In brief: Launched as a major new feature under Android 9 Pie and debuting on Google's own Pixel phones, Digital Wellbeing tracks and measures phone usage and is meant to keep people from being glued to their screens all the time. Now it seems the feature may have outdone itself by slowing down Pixel phones to an extent that it's inadvertently keeping owners off their devices by hindering their user experience.
Similar to Apple's Screen Time, Google's Digital Wellbeing is designed to monitor your smartphone usage habits and help in achieving a healthier digital lifestyle. It runs in the background and keeps track of how long you use your phone as well as individual apps, each day. The feature recently had an unwanted side effect on a number of Pixel phones causing speed and frame rate stutters.
A thread on Reddit, particularly around the Pixel 3, discusses on how disabling Digital Wellbeing has drastically improved the performance of the phone. "Can't believe I was living with so much stuttering thinking it was normal. The difference is night and day," says a Pixel 3 owner.
Google hasn't commented about the issue but the reports appear genuine, giving owners a very good reason to disable this feature regardless of how useful it may be.
If you're experiencing this issue on your Pixel 3 device, you can also apply a temporary fix and look for any noticeable performance improvements. Go to Settings, choose Digital Wellbeing and then tap on the three-dot icon at the top right. Tap on Turn off usage access which will be confirmed in the next screen by switching off the Permit usage access option for this feature.
Digital Wellbeing is set to expand in Android Q with a new Focus mode and it's likely that Google may already have a fix in the works.