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June 4, 2018updated 06 Jun 2018 9:28am

One of Apple’s new features aims to get you spending less time on your phone

By Rachel Dobbs

Apple’s worldwide developers conference kicks off today in San Jose, California, and, as ever, speculation abounds over just how the tech giant plans to update its software.

Most of this year’s expected offerings are new ways for Apple to make its products better-performing and more indispensable than ever.

But one slated development will actually focus on helping consumers use their Apple products less, rather than more: Digital Health.

Digital Health is a series of tools to allow users to monitor how much time they spend on their devices, and how that time is split between different applications. These tools are expected to make an appearance in the new iOS 12, bundled inside a new menu in the Settings app.

Digital Health: Apple’s bid to combat smartphone addition

Apple has been criticised – including by its own shareholders – for making its phones too addictive. Research has shown that excessive use of smartphones can have a detrimental effect on mental health, especially in young people.

A 2016 survey by Common Sense Media reported that half of US teenagers feel like they are addicted to their mobile phones and feel pressure to respond to mobile phone messages immediately.

Adults, too, can easily get sucked into spending too much time on their phones. Research by Deloitte in 2017 showed that US smartphone owners check their devices up to 47 times a day, and 85% use their phones while talking to friends and family. Of the people surveyed, 47% reported that they had previously tried to limit their phone usage, with just 30% doing so successfully.

Apple hopes its new tools will help those struggling to get offline. The Digital Health software will reportedly allow users to cap the time they spend on their Apple devices, and can be used to restrict time on certain apps.

Other tech companies have been trying to get on the ‘digital detox’ train this year. Earlier this year, Google also unveiled new features designed to make people more aware of how much time they spent on their devices, and to help them limit it if they wanted to.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, said at the company’s I/O conference that he hoped the tools would bring people ‘JOMO’ – the joy of missing out.