Google has been on a roll recently with its digital wellbeing initiatives, releasing Family Link for parental controls, various apps to view and manage your usage, and a Focus Mode for pausing apps you find distracting. Now it's continuing the trend by releasing 3 new apps, the most notable of which asks that you literally put your phone in an envelope so you can't use it.
Currently only available to users of the Pixel 3a, Google describes Envelope as "an experimental app which temporarily transforms your phone into a simpler, calmer device, helping you to take a break away from your digital world." To get started, you print out a special PDF provided by the app and fold it into the shape of an envelope. You then seal your phone inside and use it through the paper, only having access to the dialer and the camera. Between the number of steps required to set it up, such as printing out and folding a new envelope and changing your default settings each time, it's a lot to work with instead of setting your phone on Do Not Disturb or using some of Google's other digital wellbeing apps.
The project is open source and Google has placed all the code on GitHub, so it will be interesting to see if it will grow into something bigger. If you have a Pixel 3a and feel like gift-wrapping your phone, you can grab Envelope from the Play Store or APK Mirror.
Activity Bubbles has a pretty clever concept; every time you unlock your phone, your wallpaper will create a bubble. The longer you're on your phone during that unlocked period, the bigger the bubble will become. Once you lock your phone again, that bubble stops growing, and the process starts over again. By the end of the day, you should have a cool abstract bubble pattern as your wallpaper.
It's a fairly straightforward process and you can set it up via the app itself or from the wallpapers screen
Having a timer running constantly while using your phone sounds like a recipe for increased anxiety, but Screen Stopwatch sounds like it could be useful. Like Activity Bubbles, Screen Stopwatch is a live wallpaper that displays phone usage in real-time, giving you a precise count of how much time you spend on your phone each day.
When your phone is locked, the counter is stopped, but every time you unlock it you'll get a constant, ticking reminder from your home screen that should encourage you to put it down and do something productive.
While not everyone will find a use for them, it's good to see Google develop so many experimental apps with novel ways of promoting healthier phone habits.