No, Turning Off Digital Wellbeing Does Not Improve Performance

Posted on May 29, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 2 Comments

Google has debunked claims that disabling Digital Wellbeing on its Pixel handsets will somehow dramatically improve the performance of Android.

“We conducted a thorough analysis based on bug reports and internal testing, and have found no performance issues associated with the Digital Wellbeing app on Pixel,” a Google engineer wrote in response to one of the many Reddit threads devoted to this topic. “During the investigation, we identified changes unrelated to the bug reports for improving performance, and we are in the process of rolling out those changes to make your Pixel device better. As always if you experience issues related to performance or any other aspect of Pixel, please review the troubleshooting steps in our online support tool or reach out to customer service.”

In other words, Google confirmed what I experienced when I disabled Digital Wellbeing as a test: It doesn’t do anything for performance. And what users are experiencing is essentially a placebo, or what I call the “it feels faster” fallacy. You want something to be true and suddenly it seems true.

“I disabled the feature a week ago and haven’t experienced the promised performance boost or the expected battery life improvements,” I wrote about two weeks ago. “You should approach this one with an open mind, methinks … I hoped this change would make a difference. It has not.”

What’s really funny about this particular event is that “disabling” Digital Wellbeing as described by the Reddit snake oil salesmen doesn’t actually disable anything. Instead, it just turns off “usage access,” as the menu option in the app notes. But when you do so, Digital Wellbeing continuously monitors your system usage regardless. How do we know this? Because when you re-enable the feature, you can view your previous 10 days of activity. Like so:

Cue “sad trombone” sound.

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