Marie Kondo for smartphones? Google's digital detox helps users reclaim joy

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2019 09:00 AM

The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London, Britain January 18, 2019. Hannah McKay, Reuters/File

MANILA – Google is urging Filipinos to use a built-in feature of its Android operating system to disconnect, declutter and spark joy in their digital lives.

Baked into Android 9 Pie, the Digital Wellbeing Dashboard allows users to track and control their use of applications and control how many notifications they receive and in what form.

Google acknowledged the inevitable comparisons between the dashboard and Japan's Marie Kondo, who exploded on Netflix by encouraging people to organize their living spaces and keep only items that spark joy.

"KonMari is great but it doesn't work on USB cables... The awareness component is a large part. Providing the tools so that they can be aware of what’s happening, that is, I think, some of the most powerful things we can do," said Glenn Murphy, Android UX director for Google. 

"These moments of planned disconnection actually feel joyful. People are happiest when they’re productive on their phone. We can enable technology to reduce stress in peoples lives," Murphy said.

Digital Wellbeing dashboard. Handout

Google's Android is on 2 billion devices worldwide and dominates Apple's iOS operating system in terms of reach. The Philippines has 60 million smartphone screens based on combined data from local carriers.

Majority of smartphone users around the world have expressed "some concern" over the amount of time they spend online, according to the Android UX study "Toward JOMO: The Joy of Missing Out and the Freedom of Disconnecting."

Users also felt obliged to respond to every notification they received causing undue stress, according to the global poll of cunsumers aged 18 to 65.

"One of the things we’ve found out is that time spent using a product doesn’t mean happiness. Time is not correlated with satisfaction," Murphy said during a conference call with Southeast Asian journalists. 

"What we’ve seen is that technology is used in so many different ways. Phones are super useful but they can also be distracting," he added. 

The App Timer feature of Digital Wellbeing by Google. Handout

Digital Wellbeing has a "Wind Down" feature where the entire screen turns to black and white so that "interesting images" will not be able to draw users attention especially at night, Murphy said.

Users can completely turn off notifications including pop-ups on the screen while retaining access to productivity apps such as maps. 

Developers should adapt to the rapidly changing technology by creating the right tools for consumers, Murphy said.

"If you have the right tools to use the phone in the ways that they want to, then I totally see this to bring more balance in people’s lives," he said.