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Google now requires all Android devices to have a ‘digital wellbeing’ app

For the past year and a half, Google has been pushing a “digital wellbeing” initiative to help us all use our phones in a healthier way. In the latest, and arguably largest, push, Android devices are now required to have a digital wellbeing app of some kind, along with parental controls, according to documents viewed by 9to5Google.

According to Google’s latest GMS agreement, the company now requires that all devices that either launch on or upgrade to Android Pie or Android 10 after September 3, 2019 have a digital wellbeing (lowercase) solution. Google offers their own Digital Wellbeing (uppercase) app as one solution for OEMs to use, but they’re also free to create their own solution.

9to5Google was provided a copy of the latest version of the Google Mobile Services (GMS) agreement which lays out requirements for Android device makers who use Google services. XDA first published this information regarding Digital Wellbeing and we’ve been able to verify it in the GMS documents shared with 9to5Google.

Should an OEM decide to create their own digital wellbeing app solution, this solution needs to have a decent amount of feature parity with Google’s own “Digital Wellbeing.” For example, the OEM app is required to offer a usage dashboard with at least the following statistics:

  • Total amount of screen ON time
  • Number of device unlocks
  • Count of notifications received

Further, those digital wellbeing statistics are required to be able to be broken down specifically for each app and even further on a per-day and per-hour basis. The app even needs to store the historical data going back a minimum of one week.

App usage limits are also a requirement from this alternative digital wellbeing Android app, along with the ability to schedule Do Not Disturb mode using Wind Down. In fact, the guidelines specifically call out that the feature “MUST be named Wind Down and MUST support configuring the schedule on a day-by-day basis.”

The only main features of the stock Digital Wellbeing app that Google lists as optional for an Android OEM replacement are website timers, screen time goals, and focus mode.

Given the stringent requirements for an OEM to create their own digital wellbeing app, it seems far more likely for most Android OEMs to just cave in and add Google’s own Digital Wellbeing. Considering how useful the app is, and the fact Chrome doesn’t currently plan to connect its usage data to third-party wellbeing apps, this is likely for the best.

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Avatar for Kyle Bradshaw Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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