3 hours, 18 minutes daily screen time
23 hours, 6 minutes weekly screen time
2 hours, 50 minutes screen time in downtime
If I was hoping Apple iOS 12’s Screen Time feature will be insightful, then I might have been underestimating my addiction to the smartphone. In fact, of all the iOS 12 features, Screen Time was the one feature that I wanted to use the most and the primary reason why I did not bat an eyelid before loading iOS 12 Public Beta on my primary phone. Screen Time is Apple’s new software that collates data on how you are interacting with your iOS devices and across devices. So it looks at behaviour across your iPhones and iPads, provided they are all linked to the same Apple ID. I connected only the primary iPhone and the data was scary enough.
For instance, I had no clue that my app usage was the most with WhatsApp. I would have thought this would have been the browser. Actually, Twitter was second followed by Chrome. So clearly, I had no clue about my user behaviour. And Facebook is a distant fifth with just 49 minutes average usage per day, just a fifth of the time I spend on Twitter. It is an eyeopener for sure. In fact, I’m thinking this data might actually debunk myths about a lot of apps. User behaviour on devices might actually be way different from what MAUs and DAUs have us believe. But that’s a whole different story and let’s keep it for another day.
Now, Screen Time is very easy to set up. You find it in settings and enable it. You then set Downtime, when you want the OS to limit your phone activity. Then set app limits, where you say how much time you want to (ideally) spend on a certain type of app, like productivity or social media. There is also a Content and Privacy tab where you can set a passcode and set other restrictions on the phone — like setting the apps your child can use and with what time limits.
While Screen Time is logging all your activity through the day, it also locks the apps as soon as your Downtime starts or when you have passed the time limit set for that kind of app. Initially, I set 11 pm to 7 am as my Downtime. But then life can not be so ideal, or idealistic. Within the first day, I was frustrated with not being able to open apps with a single tap. This is despite having set Whatsapp, Google Analytics etc as app that will not lock. There are things that you want to do late at night and things you want to know early in the morning. The restrictions can be a serious hindrance for the same — and that is clearly the idea.
So, for instance, if I want to open the Indian Express app during Downtime, I need to either allow it for 15 minutes or for a whole day. It is just another additional step, but certainly a put off. What I am not sure of is how it will put off people: from opening the app or disabling Screen Time itself. This is something you will have to wait to see. I for instance need the access to my apps. A late night message, that needs to be acted up immediately, might come on Facebook Instant Messenger. After all, we live in a time when even resignations are sent via WhatsApp.
So here is what I learnt from using Screen Time for a week:
Did it give me useful data on app usage?
Yes. The sort of data that tells me I have got my priorities all wrong.
Will Screen Time be able to deter people from overusing their devices?
Yes. But that might not happen solely because of the analytics. The restricted access of Downtime will be the dealbreaker here.
Will I use it?
Yes, but Downtime will be on only for limited periods when I know that I am well asleep. I might use it more to give restricted access of apps to my son.
It is actually good to see that Apple, as well as Google, are working on features like Screen Time that let users understand and take control of their online behaviour. However, what needs to be seen is how many users are brave enough to enable these restrictions on their phones. I have a fear that a lot of us will just restrict the restrictions in the end.