Is Digital Wellbeing Slowing Down Pixel Handsets?

Posted on May 13, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 19 Comments

A few Reddit posts claiming that Google’s Digital Wellbeing is slowing down the firm’s smartphones have gained some traction, for some reason. But I disabled the feature a week ago and haven’t experienced the promised performance boost or the expected battery life improvements.

So you should approach this one with an open mind, methinks.

The original Reddit post, the one I saw, dates back to May 3, but I read it on May 8. In it, a Redditor claims that they have tried everything to overcome performance issues with a Pixel 3 handset. Finally, they disabled Digital Wellbeing and that did the trick. “After that, my phone has been butter-smooth [with] not one stutter or lag,” they write. “Switching between apps is a breeze now, no more text input lag just speedy performance throughout the whole UI.”

Well, that and turning off animations in developer options, apparently. You know, maybe it was that.

Anyway, I gave it a shot, and I’ve left Digital Wellbeing disabled since then; my Pixel 3 XL gets markedly bad battery life compared to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and I hoped this change would make a difference. It has not. But I also haven’t noticed any negative effects either, so I left it alone. I don’t really need this functionality anyway. So I kind of forgot about it.

This morning, however, I see that a different and more recent Reddit post, which is tied to the release of the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, is being reported everywhere as a “fix” for all modern Pixel handsets.

I don’t know. Maybe you should just turn off animations in developer options.

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Comments (19)

19 responses to “Is Digital Wellbeing Slowing Down Pixel Handsets?”

  1. davidblouin

    Has anyone ever needed to turn off animation on an iPhone?

    • provision l-3

      In reply to davidblouin:

      I guess it depends how you look at it. Have customers? No. That is because Apple does this automatically for iPhones that have a performance impact due to animations. I think we can reasonably argue in this case that someone is turning them off.

      It does strike me as odd that it is required on such a new phone though.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to davidblouin:

      This is a hidden feature that requires you to enable a developer mode. And we're not turning it off, we're turning it down.

      It'd be nice if Apple gave users this level of control. They don't.

  2. BeckoningEagle

    I turned it off this morning and I don't see a big difference (I had turned off animations previously). I did notice less drain on the battery, although it may very well be a placebo effect. But at this time I am usually below 60% and today I al still at 78%, so that is good.

  3. rmlounsbury

    I turn off this function as a default step in my setup on my phones. My family is perfectly willing and able to let me know if I'm being a phone zombie. Not to say that it isn't entirely not helpful because we do have a whole generation of people buried in their devices even out on dates or at business functions. But it doesn't really serve any purpose for me and thus I shut it down.

    To some degree it's yet another ankle biting dog yipping for my attention on my phone.

  4. rlcronin

    Totally agree that.5x animation makes it feel quite a bit snappier but still provides some eye candy.

  5. rob4jen

    I don't have a Pixel 3 XL so I can't comment on whether DW makes any difference but I do, as a matter of course, lower the animation settings to 0.5X on every Android phone I buy or test. It makes a huge difference in usability. Once you get used to using phones with the lower animation scale it's hard to go back. It's like listening to podcasts at 1.25X and then going back to natural speed. Something is just off.

  6. wolters

    The timing of this is so interesting for me personally...I decided last night to give it a try and see if it helps reduce distractions and then I wake up to this article...