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MotoTalks Podcast - Episode 2: Digital Wellbeing

This Mental Health Awareness Month, Motorola is releasing a special two-part series of MotoTalks to tap into the key cultural conversation of digital wellbeing and technology mindfulness. In Part 1, we will:

  • Break down how consumer tech usage has evolved over the past year while living in a pandemic (4:28)
  • Discuss how tech companies can help consumers find the right balance as a result of the events in 2020 (6:53)
  • Chat with Special Guest Kate Lockhart, Google's Content Strategist for Digital Wellbeing, who fills us in on the number one feature that helps people with their personal digital wellbeing (15:34)
  • Reveal how Google is pushing the industry to expand the meaning of digital wellbeing and mindfulness. (17:02)
Stay tuned for more in Part 2 - launching Thursday, May 13.


Chris Francica 0:03

Hello and welcome to the second episode of moto talks the podcast that breaks down the latest in mobile technology and trends. I'm Chris Francica. And I'm Doug Michau. The two of us work in product marketing and business development respectively at Motorola so we can pull back the curtain a little bit on what's going on at Motorola to help push the industry forward. Today's topic on the podcast we're talking about digital wellbeing and mindfulness which is very topical, because May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And of course, we've recently marked a full year of COVID-19 being declared a pandemic, which of course led to lock downs around the world and technology had a dramatic impact on that and how we lived our lives now is more important than ever to discuss the importance of digital wellbeing some key questions we'll cover today, how consumer tech usage has evolved over the past year? What's the long term impact of these sort of short term behavioral disruptions? And how can we as tech companies like Motorola, help consumers find the right balance moving forward. And to help us dive deeper into this topic. Later on We'll have Kate Lockhart joining us who is content strategist for digital wellbeing from Google. We're really excited to have her on the podcast. Before we dig too deep into today's topic. It's time to quickly recap everything that Motorola has been up to in the past month with the Moto Minute.

Doug Michau 1:25

Chris, the first thing I want to call out is an April 3 was the anniversary date not only of the first mobile phone call, couple things I want to talk about is just the first 5G devices we have out there, you know, they were flagship type devices, but now Motorola is definitely making those devices available at all accessible price points, including seven devices in the middle edge, the Motorola one and the Moto G families. All but one of these are actually offered for under $600. So that mission to make 5G accessible to all is being accomplished. Another thing I want to call out is that Motorola one 5G is now available and retail unlocked in North America.

Chris Francica 2:02

On April 20, we announced the first Moto G smartphone with a 108 megapixel camera system. It's Motorola's largest camera pixel size ever. Of course, the smartphone I'm talking about is the Moto G 60. Brings outstanding photography experience with high res pictures and videos with amazing quality, thanks to ultra pixel technology.

Chris Francica 2:24

All right, great. Let's get going on today's topic, deep dive. So the term digital wellbeing and mindfulness can sometimes feel like an oxymoron, as we all know, just how addicting and even sometimes isolating that technology in general can be. But that's specifically why not just consumers, but also tech providers like us should be thinking about how to find that right balance with technology and how to use it for good. Doug, when you hear the term digital wellbeing and mindfulness. What do you think of it and how have you seen it evolve?

Doug Michau 2:59

Yeah, personally, a couple of things I always think about when I hear digital wellbeing is counting steps. You know, you've seen things from the Mayo Clinic and to the National Food and Drug Administration, everyone's saying that you should get about 10,000 steps. And then I've read also that, maybe just take your current steps and add 2000 to that. And one of the things I do for example, with Google Fit is it measures the number of steps I take a day. So I'm more mindfulness and I'm getting a little bit more exercise. Another cool thing that I've seen and I'm not sure if you've had the chance to use Chris's this telehealth, so if you've got like a sore throat, or maybe you've got, you know, a sinus infection, instead of actually having to go to a doctor, you can just most insurance providers now you can just do a session, a video chat session right in your smartphone. And I think that's pretty cool, as well.

Chris Francica 3:44

Yeah, I mean, in my mind, cell phones have really evolved right first, originally, they were designed to provide communication, then they evolved to provide more information as we get better data speeds, more capability there. And now we've added entertainment. And those first two categories are things you know, I think that we all need, and we all use. The third one , entertainment, is something that we want. And when you mix in kind of the desirability factor, you get something that can easily become a distraction. And it will mean to suggest that I don't think phone apps should have entertainment on them. Certainly there's a lot of usefulness there. But it definitely creates a greater need for discipline. So all the things that you just mentioned, I think, are really important in trying to find this balance with technology.

