Google experiment makes your phone simpler by putting it in an envelope

The project is aimed at balancing tech with well-being.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
2 min read
Envelope Google wellbeing

An experiment for Google's Wellbeing Project sees you put your phone in a paper envelope.

Google/Special Projects

Google has revealed a bunch of new tools to help people "find a better balance with technology" through its well-being project. One of them, Envelope by Special Projects, asks you to put your phone inside a paper envelope to minimize distractions, as spotted earlier by 9to5Google. The two types of envelopes -- one for calls only and one for camera only -- will "temporarily transform your phone into a simpler, calmer device," Special Projects said.

"Many people feel that they spend too much time on their phones and struggle to find a balance with technology," the company said. "Printed buttons which subtly light up allow you to dial and take photographs."

Using the calls-only envelope allows you to make or receive calls and check the time, while the camera envelope lets you take photos and videos -- but you can't look at any of the photos until you take it out of the envelope.

"The idea is to try and last as long as possible before opening the envelope," the company said.

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Once you take it out of the envelope at the end of the day, your phone will tell you how long you've been using it for. You'll then have to reset your phone as the default phone app.

You can download a PDF envelope and print it now, although only the Google Pixel 3a is currently supported. The app is available through the Play Store, with open source code for the project on Github.

Other experiments in the Google's well-being collection include a printable paper phone, a screen stopwatch to show you how long you use your phone for each day, an unlock clock that counts how many times you open your phone and Post Box, which schedules your notifications to "minimize distractions."

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