Tech giants’ push to cut phone use

The recent raft of new smartphone features announced by Apple and Google had a focus on reducing your phone use. But why? Wouldn’t it be in their best interests for you to use your phone more?

Have these tech giants had a change of heart, or are they merely responding to bad press about overuse of smartphones and technology?

No, says tech writer Nir Eyal, who has studied the sophisticated psychology these companies use to keep people ‘hooked’ on technology and has even written a book about it.

It may seem that Apple and Google are acting against their own best interests, as one would think that the more someone uses their phone, the more apps they’d buy and the more advertisements they’d view.

But it seems that these companies view that as a short-term benefit and are instead looking at their own long-term interests.

With such features as batch notifications and the ability to put your phone in ‘shush’ mode when you turn it over, Apple and Google are encouraging people to cut back on their phone use, reduce digital distraction and mitigate the ‘addiction’ factor of always having to be ‘connected’.

Apple and Google view addiction as bad and want you to form healthy phone habits with your devices. That way, you’ll stick around for longer.

As Mr Eyal writes:

“Consider why you wear a seat belt. In 1968, the [US] Federal Government mandated that seat belts come equipped in all cars. However, nineteen years before any such regulation, American car makers started offering seat belts as a feature. The laws came well after car makers started offering seat belts because that’s what consumers wanted. Car makers who sold safer cars sold more.

“As they often do with successful apps built on their platforms, Apple and Google took note of what consumers wanted and decided to incorporate these features as standard? – ?just as car makers did with seat belts in the 1950s.”

Throughout history, any product that harms people is eventually exposed and falls by the wayside. Apple and Google recognise this and are now in competition to deliver solutions to encourage healthier use of digital devices by addressing the harmful aspects of their products.

At first glance, you may think that you are the sole beneficiary of this magnanimous gesture, but Apple and Google know that helping you to use your phone less is just good for business.

Are you ‘addicted’ to your smartphone? Do you worry about a family member who is? What do you think of Mr Eyal’s conclusions?

Related articles:
Google is secretly recording you
How to do a digital detox
Is the internet taking over your life?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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