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Apple needs to tackle the issue of smartphone addiction (wired.co.uk)
118 points by sus_007 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 132 comments



I don't get why people think that this is apple's problem.

Do a better job of parenting. Have some self discipline.

There are so many products in this world that take advantage of our biology. The iPhone is just one. And it's currently being obsessed over by media outlets. What about all the processed foods making people fat and unhealthy? What about Starbucks selling addictive drugs on every corner and getting away with it? Same with Coca-Cola, why is adding addictive chemicals to a soda that is sold to everyone including children okay? What about television? All of these TV shows coming out are designed to hook you in. Walking my dog every night, I can see everyone just sitting in front of their televisions, wasting time.

If you are going to force a company to help people ween themselves from addiction, don't be a hypocrite. You have your own addictions and vices, what makes yours more valid than someone else's. If we are going to make products provide tools to limit their own use, lets do that with all of the addictive products out there, and not single out one company because it's trendy to not be on your phone.


One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.

The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”


The old man then went home and penned an article titled "The sea needs to tackle the issue of washed-up starfish"; the Moon was blown up, and the tides ceased.


High tide happens twice a day so I agree with the old man ;)

I get what you are saying though, and I don't think that it's dumb to try to make progress and help people. I am just pointing out how irrational the world is and how many other problems there are that people turn a blind eye to.


I also think generalizing smartphone use as “addiction” is a misrepresentation!

I have no doubt that some people are addicted to their phones...but just as some people are addicted to Siracha sauce

The media needs to chill the fuck out and move on to the next hype cycle...or better (but unrealistic): stop the hype around anything and just go back to reporting actual news


> I have no doubt that some people are addicted to their phones...but just as some people are addicted to Siracha sauce

I don't think _anyone_ is addicted to sriracha in the same way people are addicted to their personal devices. Downplaying this problem is the last thing that should be done.


Via Wikipedia:

Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences.[8] Despite the involvement of a number of psychosocial factors, a biological process – one which is induced by repeated exposure to an addictive stimulus – is the core pathology that drives the development and maintenance of an addiction.[1][9] The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., they are perceived as being inherently positive, desirable, and pleasurable).

———

And now go and google Sriracha addiction


The implications of a device and connectivity addiction are more grave than that of a Sriracha addiction - regardless of what the definition of addiction are.


I'm way more addicted to hot sauce than I am to any electronics and I spend all day on electronics.


Ah, but without the 24x7 hype cycle, the media cannot feed addiction to media.


Bingo! You win Hackernews!


I agree, but you don't say to drug addicts "it's easy just stop taking drugs" because ultimately they will still reach for their fix. It's a personal decision, but the tools to self-manage need to be available.

Apple could do more to alleviate addictions, however. You could argue that they first introduced these addictions in the first place. Red circles in the corners of apps have become a corner stone in computer interaction. "Do not disturb" and "Notifications" go someway to manage and alleviate this, but ultimately it's not in Apple's interest to provide mechanisms for users to escape their platform.

If apps don't see engagement, developers won't make apps, which means Apple loses money.

If users aren't bullied into updating their devices, the large majority won't update, which means Apple loses control of their platform.

I hope Apple take a stand against this established model. It's gone far enough and it's extremely mentally wearing.


People like to blame someone for their own failures and this is why often socialist parties are so popular, because they are good at creating false sense of security.


Something that I don't know if they've mentioned specifically in public was that the Apple Watch was partly designed to deal with smartphone addiction.

I don't have a citable source handy here, so it's just my word, but when I interned with Apple last year there were a few "town hall" events where interns could ask questions of senior management (Cook, Ahrendts, Cue, Maestri, etc). At one of them (I think the Tim Cook one but I'm not 100% certain) someone asked about smartphone addiction. He pointed out that the Apple Watch actually plays a role. It gives you a tap when you get a notification, but the tap isn't too intense and doesn't go for more than a moment. In user studies, they found that people were much more likely to simply dismiss notifications from the Watch than if they weren't wearing one.

The effect of this was that people weren't unlocking their phones as often, and by merely avoiding unlocking the phone people were not as tied to using it. It used to be the case for me that I would get a notification, unlock my phone and attend to the notification, and then immediately afterwards open Reddit or Facebook or something because, well, I was already on my phone so why not?

Since getting an Apple Watch, I've noticed I do this much less. Maybe part of it is that I'm more cognizant of the problem, but another part is that it's much easier to simply disregard the notifications since they're more fleeting now.

I'm sure this sounds like a sales pitch for the Watch to some people, but I don't mean it that way. I just thought it was very interesting when Cook (I think) pointed out that this was a deliberate consideration with the Watch and then I was able to anecdotally confirm its effectiveness myself. I wish I had an actual source to cite for this, but notes are forbidden in the town hall events.


I purchased the Apple Watch when the cellular version came out. You can bet that my smartphone usage has gone down since I've stopped carrying it around.

I get my messages, my calls, and my emails. I can get directions if necessary. I even get my wallet, my weather, my reminders/schedule AND my music. What else do I need?

EDIT: Did I mention it also tells time?


Fuji X series have the IQ of a "real" camera but a very portable form factor.

I currently carry a Nikon FE film camera around when I want a camera small enough to forget about, but I am itching to get an X100F in particular.


I got the fuji x-pro2 for this reason. I used to carry a bunch of canon gear... till I stopped bringing it anywhere because it was too heavy.

