Apple has unveiled a raft of features designed to help its 1.3 billion users use their devices in more healthy ways.
Screen Time will show users via graphs and charts how often they pick up their phone and use specific apps. It will also allow them to set limits, for example on how long they can use Facebook each day.
CEO Tim Cook told the tech giant’s WWDC conference in San Jose, California that the new feature showed him he was using his iPhone too much.
“I thought I was fairly disciplined about this, and I was wrong,” he said. “When I began to get the data, I found I was spending a lot more time [on my device] than I should.”
It will also give parents a breakdown of their children’s phone activity and allow them to block access at certain times of the day as well as restrict certain content.
The discussion around digital detoxification often cites smartphones’ notification system, which is in essence designed to entice users to pick up and engage with their device.
Apple said changes to its version of that system will make it much easier to ignore notifications when they are not relevant.
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The other big announcement at WWDC was that Apple is to stop Facebook from tracking its passive users on the Safari browser by default.
At present Facebook can see what its users are doing and follow them around the web, regardless of whether they are clicking ‘like’ or ‘share’ buttons. Even when users click on something, they will be offered a prompt with an option to prevent subsequent tracking.
This will only apply when using the Facebook website on Safari, not the Facebook app – but is widely seen as Apple taking a swipe at Facebook’s treatment of its users’ data.
Software chief Craig Federighi demonstrated the new tools on a large screen which used Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram as potential examples of activity you might want to restrict.
He said: “We’ve all seen these like buttons, share buttons and comment fields. Well it turns out these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not.
“We’re shutting that down… you can decide to keep your information private.”
Federighi also said Apple would crack down on ‘fingerprinting’ – where data companies analyse configuration settings, installed fonts and plug-ins to identify specific devices.
“[This will make it] dramatically more difficult for data companies to identify you and track you,” he added.
It will instead send these companies general data.
There were no hardware announcements at the developer conference but Apple also announced plans to allow voice assistant Siri to control third-party apps without users having to open them, while its new Shortcuts function will allow device owners to assign phrases to different commands.
Also coming is Group Facetime, which will allow up to 32 people to take part in the same audio or video call, shared augmented reality experiences and Apple Watch app Walkie-Talkie which will allow two users to chat together via 4G or Wi-Fi.
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