Google's Pixel phones are being slowed down by their Digital Wellbeing feature

Digital Wellbeing
Image credit: Google

App developers and big tech companies alike have responded to growing concerns of smartphone addiction with an array of usage-tracking services that are intended to curb a user’s bad habits.

Google’s Digital Wellbeing service is one such app, promising to transparently track and measure your phone usage while simultaneously offering ways to minimize screen time in certain apps.

However, as evidenced by several threads on the r/GooglePixel subreddit, it looks like the app is responsible for instances of sluggish performance on the latest Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL flagship handsets as well as their just-released more affordable counterparts, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL.

At present, the only fix seems to be to disable the app's access to certain Android OS features – which does cripple its capabilities to a certain degree. 

Turning off usage access for the Digital Wellbeing app could solve performance issues [Image credit: TechRadar]

Turning off usage access for the Digital Wellbeing app could solve performance issues [Image credit: TechRadar] (Image credit: TechRadar)

Disabling the feature is said to smooth out framerate issues such as stuttering in certain situations, as well as improve the speed and fluidity of everyday actions like switching between apps.

Tested on a fresh Pixel 3a that was supplied to TechRadar for review, we didn't notice any immediate changes after disabling the feature – an experience shared with some Reddit commenters – although a considerable number of replies to the thread indicate significant boosts in speed for other handsets in the Pixel lineup.

For those with a Pixel handset that want to trial the fix, here’s how to go about it. Open Settings and search for “Usage Access” and tap on the relevant result. From here, select Digital Wellbeing and flip the slider titled “Permit usage access” to off.

Thankfully, this doesn’t impact on all features of the Digital Wellbeing service – the Wind Down functionality (which allows you to schedule a time for Do Not Disturb mode, Night Light mode and the grayscale filter that all help to discourage unwanted phone usage at certain hours) still works fine, for example.

Harry Domanski
Harry is an Australian Journalist for TechRadar with an ear to the ground for future tech, and the other in front of a vintage amplifier. He likes stories told in charming ways, and content consumed through massive screens. He also likes to get his hands dirty with the ethics of the tech.