Android 10 has been live since September 3rd – and so if your Android device doesn’t already have it, it’s about to download an enormous update. This is a time of worry for people who have older phones – or phones with a low storage capacity – because they wonder whether this is the update which will finally slow their phone down to the point where it becomes unusable. For those who have devices which can cope with the new operating software, however, an upgrade can often be exciting.
Although previews of what Android 10 has to offer have been widely available for some time now, there’s an extra feature which appears to have slipped below the radar, and it could turn out to be a godsend for people who struggle with digital distraction and procrastination.
Welcome To Focus Mode
Focus Mode is an idea that’s so simple that we can’t believe it hasn’t been implemented earlier. It’s there to curb our worst instincts, and stop us from doing the things that we should be giving our full attention to. If you’ve ever felt like you’re addicted to the ‘fun’ apps on your phone – especially social media apps – you’re far from alone with the issue. Social media addiction is on the verge of becoming recognized as a medical issue, and eats into the hours we should be spending doing other things. For young people, that might mean we don’t do enough studying for important exams. For those of us who have adult responsibilities, it can mean work tasks don’t get done on time, or take us all night. It can even cause our relationships to suffer. The Focus Mode in Android 10 might provide a solution to all of this.
Focus Mode is an innovation that’s come from Google’s Digital Wellbeing team. Simply put, it disables apps for as long as you want them to be disabled for. It’s like switching airplane mode on, but not having it affect your entire phone. You can leave certain apps on – for example, the ability to make and take phone calls, or the ability to send and receive text messages – but you can ask Focus Mode to switch the rest of them off. Depending on your preferences, you can ask it to disable only one app, or you can ask it to disable several. You can also have it set to recur at specific times of the day – for example, during working hours – if that would suit your schedule better.
How Does It Work?
When Focus Mode is activated, the apps you’ve asked it to silence will appear ‘greyed out’ on your home screen. They’ll also be blocked from sending you notifications, which might be the mode’s best feature. Many of us are fine with the idea of putting our phone down when we need to focus on something, but we pick it back up when we see a flash and realize we’ve got a notification. Once we’ve clicked on the notification and found ourselves on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, we sometimes get stuck there scrolling mindlessly until we get a hold of ourselves and return our attention to what we’re supposed to be doing.
As a side note, if you find that the above happens to you regularly, it’s not all your fault. All of the social media apps are designed in a way that’s intended to keep us scrolling and refreshing. The social media giants have observed the way that slots casino keep players spinning and betting money, and implemented parts of their design. The way we pull down to refresh a news feed stimulates your brain in the same way that a mobile slots game does when you spin the reels. That’s not a slight on mobile slots game providers – they’re honest about what they do. Facebook and Twitter have never publicly stated that they’re aping the mobile slots industry, but that’s exactly what they’ve done.
It isn’t a complete lock of the affected apps. If you’re truly determined to gain access to your preferred digital distractions, you can do so by switching the mode off again manually. You can also do it by tapping again on the desired app. On your first tap, a message will appear to remind you that you chose to disable the app using Focus Mode. Your phone effectively tries to shame you into standing by your original decision! You can then unlock the app by tapping again. The hope of the designers is that the message will give you a chance to think again before choosing to proceed.
If your phone has updated to Android 10 already, you’ll find Focus Mode in the settings menu, where it’s listed under the Digital Wellbeing options. It’s currently in beta mode, and so it shouldn’t be expected to work perfectly at the time of writing. The process feels a little like applying a parental lock to yourself, but if it makes the difference between getting your work done in full and on time or failing to do so, it might be worth allowing your phone to apply a little discipline to your daily routine.
The Digital Wellbeing team are still considering new routes they can take to help people build and maintain healthy relationships with their digital devices, and so it’s to be expected that the Focus Mode will be just one of a raft of strategies which are rolled out across the next few Android updates. We’ve tried it, and it was a liberating experience not checking our phones every ten minutes for notifications while we had piles of work to attend to. If you’re a parent, you might even be able to apply it to a child’s phone while they’re doing homework without them even finding out where the setting is. That might feel a little cruel – but if it improves their grades, it might be worth it in the long run.
We’re still playing with Android 10, so if we find any further features that everyone else appears to have missed, we’ll be sure to let you know.