Google’s new Digital Wellbeing apps can save us from our smartphones

Google has launched five new Android apps, designed to help users reduce screen time and build upon the company’s Digital Wellbeing tools, unveiled last year.

The web and mobile giant has released Unlock Clock, Post Box, We Flip, Desert Island and Morph, all of which it believes can result in smartphone owners spending less time looking at their devices.

The Unlock Clock acts as a live wallpaper that keeps a running tally on how many times you’ve unlocked your photo that day. It gamifies the process and could guard against those habitual instances where we pick up our phones and play with them with no particular goal in mind.

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Next up, Post Box will kindly collect all of your phone’s notifications and save them for a time of the day, of your choosing. You know, when you check your letterbox when you get some from work, rather than looking at it every five minutes. This could stop us picking up our phones every time a message from a certain app comes through.

We Flip might be our favourite of the bunch and encourages couples or groups to engage with each other rather than checking our handsets. The idea is that everyone in the group downloads the app and joins the session together. Whoever unlocks their phone first loses and curtails the session for everyone. It’s also possible to see how often each person in the session peeks at the phone.

Desert Island encourages users to pick the apps they couldn’t possibly get through the day without using; perhaps email, calendar, Spotify and WhatsApp for instance, and then attempt to last the rest of the day without using the others.

Finally, Google is outing an experimental app called Morph, which is somewhat similar to Apple’s AI-base Siri shortcuts, but requires a little more user input. If you select the apps you tend to use at certain times (e.g. iPlayer on the way to work, Spotify when cooking dinner), Morph will attempt to predict when you might want to use them. The idea is you see those apps presented to you during those times of the day.

All five apps can be downloaded from the Google Play store, for phones running Android Pie and above. It’s unclear whether and when Google will incorporate the apps into the main digital wellbeing features.

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