This new Android feature could be a life-saver — please don't rely on it

Android Heads Up feature in Digital Wellbeing on a Pixel 4
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Google's Digital Wellbeing app is meant to help you monitor and, if you wish, limit the use of your Android device(s) in order to promote your digital and in turn physical and mental health. 

A new feature in beta testing called Heads Up looks to more directly intervene for the sake of your physical wellbeing by triggering a notification if you are using your phone while walking. The depressing implications of a feature like being considered necessary aside, you should definitely think twice before relying on it (via Android Central). 

Curious to see what the feature would look like in action, I opted into the Digital Wellbeing beta on my Pixel 4XL. Digital Wellbeing isn't limited to Pixel phones, but not all Android phones can use it either. Samsung phones are most notably left out. 

The beta version of the app immediately installed for me and I turned on Heads Up without issues. It requires that you grant it permission to track your activity. This is how it determines you are walking and you can optionally grant it location permissions as well. I granted both to be sure it had the best lock possible on my movement and headed off down the sidewalk while scrolling through Twitter. 

Not once in ten blocks of walking while using my phone did I see a single notification from Heads Up. I then got out my Pixel 4a 5G and redid the same test in case it was somehow an issue with the Pixel 4XL, but again nothing.

I hope that people don't actually need this feature to help them avoid heading across a street with their head buried in their phone. Because it fails utterly at that task –– at least in its current beta. So for now, people will still need to be vigilant about their personal safety rather than putting the responsibility for their wellbeing on their phones.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.