Apple's fix for mobile addiction is PR spin

Jonas Lipsius is a Sydney lawyer who has interests in tech, privacy and legal issues.

Jonas Lipsius is a Sydney lawyer who has interests in tech, privacy and legal issues.

In Monday's keynote address at Apple's World Wide Developers Conference - a week-long gathering for developers - the company announced new features built into its soon-to-be-released iOS 12 operating system to tackle our growing addiction to phones and tablets.

These include an enhanced "do not disturb" mode that hides your alerts during sleeping hours and Screen Time, which provides a report of your phone usage and allows for time limits to be set on the use of certain applications.

Apple has also developed parental controls that allow them to block the use of apps on their children's devices during specified hours and have more oversight over how the devices can be used.

We have become inseparable from our mobilephones. The term "nomophobia" (no-mobile-phone-phobia) has entered our lexicon and a study by MIT Sloan Management School has shown most people who have to "give up" their phone for a day suffer at least some level of anxiety.

Yet As Apple revealed its new anti-addictionmeasures, it also celebrated 10 years of the iOS App Store, reporting it had 20 million developers for the platform, over 500 million visitors a week and had surpassed $US100 billion in payments to developers.

So it's hard to see Apple's "solution" to the phone-addiction epidemic as much more than an attempt to create positive PR and deflect attention away from the fact it was the very company that gave birth to the smartphone market and app store concept. It is hardly going to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, which in Apple's case is iPhone and iPad sales that make up nearly 70 per cent of the company's revenue. As you would expect then, all of the controls are opt-in, and can be extended, changed or cancelled at a user's whim.

The address recognised that - along with other tech companies - Apple is beginning to draw the ire of a public becoming more aware of the negative effects of phone use on society. The announcement brought into sharp focus a slightly uncomfortable parallel between Apple's own products and other addictivevices - which have been outlawed, significantly taxed or subject to restrictions on their sale.

Remember the date. The address may well have been the opening salvo in the newest addiction showdown in town. And we all might be the ones who get sent to rehab.

  • Jonas Lipsius is a Sydney lawyer who has interests in tech, privacy and legal issues.