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Apple announces new digital health tools to reduce tech distractions

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Apple has unveiled a range of new features to help users monitor their smartphone use, as part of plans to improve digital well-being.

As part of its new iOS 12 software that powers the iPhone and iPad, a new feature called Screen Time will send users weekly reports on how they are using their device to show them what is distracting them.

The technology giant said the feature will also send parents reports from their children’s phones and set time limits on app usage.

Speaking during the firm’s annual WWDC conference in San Jose, Apple’s Craig Federighi said it was important to sometimes “stop distractions” triggered by smartphone use.

Tech giants are beginning to pay more attention to how much time is spent using their products – last month, Google announced a digital health tool to help users monitor their device use and change their behaviours as needed.

iOS 12 will also include new Do Not Disturb features, including a new bedtime mode that will enable users to darken their screen and hide notifications until the morning.

During its developer conference, Apple also revealed a wide range of new apps and features for its library of devices, including new group-calling capabilities for FaceTime for up to 32 people.

In iOS 12, the company’s animated emoji which track a user’s face, known as Animoji, have also been updated to include new animals, as well as the ability to detect when a tongue is being stuck out.

A new version of the app, called Memoji, will now also enable users to create animated emoji of their own faces instead of using an animal face.

The feature is similar to one launched by rivals Samsung on their Galaxy S9 smartphone earlier this year.

Mr Federighi also touched upon Apple’s approach to privacy while discussing updates to the firm’s macOS software, which powers its laptops.

The Apple executive announced the firm was introducing a new Intelligent Tracking Prevention tool in its Safari web browser that would block social media Like or Share buttons on websites.

These tools can be used to track users around the internet, something Apple said should be the user’s choice.

In the wake of the ongoing Facebook data privacy scandal, Mr Federighi also revealed Apple was increasing its data protection features so that any apps that ask to use a Mac’s camera or microphone will need permission from the user.

Apple also said it would start to restrict the data shared online from a device that can be used to identify it – such as the plug-ins and other features on it which can be used to single out a device as belonging to a certain user – a process known as fingerprinting.

The result would make most Macs look identical, making it harder for individual devices to be identified, Apple said.

During the WWDC keynote, Apple also announced a wide range of updates for its Apple Watch and Apple TV devices.

The Apple Watch will now support a Walkie-Talkie app as well as be able to log new types of exercise including yoga and hiking.

While the firm’s Apple TV streaming box now supports high-end audio software Dolby Atmos.

The new version of macOS, which will be called Mojave, will also introduce a dark mode for the first time as well as a re-designed Mac App Store.

All of the software unveiled at the conference, which was attended by more than 6,000 developers, will be made available to users in the autumn.

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