I traded it all in for a fuji, and 2 small primes, and I bring that camera everywhere.


Unfortunately one can't beat physics.

If you need reach and magnification, for example at an airshow, then you need a long lens with a lot of glass. At that point the weight of the camera becomes irrelevant.

If you just need a couple of primes for street shooting then just about any camera manufacturer will sell you something small and lightweight. Fuji don't have any particular light-attracting or gravity-defeating magic.


I had one, the colours were brilliant but the autofocus, operation and lowlight were all poor.


Can you elaborate? I thought that sensor was at least OK in low light


Actually you are correct - the X100F looks like a huge upgrade, I had the previous model!


Do you have a camera for photos? I have an LTE watch. That + written notes are the two big things I miss.

Also can't wait till all apps are phone independent. Right now most third party apps stop working without a phone.


I do not. I'm in the market for a camera that's the size of the AirPods case so I could bring it on vacation. It'd be great if I could have something like the cameras off of today's latest and greatest phones but in a much more miniature and standalone form factor.

The apps I'm waiting for are Car2Go or Uber that work totally independently. Also, unfortunately, Google Hangout for work.

While I'm making wishes, it'd be amazing if I could sync with my MBP instead of my iPhone.


Finding a decent camera in that size is damned near impossible, but something like a LUMIX ZS60S or a Sony DSCW830 is pretty tiny and takes much nicer photos than a phone once you've spent a little time getting used to the camera and what it can actually do. (Often your phone can also take much better photographs than your automatic settings will, but fiddling with it is a pain.)


Do camera makers have any recent models that small, or do we generally need to look at old versions, since the point and shoot market tanked?


There are plenty of superzooms (which are basically a mirrorless or DSLR without an interchangeable lens) that cost too much and get you too little and are too big, but the compact market is weird and tiny and not great.

Sony's current compact line seems OK, though I haven't used them--the DSCWX cameras. They've got Exmor sensors (their mirrorlesses all use Exmor sensors) and reasonable lenses. You won't get mirrorless performance, but you're not expecting to, so, yeah.


A GoPro is a pretty similar size to the AirPods case and gets you a pretty rugged camera.


Do they do a non-fisheye lens version though? Whilst it's great for action films, it's bloody terrible for plain old photos.


That's actually a great idea. Thanks!


You have to admire their ingenuity in fighting smartphone addiction by selling you another smart device.


Regardless of whether they intended it or not, smartphone addiction was one of two reasons I bought Apple Watch (the other reason being I don't like to carry something in my hand or pockets, just to be within reach).

Well, a distant third reason is that voice recognition is finally good enough for basic text messaging.


I just bought a LTE LG Watch (should be in tomorrow) just so I could leave my phone behind exactly due to this kind of effect. I have come to the realization that a huge junk of the time I and virtual everyone around me spends on our phones is wasteful and unproductive. Looking up from my phone around a bar and seeing so many tables full of people staring at their phones kind of makes me nostalgic for the dumb phone era. I am hoping that the smartwatch will be a good compromise between staying connected and not encouraging my own bad habits.


There's a quote in a book that I like that says:

"In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice."

I think about that a lot when I notice things like what you mention, where everybody is distracted and cell phones are ruling our lives.


Interesting story. But it seems to me they're just substituting addiction with distraction. The Apple watch ad always made me cringe: they basically listed how the wonderful moments of our life are distracted by digital devices. These devices used to be feet away: radio, phones, computers... now I have to bloody wear it on me? No fucking way.


I'm not sure I follow your reasoning. I (and others) have noticed that the effect I reported is true: wearing the Watch prevents distraction more than it enables it. I spend less time on my phone doing unimportant things than I used to, and I don't get as distracted while attempting to work on other things because the Watch actually makes it easier to ignore notifications.

I understand if you're not sold on it, and maybe phone distraction isn't a problem that you have anyway, but I think that there is certainly anecdotal evidence that the Apple Watch can be more helpful than harmful in these situations.


Wasn't the town hall's content confidential? If you are going to leak things, at least do it anonymously.


I don't think I breached any agreements here, but in any case this handle is not my real name, and personal information I give through it is not all factual. :)


That would be kind of a strange thing to do for interns...if that's what they really were


There were definitely specific things that they asked us not to talk about. One example: Angela Ahrendts (SVP Retail) talked to us about the new Chicago Apple Store [0] and asked us not to discuss it until its public announcement.

I don't think the town hall events were confidential. My understanding was that they asked us not to take notes or use electronic devices to be polite to the speakers. They explicitly told us when certain information was meant to be kept secret.

[0] https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2017/10/apple-michigan-avenue...


This argument seems to imply the opposite, taking the "addicting" notifications and strapping them to your wrist doesn't exactly reduce the behavior. Most studies show any addicting effect is directly tied to the dopamine release from receiving the notifications. The decreased frequency in unlocking the phone is simply moved to your arm.

Just bought a smart watch over the weekend, I'll keep you posted ;)


What's important is the reduction in functionality. I can't do nearly as much from my Watch as I can with my phone, and specifically I can't just browse through Reddit or Facebook. While I may interact with the same number of notifications, I interact with them for significantly less time (because there's not much to do with them from the Watch), and any such interaction is unlikely to cause me to browse my phone in a more general way.

So that's the key: the Watch frees me from the trap of "Well I'm already on my phone, so I may as well open up Instagram/Twitter and scroll through my feed again."


