Google's Digital Wellbeing software is meant to be a useful and open tool to monitor your smartphone user habits and strike a healthier technology-life balance. But in the last couple of weeks, a number of Pixel owners have come to the conclusion that it has the unwanted side effect of slowing down their device. There is a very active thread on Reddit right now that contains many reports of improved performance when Digital Wellbeing is turned off. Some say that "night and day" difference is obvious almost immediately. Others seem less convinced that it is somewhere near the drastic.
Slowing down your phone is not meant to be one of Digital Wellbeing's features, remember you. Through design it goes into the background and logs how much time you spend in apps and uses a device in general. These data can be very valuable if you try to make better choices and waste less time staring at a screen. You can set app timers or turn the screen gray scale so that your startup programs seem less appealing sometimes when you have decided to avoid impulsively opening them.
But the idea that Digital Wellbeing can prevent Pixel phones from being as fast as they could otherwise be a little alarming. If these speed and frame rate user reports are accurate, this gives people a clear reason to disable a resource they might otherwise find extremely useful.
Digital Wellbeing was one of the most important new features of Android 9 Pie, first debuted on Pixel phones before being moved to Android One and a (still rather small) list of other devices. Google is set to expand on it in Android Q with a new focus mode. Is it meaningful that an all-seeing background process like this can affect overall performance? It is certainly possible. Verge has come out to Google to comment if it is aware of any slowdown caused by Digital Wellbeing.
Meanwhile, if you want to turn it off ̵1; even temporarily – to see if there are any noticeable improvements, like this:
- Go to the settings on your Pixel phone
- Select Digital Wellbeing
- ] Touch the three-point icon in the right-hand list and select "Turn off usage access"
- Confirm the decision on the next "Usage Access" screen by selecting Digital Wellbeing and switching the "state accessory" option off.