Apple should do more to combat smartphone addiction, insists iPod-Father Tony Fadell

Posted:
in iPhone edited April 16
Apple needs to examine the problem of smartphone addiction, former Apple executive and 'father of the iPod' Tony Fadell believes, suggesting the iPhone producer should come up with a way to combat unhealthy levels of device usage.

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Acknowledging Apple founder Steve Jobs' dream of producing "a computer for the rest of us" from 1976 has been realized decades later via the mass adoption of smartphone, Fadell warns the success of hardware like the iPhone also introduces issues of addiction and overuse.

The addiction isn't just a "Facebook" or "Kids" issue, he writes in a Wired op-ed, as everyone has seen their lives changed since the introduction of the iPhone. The always-connected nature of email, messaging, shopping, and other services "seem benign" to Fadell, but suggests "we use them more than we know."

"There is no consensus on what constitutes healthy device usage. We need more data so that we can establish useful recommendations." Using healthy eating as an analogy, Fadell notes there is a lack of knowledge surrounding "digital nourishment," with no-one knowing what a "healthy, moderate digital life" looks like.

Noting the the existence of digital detox clinics in the United States, Fadell lays the responsibility on manufacturers and app developers, advising they need to step in before government regulators have the chance.

"I believe that for Apple to maintain and even grow its customer base it can solve this problem at the platform level, by empowering users to understand more about how they use their devices. To do this, it should let people track their digital activity in detail and across all devices."

Likening it to a "scale for our digital weight," Fadell insists users should be able to see how they spend their time with devices, and to moderate their behavior based on the data. This information could be presented in the form of a calendar with historical activity, itemized for each app or service, similar to how some health-tracking apps work for heart rate, sleep quality, and counting steps.

Fadell believes that Apple is "particularly well-placed to tackle this problem" because of the system-level control across devices. "Designing and building a tool like this won't be difficult: the pieces are already in place, and it would be far easier and cheaper than building a self driving car," the former executive and CEO of Nest suggests.

Highlighting Apple's business model oriented around hardware sales rather than getting users to spend more time with them, Fadell believes Apple will "sell more devices if it makes this kind of digital activity tracking available," due to the extra control such a monitoring system would provide.

"If Apple does the right thing, the industry will follow," the opinion piece concludes.

Critics have previously attacked Apple for helping drive so-called smartphone addiction, including a small-scale protest outside one major Apple store by students from Stanford University in March. The group of Stanford computer science majors claimed phone addiction causes stress, harms relationships, and undermines productivity. They, like Fadell, called on Apple to provide usage-monitoring tools to users.

In January, a pair of major Apple shareholders issued an open letter to Apple asking for a study into the impacts of heavy smartphone usage by children and teachers, citing a "growing body of evidence" that intensive phone use "may be having unintentional negative consequences." The shareholders also asked for Apple to consider implementing more parental restrictions into iOS, such as to limit screen time and social media access.

Apple already does offer some parental controls in iOS, for example limiting the types of apps and content a child can access, and the use of built-in features like location sharing. Parental controls in macOS provide far more restriction options, including screen time limits, scheduling, and app and website access, among other items.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 54
    mavemufcmavemufc Posts: 306member
    Never understood this argument, what can Apple actually do? Surely it’s up to each user, and if you’re a parent who’s worried how much time their child is spending on phones or tablets then surely it’s your own responsibility to do something about it.
    rob53leighc-sfomwhitebb-15cornchipanton zuykovwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 54
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,426member
    Who really cares what this guy thinks? He created something nice at Apple with iPod, left to create a crappy thermostat and sold it to Google and it went to further crap from there and then got ousted from his own company. Again, why does his opinion even matter? 
    edited April 16 leighc-sfomwhiteStrangeDayscornchiplordjohnwhorfinracerhomie3watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 54
    The term “couch potato” was around long before smartphones were a thing and I don’t remember calls for TVs to tell people how long they had been sitting in front of one.
    leighc-sfomwhitebb-15cornchipanton zuykovracerhomie3mavemufcwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 4 of 54
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 190member
    OMG Apple (and other companies) make a product, that is fun, useful, and has improved many many facets of our lives. We must curb its use!!! Sorry, not buying the argument that it is either an "addiction" or that Apple has to do anything about it. People use phones. A**H**** use the phone when driving or at the dinner table.
    edited April 16 leighc-sfocornchipracerhomie3watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 54
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,879member
    Tried to ban rock and roll, dancing any other way than old ballroom, tried to ban books some people don’t like, in other words, forcing one’s mores into everyone else. Blaming Apple for everything bad is the norm but people need to look in the mirror to see who’s really at fault. 
    leighc-sfowatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 54
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 298member

