Early iPhone designer calls on Apple to curb tech addiction


Many of us are never far from our smartphones. We talk to friends, share photos and information, and check notifications constantly.

Tech companies have created an addictive technology — and some parents and tech leaders are calling on companies to do something about it.

Tony Fadell, a former Apple (AAPL) executive who helped design the iPod and iPhone, has become an outspoken advocate for recognizing tech addiction and implementing digital controls.

“We need to learn about these unintended consequences and figure out ways to mitigate them and to help us learn a new way of integrating these into our lives,” Fadell told CNNTech’s Laurie Segall in an interview.

Fadell — the founder of smart thermostat company Nest, which was acquired by Google (GOOG) in $3.2 billion in 2014 — equates healthy technology use to clean eating. Fadell left Nest in 2016.

“We have product information on the side of every product about what’s contained in it,” said Fadell. “We have scales to tell us our weight. We know calorie consumption and we can track it. We have programs like Weight Watchers and all these other things to allow us to maintain or try to help us.”

But food and alcohol are regulated by the federal government, requiring displayed nutritional information to educate the public. Similar measures for technology do not exist. For example, the packaging of an iPhone doesn’t come with a time suggestion for daily use.

Fadell suggested tech companies should bake in products that let users measure their tech consumption and set goals for their behavior.

Related: Investors to Apple: Fight iPhone addiction among kids

In addition to Fadell’s concerns, Apple chief design officer Jony Ive previously said using your iPhone too much could be considered “misuse.”

In a letter to Apple this week, two investors called on the company to do more to prevent children specifically from becoming addicted to their devices. California State Teachers’ Retirement System and Jana Partners — both funds own about $2 billion in Apple stock — cited research that found children can be negatively affected by too much screen time. This includes a heightened risk of suicide and depression.

Apple has included some parental controls in its devices since 2008 via tools that restrict some app usage or making in-app purchases. Other standalone apps exist to help track kids’ digital use. Circle and Screen Time let parents filter out content and set screen time limits.

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Keon Jensen
Keon Jensen

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