What it Means: Apple Wants To Reduce Addiction to its own iPhone

Click above video or access directly: Tim Cook describes how he wants users to curb their phone addictions and have “a great life” without being tethered to the phone, features include data on app usage, and ability for users to limit notifications, apps, and overall time on device.

By Jeremiah Owyang, Jessica Groopman, Rebecca Lieb, and Jaimy Szymanski.

Apple is leading self-regulation of the tech industry by enabling users to impose limits on the time they spend on social networks. The company, which has 44% of smartphone market share in the USA, is using its hardware and software platforms to become the arbiter of balance in our lives, by providing multiple features that will: gauge how much technology we’re using, and provide us with tools to limit and manage our social media usage.

We don’t expect wild-scale consumer adoption of this feature, but we do believe this is the first in a series of self-regulation features that will be introduced by the industry. In the long term, this trend will serious implications for marketers in the coming years and pose an existential crises to Facebook.

Too much time spent online is making us sick. Studies show that not it impacts our ability to focus, alters mood, underlies sleep disorders, and sparks social dysfunction. Meanwhile, Facebook has continued to erode trust, from both data mis-used, as well as being accused of deploying highly addictive features, that keep users glued to the app, similar to how casinos lure gamblers. At Kaleido Insights, we seek to analyze how technology impacts a various stakeholders in a single view. We see at least four major groups impacted by this announcement:

Impact to us Humans
We see some specific impacts to the users of the Apple ecosystem:

  • Apple has announced a variety of tools to limit “anxiety-tech,” including dashboards of time spent on seemingly pointless apps, limiting interruptive notifications, and reports on usage.
  • Parents will have stronger controls to manage how children (and adults) use technology.
  • The big question is, will the normal user opt-in to use these tech-limiting features? While we think most users will be skeptical, those who are more mindful are more likely to adopt. There’s already a slew of apps that measure and limit screen time that are gaining adoption.

Impact to Government and Regulators
Government continues to behind in putting guardrails around the tech industry:

  • Senator Mark Warner, was recently quoted saying, “the era of the wild west in social media is coming to an end,” suggesting that federal lawmakers seek to regulate social networks.
  • Also, former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos wrote shortly after leaving the social networking giant, ”In some ways, the United States has broadcast to the world that it doesn’t take these issues seriously,” showing the concern from even within the social network.
  • Overall tech giants don’t want to be regulated by government bodies –it’s in their best favor to self-regulate, and in this interesting case, Apple is regulating Facebook.
  • Historically, technology goes through patterns of early adopters, widespread adoption, various issues arise, and the industry often is regulated. This has occurred with spam, search, native ads, and now with social network over-adoption –the difference here is that Apple is providing features for users to “self-regulate” their Facebook additions.

Impact to Technology Companies
Silicon Valley must reevaluate purpose and even business models as users and society questions their role in our lives.

  • The biggest question remains, can tech companies self-regulate faster than law makers around the globe? It depends on the makeup of each company.
  • Recently, both Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey went to congress to both educate lawmakers as well as provide their own narrative to shape the discussion
  • We’re already seeing Google try to appease users, launching a campaign called Google Digital Well Being which suggests that in order to reduce constant interruptions from apps and social networks, that users ought to rely on Google AI, and “Make Google do it”. Not only would this put Google’s AI as the center of users’ life, it would cost you a few thousand dollars to purchase all the hardware they recommend.

Impact to Marketers and Advertisers
Caution, be on right side of history as consumers shy away from tech addiction:

  • As some mindful users limit their social networking time, it will make it harder for media creators and marketers to reach them. engagement features such as likes and comments means engaging content will have fewer signals,–reducing the spread of content.
  • If these features gain traction, fewer ads will be viewed, which we believe will result in marketers needing to focus on higher quality content, or deeper engagement apps.
  • As a result, we expect CMOs to refine their social media marketing efforts:
    • Create more compelling content. Marketers can’t be lazy, rehashing photos from one social channel to the next. As time and attention become more limited, they’ll need to up their game.
    • Marketers will try to shift users off social networks by engaging them on SMS, email marketing, or inviting users to download their own branded apps to engage, perhaps with conversational bots.
    • Over time, limiting social network usage means marketers may limit the user of Facebook Connect as a rapid registration method on microsites or campaigns.
    • We will see a decrease in the social marketing advertising budget.
    • We may see marketers focus more on real-world-events in the face of a digital detox trend.

The Future
Where does this leave us? Apple (and Google) will push its own feature sets to enable users to suppress annoying and harmful apps. This is a display of might but also puts user needs into the center of their value proposition. Users are already more likely to trust Apple, who they pay high amounts of money for their premium product –rather than the advertising based models that have gotten Facebook into so much trouble as they strive to keep our attention.

While we anticipate only early adopters will initially enable these features, this will be the first in many moves to curb excess notifications, pop-ups, and addictive behaviors. As this continues, the tech industry will be able to self-regulate ahead of government institutions. For marketers, this spells an even more difficult way to reach customers in social networks, so they’ll shift to in-person events, native apps, or other direct communication tools.

Finally, attention economy-based companies like Facebook will need to evaluate business models that are better both for users and the ecosystem.

#modernwellness #anxietytech #calmtech #regulation