Addiction, Quantified: How I Measured My Smartphone Usage For A Week

Ben Stegner 15-07-2014

Could you live without your smartphone? Addiction to phones is a real problem How To Cure Smartphone Addiction (A Smartphone Detox) Smartphone addiction is real, and you could be affected. Read More , and lots of folks are affected. This video, which has made its way around the Internet in the past few months, puts into perspective how rampant phone overuse has gotten.


A few MakeUseOf writers have shared their thoughts on the matter: Yaara felt that we’re becoming too reliant on smartphones The Smartphone Syndrome: Are We Becoming Too Addicted To Our Phones For Our Own Good? [Opinion] Let me start by saying that this is not a rant against smartphones, or a call for everyone to go back to Nokia 6070s. I think smartphones are basically awesome and I have nothing against... Read More , while Erez countered by giving reasons why the always-connected world of smartphones is awesome Why Smartphones Are Awesome: The Case For Checking Email All The Time A few weeks ago, we had a post published where Yaara wrote why she thinks many people use smartphones way too much, and why they may not be all that great. While many of Yaara’s... Read More .

To see if these arguments are truth, it’s necessary to get a reading of how much a person actually uses their phone. Surprisingly, some authors at MakeUseOf don’t own a smart device Why This Technology Blogger Does Not Own a Smartphone [Opinion] "Do you have a smartphone yet?" It's a question my friends ask often, and it's a reasonable one to ask. I make my entire living writing about technology, explaining how to use software and interviewing... Read More , but I do and so decided to take up the task. For one week, I installed apps and set up counters to measure my usage. Read on to hear how I did it and how it resulted.

The Measurements

It’s tough to accurately gauge smartphone usage, since there are so many variables, but I used a number of apps to gather as much data as possible.

First, I used Tasker, which you can use to do pretty much anything on Android Tasker For Android: A Mobile App That Caters to Your Every Whim When it comes to device automation, there's just one 900-lb gorilla in the Android space, and that's Tasker. True, Llama is an awesome free automation app, but it doesn't aim for Tasker's full power. Tasker... Read More , to create a variable called ScreenOnCount that incremented by one every time I unlocked the screen (whether using a PIN or just sliding to unlock). I made sure to make the criteria unlocking the phone, not just turning the screen on, since I use the excellent Gravity Screen app, which turns your screen on automatically Make Your Phone Turn On Automatically Just When You Need It Your phone is resting on the table; you pick it up, and it flicks on. You didn't press anything -- it just knows. Read More when you take your phone out of your pocket.

Tasker Screen Count


This variable was appended to a text file that I created, so each time I unlocked my phone, the list created a new line and added the new number. It’s not the prettiest solution, but it worked!

Next, I needed to measure how many texts and calls I made, and how much mobile data I used. For this, I used Joiku Phone Usage [No Longer Available]. This app worked as advertised, so there’s not much more to tell.


Finally, to measure the amount of time I spent in each app per day, I utilized Screen Time Parental Control. Obviously, I wasn’t using it for its intended purpose – to measure and restrict your child’s smartphone usage – but it accomplished what I needed.


With these three tools, my quest for measuring my phone usage was complete. I only had to use my phone normally for a week. Now that a week is up, let’s look at my results and see how much I use my phone.

The Data

Let’s take a look at the data and analyze it a bit.

The total number of times that I unlocked my screen during the one-week period was 553, or an average of 79 times per day. Before I conducted the test, I would have guessed that number to be higher, as I typically pull my phone out to do quick tasks like checking my SMS messages, looking up a Wikipedia entry, or double-checking the definition of a word. I would guess that 79 times per day is below the average.

Phone Guy


From Joiku, we can get some more detailed usage statistics. I won’t share every aspect that the app tracks, since it gets pretty in-depth, even showing who you called and texted the most. In the week, I made 25 calls totaling 81 minutes, but I rarely use my phone to make calls The Ultimate Guide To Making A Call Using Your iPhone When it comes to making phone calls on your iPhone, you're not just limited to the built-in apps and features. Read More .

Joiku Summary - With Calls

I sent and received 570 text messages in the week, or about 81 a day, receiving more than I sent. This is likely because of receiving annoying Twitter notifications and automated alerts from IFTTT to get information, but not replying to their messages. Assuming a four-week month, I was on track to have 2,280 SMS messages pass through my phone this month.

