Google Envelope Aims to Reduce your Smartphone Addiction

Smartphones are useful tools, but they can also be addictive as people may start checking the phone each time they receive a notification, visit their Facebook page to check how many likes they got, or just want to check their emails a bit too frequently.

Google has been working on addressing the issue with the Digital Wellbeing app launched as part of Android 9 aims to help you take some time away from your phone. The company has now launched a new Digital Wellbeing experiment with Google Envelope. Those are actual paper envelopes housing your phone in order to convert it either in a phone that can only make or receive phone calls, or camera with only the ability to take photos or shot videos.

Google Envelop Phone
Google Envelope – Phone version

There’s also an accompanying app that will detect the taps on the button. You’ll need to start the app first, then slide your phone into the paper envelope and seal it up.

The “Phone” Envelop then transform your phone into a simple phone with numerical keys and speed dial buttons. It offers an alternative to people purchasing a cheap phone to wean themselves to their addiction. The “Camera” Envelop only offers two buttons: one for taking photos and the other for shooting videos.

Google Envelope Camera
Google Envelope – Camera Edition

Those are separate envelopes so you must decide whether you’d rather make/receive phone calls, or take photos.

Google Pixel 3a is the only supported phone right now, and it may not work well on other phones since the alignment of the buttons may not be perfect. But the source code is available on Github so it could always be adapted to other phones.

You may find additional details on the project’s page.

Google also released two other apps to help you reduce your phone usage, or at least raise awareness of just how long you spend time on your mobile device:

    • Activity Bubbles app which fills your home screen with bubbles over time, so the more you use it the more bubbles there are.

    • Screen Stopwatch app showing how long you’ve spent on your phone in any given day but showing a clock on your home screen.

Both apps replace your wallpaper.

Via Liliputing and Android Police

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A few years ago it would have made a nice April’s fool or even a funny fake ad : “buy a $1000 phone and place it into this paper envelope to pretend you only use a $10 one”. Sadly this is not a joke and lots of people have been turned into ad consumers and application assistants (yes, applications need humans to exist and try to make them believe it’s the other way around).

This will not work anyway. Users will tear down the envelope at least to recharge the phone (there’s no visible hole for this) and will take this opportunity to smoke as much of facebook and youtube as they can.


Exactly my thoughts, they could not wait until the 1st of April 🙂


It might reduce your usage of your mobile but it won’t diminish Google’s etc. etc. usage of tracking your, spying on you. Smartphone for dummies.


I like the idea. It is a bit crazy, not very practical right now but might lead to something positive. In the past 10-15 years people became too obsessed with smartphones and this leads to huge waste of “screen time” and often reduced productivity.


“often reduced productivity”, you’re too kind. I’ve seen people spend their entire days with the phone in the hand, even hiding in toilets for one hour to avoid comments by coworkers, and only get out once the battery needs a recharge… It’s not “often reduced”, it’s “devastated”. The problem is that the most addict people will never use these envelopes because they are absolutely convinced they have no problem and even that they participate to activities with others, while in fact they’re only physically present.