digital well-being applications designed to shock people into putting down their handset.

Back in October, Google released a collection of experimental smartphone apps and tools designed to limit users' phone usage. Now, the company is launching three new experiments that, while not explicitly forcing users into controlling the amount of time they spend on their handset, may instead shock them into putting the phone down.

Screen Stopwatch

Screen Stopwatch is simply a digital wallpaper that looks like a stopwatch. The numbers span the entire width and length of the display and, every time a user unlocks their device, the stopwatch counts.

Activity Bubbles

Like Screen Stopwatch, Activity Bubbles is a digital wallpaper that tracks usage based on phone unlocks; instead of a ticking timer, however, every unlock creates a circular bubble that drops down to the bottom of the display. The longer the time spent on the phone after unlocking the device, the bigger the bubble will grow.


The final experiment is aptly named Envelope. Users can select from a pair of smartphone envelope PDFs to print out and construct that change the functionality of their phones when it's inside. One of the envelopes has a number pad printed on it along with call accept and decline buttons which essentially turn the smartphone into a simple phone. The second option is an envelope with only a photo button and a video button printed on it; like with the first envelope, the display is completely hidden behind the paper.

While none of these app experiments forcibly limit phone usage, they do force users to acknowledge the amount of time they spend on their devices. All are available today.