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, can’t stop checking Instagram, or couldn’t possibly get through 24 hours without checking Donald Trump’s latest tirade on Twitter – you’re certainly not alone.
Our own Ryan Tubridy went on his own digital detox last year, and sang its praises.
It seems more and more of us are cottoning on to the damaging effects of being too smartphone dependent – and app developers are responding, with tech that can monitor and help limit usage.
Need some of this in your life? Here are six apps designed to help slash the amount of time you waste staring into the palm of your hand…
1. Forest (forestapp.cc)
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.
This quirky app 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 to some hard graft. 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. There’s also a library of relaxing music and natural sounds.
2. Flipd (flipdapp.co)
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 getting 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 emails, while the timer is in place. Basic features like incoming calls, text messages, the weather and calculator functions are still accessible, so you can still reach people if it’s totally necessary. The app also records all of your phone-free time so you can keep a check on your daily, weekly and monthly stats.
3. Mute (justmuteit.com)
If a bit of a 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 mates 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 your weaknesses and where your time is going.
Another nice feature: It sends motivational notifications to your lock screen about your progress, so you can track your daily time offline without having to unlock your phone.
4. Space (findyourphonelifebalance.com)
Space is a beautifully designed ‘personalised behaviour change programme’ 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 behaviour with friends and family.
The clean and simple format’s designed to coach you through smartphone addiction, without adding any extra digital clutter into 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.
5. Siempo (getsiempo.com)
Siempo gives your phone a zen makeover, simplifying the 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 personalised 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’s 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.
5. Steplock (play.google.com)
The HSE says we should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week – but plenty of people fail to hit to hit this target and digital distractions don’t help. If you spend a lot of time scrolling while sedentary on the sofa, this Android-only app is a good incentive to get moving. It 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 upgraded you can add in more. That early evening Instagram scroll will never feel so well deserved…