Don't you need your phone in your pocket to use it?


For non-LTE models, yes. But if you are notified via your wrist, you still have to go through the effort of retrieving your phone, unlocking it, and then tending to the notification before you get to the “time wasting” stage, and I think its that’s a barrier to entry that’s causing people to use their phone less.


Yes, I have a Series 2 so I need to have my phone nearby (or on the same WiFi) for the Watch to be useful.

The difference is that now I can dismiss notifications from my wrist and I am less tempted to actually unlock my phone directly, which is what was causing me to get distracted before.


I've noticed with watch notifications I'm far more likely to mentally dismiss them without losing my train of thought.

Phone notificaions, on the other hand, clog up the unlock screen, and seem to demand action when I pull down notification center and see old ones.

I still keep notifications low, mind you. Watch ones are still a distraction. But on balance I find it much less.


I've been struggling with addiction in various forms for my entire adult life, so I have a decent understanding of it imho.

When I first learned what a smartphone was, I knew immediately that I would become addicted to it if I let myself.

I simply chose not to get addicted to smartphones by never purchasing one, and it's working out quite well so far.

I know they're awesome little nuggets of technology, but I just don't want to be that connected... so I don't own one.

For the same reasons that I choose not to continually purchase the latest gaming console.

Spending $1,000 on something every 6 months (amortized cost of the smartphone + connectivity charges) that eventually becomes worthless isn't far off from a serious drug or alcohol addiction financially speaking...

And now all of my "straight laced" friends can hardly even carry on a casual conversation without looking at their smartphones every few minutes has only reinforced my way of thinking.

They use smartphones as passive babysitters for their children when they're on short car rides without hesitation.

The look on a 3 year old's mesmerized face as they stare into a tablet disgusts me to no end.

I now choose to never own a smartphone.

I know they're a detriment to society.

Perhaps when I am old, dying, and actually in desperate need of "contact", I'll splurge on one.

But until then, I'm perfectly content receiving and composing emails from a full-blown computer with a keyboard... and sending the odd text message through my dumbphone.

I work in the tech industry, and refusing to own a smartphone hasn't slowed me down yet!


Kind of funny that they finally found something to hook the rest of 'em - all the strait-laced people as you say. Many people would never be caught by any of the typical addictions -- Smoking is socially stigmatized, drugs are illegal, alcohol addiction is kinda sorta alittlebit mostly "hereditary" in the loosest sense of the word, gambling for most people requires a long car trip. But a smartphone has none of those limitations.

EDIT: I suppose the most widespread addiction is coffee. Still king.


I think it helps to have been addicted (maybe "dependent" is a better word) on something that has been socially stigmatised to see it for what it is. Friends will quite happily point and label it an "addiction" it out to while ignoring their own "habits".

(I think I would draw the line between dependence and addiction when it starts affecting your normal life, but again that description is pretty subjective).


Who spends $2000 a year every year on their phone + connectivity? I know there are SOME people, but they’re in the minority, for sure.


My cell bill is about $100/mo. I'm not one of the "gotta have the hot new device every release" folks, but... that's a baseline of $1200/yr without considering device prices.


In general, I agree strongly with this sentiment:

> What does a healthy, moderate digital life look like? I think that manufacturers and app developers need to take on this responsibility, before government regulators decide to step in

As a bicyclist and driver I believe one of the best ways to enact this would be add a feature that allows investigators / insurers to answer the question of “whether the device was I use at the time of an accident”.

I’ve taken to yelling “get of your effing phone” at drivers obviously looking down at devices while I’m driving, walking or cycling around; I think the phone doing that would be more efficient.


I agree. Additionally, the rule against using a phone while driving should actually be enforced. It is very much like speeding. Enforcement is practically non-existent so of course everyone continue to do it.


Agree, outdoor magazine has a detailed piece about this [0], somewhat ironically the author, a friend of mine, was killed recently by a vehicle (an accident; the truck hydroplaned into him while he was fixing a flat) [1].

[0] https://www.outsideonline.com/1930211/bikes-vs-cars-deadly-w...

[1] https://www.outsideonline.com/2282551/author-and-cyclist-and...


I can see how this would be good at punishing people, but I am not sure how much this would actually change behavior. I think most people who use a cellphone like that think they are being safe, and by the time this 'feature' comes into play they have already had an accident. It might stop repeat offenders, but I am not sure how many people are getting into multiple accidents caused by cellphones.


> I’ve taken to yelling “get of your effing phone” at drivers obviously looking down at devices while I’m driving, walking or cycling around; I think the phone doing that would be more efficient.

My iPhone does do that. If it thinks I'm driving, it makes me tap a button that says "I'm not driving." in order to continue.


This can be turned off in settings; I’d be interested in knowing how many of us have done that (I have mine on).


A fairly large number of people don't drive but have cellphones (Kids, NYC etc). So, I don't think numbers of people who turn it off is going to tell you much.


I turned it off because it kept disabling me when I was on the train (I drive about once quarterly). It's a good start, though.


You can have it only turn on when you connect to a car bluetooth device instead of using motion detection. It also applies if you have one of those bluetooth to auxiliary adapters if you have an older car.


I really can’t see a way of implementing this without either invading peoples privacy, violating the 5th amendment, making it useless or a combination of those things.


