Ben Goertz

Phone = Mood

In Apple’s massive list of new features today at WWDC is an option to “focus.” Craig Federighi’s pitch was, “focus is a new way to match your device to your current mind-set.”

Match phone to mind-set

I’ve been mulling that sentence (and the ideas that support it) for most of the afternoon.

Control Flow

Which way does the control flow? Do you change your device to match your mood or is your device changing your mood?

A study of smartphone users (the title is aptly called “Brain Drain”) found that the mere presence of a phone, even when silenced, is enough to significantly lower our ability to focus on a task.

Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”

Cal Newport’s recent book “Digital Minimalism” is a good compliment to his older book “Deep Work”, which I think taken together point towards a better path. The most obvious option for silencing your devices is to leave them behind. Walk away.

Design Space

Apple, or any company, is unlikely to reach a design solution that means less of what they make or profit from. One of the choices on the list of “Focus” options (in the gif above) includes sleep! Is sleep a “mind-set”?

"You get a show or a movie you’re really dying to watch, and you end up staying up late at night, so we actually compete with sleep,” he said of his No. 1 competitor. Not that he puts too much stock in his rival: "And we’re winning!"

So far no one has found a way to profit off your sleep. I’m okay with protecting my time and sleep myself.

Is Apple’s aim to help you match the device to your mind-set or your mind-set to their device?