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OnePlus Podcast: Introducing WellPaper with OneLab

Product 2021-06-10

Introduction and What is OneLab: 00:00 – 01:37

Fletcher: Do you find yourself scrolling through Twitter or Instagram a little too often? Are you kind of like me and struggle to get work done sometimes because you’re just too lost in phone world? Well today, we’re talking all things Digital Wellbeing and how OnePlus is helping you find balance between your digital life, and your real life.

Hello everybody, my name is Fletcher Stubblefield. I’m a senior trainer here at OnePlus and welcome to the very first episode of the OnePlus podcast. Today we are joined by two very special guests, Mr. Sam Twist and Mr. Owen Hu of OneLab. How’s it going guys?

Owen: Hi Fletcher, thanks for having me here. Hello everyone, my name is Owen, and I am the User Experience Designer at OneLab.

Sam: Great to be here, Fletcher. I’m Sam Twist and I am a Senior Product Manager at OneLab. We don’t have Avinash and Chetan, two developers that worked on the project here today, but a big shout out to them as well.

So OneLab, the team, is an exploratory software team. We look kind of upstream, look at the trends, try to identify things like how people use their phones. We try to tailor some applications or some features to what we think people will need and try to solve a few problems along the way. We sit within the software division and we’ve had kind of an exciting start working on a couple of apps, and really interested to discuss our latest application with you today.

A Shift in Our Digital Wellbeing: 01:38 – 02:52

Fletcher: Awesome, thank you so much. I’m really excited to hear about it because, you know, digital wellbeing is one of those things that is at the forefront of my mind right now and it’s so important, especially with the current pandemic.

Looking at research, it seems to suggest that adults are spending so much time, on average three and a half hours plugged into mobile internet and power users more so. Power users are up to four and a half hours, and kids, in the last 3-4 years have almost doubled their consumption. How do you think that COVID has changed smartphone behavior, and do you think that it’s leading to an increase in device usage just generally across the board?

Sam: Yeah, it’s pretty crystal clear from the data we’re looking at. Towards March or April last year, we’re seeing that real spike in especially social apps, apps that you’re probably not happy spending too much time on, and the general time of mobile screen on time as well. Obviously, that’s kind of gone down in the last year but still, if you compare this with five years ago, or even two years ago, the trend is way up so there’s definitely something for us to address and look into.

Zen Mode and Insight AOD: 02:53 – 06:03

Fletcher: I know that you all have done a lot of work on Digital Wellbeing before. Immediately, things like Zen Mode and Insight AOD come to mind. Would you mind explaining a little bit more on what those are and how those address this problem as well.

Owen: Yeah sure, I’ll start with Zen Mode because this was our first exploration in the digital wellbeing area. I think it was four years ago, we had this co-creation with our community and the basic idea here is to turn the smartphone into a brick. You put it down and just focus on something else in the real world. Last year, we had another collaboration with students from Parsons School of Design in New York, where we created Insight AOD, which is an Always On Display that tracks how many times you unlock your phone throughout the day and visualizes your app usage into a pretty unique color bar. Now we have more than 300,000 users worldwide that are currently using this AOD.

Fletcher: That’s awesome and super exciting. That’s a great point because that’s really bringing us into the topic at hand- digital wellbeing, with this digital WellPaper you all have cooked up. Let me ask you, why develop this wallpaper application and what is its primary purpose?

Sam: I think looking back at the Insight AOD, this idea to kind of help nudge people’s digital wellbeing and just nudge their awareness of how they’re using their device, was really popular. As Owen said, we have a huge number of users that have taken on this AOD and are using it every single day.

So, we wanted to roll with that success, and from a bit of research we did within the community, we found that people really liked the digital wellbeing tools that Google have, and we think this is a great starting point. But as with our operating system, we kind of do the same. We shine a light on the things that we love and push away some of the things that we don’t love, and we love the digital wellbeing tools.

The problem we identified with the community is that they are kind of buried in the settings, so you’ve got to go searching on your phone to go and find them, and then the display is kind of a simple donut graph of your usage. We wanted to take the information, shine a spotlight on it, and bring it up all the way to your wallpaper. We had this idea of visualizing with data - your usage on your wallpaper every single day to create this completely unique and completely personalized wallpaper that can firstly, be a beautiful wallpaper, and secondly, nudge the user and just drive awareness on how you’re using your device. There’s a massive disconnect with people looking at their actual data and what they think they use, if that makes sense. I think I only do 15 minutes of Instagram a day, but when you look at the data it can tell a different story.

Introducing Digital WellPaper: 06:04 – 11:42

Fletcher: So, let me ask you this, and this is a question to both of you because I think you hit on two big points there. You hit on aesthetics and making WellPapers that are beautiful and visually appealing, but you also hit on how it displays data that is critical to us understanding how it is using our devices, so my question to you all is this- One, what information is it displaying, what is it showing us about our usage? And two, can you talk a little about the design elements? I believe we have three different designs.