I think it could be done without causing those problems. The device itself can store its usage time/location information. Retrieving the information can require a warrant (just like getting anything else off the device ought to).

As a black box type device, in this case, the logs should be undeletable by the user. Perhaps a rolling log that wipes itself every week or month (minimal data impact, maximal utility to authorities in cases of accidents and such).

By keeping it on the device the privacy concern is partly dealt with. The information is still collected, but no 3rd party has access to it until the user (voluntarily or by court order) provides access to it.


Here's a great example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I3iNr1myG4

A driver on her phone strikes a cyclist stopped for a light because the driver cuts the corner and enters the wrong lane. The cyclist is wearing high-viz clothing and uses a very loud horn to alert they driver but the driver just wasn't paying looking.


Apple’s existing solution of making the device hard to use while driving seems to be better because it actually prevents the accident in the first place and doesn’t introduce a back door.


I think smartphone use has split into two paths: utility and "discovery." Utilities are the tools we use every day, the tools we want to be stable, fast, and (relatively) unchanging. E.g. sms, maps, browser, phone, camera, email. "Discovery" is all the new, unstable, changing stuff. I think there's an enormous market for a utility smartphone...and it doesn't even have to be a smartphone. Something between an old Nokia and an iPhone, but still a precision-crafted, luxury device.


I think the 'utility' phone you are looking for is The Light Phone.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/light-phone-2-design#/

It's a great distinction, the way you phrased it "utility vs discovery". I think it would be even better for their branding than their current strategy which is pitching 'minimalism'.


> Something between an old Nokia and an iPhone, but still a precision-crafted, luxury device.

There's the Light Phone, but I haven't seen many reviews on it. And its successor, the Light Phone 2, isn't coming out until next year (and it's crowdfunded, so expect more delays).

But if you only wanted a phone for utility, buy an old iPhone 5s, or SE, install just the basics and leave it at that. If you have self-control problems, create a new Apple account and write and put its password in safe so you can't install new apps on a whim. The smaller screen of the 5s will also force you to wait until you're at your computer to do anything lengthy. Or change it to greyscale mode to make the other tasks more unattractive.


Protip for anyone considering grayscale: you can set it to activate on triple click of the home button.

I personally use a red color filter with this setting. Reduces nightime blue light exposure. But one bonus is that the red phone is also way less compelling.


I don't think sms, maps, browser, phone, camera, email are the apps most people use though.

Wikpedia(1) says in the US its actually: Facebook, Facebook Messenger, YoutTube, Google Maps, Google Search, Google Play, Gmail, Instagram, Apple Music and Amazon

For other countries you just have to swap out Messenger for Whatsapp and such...but otherwise its basically the same.

Mind you this includes preinstalled apps!

So I'd say if anything, someone should build a Facebook phone, without all the other crap like phone, email and sms apps :)

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_popular_smartphon...


That list doesn't include non-downloadable apps.

I can guarantee that the browser is more used for googling than the Google Search app, for example.


that would be odd since the list includes Google Play and Apple Music, which are both preinstalled apps.

Maybe you are overestimating how much people use the browser at scale?


This. I have thought a lot about switching to a "dumb phone" recently. There were two things that I use regularly that would make this switch tough though:

1) Google maps. This is so much better than using a built-in or dashboard-mount GPS that it would be hard to go back. 2) Podcasts. I listen to these in the car and having a good app for them is nice.

Ultimately, I decided to delete the apps on my phone that were sucking up my time, but it takes a good amount of self control not to install some of the new ones, and I still succumb to checking my notifications more than I'd like.

I would love the product you are describing though. In particular, I remember my old Nokia had like a week of battery life and I'd be willing to give up a bunch of functionality for that alone.


I made the switch a few years ago. (Got disgusted with myself for neglecting my kids to check work emails). It was much easier than I thought it would be. To your points:

1) Maps - I try to look at an online map before I leave for a place. If the directions are just too complicated I'll print the last leg or so. This has gotten me temporarily lost before, but figuring it out on my own makes for an adventure (definitely not for everybody) and significantly increases my retention of the geography of the area. I do miss real-time traffic-informed routing, though (i.e., Waze).

2) Podcasts - My dumb-phone has an MP3 player, but the UI was so bad (especially for longer tracks like podcasts) that I ended up buying a used iPod Nano. Works great for me.

Downside is the phone is thick ("is that a flip-phone in your pocket, or...") and the UI is clunky, and sometimes it crashes when family send me large files over MMS. I'm seriously considering that Light Phone 2 someone linked above. Seems about perfect.


I'm just coming back from a couple of weeks working disconnected in Cuba.

What I'm going to try is:

1. Have phone forget home and office wifi 2. Turn cellular off for some distracting apps. (Including stuff like email which doesn't require a fast response) 3. Put those apps on their own internet app page

Then, go somewhere with wifi and only use those apps there. I have enough data that my regular use of other apps won't be an issue.

In Cuba, I could only get internet at wifi parks. Apart from that my phone was a wonderful non distracting device which let me set timers, take notes, voice recordings, photos, view offline maps, translate things, played saved podcasts etc

It felt good to have my phone with me at all times, like it augmented things. At home it feels like something I have to keep away.

This may not work, as I can just flip on cell data for those apps. If it doesn't work I'll search for a different solution. But I'm hoping the physical segregation of apps will be enough as a cue.


