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Android vs. iOS: digital health features in comparison

Google's Digital Wellbeing and Apple's Screen Time are the two most popular digital health solutions – but which one helps users the most?

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Android vs. iOS: digital health features in comparison© 2022 Mascha Tace / Shutterstock

If you spend a great deal of time glued to your phone's screen, you're not alone. Social media apps and a constant influx of notifications make it hard to resist picking it up throughout the day.

As a result, your smartphone usage may interfere a little too much with your lifestyle. So much so that it can stop you from enjoying the real world. Thankfully, the two tech giants dominating the mobile industry introduced tools to fight phone addiction.

Committed to helping users manage their screen time, Google and Apple launched digital health features for Android and iOS. But how do these operating systems compare when it comes to overcoming our phone fixation? We'll answer that very question.

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Digital health features for Android

Google started taking digital health more seriously in May 2018, as the company introduced well-being features during its Google I/O conference. Digital Wellbeing, Google's digital health platform, gives Android users more insight into their behavior. Among the tool's helpful features are the Focus Mode (which pauses distracting apps and limits notifications) and Wind Down (blocks notifications and has a grayscale screen option).

Digital Wellbeing was initially geared toward Google devices, but it now works with more phones across the Android market. To incorporate the feature, manufacturers must include the Digital Wellbeing app or implement an alternative that complies with Google's requirements.

A closer look at Google's Digital Wellbeing app

The main dashboard offers an overview of your app usage for the day. You can access information like the number of notifications received and how many times you've unlocked your phone. Another useful feature is the ability to set time limits: you'll be notified as soon as you reach the limit you've set for each app. This helps you identify app overuse and, perhaps, make a personal pledge to reduce screen time.

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Google's Digital Wellbeing app also comes handy for parents. With the Family Link feature, you can track how much time your kids spend in front of the screen remotely set up parental controls. These include restricting Google services and setting screen time limits, among other features.

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Digital health features for iOS

Apple followed suit with Screen Time, a digital health suite that helps keep tabs on your phone usage. You can set time limits for specific apps and be reminded to take a break. Apple's platform also allows parents to control their children's screen time, but the tool isn't quite as strict as Google's: it places the ball in the kids' court, as they can choose to ignore notifications, and apps aren't locked.

A closer look at Apple's Screen Time feature

Apple's Screen Time conveniently displays a detailed report on apps you've opened, websites you've visited, and general device usage. Just go to Settings > Screen Time and tap on See all activity. Once you select Share Across Devices, usage information will be compiled across all gadgets associated with your Apple ID.

Another useful Screen Time feature is Downtime. When activated, only calls and chosen apps are available. Downtime also works across all devices that support Screen Time. Users are warned five minutes before restrictions begin.

Finally, the Content & Privacy Restrictions section gives parents full control over the content kids can access and actions they can take. As an example, you can turn off in-app purchases to prevent little ones from spending money without your knowledge.

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Android vs. iOS: which operating system has the best digital health features?

With Apple and Google seeming to now understand their customers' digital health concerns, you might be left wondering: how do they compare? As it turns out, there are few differences, and both tools share features such as self-imposed time limits on apps. You'll know how many notifications you've received, which apps you use the most, how many times you've unlocked your gadget, and much more.

When it comes to time limits, Google's Digital Wellbeing tends to be the strictest: you must manually remove each restriction you've set if you wish to override it. Apple's Screen Time is a bit more laissez-faire. Notifications are quite easy to dismiss, so you may need more willpower.

It's clear that Google and Apple are taking smartphone overuse seriously, but it's up to you to take notice of the warnings that their platforms provide. As you can see below, both systems offer the tools you need to improve your digital health:

  Android iOS
Parental controls ✔︎ ✔︎
Dark Mode (grayscale) ✔︎ ✔︎
Screen Time ✔︎ ✔︎
Focus Mode ✔︎ ✔︎
Wind Down ✔︎ ✖︎
Content restrictions ✔︎ ✔︎
Detailed usage reports ✔︎ ✔︎
Daily app limits ✔︎ ✔︎
Family Link ✔︎ ✖︎
Family Sharing ✖︎ ✔︎

Final thoughts

As smartphone addiction becomes a concerning issue, it was only a matter of time before digital health features were integrated into operating systems. In doing so, Google and Apple have increased digital well-being awareness and gone some way toward helping users cut down on their screen time.

If you're among the 99% of smartphone users with Android or iOS devices, it's worth taking a look into Google's Wellbeing or Apple's Screen Time. You may be surprised by just how much time you spend glued to your phone. After all, the ever-growing options for productivity, communications, entertainment, and health apps make it hard to put our phones away.

We find it hugely important to find the right balance between using your device and taking a conscious break. Although this is easier said than done, you'll be in far better digital health by using the tools that your phone offers. No matter which operating system your device is running, improving your well-being is just a few taps away.


Guest post by Cristian Fry

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