Why Apple’s New Screen Time Feature Doesn’t Shock Me

Apple iPhone X

By Jonathan Spira on 19 June 2018
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Once Apple announced that it was introducing Screen Time, a new feature in its iOS 12 operating system for the iPhone and iPad, I was inundated with calls from researchers and journalists asking my opinion about both the feature and also the “surprising” findings people using the beta version were reporting.

As some of our readers know, I spent over a dozen years as chief analyst at Basex, a think tank, studying the problem of Information Overload and grappling with the question of what could be done to effectively lessen the impact of the overload on knowledge workers, which is what we are.

Apple says that Screen Time is “to help with providing more intentional device use and removing distractions.”

Slated to be launched in September, the new functionality incorporates a collection of features that collect data on everything from how often you use your phone, pick it up, which apps you use the most, and how many notifications you receive.

Indeed, not only will you see how often you pick up your iPhone, you’ll get a graph showing an average over a specified period and even a window that highlights your heaviest usage periods.

Over the past several years, knowledge workers have moved away from laptops and desktops and have begun to use apps on tablets and mobile phones in addition to using the phone as a primary e-mail device.

I’ve kept track of articles, forum posts, and other commentaries where a reaction such as “Screen Time reported I picked up my phone on average 274 times a day” and that “I spend over five hours a day on it.” Even Tim Cook said he was surprised by what he learnt from Screen Time when speaking at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference recently.

Not surprisingly, most people are asking the wrong question. It doesn’t really matter how much time you spend on the device, it’s a combination of 1.) are you spending time on the smaller device versus your desktop or laptop? and 2.) are you more efficient and productive by using the mobile device?

As an observer of knowledge worker productivity for over two decades, by turning the lens on myself, I can say with great assurance that I am far more productive using my iPhone versus using my MacBook. I reserve my MacBook usage mostly for long form writing, be it more than a quick email reply or an article such as this.

Nothing about understanding Information Overload is rocket science nor am I a rocket scientist (I’m actually a historian by training). All people have to do is take their time and the time of others into consideration when messaging, then we will have won half the battle.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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