Doug Michau 4:28

Motorola being the creator of the first ever smartphone, we definitely feel responsible and understand the impact of this rapidly developing technology and the desire to balance that having its you know, support our lives and from also being the center of it. And when you look at those two from supporting to be in the center of your life we call that the phone life balance and Motorola invested in this space back in 2018. We actually developed a global study. It was done in partnership with Nancy Etcoff. She's a really renowned expert in Mind and Brain behavior and the Science of Happiness at Harvard University. And that study showed that people are putting their phones before people they care about what the most alarming findings tied really to the younger generation have grown up, you know, in that digital world. And a couple of those key stats that she found in the study is that issues with smartphones are more intense among younger generations, with over half the respondents ascribing their phone as their best friend. In addition, again, half of the Gen Z respondents agree that they check their phone more often than they would like, nearly six and 10. In both the Gen Z and millennial generations, they agree that they feel compelled to constantly check that smartphone. And about a third agree that they're spending too much time using their smartphone, and believe that they'd be happier if they spent less time on their phone.

Chris Francica 5:50

Yeah, I mean, I think these, some of these statistics are really eye opening. And this was pre pandemic, right, we did the study a couple of years ago. More recently, we checked back in with folks with a couple of polls that we did on our Motorola social media accounts to our followers, and asked about their relationship with their phones and whether the pandemic has had any impact on and I'll just give you a couple of stats here. Over 70% of respondents said that it's been more difficult to put their phone away since the pandemic started. That was from Twitter 87%. So their phone usage has increased during the pandemic, that was from Instagram. But on the flip side there, there is some recognition that this is an issue that people want to solve. So 58% of people say, app timers help them with phone life balance, another 42% say they rely on using the bedtime mode from Google to try and help with this problem. So certainly, people understand some of the stats that we're giving around the increases and are looking for solutions to help try and fix it.

Doug Michau 6:53

But you know, that study that I named, that was three years ago, but since that time, Motorola has committed itself to providing a better phone life balance through our devices. So I want to go through some examples of the steps we've taken along with other tech companies to really help consumers achieve that, you know, that better digital wellbeing and that balance that they want. One of those first built in phone features are the Moto actions and moto actions maybe you know, those like Ed chap, Chapter Two launcher, flashlight. But another really useful one is that when you flip your phone over, it can go into Do Not Disturb mode, if you just want some time to yourself, and you won't get any of those notifications.

Chris Francica 7:31

The other thing is not just the software on the device, but also the device itself. So especially with devices, like for example, the Motorola razr, our design team, actually they had phone life balance in mind when they were developing things like the quick view display, which is the smaller screen on the front of the device, which allows you to do things like text and email and some basic navigation, but then do those things and be done with them and go right on about your day with minimal distractions, as opposed to opening your phone up seeing all those other apps on on the regular homescreen. And getting sidetracked.

Doug Michau 8:10

Yeah Chris, one thing I found is I spent most of my day just reading through emails. And when I first started using that razr device scrolling through that, and just quickly, seeing that the headlines, the subject, and each of those, it really helped me to figure out okay, which do I really have to spend time and respond to versus others just a quick read.

But I want to provide some other examples of how to control some of that behavior, too. So Motorola showcases that digital wellbeing an app produced by Android and, and within that digital wellbeing app, there's a couple different modes, you can set a bedtime mode. And when you do that, or you can simply just plug in your phone to the charger at night and thematically go in like this black and white mode. So to discourage you from using your device. A couple other features they have are the work profile. So you can put all of your work apps and network profile, and you can limit the time at which they stop notifying you because that's always a cause for concern when you look at like an incoming email. I mean, all sudden you're doing something else for work and you're tightening up your time at night. A couple of quick things they have is the focus mode. And then finally, there's app timers. And for me, this is the most eye opening one is that at the end of the day, I encourage you to go through look at the digital wellbeing and see exactly how much time you spend on each of the apps. And I found that I spent way too much time on email and another and during COVID I spent more and more time on games. So it's kind of an eye opener there.

Chris Francica 9:31

Yeah Doug we'll have to go back and control those games gaming history, delete some of those games? No, but I'm with you. I I frequently go back and look at some of the stats on on app usage just to kind of give myself a reality check of where I'm spending my time.

