Ananya Pathak

OnePlus 'Zen Mode' gives 20-minute respite from the app

The new feature on OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro locks users out of the phone, without any access to apps.

Mobile phones have enriched our lives enormously and have indubitably become an essential part of it. From alarms, to-do lists, reminders, and social networking to saving notes, internet banking, taking photographs etc. the dependency on the device has increased tremendously in the past decade.

Smartphone brand OnePlus' latest ad for its new feature - Zen Mode - attempts to wean users off the constant smartphone use and take a break to focus on what they love.

OnePlus 'Zen Mode' gives 20-minute respite from the app

Zen Mode - Focus on Life

Activating Zen Mode puts the phone on a kind of lock-down for 20-minutes, without any notification alerts or access to applications. It only allows users to make emergency calls, attend to incoming calls and access the camera. Things won't change even after restarting the device. The brand urges users to utilise this time to enjoy the company of their pets, enjoy romantic moments and intimate conversations without being pestered by notifications.

The ad reminds us of Motorola's global campaign - 'phone-life balance' - that addressed the growing concerns around mindless device usage and smartphone addiction. In the campaign, the brand asked the users a simple question - Do you own your phone or does your phone own you?

OnePlus 'Zen Mode' gives 20-minute respite from the app

Motorola's 'Real Diwali. Real Celebration.' ad released as a part of its phone-life balance campaign

The lock-down of the phone, when Zen Mode is active, might make one consider its feasibility in times when physical alert sliders are existent and can easily be deactivated when not needed. There are other features on Android phones like 'Do-Not-Disturb' as well.

A few other players in the smartphone space have attempted to alert users of unmindful scrolling in the past. iPhone's 'Screen Time' sends daily and weekly report on mobile data usage to help one limit this. It notifies users of time spent on individual apps, certain app categories, even the number of times the iPhone was picked up in a given hour. Similarly, Google's 'Digital Wellbeing' helps Android users monitor their phone and app usage. It allows one to track how their phone addiction is faring compared to the previous day or week. Various third-party apps like 'Usage Time' and other time-management apps give precise reports on time spent with the screen on for the current day, divided between used apps.

OnePlus 'Zen Mode' gives 20-minute respite from the app

Samir Datar

Samir Datar, head of strategy, Hakuhodo India, feels this trend of alerting smartphone users of their interaction with the device was bound to happen. He says, "Across different product categories, brands have first fuelled constant usage bordering on addiction and then talked about how one must control consumption. Be it alcohol, junk food, petroleum products, and now technology, it was always about giving reasons to consume more. When it starts getting out of control, pretend to be holier-than-thou and promote restraint.

"In the case of mobile phones though, will such self-restraint really work? Increasingly, there are apps promoting usage for pretty much everything that is required for better living. How to eat well, how to manage 'to do' lists, how to stay in shape, how to have a better relationship, how to shop, how to order food, how to meditate, how to sleep better... How does one restrict usage? At the end of the day, like all addictions, it is the person who has to take charge of his/her own life. Yes, these features will help the person track the time spent on using the device; understand productive vs wasteful use. Post that, it is the person who must believe that he/she needs to exercise control," he concludes.

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