- Apple introduced new tools to combat smartphone addiction at its annual developer conference on Monday.
- The tools will be baked into iOS 12 and will let people limit how much they use certain distracting apps, among other features.
- But third-party “wellness” app makers are complaining that Apple’s tight control over its ecosystem mean they can’t offer their services.
- One developer argued that Apple introducing anti-addiction tools is like a casino posting warnings about gambling.
Apple will introduce new tools to combat smartphone addiction in its next mobile software update – but one app maker likened this to casinos issuing warnings about gambling addiction.
Andrew Dunn is the CEO of digital wellness app Siempo, which is available on Android but not on iPhone.
He has been petitioning Apple to open up its operating system to apps like his. His collective includes 20 app developers and thinkers in the space, such as the popular Buddhify meditation app, the makers of the Light Phone, and science writer Catherine Price, author of “How to Break Up with Your Phone.”
“Most features Apple announced are a carbon copy of products other developers already offer,” Dunn told Business Insider. “[Apple] Digital Health amounts to what the gambling industry has done to acknowledge and address gambling addiction: Display pamphlets around casinos and suggest that problem gamers opt-in to a self-exclusion list.”
Apple said iOS 12, which will probably arrive in September, will allow iPhone owners to set limits on how much they use certain apps, to group notifications, and to enable “Do Not Disturb” mode during bedtime.
Dunn said the updates are “welcome” but said they don’t “change anything about the casino environment – which offers no protection from the products which are engineered for dependency – and the business objectives of the company, which are to sell more devices and apps.”
Dunn and his peers would like Apple to end the restrictions on iOS, which mean third-party apps like his don’t work on the iPhone, thanks to the lack of permissions.
“We can’t do almost anything that we’re doing on Android,” Dunn told Business Insider. “That’s a frustration shared by others in the [digital] wellness community.”
Siempo’s app comprises a minimalistic app launcher which encourages users to open distracting smartphone apps less. Apple, however, doesn’t allow third-party launchers on the iPhone.
Apple may never give up control over its operating system, even for well-intentioned apps. Instead, it’s more likely that Apple will take the best features from wellness apps and integrate them into iOS 12.
According to Dunn, smartphone addiction is a problem better solved by involving third-party developers, not just hardware makers. “[We] should be able to bring an ecosystem approach to solving what many of us consider the biggest socio-technical problem today,” he said.
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