Alright, so when discussing digital wellbeing there's one tech company obviously that has really been in the forefront of the movement. And that's our long standing partner Google. So right now, we're thrilled to Joining us on the podcast Kate Lockhart, who is Content Strategist for Digital Wellbeing from Google. And she's joining us today to to have a discussion about this really important topic. Kate, thanks so much for joining us.

Kate Lockhart 10:12

Hi, I'm so happy to be here.

Chris Francica 10:15

So two years ago, Google officially launched its digital wellbeing program, which was an initiative to research and develop tools that will really help people foster a more balanced relationship with their technology. So can you just tell us a little bit more about your role? How did you become involved with the program?

Kate Lockhart 10:34

Yeah, I'm happy to. So I'm the senior content strategist for the digital wellbeing initiative across Google. And so this means that I use my writing and journalism skills to translate wellbeing research into easy to understand insights. So these insights can show up in a variety of content experiences from blogs, and whatnot, as well as tips and tricks to mobile apps. So it kind of runs the gamut, which is a lot of fun.

Chris Francica 11:02

Yeah, that sounds awesome. And I think you have a really impressive background. So what really prompted Google to start developing tools and this program around digital wellbeing?

Kate Lockhart 11:12

Yeah, so as you mentioned in 2018, was when our CEO Sundar Pichai made this announcement to digital wellbeing as a commitment and a company wide initiative. And the reason why really was because, you know, Google aims to be the most helpful tech company. And what the research was finding is that not all of the tech was helpful, and being supportive. I think we can all relate to that feeling of being distracted by our tech, when we're trying to get something else done. And that wasn't where we wanted to go. And so, you know, that was the action that we took was to start developing a Google wide program in order to address it.

Chris Francica 11:57

You know, everybody has a different approach to wellbeing in their own lives. It's a very personal thing. And some people are better at it than others. So from your perspective, how have you seen consumers using these tools?

Kate Lockhart 12:09

I think that the two main areas that you see you see it all over, of course, because tech touches every part of our lives, but the work life balance is probably one of the key areas as well as kids and families. So, and in all of this, people are really looking for more cohesive experiences across all of their devices. And that really helps people feel a sense of continuity in their lives. It reduces the amount of distraction as well as time spent just trying to do the basic stuff. And so you know, for sleep, I think, is probably one of the biggest topics when it comes to work life balance, most people work more than they sleep. And that's something that we noticed, you know, we're really trying to protect people's sleep making sure that they get healthy sleep, infusing multiple products with sleep principles that we've created. And can continue to connect these for a more seamless experience. So we might talk more about it that just as a quick kind of overview, nest and fit, recently launched sleep sensing. And Android offers bedtime mode and assistant offers bedtime routine. So there's a lot of products that we're focusing on getting those sleep principles into. And another example is, you know, the email apps that we all know and love, Gmail and Google Calendar, so calendar has become a signal for us in terms of what people's statuses are. If they're out of office, if they're in a meeting, then we can help them protect that space and time by auto declining invites and things like that. So these small but mighty features can help really change the feeling of a person's pay and improve the quality of it. And then I guess I should mention the Android digital wellbeing, which is sort of our flagship product in this area. And there's a dashboard that people really like. It kind of marks, screen time as well as the amount of times they've unlocked their phone. It connects with bedtime mode, provides app timers and focus mode. So there's a lot of different ways people are using this but the essential focus or purpose is to make sure that they feel like where are they what the activity that they want to be focusing on. They're able to decide whether that's spending time with family or getting work done.

Doug Michau 14:59

I can definitely attest to the fact that I'm one of those who work more than I sleep and, and also, I can't tell you how much I really appreciate seeing that into the digital wellbeing all of your activities, that always catches me by surprise exactly how much time I spend on certain work activities.

I wanted to also ask, one of Google's beliefs is that great technology should improve life, not distract from it. Now, when you hear that from consumers, what do you think? How does that relate to this philosophy? And how do you try to bring the belief to life through your products, your features and all of your education?

Kate Lockhart 15:34

Yeah, I mean, this kind of goes to the core of our mission, you know, great technology should improve life and not distract from it. So we think about what are those moments that matter in people's lives? And, where and when does technology tend to distract from them. And some of those we've, I've already mentioned sleep, of course, connecting with others is another big area of focus for us, whether that's online or offline. And then quality content or dependable content, whatever you want to call it. I've also heard it called nutritious content, we want to make sure that the content that people are accessing is dependable, reliable, and age appropriate when we're talking about kids. So there's some pretty cool products for kids that are developing and getting more refined, kids space is one of them. That includes like parent and teacher approved apps. So it makes it that much easier for parents to decide what kids would they want their kids to be spending time on. And I think sleeping is another really good example of that, I keep going back to it. But it remains the number one barrier to wellbeing as reported by people across the globe. And so this is something that we can't ignore, and really, really continue to focus on.


