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Could you live without your smartphone? Addiction to phones is a real problem, 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, while Erez countered by giving reasons why the always-connected world of smartphones is awesome.
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, 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.
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, 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 when you take your phone out of your pocket.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. To be fair, however, my phone is on Wi-Fi at home, which is the place where I would use data the most.
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, but its app-tracking feature was all that I used. My overall time in apps:
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.
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 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.
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.
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, or his explanations on how these phones are ruining your life.
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 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.