Joiku Text Volume


Finally, I used 151.6MB of data, which isn’t much. If I had continued that pattern, only 606.4MB of data would have been used in a month, which is much less than the 2GB that many plans allow. If you’ve had trouble staying below your data cap, try Joiku to track and help reduce your data usage Saving Mobile Data: 5 Clever Ways To Reduce Data Usage If you’re on a limited mobile data plan, you may find opening your bill to be harrowing experience. Is there an overage charge? How much? And why was there so much data used? While the... Read More . To be fair, however, my phone is on Wi-Fi at home, which is the place where I would use data the most.

Joiku Data Usage

Most of the usage came from YouTube, which makes sense since streaming video is data-heavy. Overall, I was light on the data usage.

Time In Each App

Screen Time was key in tracking how much time I spent in each app. It’s meant to give parents more control over their kids’ phones The Best Accessories to Child-Proof Your Smartphone Planning to hand your phone to your kids? Here are the best accessories to child-proof and protect your Android device. Read More , but its app-tracking feature was all that I used. My overall time in apps:

Screen Time Overall Usage

On average, I used my phone for about two hours each day. Over a 31-day month, that’s 2.6 days, or 8.4% of a month spent on my phone. When you put it in those terms, my usage sounds more excessive. Evidently, I do a lot on my phone that isn’t texting or calling. Let’s see a sample of my most-used apps for a few days.

Screen Time App Usage

Screen Time App Usage 2

Google Play Books was a big culprit, since I had been reading an eBook on my phone for several of the tested nights. YouTube was as well, since I used it during lunch to catch up on videos that had been in my Watch Later list Bookmark & Save YouTube Videos For Later With Video History for YouTube [Chrome] You can think of this Chrome extension as the “Read-It-Later” for YouTube videos. It performs nearly the same job for YouTube videos as does the so named browser add-on does for webpages. The Chrome extension... Read More for months.

Maps came from using GPS navigation while driving, and StumbleUpon, which lets you find cool content on the Web, was from being bored.

Bored Lady


This was an interesting experiment in how much the average smartphone user is really on their phone in a week. Though I’m a technology author, I don’t think that my usage was unreasonable. Truly, I spend more time writing and on social media on my computer than my phone. Also, I don’t use Instagram, which tends to be used more on-the-go, although you can use it without a mobile device How to Upload Photos to Your Instagram Account Without a Phone You don't need a smartphone to upload content to Instagram. Here are five awesome workarounds you might not know about. Read More .

These statistics aren’t meant to sway your opinion on smartphones, just to give some insight on what we’re actually using our devices for. If you’re looking for more opinionated pieces, check out Dave’s reasons not to buy a smartphone 5 Reasons Not To Buy A Smartphone You may feel pressured into buying a smartphone, even though you're perfectly happy with your (so-called) dumbphone. Don't be. Read More , or his explanations on how these phones are ruining your life How Smartphones Are Ruining Your Life Your smartphone could be ruining your life, or at least have the capacity to do so in the future. Read More .

If you’d like to perform this research on yourself, it’s not hard if you’re using an Android phone. Screen Time is a free trial for two weeks, and Joiku is also free. Tasker will cost you $6, but it’s well worth purchasing You Should Buy These: 5 Android Apps That Are Worth Every Penny, And Why There is a vast ocean of Android apps on Google Play and it can be daunting to browse, especially if you're new to Android in general. Free apps are great and all, and there are... Read More since you’ll certainly use it after you’re done measuring your usage. Let us know your results if you duplicate the experiment, even if it’s just for a day or two!

Do you think you’re addicted to your phone? Are you for or against these mobile devices? What’s the worst case of smartphone addiction you’ve ever seen? Share your reflections in the comments; I want to hear what you think.

Image credits: typexnick via morgueFile, tat via morgueFile


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  1. Julie
    October 20, 2014 at 3:51 am

    Me too, Jim. I need a how-to for iOS. Thanks, Ben!

  2. Jim
    August 4, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    I'd like to see someone do a similar article using iOS. I;d like to measure my phone usage and the usage of my boys. I'm afraid of what we'd find. ;-)

  3. Jim
    August 4, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Very nice. I'd like someone to do a similar article for iOS. I need to do an assessment of my useage and my kids usage. I'm afraid it would be very eye-opening to us all.

    • Ben S
      August 4, 2014 at 11:12 pm

      Thank you, Jim! I don't use iOS day-to-day, but other writers do. I'll pass your idea along!

  4. Muhammad Adil
    July 18, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    This is a pretty good article.I needed to find a way to track my data & app usage more accurately

    • Ben S
      July 19, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      Thank you for commenting! If you try this method, let us know how it turns out!