Apple announces slew of controls to help with smartphone addiction

Todd Singleton
June 6, 2018

Taken together, the moves announced at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose amounted to focusing on keeping its base of 1.3 billion users satisfied with their devices and catching up with some competitors. They can set time limits on specific apps - and set controls for kids.

"For some of us, it's become such a habit that we might not even recognize just how distracted we've become", Mr. Federighi told an audience of more than 6,000 developers. Even if users click to share an item, they will get a prompt with an option to prevent subsequent tracking. In January, two major shareholders requested the company to do something about the issue of "smartphone addiction" among children.

Google offered something similar called Wind Down as part of its "digital wellbeing" announcements at I/O.

Jana Partners applauded the changes. Furthermore, Apple has introduced a new Bitmoji-like Memoji feature for designing your own avatars... "It's an interesting thing to do as a company that prides itself on having a product that is heavily used", he said.

"You can provide as many health and wellbeing tools within technology as you want, but if the person doesn't want to engage with them seriously, it won't work."

And while some would argue this is perhaps an issue best left for parents to feud over, Apple still rose to the occasion and introduced a trio of new utilities in iOS 12 created to help curb device usage. The company said it would place new restrictions on how apps can access users' cameras and microphones, and make it more hard for data-collection firms to create identifiable "fingerprints" of individual devices. Federighi said the changes will make it "dramatically more hard for data companies to identify you and track you".

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Apple CEO Tim Cook has been highly critical of other tech companies, particularly Facebook, that have built their businesses around advertising, charging that they collect far too much information on their customers.

New tools were announced to clamp down on Like and Share buttons and other web tools that can track users around the internet.

Also updated in iOS 12 is Apple's proprietary Books app, which will include an all-new "Reading Now" section, an updated e-books storefront with new advanced search and an all-new section for audiobooks.

Faced with slowing growth for its mobile devices, Apple is beginning to focus on its services side - the App Store, Apple Music, iCloud storage and Apple Pay - and getting back into the ad business.

Among the features created to keep users glued to their devices, the company showed off new augmented reality features that blend the real and online worlds - including a demonstration of a new Lego children's playtime app that allows kids to use their phones to interact with toy models they had built.

Apple also rolled out group video chat sessions with up to 32 users, putting it in direct competition with companies such as Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) and Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) Skype.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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