    "There is no consensus on what constitutes healthy device usage. We need more data so that we can establish useful recommendations." Using healthy eating as an analogy, Fadell notes there is a lack of knowledge surrounding "digital nourishment," with no-one knowing what a "healthy, moderate digital life" looks like.
    "You're addicted to your iPhone, stop using it so much! But wait keep using it until we get enough data on why you're using it so much!"
    leighc-sfocornchipSpamSandwichmavemufcwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 54
    Is this an American thing or is the diminished sense of responsibility a world-wide thing now? Honestly asking... do people in Europe hold brewers accountable if they have an accident whist drinking, for example? Is this sort of thing becoming common?
    larryjwMrSatyrewatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 54
    tylersdadtylersdad Posts: 122member
    While I think it would be interesting for users to be able to see just how much time they spent on their smartphone, I think that data would become a lot like nutrition labels: Ignored by those who need them the most.
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 54
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 217member
    I guess in addition to Apple Care, Apple will need to offer Apple Character for those in need. 
    MrSatyrecornchiptechprod1gyAvid Macwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 54
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,426member
    Is this an American thing or is the diminished sense of responsibility a world-wide thing now? Honestly asking... do people in Europe hold brewers accountable if they have an accident whist drinking, for example? Is this sort of thing becoming common?
    I'd like to think its a world-wide issue. Everyone is facedown into their phones most of the time and apparently its Apple fault so they need to change the world and make so people aren't facedown into their phones because apparently Apple is everyone's parent since today nobody knows how to be a proper parent. 
    bb-15watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 54
    MrSatyreMrSatyre Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    Heaven forbid anyone assume responsibility for their own behavior! Must rely on Big Brother to tell us what to do, when to do it, where to do it and for how long.
    cornchiptallest skil
  • Reply 12 of 54
    MrSatyreMrSatyre Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    Is this an American thing or is the diminished sense of responsibility a world-wide thing now? Honestly asking... do people in Europe hold brewers accountable if they have an accident whist drinking, for example? Is this sort of thing becoming common?
    Sadly all too common in liberal places where the emphasis is not on personal culpability, but on over reliance of the government or some other equally large organization to tell you what to do, thereby absolving you of your decision making process.
    cornchiptallest skilwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 54
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 2,881member
    What a joke. Sure there probably are parental control improvements that Apple can add to iOS (they may already be working on them) but to suggest a tech company is responsible for screen addiction is nonsense. Before smartphones kids were glued to desktop PCs and gaming consoles. Before that television. That’s not the fault of any content or technology company.
  • Reply 14 of 54
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 2,881member
    macxpress said:
    Who really cares what this guy thinks? He created something nice at Apple with iPod, left to create a crappy thermostat and sold it to Google and it went to further crap from there and then got ousted from his own company. Again, why does his opinion even matter? 
    He didn’t even create the iPod. Jon Rubinstein did.
    cornchip
  • Reply 15 of 54
    macxpress said:

    I'd like to think its a world-wide issue. Everyone is facedown into their phones most of the time and apparently its Apple fault so they need to change the world and make so people aren't facedown into their phones because apparently Apple is everyone's parent since today nobody knows how to be a proper parent. 
    I agree that this is a WW issue. The majority of phones in use here are Androids.
    However, I disagree with you on 'Everyone is facedown into their phones most of the time'.

    There are many of us 'old codgers' who simply have better things to do with their lives than spend it looking at a silly phone. I have not looked at my phone for oh... at least SEVEN hours.  There again, I've never been on any (anti-)social media networks and never will.

    Here is a radical thought...

    How about we fix them first?  Fix them and the problem will largely solve itself.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 54
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 1,905member
    macxpress said:
    Is this an American thing or is the diminished sense of responsibility a world-wide thing now? Honestly asking... do people in Europe hold brewers accountable if they have an accident whist drinking, for example? Is this sort of thing becoming common?
    I'd like to think its a world-wide issue. Everyone is facedown into their phones most of the time and apparently its Apple fault so they need to change the world and make so people aren't facedown into their phones because apparently Apple is everyone's parent since today nobody knows how to be a proper parent. 
    It's definitely a world wide issue. I took the train from Folkestone to London last week and just about everyone was face down on their phone. Same thing when I was using the train system to get around in the Netherlands. I experienced the same thing while in Africa last summer as well. 
    irelandwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 54
    tylersdadtylersdad Posts: 122member
    Perhaps a psychological evaluation should be required before a person is allowed to purchase a smartphone to make sure that person doesn't have a predisposition toward addiction. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 54
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 4,913member
    Which TV sets report on daily use? Asking for a friend. 
    edited April 16 DAalsethcornchiptylersdadwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 54
    I’ve never heard of people crying for television manufacturers to make their product less appealing so their kids don’t sit in front of it for too long. 

    I suppose they they could design software that would limit the number of texts allowed on an iPhone or how long the Facebook app would run, but would parents pay extra for that?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 54
    So the Apple iWatch and the Fitbit and other devices track your sleep and activity does that mean people inherently workout more and eat better? not all the time.. but my argument is this, these devices were either given to their kids or the kids bought them on their own (unlikely) if the child is under 18 isn’t the parents duty to have an idea of their kids use? Why should it be up to the corporate company to do the job of the parent? 
    cornchipwatto_cobra
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