Smartphones have been out for way longer than the so-called "Digital Wellbeing" features that have been created to limit the screen-centered habits we've developed over many years. It'll take some convincing for consumers to willingly kick those patterns and it appears that's exactly what OnePlus is trying to do in promoting and explaining the convictions (or lack thereof) of its recently-introduced the Zen Mode app.

When users turn on Zen Mode, it basically blocks access to nearly everything on the phone for 20 minutes. The only things they're able to do in that time are to make and receive calls (as a phone should do) or use the camera — no Twitter, no Asphalt, nothing like that. But why was everything set up the way it was set up?

To start with, OnePlus wanted any usage-calming devices to be opt-in to, among many presumable reasons, avoid having a persistent layer nag on you to take a break. Being an opt-in measure, users can back out of the Zen Mode app at any time if in case you accidentally start it or someone else purposefully did so.

Why let people use the camera? The company wants Zen Mode to let the user focus their attention on something other than the phone. That "something" might be sightseeing, ergo, using the camera would not be focusing on the phone, but focusing on sightseeing — at least the photo won't be going on Instagram immediately after you take it.

As for why the company decided on 20 minutes, it explained on a post in its forums that basically 60 or 45 minutes is too long of a time for some people to fit in their schedules and that 5 or 10 minutes would be too short to calm down. It decided to internally test a 15 minute option and a 20 minute option and found the latter to be just right.

Unlike many other apps in the marketplace, there doesn't seem to be too much psychology being incorporated into the design rationale for Zen Mode. Sure, OnePlus did value plenty of user feedback to figure some things out, but when every other app is weaponized to grab your attention and keep it captive, Zen Mode and the apps like it feels like the "duck and cover" strategy to avoiding nuclear irradiation and fallout. We need experts with medical degrees in the ship's hull, stat.