Google Releases 3 New Experimental Apps


Contrary to what you would expect, Google wants you to use your smartphones less. That's not to say that the developer of Android doesn't want you to use your smartphone at all, rather it would like you to adopt healthy usage habits that also have you do things such as taking power naps or spending time with your family.
Google has been working on the Digital Wellbeing initiative since 2018 with the launch of Android 9 Pie and has just launched three new experimental apps that take the idea of healthy smartphone usage further.

The new apps, discovered by Android Police, are available now. The first and wackiest of these apps is Envelope, which only works with the Google Pixel 3a (Review) for now. The app has you literally print out a special PDF, fold it into an envelope, and place your smartphone in it.

The envelope is designed in such a way that it only allows you to access the phone dialler and camera once the app is installed. It's gimmicky, but it might be worth trying simply for the novelty and wackiness of the idea.

The other two apps are Activity Bubbles and Screen Stopwatch, both of which work on a wide range of Android smartphones. The two apps are essentially live wallpapers for Android smartphones and have their own unique ways to let you know how much you've been using your smartphone. This is done to encourage you to limit usage.

Activity Bubbles creates a new ‘bubble' which is placed on your screen when you unlock the phone. The longer your device stays on, the larger the bubble grows. The ‘bubbles' reset at the end of the day, but the goal is to let you know just how much you've been using your phone.

Screen Stopwatch has a large timer on-screen which ticks away for every second that your device is unlocked with the screen on. Like Activity Bubbles, the timer resets at the end of the day.

The latter two apps have been developed by Google Creative Lab, which is the company's division for developing experimental apps. While neither of the apps actually limit usage on your phone like some of the other Digital Wellbeing projects, the goal is to give you an insight into how much you use your smartphone, and rely on your self-discipline to get things done.


Envelope is another of Google’s new experimental Wellbeing apps and it is fairly similar to the strange “Paper Phone” above. This time, you will print out a piece of paper and fold it in the shape of an envelope. After that, you will seal your Pixel 3a inside the app is only available for Google’s mid-range smartphone and only have access to the dialer and camera.

Some people feel that they spend too much time on their phones and struggle to find a balance with technology. They have planned special paper envelopes that totally change the functionality of your device for the time it is sealed inside, allowing you to enjoy fewer distractions for a little while.

One envelope turns your phone into a very basic device that can only make and receive calls, while the other turns your phone into a photo and video camera with no screen, helping you to focus on what is in front of you. Printed buttons that light up allow you to dial and take photographs creating a calm but magical “Envelope User Interface”.

Activity Bubbles

Maybe my favorite of this entire set is Activity Bubbles. This app tracks how often you unlock your device and how long you keep it unlocked and apply that to your wallpaper for every unlocks a new bubble is formed and it grows the longer you use your phone over the course of the day wallpaper fills up with bubbles.

Activity Bubbles helps to find out what your device use resembles in a day each unlocks creates a new bubble the more you stay on your device the bigger the bubble grows.

Screen Stopwatch

One more wallpaper based solution that comes in the form of Screen Stopwatch. Same as Unlock Clock listed above this one tracks how long you actively use your device on a daily basis but, in this case, showing the total with hours minutes, and seconds. If you truly need to know about how much you use your phone, this is perhaps the most effective, probably stress-inducing way to keep track.

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