The sheer amount of tasks we can do on our phones today is astounding. With the increasing dependency on our mobile phones, sometimes we find it hard to put it down and experience other aspects of life. To counter this, both Google and Apple announced features dubbed “Digital Wellbeing” for their respective mobile operating systems.
However, unlike Apple, Google’s implementation is not available for all devices, which means that third-party apps have found the need to offer it instead. Action Launcher’s developer brings us ActionDash, which emulates several useful Digital Wellbeing’s features in a free app.
Developer: Action Launcher
If you have heard about Google’s Digital Wellbeing, then you may already know what ActionDash is. If not, you can read more about it here.
Basically, Google hopes that we can put our phones away and enjoy life a little bit more. It does this by showing statistics about our app usage, number of unlocks, number of notifications, etc.
Unfortunately, Digital Wellbeing is only available for Google and Android One devices only. ActionDash is trying to bring these features to all Android devices running Lollipop onwards.
In order to start using ActionDash, you need to give it permission to Usage Access. Without it, the app is not able to gather information about other apps. You might be a little bit afraid of granting such a critical permission to a third-party app, but the developer promises that all information is stored on the device only.
The app then prompts the user to get ActionDash Plus. I have never understood the purpose of asking customers to pay for Plus features of an app the outset of installation. Users haven’t even determined if the app is useful in its current form, but whatever – there it is.
According to the app’s detail page, it will immediately pull more than a week’s worth of information. Side note: This may be a recent implementation as it only showed information from one day when I installed it.
The first screen, called Dashboard, shows a beautiful graph in which you can see proportionally what apps you are using the most. This graph can display either weekly or daily information.
There’s a screen time view in case you want more detailed data. You can filter this information either by days or by hours; a bar graph displays information about your screen time for the last week (in case of daily filtering) or day (in case of hour filtering).
Then, a list of the apps you have used, along with their screen times, is displayed at the bottom. If you tap a bar in the graph, you can see information for that day (or hour), giving you great insight into how your app usage may increase or decrease over hours or days.
The third screen displays the number of app launches. It looks fairly similar to the screen time view, but this one keeps track of the number of times you open an app.
The fourth screen shows the number of notifications you receive per app. This is one of the most eye-opening screens of the app, since you never realize how many notifications you receive per day until someone counts them for you. The screen is virtually identical to the previous two, but they show the number of notifications instead.
Finally, the last screen shows the number of times you unlocked your phone weekly or hourly. There’s also an additional feature to show the session length of each unlock, but this is reserved for Plus users.
Sadly, some of this functionality is a bit buggy sometimes. For example, when I got the screenshots for this review, some days were missing information, even though I had obviously used my phone on those days. Hopefully, this kind of stuff is fixed soon, especially if you decide to pay for Plus (more about it later).
In each screen where there is app information, you can tap on an app and you will be taken to a page that shows statistics for that app alone.
Here you can see the screen time, app launches, and notifications for particular apps. The screen time view also features a useful graph that shows the app session length (the number of minutes between opening the app and closing it).
One of the most prominent features is a notification that arrives daily at your preferred time (Default: 9PM). The notification displays information about your usage (think: dashboard screen), and it will compare your screen time with the previous day.
While it is a nice feature to have, the screen time comparison at the time of writing is not reliable. Maybe half of the notifications I have received have displayed erroneous information, like “Today’s screen time was 5 hrs, 15 min. That’s up 5 hrs, 15 min from yesterday.” Apparently this is a hard-to-track bug, but the developer says that he’s working on it.
One of the biggest features of Google’s Digital Wellbeing is the fact that you can configure it to limit your app usage after some time. For example, you can set a limit of one hour of YouTube a day.
Another interesting feature is Wind Down, which turns on Do Not Disturb and fades your screen to grey-scale.
Google is able to do that because Digital Wellbeing is part of Android, giving which gives them unlimited access. Sadly, this means that neither of these features are included in ActionDash.
There are a handful of options you can change to suit your needs. The aforementioned notification, for instance, can be changed to show at whichever time you prefer.
In the initial versions, all statistics included launcher apps. However, that was addressed very quickly, since it skewed the stats. In case you still want to see launcher information, there’s a toggle for that. Apart from the usefulness of the feature, it is nice to see a developer addressing issues so quickly. Kudos for that.
In case you want to include system apps in the statistics, you can do so too. However, this is turned off by default.
There’s also the possibility to backup all of the data locally, in case you are doing a factory reset or changing phones. This file can then be restored on a new device, albeit only if you have the Plus version of the app.
While the app is completely free, you can upgrade to ActionDash Plus, a one time $5 in-app purchase. This will give you additional features such as viewing statistics older than the last seven days, dark mode, removing ads, further insights, additional backup locations, and other small features.
With Digital Wellbeing, Google is trying to make us stop using our devices so often, and enjoy the pleasures that life can bring outside of technology. However, since it is not available for all devices at the moment, then ActionDash has done a superb job of trying to replicate it as much as is possible for a third-party.
Some features that are harder (or maybe even impossible) to implement haven’t been included. However, as it is, ActionDash does a superb job in delivering useful insights that will, hopefully, change our usage habits. Once some small bugs have been ironed out, ActionDash will offer a remarkable experience like no other app in the Play Store.