Sam: Owen’s the expert on designs, but I’ll talk a little bit about the data that it shows. Google Play categorizes your apps into 40 different categories, quite specific ones as well. If we were to kind of display all these different categories on your home screen, it’s going to be pretty messy. So, what we did was compress them all into six categories, things like social, gaming, lifestyle and communications. Then we take these categories and just display them in different ways on your device. Over the day, this is going to be constantly updating based on your usage, so your wallpaper is going to be unique to you, constantly fresh, and it’s almost impossible to create the same wallpaper again. Owen has been the expert behind the design style that we’ve taken forth.

Owen: The first one we call ‘composition’. I drew inspiration from Piet Mondrian’s famous painting, Composition II and Composition III. It’s a simple idea, we have six colored tiles and each of them represents a different app category so that the size changes dynamically according to the screen time in that category. You can also tap on it to view more information. The second wallpaper, we call ‘glow’. I combined the idea of data visualization with neon lights. If you’re a fan of Bladerunner, Cyberpunk 2077, I hope you will enjoy this wallpaper because it’s really fancy. The third one is more on the informative side, we call it ‘radial’. The radial design brings a subtle feeling, we want colors to grow and merge into each other in a smooth and dynamic way. It can go well with all different kinds of desktop setups.

Fletcher: That’s awesome, and you know the game nerd in me is super excited to further cyberpunk-up my phone. Let me ask you this, because as exciting and unique as live wallpapers are, what are we talking about when it comes to battery life because I know that live wallpapers can be a real sucker when it comes to battery life. Are we doing anything to mitigate this or help with that battery efficiency?

Sam: Great question, Fletcher. I think it’s one of the first questions we get, especially from someone like yourself who knows a thing or two about phones. So live wallpapers are traditionally pretty consumptive, pretty battery hungry. This comes from the redraw, so depending on the framework of your phone, they’re getting redrawn around 120 times per second, and this kind of computational power just kills batteries. We don’t want to go down that route, we want to keep it like a wallpaper you can use as your daily driver, so we do a lot of the computation on the lock of the phone, so we’ll draw the wallpaper. When you’re using your phone, it’s going to be static, but then each time you unlock your phone again, it’s going to kind of update and change based on your usage. So, we kind of get away with it, keeping it live and keeping it dynamic, by reducing the number of redraws to reduce the battery consumption.

Fletcher: I think I’ve already, you know, revealed my hand when it comes to this, talking about my nerdiness for cyberpunk, but I’m curious- which WellPaper are each of you using?

Owen: So of course, as the designer, I use all of them quite often but if I am going to pick one, I will go with ‘composition’, because the first time I saw the actual painting it was a baffling experience there’s just basically colors and black strokes, and that’s the painting. But as I dig deeper into it, I see it’s a quit interesting balance between static and dynamic, and it would be really cool if we can apply this same philosophy into a wallpaper, especially when we craft it with my own data, like every time I see it, it’s a bit different and I know this change is related to something of myself- that would be really cool, so that is my personal favorite.

Sam: Now we’ve got the full set- I find myself using ‘radial’ the most, so we’ve completed it, all three. Maybe we need to add some more if we get more people on the podcast.

Fletcher: Perhaps the most important question, where can consumers find this app? Where can they download it?

Sam: Yeah, of course. You can find the app by searching for ‘WellPaper’ in the Google Play Store or ‘OneLab’, which will take you straight to our account.

What's next for OneLab: 11:43 – 12:29

Fletcher: I guess my last question for you guys is this - what is next for the OneLab team? You all are always cooking crazy stuff up in the kitchen over there and I’m just dying to know what else that is super exciting that you are working on.

Sam: Yeah, I knew we couldn’t get away with not getting fished for future questions. Fletcher: I had to do it!

Sam: Obviously, we’re assisting the whole OS division on our next operating system roll out. But specifically, for the OneLab team we’ve just launched our app, Clipt, and obviously WellPaper. We’re going to be keeping up with these and maybe rolling out some ideas as we go. There’s lots of exciting ideas in the pipeline, I’m not going to give away any today though.

Closing: 12:30 – 13:34

Fletcher: And you know, Sam, you can’t blame me for trying. I just have to know, it’s super exciting stuff and I think the audience is super curious as well, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. But with that, thank you so much to both of you for joining us. We have done so much to shed light on Digital Wellbeing and here at OnePlus, everybody knows who we are, right? We like to do things in a different way and I think a lot of people are starting to talk about this digital wellbeing topic, just due to the pandemic, and COVID and all of these things, and you know at OnePlus we can’t do it like anybody else- we have to be different; we have to do things in a better, more innovative way and I think that this absolutely hits the nail on the head.

Thank you so much, Sam and Owen, for joining us today. It was a real pleasure to have you here, I really hope you come back. And with that, everybody, go download the WellPaper app from the Google Play store. Check it out, get it on your device and see the impact that it makes on your life. Thank you everybody!