How many times a day do you idly pick up your phone and start scrolling? Whether you’re committed to dozens of WhatsApp group chats or can’t stop checking Instagram, you’re certainly not alone.
Indeed, it seems more and more of us are beginning to understand the damaging effects of mindless smartphone usage – and app developers are responding with tech that can monitor and help limit that.
Read on for six apps designed to help slash the amount of time you waste staring into the palm of your hand.
Getting into a state of hyper-focus isn’t always easy, but if deadlines won’t force you to put down your phone, being responsible for the destruction of a virtual forest might just do it.
Forest is specifically designed to keep you productive. You set a timer for up to two hours at a time, and the app plants a digital seed into the ground when you’re ready to knuckle down and do some hard work. In the time that your phone is left untouched, the seed grows into a lush leafy tree – a visual representation of your phone-free progress. If you leave the app to answer a text though, your trees will wither away and die, forcing you to start all over again. Trust us, it’s not a pretty sight.
We all know the easiest way to stay focused is to remove distractions, but sometimes turning your phone face-down isn’t enough to stop you from being tempted to touch it. That’s where Flipd comes in. It essentially locks down your phone for timed periods, so you physically can’t access apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.
The ‘Full Lock’ feature hides all of these apps, plus news, online games, and e-mails, while the timer is in place. Basic features like incoming calls, text messages, the weather, and calculator functions are accessible, so you can still reach people if it’s really necessary. The app also records all of your phone-free time so that you can keep a check on your daily, weekly, and monthly stats.
If a bit of friendly competition is the best way to keep you accountable, this app is the download for you. There’s a feature that allows you to go head-to-head with your friends in a timed digital detox. As well as gamifying your smartphone usage, Mute also records your pick-ups and time browsing, helping you better understand where your time is being spent.
Finally, it sends motivational notifications to your lock screen about your progress, so that you can track your daily time offline without having to unlock your phone.
Space is a beautifully designed “personalized behavior change program” that lays bare the ugly truth of your smartphone addiction. The app tracks how long you spend on your phone, helping you move forward by setting daily goals and comparing your behavior with friends and family.
The clean and simple format is designed to coach you through smartphone addiction, without adding any extra digital clutter to your life. For instance, there are no ads and it provides users with just one tip per day to educate and inspire. The developers also purposefully limited the number of people you can invite to track to four, as they believe habits are broken in small mindful groups. The basic app is free but you can pay extra for more features, like an eight-day course on breaking digital habits.
Siempo gives your phone a zen makeover, simplifying the user-interface design so it doesn’t constantly demand your attention. The first thing it does is rip out your old homescreen and turn it into a relaxing interface. You won’t see dozens of badged icons anymore but one clear and calming picture of a mountainous vista instead. You can also add a personalized motivational message or mantra that appears every time you unlock the phone.
The best thing about Siempo though is its alert handling. Instead of letting apps bombard and overwhelm you with notifications in real-time, it lets you batch the alerts so they come through in timed stages instead. You can opt for every half hour, once an hour, or even just once a day. When you do want to access a menu of apps, it strips them back to simple greyscale icons without any of the red “read me” notifications that encourage mindless checking. Android-only Siempo is currently in beta-testing stage so it’s free to download from Google Play.
If you spend a lot of time scrolling while sedentary on the sofa, this Android-only app is a good incentive to get moving. Steplock marries together two common areas of self-improvement: decreasing screen time and upping daily activity. You simply plug in a list of apps that are most likely to hoover up your time, and your phone won’t let you access them until you’ve reached a specific number of steps per day.
The free version allows you to lock yourself out of two apps, but if you pay for an upgrade, you can add in more. That early evening Instagram scroll will never feel so well deserved.