And then one of the other areas that we've focused on, and I feel like is a great example of, of technology, you know, getting technology to the place where it's really supporting those moments to add or is something that we called Project modify, which is really just a look at face retouching filters. And understanding that people spend a lot of time taking selfies, and sharing them. And there's an entire societal phenomenon around them in terms of how people shape their self identity, how they feel about themselves, and how interpersonal relationships unfold. And so, you know, one of the phenomenon that we saw was in the news was that people were unhappy with their appearance in their selfies and taking measures in real life to really correct how they look, look better in their selfies. So for instance, plastic surgery, plastic surgery, face modification in real life, as opposed to just digitally. And that was something that sounded very, obviously, we didn't want to be a part of that trend. And so we really spent a good amount of time doing Global Studies and using different research methodologies, including literature reviews, consulting experts in the field of self esteem, and mental health. And realize that this, this is an area where we have the power to help. And so what we did was we developed principles and insights based on the research to help developers again, design camera apps, and camera app features that support people's wellbeing as opposed to, you know, detract from it or give them a sense of a lowered self esteem. So we have those principles. Some of them show up in the toolkit.


And more excitingly, we said, we got to see a pixel and Android launch updated features in the camera app that reflect those principles. So one of the biggest ones is value neutral language and value neutral images. So you know, a lot of people see these little sparkles and a magic wand on these face retouching filters, often called beautification or beauty filters. We wanted to make sure that there was no like subtle cue that something better is going to happen to their appearance when this, this feature is used. So we took that off and updated it to editing pencil on a face to make it much more neutral. And we want to make sure that we continue to follow that model by making sure that you know, we hadn't used anything called beautification before. But now we're hoping that other other companies and developers in the industry will follow suit.

Doug Michau 20:38

That's pretty fascinating how it transcends from, you know, a digital wellbeing app, the time being spent to go into other aspects of the smartphone, such as, like you said, the selfies. It's pretty intriguing. Thank you. Yeah.

Kate Lockhart 20:50

Thanks. Yeah, I think it's really interesting how far you can take these concepts.

Chris Francica 20:56

I think it's, it's a lot of people. And I'm speaking for myself here too, when they think about wellbeing, and when they think about it digitally, it's more about disconnecting from your device. But as you mentioned, there's a lot of things on the device that were where we can improve the experience, beyond just disconnecting things like you're talking about, you know, things that actually affect your self esteem while you're using the device. So I think a lot of those expanding the idea of well, being beyond just disconnecting, I think, is really important.

Kate Lockhart 21:31

Yes, indeed, that is definitely something that we learned, especially this year. It's a holistic topic. And you can't just say it screentime, we're definitely not encouraging people to think of it that way. Although screen time, of course, is a helpful indicator, but it's not the end all. It's a good way to help one reflect on what they're doing and their usage, so that they can determine what's useful or helpful or healthy for them, you know. But beyond that, it's really about the quality experiences, and is the tech that you're spending time with supporting your best intentions. Doug Michau 22:15

Kate, I just can't thank you enough. It's been such a pleasure talking with you today about how Google's approach to digital wellbeing, we really can't wait to see digital wellbeing and how it keeps developing. And, and again, I just want to thank you so much, Kate, for joining us today.

Kate Lockhart 22:31

It's been my pleasure, it's such a great opportunity to be able to talk to you both and I'm very excited about the future for all of us in tech. So, you know, we're This is a joint effort, and I'm very happy to be a part of it.

Chris Francica 22:45

Thanks so much for joining us for our second moto talks podcast episode. We hope you enjoyed our discussion. And will put some thought into how you can create better habits and find a greater sense of digital mindfulness this year. I know we learned a lot and we'll do the same. Our conversation with Kate actually ended up being a lot longer than we had time for in this episode. So we went ahead and created a part two of this episode and we'll publish that separately. There's a lot more great discussion, so make sure to hit play on part two for more. Also, don't forget, if you're listening to us from the Motorola website, you can also find us on Spotify, so be sure to subscribe. Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next month for the next episode.

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