In recent months, Apple Inc. has been criticized for the addictive nature of its devices. Next 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, according to people familiar with the plans.
“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 in a recent interview. “We need to get finer-grain language and start to understand that an iPhone is just a refrigerator, it’s not the addiction.”
Earlier this year, Apple investors Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System criticized 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.