I used to be obsessed with a "dumb phone" that didn't quite have the utility features you described years ago. I think it was called John's Phone? Loved the idea, but hated the thought of owning two different phones.



Windows Phone hit that spot. Perhaps "luxury device" is pushing it, but as a utility - particularly in the WinPho8 days, before Win10 introduced performance regressions - it was a fantastic platform.


Effectively if Apple did anything for the mobile industry it was to retard it by a decade (or more), because all you describe we already had.


I have to wonder - what is staring at our phones all day doing to our necks? And are we going to have an epidemic of debilitating cervical spine issues pop up 10 or 20 years from now?


I don't really know that I stare at my phone any more than I used to stare at books/magazines/newspapers.

So I'm screwed either way.



I frequently see children bend their necks at a full 90 degrees to stare mindlessly at an iPad rested on their laps. I would not be surprised if they grow up to have spinal issues. Parents don’t seem to care.


Likely something similar to staring at artwork all day... or paperwork, a book, badly-positioned television. Or a car engine (especially if you generally do work from above instead of below). Or anything else you look down at for hours at a time.


Is this shifting the blame? It seems people are addicted to smartphones because it's what they want. Or put another way what else draws interest in their life. Which goes to a quality of life aspect.

The onus should not be on the manufacturer to address addiction. But instead, provide means to combat addiction. Apple has that notification toggle. What more do we want, auto lock after X hours of usage. This will probably be harsh but how about learn some self-discipline. If a stepping program is needed, then implement that. Like to ween people off. But it shouldn't be a constant. Why are you checking your phone so much? Why aren't you out doing something, or talking to someone? If you don't want to do that, why are you complaining about checking your phone so much.

That is to say some people are introverts. They don't want to talk much. The smartphone allows them to better socialize, and keep to their habits.

I've noticed since I upgraded to a pixel. I find myself subconsciously pressing the fingerprint authentication while it's in my pocket. Not looking at it, but just pressing it feeling it unlock. I came to this realization the other day. I was reminded of some of my other addictive behaviors. I'm looking at dumber phones now actually.

I've recently downgraded in a way. My biggest use of my phone was for music. I grabbed an old iPod nano and put Rockbox on it. Largely leaving my phone in my backpack. I've also eyed the recent Nokia phones.


Subconsciously pressing the fingerprint authentication in your pocket is reminiscent of... the One Ring...

I can relate to your iPod story. For me, smartphone has been mostly for reading. I used Kindle among other apps on my phone. Having recently bought a Kindle my iPhone sits untouched in my pocket.


Legitimizing smartphone addiction is the main reason why Apple will never put a dark mode in iOS. Atleast I hope they don't. It has never been a personal problem (I am carrying my own bunch of bad habits) but I hate watching friends, partners constantly checking their phones in the night.


What do you mean by 'dark mode'?

I turned my screen black and white, which supposedly lessens the addictiveness. You can also invert the colors for cool matrix like effect... if you are into 90's Winamp Themes.


Modern Android has a f.lux-like effect where it changes the colors on your screen to be warmer so they don't affect your sleep as much. I assume that's what he means by 'dark mode' (it's 'night mode').


iOS has something similar - called 'Night Shift'. I think he's talking about having a theme that is a dark background rather than a light/white one, though.


Yes a lot of apps provide a night/dark mode as an in app purchase. Convenient, yes. Addicting, yes++.

You mentioned Night Shift and I think it actually is a great compromise.


Where is the setting? I have Nexus 5x and I remember that there was night mode, but it was never exposed in settings. It was only available on 7.0.


We could have said the same thing about facial recognition technology back in 2011 when Android debuted Face Unlock. Here we are, 6+ years later and Apple introduces its Face ID technology which does the same thing. Just give them time, they have a finite number of paid engineers and they're competing against an ever-growing pool of unpaid open source enthusiasts that enjoy working on Android.


The bigger problem for Apple here is users. A huge number of addicts have been asking for a dark mode in iOS for quite some time. If enough people ask for feature X enough number of times, it is hard for a public company like Apple to resist. I mean it is so easy to at tim or at federighi and get such features these days.


On iOS, press and hold on the brightness slider. It'll go full screen with a "Night Shift" option. And "General -> Accessibility -> Accessibility Shortcut" lets you bind triple-click to various color shift filters (I've recently been using my phone in black & white to try to make it less visually interesting)


I think they just deployed a "smart inverted mode" that inverts the colours of everything except images/videos.


The Cali Cartel needs to tackle the issue of cocaine addiction —- but don’t hold your breath.


Exactly.

The addictiveness of smartphones isn't a "byproduct" of these devices. It is the product.


Bear in mind that Apple keeps 30% of App Store revenue, which is tens of billions of dollars a year. If they just sold the hardware they wouldn't care at all how much users use it, but if users are on their phones for hours on end it's more likely they'll spend money on apps.


With the Apple Watch with LTE, Apple _is_ tackling the issue of smartphone addiction.

I've been using my Apple Watch as my sole form of communication for 3 months now, it's great.


Does Siri understand you well, or do you have any cases where you have to scribble, send typos, etc?

What do you do for taking notes? Do you have a system for processing later on a phone or a computer?

Any apps like whatsapp where you can't initiate a message? How do you get around it?

Do you carry a phone? If not, do you carry a camera?

I'm interested in doing the same myself.


> Does Siri understand you well, or do you have any cases where you have to scribble, send typos, etc?

