Heads Up! Stop clumsily walking into things with this handy Android feature

Here's how to use the Heads Up feature in the Digital Wellbeing app if you have a Google Pixel.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read

Google's new Heads Up feature is a Digital Wellbeing tool that can stop you from walking into light poles and other pedestrians. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

We've all seen a hilarious video of someone walking down the street and right into a light pole while staring at their phone. Or maybe it wasn't a video and the person was you. Google wants to help you avoid being the star in the next episode of America's Funniest Home Videos -- or avoiding near misses with cars, bikes and other pedestrians -- with a new feature called Heads Up, rolling out to its Digital Wellbeing Android app. 

After turning on Heads Up, your phone will periodically display an alert that reminds you to keep your head up when it detects you're walking and using your phone at the same time. 

Heads Up is rolling out to Pixel phones, as spotted by XDA Developers . After checking a few different Android phones on my desk, I only see it on Pixel phones as well. Google often uses its own Pixel line as a test bed before sharing features more widely with other Android phones, so even if you don't have Heads Up now, pay attention, because you might see it soon. (I've reached out to Google to clarify which devices will fold in the news Heads Up feature.) Here's how it works.


Don't run into anything you shouldn't the next time you're using your phone while walking. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

How to set up Heads Up to keep from being oblivious

Open the Settings app on your phone then scroll until you locate the Digital Wellbeing & parental controls option; tap it. Scroll to the bottom of the various settings where you should spot a new Heads Up option, just above the toggle switch to add an app icon for Digital Wellbeing to your app drawer. Select Heads Up and follow the setup prompts. 

You'll need to grant Digital Wellbeing permission to view your physical activity so it can identify when you're walking. Optionally, you can give the app permission to view your current location at all times. Doing so will allow it to identify when you're inside -- it's unclear if that means it'll be more or less proactive about reminding you to look up, but let's hope for the former. 

With Heads Up enabled, you will receive an alert whenever you use your phone and it detects you're walking around. I spent a good 20 minutes walking around my house scrolling through Reddit and Twitter, along with sending emails and text messages and didn't trigger the alert. My only guess is that Google assumes I know my house well enough to not run into a wall while walking around. My take? Google doesn't know me that well. 


It only takes a few taps to configure Heads Up. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Join the Digital Wellbeing beta

If you have a Pixel and don't see the Heads Up feature quite yet, you can join the Digital Wellbeing beta program, which should trigger the new feature on your phone. Join the beta by visiting the app's Play Store listing and installing it. 

You can always leave the beta at any time by visiting the same Play Store page and removing yourself from it, but I've always joined any beta that Google has for its Android apps and haven't run into any major issues, with the added bonus of getting to check out features before they're widely rolled out. 

If you're curious about what else you can use Digital Wellbeing for, read more about it here. Check out all of the hidden features every Android phone has, too. Finally, Android 12 is coming later this year and we're already tracked down new features that you'll love using.