December 5, 2023

Your phone’s lock screen is the hottest new real estate in the world of technology. Apple has made the iPhone lock screen an essential part of iOS 16, giving users more control over how they appear and work. But while Apple has talked about beautiful watch fonts and stylish, color-matched wallpapers, it has also shown a world where your lock screen is more than just a security measure: it’s become another surface on which companies can place information, apps, and even ads. Apple is far from the only company considering this as well. Take Crunch Reports that profileA lock screen content company (which seems to be a thing!) is already in talks with US carriers and plans to launch it on some Android phones in the US in the next couple of months.

The competition for your eyeballs and attention is already out of the apps and on your home screen, with widgets and notifications. Now it seems to be going one step further: to the first thing you see when you turn your phone on, before you pick it up or unlock it. That might be at least one step too far.

If you’ve never seen a Glance-powered device before, one way to visualize the app is sort of like a Snapchat Discover feed on your phone’s lock screen. The company offers a rotating array of news headlines, videos, quizzes, games and images that appear every time your phone screen is turned on. Glance naturally calls these content cards “looks”, and says that users consume these looks 65 times a day on average.

Peek is a never ending content machine, right on your lock screen
Image: a glimpse

And of course, it’s all full of ads. Glance is a subsidiary of the InMobi Group, an Indian advertising technology company. It has partnerships with a number of manufacturers, including Samsung and Xiaomi, and the company says its software is built into more than 400 million phones across Asia. Google is an investor in the company; So does Peter Till.

In a certain light, an overview or something like that is a perfectly reasonable idea. You don’t need to constantly plunge into and out of apps to search for news and information, you don’t even need to unlock your phone, you just trust that your device will offer you something interesting every time you turn it on. And some non-intrusive ads wouldn’t hurt, right? After all, I bought a Kindle with ads on the lock screen to save a few bucks, and that doesn’t bother me. (Although I wouldn’t buy Prime Exclusive phones that come with lock screen ads, and apparently wouldn’t buy them for anyone else.)

Apple reiterated this idea, and talked about how it sees a more feature-rich lock screen as a way to help you use your phone. less. Apple Chief Software Officer Craig Federighi Referred to as the lock screen As the “face of your phone,” he said features like live activities can make it easier to get quick information without having to unlock your phone and open yourself up to all the distractions inside. He said, “If you could get the answer in a jiffy, you wouldn’t unlock, and as soon as you unlock your phone, you almost forget why you were there in the first place!”

Letting you customize your lock screen is a good idea!
Photo: Apple

But by opening up this space, these companies offer apps and advertisers an opportunity to get closer to you. The developers will surely create live activities that will last long after you are done being useful, it is better if they catch you every time your phone lights up. Platforms will find ways to pull more of their content onto lock screens, in an effort to connect you to the feed before you hit a button.

In general, most users do not change their settings, and it is better to think that the developers will use this to their advantage. “Consumers will move from searching for content to consuming what is shown to them,” InMobi CEO Naveen Tiwari said: Forbes When Glance was launched. This is so dreary! And maybe true!

Most of all, the outlook-like future is a way to turn smartphones into consumer-only devices. And is “easier access to infinite feeds of medium interesting content” really a worthwhile goal? As we look to reset our relationship with technology, I would argue that we must find places for it Add Friction, to give you what you need when you look at your phone…but also to help you realize that you don’t need to look at your phone at all. And if, as Federighi said, the function of the lock screen is to help you avoid distraction, I can’t imagine a worse idea than putting a TikTok-style video feed between you and your home screen.

The sneak peek certainly has competition, but it’s already a good example of what all of this is headed. In June, held Live Glimpse Festival, a three-day virtual festival held entirely on users’ lock screens. It has streamed interactive concerts and challenges, live tutorials and interviews, and tons of live shopping content, to more than 70 million users. It’s like an unsubscribe music festival, which you’re taken to every time someone texts you. This sounds completely distracting, frustrating, and exhausting.

There is no doubt that our lock screens could be better. The entire Notification Playlist isn’t great, and pushing for more customization will make a lot of users happy. But this space should be owned by users and users only, and should not turn into another breeding ground for distraction and advertising. We must take back control of our phones, and not give up any more of them.

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