iOS 15, Humane

Apple is a uniquely positioned company. The core of Apple's DNA is about empowering world-changing creativity. Its business is not built around ads. Our lifetime-value is higher for Apple if we get to live meaningful and creative lives and solve the worlds hardest problems.

iOS 15, Humane

How Apple Could Help Us Reclaim Our Attention

Dear Crazy Ones,

We believe technology should help us live well. It can and should be designed to help us be intentional, to do the things that truly matter.

Yesterday, iOS 15 was introduced to the world. It's an exciting update, and includes meaningful steps towards more comprehensive tools for digital wellbeing, like modes and better notifications.

And yet, Apple could do a lot more to help us be more intentional.

Computers were supposed to be a bicycle for the mind

Somewhere along the way, ads got in the way. And with ads came the imperative to maximize engagement. Which led to a trillion-dollar industry built on extracting human attention.

For social media companies with an ad-based business model, addiction is good for business. Even when it comes at the expense of our shared well-being, democracy, and capacity for solving the world's hardest problems.

Apple is a uniquely positioned company. The core of Apple's DNA is about empowering world-changing creativity. Its business is not built around ads. Our lifetime-value is higher for Apple if we get to live meaningful and creative lives and solve the worlds hardest problems.

As the provider of iOS and the AppStore, Apple makes the rules for that ecosystem. We believe Apple can and should give users more awareness and control over how they're being manipulated.

With "Ask app not to track" Apple recently changed the game of privacy, at the dismay at the global advertisement industry.

We think they could go even further:

To lead the industry towards technology that is truly respectful of human attention. To align the incentives for developers with the users best interest. To change the course of technology once more.

Here's how...

Persuasive Design

is about making technology that changes human behavior.

Apps that are using persuasive design could be required to list all the techniques they use, as part of the App Store review process.

Apple could then show an onboarding screen that provides the user with relevant information around this app, and the option to turn some of these techniques off.

Persuasive Design Settings

If apps use certain persuasive design techniques, Apple could require developers to offer less distracting settings in order to pass the app review.

  • Infinite feeds could be turned into finite pages (see below)
  • Autoplay could be turned off via a system setting
  • There could even be an option to hide the most distracting parts of an app, like Facebooks video tab, Instagram Explore, and non-friend stories in Snapchat

Infinite Feeds → Finite Pages

Instead of infinite feeds, the user could choose to instead use simple pages with a limited number of content pieces on them.

Time Well Spent?

Time-on-site is one of the main metrics that ad-based businesses are optimizing for. In contrast, 'Time well spent' is a different kind of metric meant to better account for what really matters to you. After engaging with a certain app, do you feel like it made your life better? Was it time well spent?


At the end of an app session of 15 minutes or more, an actionable notification could ask you if this was time well spent.

Recent Sessions

A Time Well Spent widget could show your most recent sessions and let you rate your experience.

An actionable weekly review

to help you reflect on your usage and maybe even make suggested changes to your screen time settings.

Time Well Spent App Store Rating

Apple could aggregate data and show the average time people spend on any given app, and how well spent people report this time.

  • Top Time Well Spent Apps Apple could highlight those apps that people truly enjoy. Time Well Spent could be the basis for the AppStores editorial process.
  • Regret Tax Apple could introduce a tax for App Store listings below a certain Time Well Spent percentage. This would a) directly incentivize developers to optimize for time well spent and b) could be used to accelerate Humane Tech projects and reward apps with a very high time well spent metric.
Do I really want to download an app that people spend more than an hour on a day without even enjoying it?

Mindless? Helping you catch yourself

Apple could analyze usage patterns and detect mindless browsing, such as idly switching between apps, opening & closing apps rapidly, scrolling back and forth, ...

App Conditions

Apple could help us set conditions for how and when we use certain apps.

This way, we could set boundaries for ourselves, on our own terms.

For example if you're struggling to use Tinder responsibly, you could create a condition that you can only use the app while FaceTiming with a friend.

You could for example make sure that when you're using Twitter, you're in a good mental and physical state.

While this is more speculative than the previous suggestions, it goes to show just how many possibilities there are to help us do the things that we truly want to do.

Dear Apple,

changes like these could improve millions of lives — helping people focus, be well, sleep well, live more meaningful lives. It's time to show addiction-based businesses their proper place in the world. You can do it, maybe better than any other entity in the world. Will you?

The Team at Potential

One More Thing

At Potential, we believe technology can and should help us live well. We believe our digital environment can inspire and enable us to do the things we truly want to do. That's why we're working on an app that unlocks better choices on your phone.

It helps you be intentional and align your behavior with your aspirations — and some of our early users are really excited. They find it easier to be mindful with their phones and do more of the things they actually want to be doing.

Subscribe to Welf's Newsletter

Receive my latest essays, reading recommendations, favorite products, and tips for distraction-free computing.