Siri works pretty well in most situations. It doesn't work great when I'm in locations with spotty WiFi and LTE. Siri also doesn't work well when I'm in meetings or on the bus, so I scribble in those situations. I really wish I could use Palm's "Graffiti" instead of writing out the letters, it would be so much faster! I also do send typos sometimes.

> What do you do for taking notes? Do you have a system for processing later on a phone or a computer?

I do not have a system for taking notes on my phone or watch. I use org-mode for my notes so I carry my computer around with me at work as a portable org-mode system.

> Any apps like whatsapp where you can't initiate a message? How do you get around it?

I don't use Whatsapp, but I do use Signal and not being able to initiate a message is very frustrating. I end up using iMessage in those situations, which isn't ideal. I hope that Signal makes an Apple Watch app.

> Do you carry a phone? If not, do you carry a camera?

I don't carry a phone for 5-6 days out of the week. At this point, I only take my phone with me if I want to have a "GPS" or a camera. I do miss having a camera, but it's a small price to pay for being free from the constant distraction of a phone.


I think I disagree, but in a good way. Apple needs to protect privacy. Google, FB, et all are pushing devices that upload as much information about users as possible. The most recent Apple update resounded with me in that it said 'privacy is a fundamental right'. What Apple needs to tackle is the issue of becoming an advertisement agency.


This article.... where to begin. Firstly this isn't an "Apple problem". Their smartphone product is one of many. We also see plenty of non-smartphone digital addictions. It's not about smartphones either.

And then this:

"You should be able to see exactly how you spend your time and, if you wish, moderate your behaviour accordingly."

If anyone needs to use an app to check whether they're spending too much time looking at apps, then it's game over. If we need to regularly consult a computer to determine how to live our lives without consulting the computer too much, it's game over.

Is society really in this much trouble, that people are writing articles asking for tech giants to save us from tech products? In so many ways that is like giving up as a thoughtful being, formerly in control of your own life and decisions, but now admitting you are merely a fish. Worse than a fish because of what you've lost. You once had organic direction and intuition, but now have an app for that.


Tony Fadell says,

> I think that manufacturers and app developers need to take on this responsibility, before government regulators decide to step in.

Tim Cook recently said, "I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation". And Tony Fadell expresses a similar idea here. That no regulation is the best idea and that companies should "behave" so that the status quo of no regulation continues.

But how do they keep these opinions in the face of all the enormous evidence that companies are very specifically designed to be unable to self-regulate? The very structure of a corporation today means it is incentivized to sneak by and almost break as many laws as possible to be short-term profitable. This is incongruent with long-term health, growth, capitalism, and everything else, because it is a strong forcing factor towards very bad corporate behaviour. Constantly lobbying for "no regulation" or to act quickly before those big-bad-regulators come in to protect consumers from poison and addiction makes no sense.

Companies will behave badly as long as the law allows it. Suggesting that the companies should behave better while suggesting that there should be absolutely no consequence for bad behaviour legally is a bizarre doubethink. I don't get it.


> Tim Cook recently said, "I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation".

This quote was made with regard specifically to Facebook's recent problems with privacy, and Cook then immediately said: “However, I think we’re beyond that here.” Clearly he thinks regulation can be necessary sometimes, and specifically he has been an advocate for user privacy. I don't know that he intended these words to be applied generally to all companies for all issues.

> But how do they keep these opinions in the face of all the enormous evidence that companies are very specifically designed to be unable to self-regulate?

1. I don't think companies are "specifically designed to be unable to self-regulate." Where did you get that from? While it may be true that this is often the case, it seems odd to suggest that this is a specific part of the design of a corporation.

2. Apple has self-regulated with regards to user privacy and security, in ways that other companies have not. They have deliberately made themselves known for not selling user data, and have drawn direct comparisons between themselves and other companies for not collecting significant amounts of user data to be used for any purpose.

I dunno, your points don't really seem very well researched. You said "Companies will behave badly as long as the law allows it" and I certainly agree with this to an extent (and this seems to be your main point), but your overly strong statements ("corporations ... break as many laws as possible") reduce the effectiveness of your thesis.


> Cook then immediately said: “However, I think we’re beyond that here.” Clearly he thinks regulation can be necessary sometimes

If there is even a slightest chance of a hundred-billion dollar corporation ignoring morals and helping foreign powers install a dictator and destroy truth in publishing and trust in America, then it should be clear that Regulation was required from the start. There is no "oops now we get it we should have had regulation for this particular instance". You can't do that, it's too late. Regulation was required from the beginning. It always is.

> 1. I don't think companies are "specifically designed to be unable to self-regulate." Where did you get that from? While it may be true that this is often the case, it seems odd to suggest that this is a specific part of the design of a corporation.

There's another reply to me asking this, but I'm not sure how to respond. It just seems obvious to me that the tragedy of the commons situation that results from raw competition (and enshrined in corporate structure, tax law, etc) results in corporations being incentivized to find ways "around the rules" to get a competitive "advantage" over others.

> Apple has self-regulated with regards to user privacy and security, in ways that other companies have not.

You don't know this, though. You can't know, because you can by definition never know what "self-regulation" a company might be doing. From the outside, all Apple is doing here is marketing material. You can't know what their self-regulation means.


The problem with ex-ante regulation is that you can kill really good ideas before they take off. Government regulations should target known problems rather than problems that people imagine will happen. That does mean we need to let some problems happen, but that's a tradeoff worth making in a society that cares about making innovation possible.

