In recent months, Apple Inc. has been criticised for the addictive nature of its devices. This week, the company plans to unveil software to help cure people of their iPhone habit.
On Monday, Apple will hold its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, where it will lay out its software strategy for the next year and tease future hardware ambitions.
Typically when the company upgrades the operating systems that power the iPhone and iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV, it touts enhancements that tie people ever closer to their devices and keep them engrossed in the latest apps and games.
This year, Apple will highlight the opposite: using gadgets less.
Apple engineers have been working on an initiative dubbed Digital Health, a series of tools to help users monitor how much time they spend on their devices and inside of certain applications. These details will be bundled into a menu inside of the Settings app in iOS 12, the likely name of Apple’s refreshed mobile operating system.
“We need to have tools and data to allow us to understand how we consume digital media,” Tony Fadell, a former senior Apple executive who worked on the original iPhone and iPod, said. “We need to get finer-grain language and start to understand that an iPhone is just a refrigerator, it’s not the addiction.”
Apple investors Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System criticised the addictive nature of Apple’s devices. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant responded by saying it would add more ‘robust’ parental controls to monitor the use of its products.
Rising concern about smartphone addiction is less of a threat to Apple than other big tech companies. Apple makes most of its money selling hardware, and the Digital Health
software upgrades will likely give users another reason to keep buying the company’s new devices.
At its own developer conference in May, Google emphasized similar tools.
The company has a new Dashboard for Android phones that lets users monitor how long they’re using other apps and reminds people to take a break.
Most of this year’s WWDC will still be devoted to making users want to pick up Apple gadgets. The company plans to show off its prowess in augmented reality by upgrading relatively new tools for iPhones and iPads. AR imposes 3-D digital images on people’s view of the real world. CEO Tim Cook sees the technology as potentially revolutionary as the smartphone.
As part of new software called “ARKit 2.0” internally, the company has been planning a new mode that would let users play AR games against each other in the same virtual environment. Another mode allows objects to be dropped into an area and virtually remain in place. The features will be a prelude of what’s to come from an Apple AR headset planned for as early as 2020.