If you find yourself reaching for your smartphone more than you’d like, you’re not alone. Many of us, caught up in the whirlwind of technological progress, have found ourselves wasting away countless hours each day on our phones.
Although it might be weird to say, the best solution, strangely, may be an app. So, here are five of the best apps to help you fight back against reflective smartphone usage.
1. Your Smartphone’s Built-In Tools
Both Apple and Google have incorporated wellbeing features into their operating systems to help you monitor your usage.
Apple integrated their tool, Screen Time, into iOS 12 and it can be found in your device’s settings. Google’s Digital Wellbeing feature initially debuted as a beta app, but following the release of Android 9.0 Pie, is now a part of the operating system.
Digital Wellbeing is supported on all Google Pixel phones and is available on most devices running Android 9.
Both features allow you to monitor your screen time, broken down by app, and set timers for individual apps. Google’s Digital Wellbeing also includes the blue light filtering Night Light, a grayscale option, and the number of unlocks for that day.
For their part, Apple has introduced Downtime, where you can only use apps you have expressly excluded from restriction.
If you struggle to take breaks from your phone, even when you need focus elsewhere, you may find yourself drawn to Forest.
This deceptively simple app gamifies the challenge. If you need to concentrate on a task, open Forest and plant a seed. The longer you leave your phone, the larger the resulting tree will be. If you can’t resist the urge, the tree will wither and die.
There is also a Firefox add-on based on a custom blacklist, rather than on screen time. If the responsibility of maintaining a virtual tree doesn’t quite do it for you, Forest has an additional trick up its sleeve. For every virtual tree you grow, you earn coins. Those coins can be spent on planting real trees through Forest’s charity partner, Trees for the Future.
Often we find ourselves lost in a YouTube rabbit hole, or endlessly scrolling our social feeds. Before you know it, hours have passed by.
Cultivating awareness of our decisions and thoughts may help us out the next time we get stuck in a hole. Headspace, a guided meditation app, may be the solution. Co-created by Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk, Headspace is filled with guided meditations and courses related to specific activities or emotions.
The benefit of regular meditation is a greater sense of mindfulness and awareness. If you still feel in need of a repeated nudge, you can set up Mindful Moments to notify you throughout the day.
Headspace is a subscription-based app, with almost all sessions behind the paywall. However, it is far from the only choice, as there are many mobile meditation apps that will help you improve your life.
Apple’s Screen Time and Google’s Digital Wellbeing are stepping in the right direction towards reducing phone usage. However, these features don’t give the full picture of your habit.
The app Space takes a more thorough approach to lower your phone usage. Based on how you use your phone, Space categorizes you as one of four types of phone user. This is used to personalize the recommendations and targets you set.
The main features are similar to your phone’s built-in options, but Space also makes it simple to take full control of your phone. For example, just one tap is all it takes to disable your phone’s notifications.
According to Space’s research, their users spend an average of 2 hours and 46 minutes on their phones compared to the US average of 4 hours and 16 minutes. The app is free for all users, but certain features can be unlocked by upgrading to Space Pro.
Although our phones are always with us, they aren’t the only way we distract ourselves throughout the day. RescueTime is a cross-platform time tracking app, available for Android, Linux, macOS, and Windows.
The highlight here is that the way you spend your time is monitored automatically, so you get a realistic picture of your day. You can set goals, and then alarms for when you’ve spent too long on any one site or app.
Each day generates a detailed report for time spent, productivity, and whether you achieved your goals. RescueTime Premium allows you to block distracting websites, track your offline activity, add customizable notifications, and keep a daily highlights journal.
Download: RescueTime for Android, Linux, macOS, Windows (Free, Premium from $9/month)
How Will You Manage Your Smartphone Addiction?
It’s all too easy to get caught up in our phones, drawn away from the real world. But with these five apps by your side, you’ll be equipped to be a more mindful smartphone user. At times, it can seem as though smartphones are ruining your life.
Need more help? Here’s how one of our authors cut their smartphone usage in half.