Smartphones are simultaneously one of the best and worst technological advances of the 21st century. As the old saying goes: “You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.”
Most people spend too much time staring down at their phone screen. Sure, it might be convenient to read the news while you’re on the bus commuting to work, but using it during a family meal at a nice restaurant? That might be going too far.
If you’re one of the millions of people who would like to cut down on smartphone usage, it would help if you could see where all the time was going.
For that, you’ll need to install some usage trackers. Here are the best apps that will help slash the amount of time you spend on your smartphone.
QualityTime is arguably the best all-around usage tracker in the Google Play Store. It logs a vast array of stats, including everything from how often you entered your PIN and started using your device to how long you spent using each individual app.
The longer you use the app, the more detailed the results become. For example, you will be able to find out what times of day you use your phone the most and which apps you access most frequently at specific times of day.
QualityTime also has plenty of features to help you curb your use. They include alerts when you’ve spent a pre-defined amount of time using a certain app and “restricted periods” when it will lock you out of distracting apps.
You can use the app without creating an account, but if you do sign up, you’ll be able to access usage data for the previous six months.
Download — QualityTime (Free)
2. App Usage
App Usage is an alternative to QualityTime — the list of features is broadly similar. The two apps have also been downloaded a comparable number of times, suggesting they are equally popular among users.
The app has a few standout features that deserve a special mention. Firstly, lots of users will find the sortable app lists useful. Instead of the usual “Sort by Size” and “Sort Alphabetically,” you will be able to sort by usage time, frequency of use, average time of use, a host of other useful metrics.
Secondly, the app’s ability to manage all the other installations on your device comes in handy. It has a one-click install feature and keeps a complete log of all the installs and uninstalls you perform.
Lastly, App Usage can display reminders about your usage both as a widget and a notification, thus helping to keep you on track.
Download — App Usage (Free)
3. Time Used [No Longer Available]
Time Used’s best feature is its categorization of apps. As well as listing each app individually, you can see how much combined time you spent playing games, using social media apps, browsing the web, and so on.
It also offers a stunning collection of graphs and charts to help you visualize your usage. Rather than just showing stats from one week to the next, the graphs display each week’s usage laid over each other. They let you see how your behaviors have changed over time.
If you wish, you can set up a live timer in your notification bar. It will show how much time you’ve spent on your phone on a given day.
4. Time Lock [No Longer Available]
Time Lock is made by the same group of developers as Time Used. Unlike the other three apps I’ve discussed so far, this app uses more authoritarian methods to try and curb your smartphone usage.
They include a lock and a countdown timer. When your phone is locked, you can only make and receive phone calls. Time-wasting apps like Twitter and Facebook will be blocked.
You can shake your phone to circumnavigate the lock — but you’ll look a bit odd. The more times you break the lock, the more times you need to shake your phone. Do you really want to shake your phone 100 times in public just so you can look at Facebook? Thought not.
Forest completely forgoes any data collation and presentation of facts in favor of gamification.
The premise is simple. At the start of your day, you plant a seed. During the day, the seed starts growing into a tree. But there’s a catch: if you leave the app to look at Facebook or any other procrastination-inducing app, the tree will start to die. Spend too much time outside the app, and it will die completely, forcing you to start again.
And don’t worry about business-critical apps you need to access; you can customize your own whitelist. Just don’t cheat and add Facebook!
Download — Forest (Free)
6. BreakFree Cell Phone Addiction
BreakFree Cell Phone Addiction is the final third-party tool on my list. Like the other similar apps, it tracks things such as how many times you’ve opened each app and call patterns.
It also provides plenty of graphs and stats, and notifies you if you spend more than a pre-set amount of time on apps you’re addicted to.
However, it warrants a place on this list thanks to two unique features:
- Phone Management Tools — Although App Usage can uninstall apps, BreakFree takes phone management to a new level. You can block notifications, disable the internet, automatically reject phone calls, and more. Best of all, you can program these functions to happen at certain times of the day.
- Addiction Score — The app has a built-in algorithm that calculates your addiction score in real-time. The less time you spend on apps like Snapchat and Reddit, the better your score will be.
Download — BreakFree Cell Phone Addiction (Free)
7. Android Battery App
Remember, your phone already has a tool that’ll help you track your usage and adjust your behavior — the Battery Usage app.
Sure, it’s not as feature-rich as the other tools I’ve introduced you to, but if you don’t fancy sharing all your usage stats with a third-party app, it can give you a clue as to how long you’ve spent on individual apps since you last charged your phone.
To see your phone’s battery usage, go to Settings > Battery. Tap on an app’s name to get a more detailed statistical breakdown. For example, in the image below you can see I’ve hardly used any apps on my phone today. My most used app — reddit is fun — has been running for 15 minutes.
Which Apps Do You Use?
I’ve introduced you to a range of different apps. Each will suit a different type of user. If you’re “carrot”-orientated, try a stats-based one, or if you’re driven by the “stick,” grab a copy of Time Lock. If you like games, Forest is for you. And finally, if you don’t like third-party apps, stick with the native battery app.
(Of course, switching to a dumb phone can also help you fight smartphone addiction, but remember, when it comes to security, smartphones have an edge over dumb phones.)
If you’re looking for more encouragement, take a look at these free apps that remind you to take a break from your screens. And here’s how one of our writers cut smartphone usage in half: