Phones to Alert Pedestrians to 'Pay Attention'

John Lister's picture

Android phones could soon warn users to stop using their device when walking. The feature will be "entirely optional."

The warnings will come in Google's Digital Wellbeing app. Google's rules say all devices running Android 9 ("Pie") or later must have some form of Digital Wellbeing app, with many manufacturers choosing to simply install Google's version rather than create their own.

The apps, which are optional to use, have so far concentrated on factors such as monitoring screen time and alerting users how long they have spent using their device in different ways. They often let users easily set particular times of day to hide notifications, or to set time limits on how much they user a particular app. (Source:

Heads Up Alert

The 9to5Google site has now spotted code in the latest version of Google's Digital Wellbeing with a feature titled "Heads Up", a description "Get reminders to stop using your phone while you're walking" and a warning to "Use with caution. Heads Up doesn't replace paying attention." (Source:

While the full details of the feature's operation aren't available yet, the requested permissions give some clues as to how it will work. Users will have to give permission for the app to access "Physical activity" data to know if they are moving. Optional "Location" data access will likely restrict the feature to outdoor use or to only work away from home.

Two-Word Warning

The code also reveals that the app will deliver an on-screen notification if it detects phone use while walking. This will be one of seven two-word messages: "Be careful", "Look ahead", "Look up", "Stay alert", "Stay focused", "Watch out" and "Watch your step".

The biggest limitation to the tool is likely to be the same problem that affects other elements of the Digital Wellbeing apps. People who are aware of a problem such as overusing their devices or putting themselves at risk of distraction while walking can likely take action themselves, while those who'd really benefit from alerts are probably unlikely to think about switching the feature on.

What's Your Opinion?

Would you find such alerts useful? Have you ever found yourself distracted by your phone screen while walking? Is a technical solution the right answer to this behavioral problem?

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aquaman100_2510's picture

I remember when I was living in Calgary there was a rash of pedestrians on their phones just walking into traffic, unfortunately there were a few fatalities. I'm sure the same thing was happening elsewhere.

dkingsbo_10494's picture

Samsung forced the "Digital Well-Being App" on the Samsung S9 phone I owned.
I CAN'T CHANGE anything, I CAN'T UNINSTALL it,, hmmm bloatware! ...unless the phone is ROOTED!

Ive seen people texting while they were walking, and Trip when they stepped off a curb!
So many times I see people TEXTING and DRIVING in RUSH HOUR traffic.