By the way, when Facebook was new nobody would have guessed that it might be involved in a Russian plot to influence a presidential election more than a decade in the future, so regulation would not have been proposed anyway.

And back in the 90s, the Justice Department claimed Microsoft was a monopoly that could only be stopped by government action. And then over the next few decades, Microsoft was knocked off its pedestal by companies and market trends that nobody anticipated. If it really had been a monopoly, that wouldn't have been possible.

Governments have a pretty bad track record of predicting the future, especially regarding the interaction between technology and culture.

> You can't know what their self-regulation means.

You also can't know what internal steps a company like Facebook has taken to deal with government regulations like GDPR. But you can measure outcomes. Given that regulations are intended to produce outcomes, that's what you ought to be measuring anyway.


Allow me to preface this by saying: I agree that some regulation is necessary always, and that corporations in general pursue money through whatever means necessary. I just think your original points were not well articulated to support your argument.

My first point was that you conveniently left off the part of the quote where Tim Cook says that he thinks regulation is necessary sometimes. You only included the part that indicated that he felt that "the best regulation is no regulation", which supports your agenda much better than the part where he effectively says "but sometimes we should have regulation because it can be necessary." I'm with you that regulation is always necessary to some extent, but I think you misrepresented Cook's statement to further your points, which is disingenuous.

> It just seems obvious to me

This is not a valid justification for claiming that something was "designed" in a particular way. I could just as well say: "It just seems obvious to me that cars are specifically designed to be able to kill people with great efficiency". Are they good at killing people? Yes. Is that their "design"? Well... no. To claim so would be silly, would it not?

My analogy is somewhat incorrect, of course: cars cannot regulate themselves, cars are not organizations of people, yadda yadda. The point of this analogy was merely that you cannot claim that something was "designed" in a particular way and justify it by saying "well it seems obvious".

I think companies are designed to make money, through whichever means is most profitable. I think they often choose not to self-regulate in the interest of making money. But I do not think that companies, as an abstract concept, were "very specifically designed to be unable to self-regulate". It is completely possible for a company to self-regulate. They just usually don't. It's a different thing.

> You don't know this, though. You can't know, because you can by definition never know what "self-regulation" a company might be doing.

(This is nitpicky of me, but your statement implies that it is impossible to know the self-regulation of any company regardless of circumstances. This is not true, because the people inside the company who deal with the regulation would know about it. You also assumed that I could not have knowledge of such regulation at Apple, which you will see is also not the case.)

I think what you mean is that it is impossible for someone who is separate from the company to know the company's self-regulation, because such regulation is internal and is only upheld by the company itself from the inside, and that therefore an outside observer without direct internal knowledge of the subject matter cannot know whether they are being shown true self-regulation or marketing material.

This is correct in general, I think, although it is a rather cynical view of things.

There are exceptions, though. Consider the case of Siri.

Siri is, as I'm sure you know, meant to be a personal assistant able to help users with anything they may need to do on their phone. Siri has competitors, such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Siri was the first widespread personal assistant that kind-of worked, but she was quickly surpassed by Google. Why? Simple: data and privacy.

Google collects significant amounts of data from its users. Most of this collection is automatically collected and automatically tagged. Google defends such actions because "No human sees it" or something. (I'm fuzzy on the specific details, but please note that I am not making any claim about the ethicality of Google's actions here.)

This data is funneled into the Google Assistant, which made the Assistant significantly better than Siri in a short time. How did Siri get passed up so quickly?

Because Apple refuses to collect such significant amounts of data from its users. There are tons of internal documents governing the collection and storage of user data, and Apple uses a very broad definition of "sensitive" with regards to "sensitive user data". I know this because I worked at Apple last year (briefly, as an intern), and for part of a project I had to browse through some of these documents to ensure I was adhering to the correct guidelines. They take user privacy very seriously.

The fact that Siri — which was originally the most advanced personal assistant — was so quickly passed by Google is evidence of Apple's self-regulation. The continued stunted growth of Siri is further evidence that Apple did not relent in its self-regulation of user privacy. If Apple had wanted to, they could have collected copious amounts of user data in short order, and this data could have been used to greatly impact the development of Siri. But that didn't happen, because such data is not collected by Apple as a rule.

In general, I think you're right: self-regulation is nearly impossible to detect from the outside. But there are cases, such as this one, where there is user-visible evidence to the existence of self-regulation. All such evidence would stem from negative results for the company (e.g. Siri's poor performance, in this example), but we can assume the evidence is genuine because companies are incentivized to project themselves in a positive light wherever possible.


Just wishful thinking. It's true that best regulation is self-regulation, and it's also true that companies in general are unable to self-regulate.

A recently discussed clear example of that is privacy in the EU - the original cookie law was a gentle nudge to encourage the market to self-regulate. The market didn't, so now we have GDPR.


> It's true that best regulation is self-regulation

You take this as a fact, so do the billionare execs at Apple, but it just isn't true. You can define "best" in however way you want to make it true, but any reasonable definition won't let that happen. Best for whom? Best for the billionares? Maybe, but that's not best for the rest of us.

Regulation is important in a healthy capitalistic society. Regulation by government, which is theoretically run by elected representatives, is not a bad thing like you suggest it is. It is a steadying hand that helps a market and a society run stably, rather than run amok with fast-paced greed that outpaces ability to sustain itself.

