Google's Digital Wellbeing software is designed to be a helpful, transparent tool for monitoring your smartphone usage habits and for a healthier balance between technology and life. In recent weeks, however, some pixel owners have come to the conclusion that this has the undesirable side effect of slowing the device down. There is currently a very active thread in Reddit that contains many reports of improved performance when Digital Wellbeing is off. Some say the difference between day and night is almost immediately apparent. Others seem less convinced that it is nowhere near as dramatic.
Slowing down your phone is not one of Digital Wellbeing's features. By default, it runs in the background, keeping track of how much time you spend in apps and using a device in general. This data can be very valuable if you are trying to make better decisions and spend less time staring at a screen. You can set app-timers or turn the grayscale on the screen so your go-to apps look less appealing in times when you do not want to spontaneously open them.
But the notion that digital well-being could affect the speed of pixel phones is a bit alarming. If these user reports about speed and frame rate increases are correct, users have a clear reason to disable a resource that they might otherwise find highly useful.
Digital well-being was one of the most important new features of Android 9 Pie, which first debuted on Pixel phones before switching to Android One and a (still rather small) list of other devices. Google will extend it to Android Q with a new focus mode. Does it make sense that an all-seeing background process like this can affect overall performance? That is certainly possible. The Verge has asked Google for an opinion as to whether it is aware of a slowdown caused by Digital Wellbeing.
If you also want to temporarily turn off the feature in the meantime to see if there are any noticeable improvements, do the following:
- Go to the settings for your Pixel phone.
- Select Digital Wellbeing] In the top right corner, tap the three-dot icon and select "Disable Usage Access."
- Confirm this decision on the next Usage Access screen by selecting "Digital Wellbeing" and disabling the Allow Usage Access option.