MaggieOuyang, Jul 31, 2019 : In the beginning... Zen Mode is about taking time for yourself. It limits the functions of your phone for 20 minutes to making emergency calls, receiving all calls, and using the camera. Zen Mode is a natural extension of Never Settle. Our mission is to constantly improve your experience, across hardware and software – making them work seamlessly for you. We’re always making changes, big and small, to both hardware and software, with the ultimate aim of delivering a seamless experience. Whenever we consider a feature, we first ask – what is affecting our users? Among a sea of topics, we saw a lot of feedback and discussion across many channels about one recurring topic: technology demands too much of your attention. That was a very interesting starting point for us. It’s not an area we had deep experience in. But of course, we do have our famous Alert Slider, which allows you to effortlessly choose between three notification settings. Research We encourage our R&D teams to pursue ideas and experiment. While evaluating dozens of concepts, the idea of Zen Mode stuck with them. We think technology should serve you, not the other way around. Once we began to think about the topic of mindfulness, we closely examined how people were using their devices, and what they were most unhappy about. We don’t want to make a feature for the sake of it, we want to address real-life problems. Our research showed that sometimes people don't feel like they can switch off from their digital life. Social media apps especially, demand too much attention with constant notifications and updates. Messaging apps can be similarly distracting. We realized that the notifications drawing you in aren't the only problem. Many apps are designed to reward you for interacting with them, whether it be through something as simple as an animation welcoming you back or a virtual reward or counter – especially in games, which rewards you for coming back. These observations gave us a solid starting point. We had an idea about what kind of distractions people face – a key insight being that it's two-way. Design The next challenge we faced was turning this concept into a reality. Would it be a layer which sat over the top of everything you do, would it be a reminder when you used an app, would it be its own app. We carefully consider how features we design impact your experience. We feel that your smartphone should be there when you want and need it, without getting in the way when you don’t. You should be in control of your experience. So, for this stage, we ruled out having a persistent layer – imagine if you were completely happy with the way you used your device, and constantly had a feature nagging you – that would be the opposite of what we wanted to achieve. The most logical fit for our design philosophy was to create an app. Consider burdenless – we want you to have the power to engage the feature whenever you like, and for it to be ready whenever you are, but never to interrupt or distract you. Combining the insight into the behavior of our users, and insights into the foundation of what our design should be, we were ready to get to work. The app Our next consideration was about how the app should look, feel, and act – what it should be able to do. As this was our first iteration of Zen Mode, we wanted to keep the idea simple and straightforward. Some people have asked if they can optimize exactly what is muted – if the feedback from the community were to indicate a general preference for such a tool, we would certainly explore something like it. In terms of the look-and-feel, we kept it in-line with our OnePlus style – simple but fun, uncluttered. Our aim was to make you feel the friendly and supportive nature of the app. Why 20 minutes? This is another question we’re asked a lot. Why and how did we decide on 20 minutes as the setting for Zen Mode. It’s actually not based on heavy science, hooking people up to monitor how their attention changes, but maybe we can try that in the future! We instead spent a lot of time looking at our user’s behavior, speaking to them, and considering what feels natural. The length of time has to work for people across a wide range of backgrounds and scenarios. Whether you’re a busy parent at home, a student in classes, at work, or just out for a walk on holiday. We can all agree that setting Zen Mode to be 60 minutes would prevent all but the most hardcore from even trying it, and we know that a lot can happen in one hour, so you may need your device. Even 45 minutes is a long time – while that could be perfect for students in a class, it may not be ideal for others. So rather than looking for a long period of time, why not a shorter period, which can then be repeated if needed? 5 minutes is too short, your mind will not have moved on, and if you wanted to extend it you’d have to constantly start the countdown again – not very burdenless or thoughtful. Even 10 minutes feels very short. 15 minutes and 20 minutes felt like they could be right, and after experimentation within our team we decided on 20 minutes. 20 minutes encourages people to try it – it's short enough that you’re not put off from even attempting it, and it’s long enough that you do get to have a proper break in notifications and can re-focus. It also works nicely for repeating a Zen Mode session, so you can repeat easily without feeling like you’re being interrupted often. But as always, this is open to feedback – Zen Mode is by no means finished, we’re really excited to be starting down this path fully and maybe in the future it can be more flexible and let you choose the amount of time you’d like to enable it for. Why is it a challenge? The insight driving this may feel counter-intuitive. We want people to use the app so they don’t use their phone. Essentially, we’re creating gamified elements, but with healthier rules and rewards than other apps and games. There’s also some light psychology going on – if it’s simply an option, many people will pass it by. But if it’s a challenge... it’s more compelling. Keep in mind that this is aimed at encouraging as many people as possible to be more aware over their smartphone usage – we don’t want to create an unwelcome or abrasive attitude towards them. There are some people who need real help with setting limits, and there are some people who just want a quick break – we have to try and support everyone. It’s also important to have the opportunity to back out of Zen mode. In case someone accidentally engages it, or even if someone thinks it’s funny to try and start it on someone else’s phone. While the app is running through the 20 minute countdown, you’ll see the background slowly change colour with the stars shining, and supportive messages appear on the screen. Important information like the date and time is retained, as well as access to emergency calls, and the camera. We did create several designs to experiment with, including a circular countdown, but in the end we felt like we wanted to keep it very simple and calming. Why did we keep access to emergency calls, and the camera? Hopefully emergency calls is self-explanatory. Still being able to take photos is something we carefully considered. Our thought was that with Zen Mode, you will be focusing your attention on something else. And that ‘something else’ could easily be a walk in a new city, enjoying time on the beach, in a garden. Not only might you be doing something different, but you’ll also be experiencing it differently, and seeing it from a new perspective, which you may want to remember and treasure. In the end We then show you your Zen Mode stats – how many times you’ve used it, your total time, what you’re working towards. It’s great to see how quickly the time can build up and remember that you’re entirely capable of controlling your experience. Again, the aim here is to be supportive, introducing elements which mean you can compare against your past performance and look to improve. Zen Mode is only the start of our latest work with mindfulness. We're already working on some updates based on your feedback, so that we can give you more flexibility and control. We’ll continue to update it, so please keep sharing your thoughts - we’ll always look at how we can improve and make your life better.