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Toward Research-Informed Design Implications for Interventions Limiting Smartphone Use: Functionalities Review of Digital Well-being Apps

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Article numbere31730
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/04/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>JMIR Formative Research
Issue number4
Number of pages18
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English



Much HCI research has focused on wellbeing and how it can be better supported through a range of technologies from affective interfaces to mindfulness systems. At the same time, we have seen a growing number of digital wellbeing apps. However, there has been limited scholarly work reviewing these apps.


This paper reports on an auto-ethnographic study and functionality review of the most popular 39 digital wellbeing apps on Google Play Store.


A review of apps functionality based on descriptions from Google Play, and auto-ethnographic approach where the first author downloaded and used each app for at least 30 minutes on a Samsung Galaxy Note9 phone with Android mobile operating system.


Findings indicate that these apps focus mostly on limiting screen time and we advanced a richer conversation about such apps articulating the distinction between monitoring use, tracking use against set limits, and four specific strategies supporting limited use.


We conclude with three implications for designing digital wellbeing apps including the call to move beyond screen time and support the broader focus of digital wellbeing, supporting meaningful use rather than limiting meaningless use, and leveraging (digital) navigation in design for friction.