The best regulation is not regulation that the hundreds of millions of people in the USA are not even allowed to know exists because it is a corporate secret. No, that is not the best regulation. The best regulation is carefully written, sustainable, fair, reasonable regulation written with unbiased industry experts, the population itself, the government itself.

Trusting the most elite, rich class of secretive billionaries in the world to self-regulate is not the "best regulation", not even for them. They will get more money if they just agreed and allowed normal government processes to continue without their lobbying and interference to create a no-regulation environment that wreaks havoc on the rest of society.


> The very structure of a corporation today means it is incentivized to sneak by and almost break as many laws as possible to be short-term profitable

Can you elaborate on how corporation today are structured toward short term profitability? and how we can change it to balance between "do no evil" vs. profitability?


Yeah, company level self-regulation doesn't seem to work very well. But maybe it could be done at an industry level?

Like the game industry did with the ESRB.


I hope Apple does provide the tools to help users control their usage. If they do, it'll be a prime example of the difference in philosophies (or marketing, if you will) between Facebook and Apple. Facebook would never help you curtail usage or take control of usage. They would want users to be oblivious to what's harming them and enable them, in the name of "engagement".


I wish there was an open source alternative to either of those two corporate monsters. I had the Ubuntu phone, but it wasn't great and as many of the apps were web based it was fairly useless when I travelled.


If we can hold Facebook accountable for our data, there is no reason why we can't make Apple responsible for our behavior. Apple blames others for addiction, but I think it is time they recognize the damage they are doing to people's minds. In another decade, I am sure there will be sizeable longitudinal survey's pointing to smartphones and people's psychological problems.


Have a switch that reduces motion effects and dulls the colors... smartphone dramamine.

Otherwise, society is likely to devolve further into ground-lighted sidewalk crossings with distracted people hunched over, oblivious to everyone else and missing life. Tinder: nuf said.

[Insert Banksy smartphone lovers gaze pic]


iOS' "Do Not Disturb While Driving" is a good example of how they're trying. Sure it's touted as a "safety" feature, but it's doing what they need to do: encourage the user not to use their phone all the time.


Shouldn't the onus be on the developers of the applications sitting on top of the smartphones? We don't chide PC manufacturers for video game addicted kids, do we?


Three years ago I posted this... Any suggestions how to tie iPad entertainment time to Khan academy progress? Does anything like this already exist? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9299697

A few days ago Apple approved my app that does exactly that. Currently it is free. Search the iOS store for StudyCity. I am very grateful to Apple for approving my app. When you make a "unique" app, there is no guarantee that Apple will approve it. FYI, my project email is support@dnslearning.org The website is StudyCity.org


A tool like RescueTime helps segment one's use of devices and services - it's pretty insightful in terms of measuring one's "Digital Weight"


> "Pain killer manufacturers need to tackle the issue of opiate addiction"

Looks like they already have, lol (all the way to the bank).


I'm such a cynic these days.

When I see an article like this, all I can think of is that this is the angle the FBs and Googles of the world will use to give Apple it's own share of social responsibility problems.

Hey, yes, we collect all data, but Apple, you really should be doing something about phone addiction. Especially since you, Apple, have "system-level control across devices".

Definitely understand how that comes across as conspiracy theoryish, but the timing is too inviting.


Why does this has to be an issue with the companies ? It's the same thing with videogames after some time you'll get a message like " You have been playing for XX Hours, we reommend that you take a break. " and it's understandable but if it's not smartphones people will get addicted to something else.

This is more of a culture issue that should be addressed in schools from an early age ( at least in my opinion ).


I know HN is big on personal responsibility, so here are two tools to help you deal with phone addiction.

I made Space http://youjustneedspace.com which help with individual apps.

An Android launcher called Siempo http://www.getsiempo.com/ is a more complete app control system.


Worldwide, Google has a much larger market share. Let Google take the lead.


Actually, Apple doesn't "need" to do anything.


Why are we so eager to blame companies on HN. I wish people would take ownership for their own actions instead of blaming companies. I can't wait for the article, "Take ownership of yourself, stop blaming others".


http://www.wired.co.uk/article/tony-fadell-apple-iphone-addi...

The actual UK article TechCrunch is basing its summary on



An Apple cash cow is financializing your personal data via a vast sprawling ecosystem http://www.visualcapitalist.com/personal-data-ecosystem/

To pick Up Faddell's analogy, this is like letting big sugar regulate itself. It doesn't and has spent millions pushing red herrings like 'low fat' to protect its profit machine.

In a parallel universe 'How to take on Big Sugar and win' 'Camilla Cavendish, the initiator of the UK’s tax on sugar, says it’s time to start treating it as nicotine' https://www.ft.com/content/6be1a340-3e3d-11e8-b9f9-de94fa33a...

Money is the only language the tech platform barons speak too, despite all the posturing...


This seems more like a criticism of Facebook or Google.


The majority of the population has been brain washed into believing that they need a computer that's physically attached to them 24/7.

I believe that there is immense value in not having a smartphone.

It's a value that can't be packaged into a box and sold for the sticker price.

It's the value of being more engaged with your own life and the things that actually matter to you.


> It's the value of being more engaged with your own life and the things that actually matter to you.

My mother uses her smartphone to connect with family who are far away. Pray tell how that's not being "engaged with her own life and things that actually matter to her"?




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