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A new Android feature that won’t let you fool yourself? Tell me more

Android heads up

Google’s new Heads Up feature is a digital wellness tool that can prevent you from running into light poles and other pedestrians.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

We’ve all seen a hilarious video of someone walking down the street and bumping into a light pole staring at his phone. Or maybe it wasn’t a video and you were the person. Google wants to help you avoid starring in the next installment of America’s Funniest Home Videos – or avoid near misses involving cars, bicycles and other pedestrians – with a new feature called Heads Up, now rolling out to its Digital Wellbeing Android app.

After you turn on Heads-up, your phone will periodically display a warning reminding you to keep your head up when it detects you are walking and using your phone at the same time.

Heads Up is currently rolling out to Pixel phones, as noted by XDA developers. After checking a few different ones Android phones on my desk, I only see it on Pixel phones too. Google often uses its own Pixel line as a testbed before sharing features more widely with other Android phones, so even if you don’t have Heads-up right now, you should pay close attention because you might see it soon. (I contacted Google to clarify which devices fold in the Heads Up feature for news.) Here’s how it works.

search heads up settings

The next time you use your phone while walking, don’t run into anything you shouldn’t.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani / CNET

How to set Heads Up to avoid being unaware

Open the Settings app on your phone and scroll until you find it Digital wellbeing and parental controls choice; tap it. Scroll to the bottom of the different settings where you should see a new one Pay attention option, just above the toggle switch to add a digital wellness app icon to your app drawer. Select Pay attention and follow the installation instructions.

You must allow Digital Wellbeing to view your physical activity so it can identify when you walk. Optionally, you can give the app permission to view your current location at any time. This allows it to identify when you’re in – it’s unclear if that means it will be more or less proactive to remind you to look up, but let’s hope for the former.

With Pay attention enabled, you will receive an alert when you are using your phone and detect that you are walking around. I walked around my house for over 20 minutes scrolling through Reddit and Twitter along with sending emails and texts and not triggering the alert. My only guess is that Google assumes I know my house well enough not to run into a wall while walking around. My opinion? Google doesn’t know me that well.


It only takes a few taps to configure Heads Up.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Join the beta of digital wellness

If you have a Pixel and don’t quite see the Heads Up feature yet, you can join the Digital Wellbeing beta program, which should activate the new feature on your phone. Join the beta by going to the app’s Play Store listing and installing it.

You can always leave the beta at any time by visiting the same Play Store page and delete yourself from it, but I’ve always joined a beta that Google has for its Android apps and haven’t run into any major issues, with the added bonus that you can check out features before they roll out widely.

If you are curious about what else you can use Digital Wellbeing for, Read more about it here. Check out all hidden features every Android phone has that too. Finally Android 12 is coming later this year and we already are tracked down new features you’ll enjoy using.

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