Outsmarting Your Smartphone
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because with everyone talking about digital addiction and information overload, you might just want to keep tabs on your screen time.
By Vignesh Ramachandran
Our world is agog over smartphones. Turn on the TV, power up any news app or tune into any happy hour conversation, and you’re bound to hear about the new iPhone 6, Apple’s latest mobile operating system or a debate over whether Samsung is better. We love those portable devices that live alongside the lint in our pockets or purses — so much so that we’re willing to wait in line for hours to buy one or stay up until 3 a.m. just to be the first to preorder a new model.
Can you guess how often you check your phone each day?
So it’s fair to say we’re glued to those little rectangular screens, but can you guess how often you check your phone each day? Ten times? Maybe 15? Nah, probably more.
Stop wondering. There’s a new app called Checky (free for iOS and Android) that tabulates how many times you check your phone over the course of the day. For it to work, you have to keep the app running in the background and enable location tracking to map where you check your phone. I used the app for a day and found my number was 31, but the geolocation was a bit off, since my map included places where I supposedly checked my phone but hadn’t visited that day. Checky also gives you the option of being notified at noon each day with the number of times you checked your phone the previous day.
So why even download something that seems akin to a how-many-doughnuts-have-I-eaten tracker or how-many-hours-of-trashy-reality-TV-have-I-watched tracker? Sometimes we’d rather not have the harsh truths about our guilty pleasures spelled out — on a daily basis. But digital addiction is a pressing topic of conversation these days. And you’ve no doubt heard of those trendy digital detox camps (yours truly has even been to one). Clearly our smartphone infatuation has some claiming it’s a troubling societal issue.
Checky is trying to make us aware of something we’re in denial about doing as often as we do.
Checky was created by the appropriately named Calm.com, a startup whose mission is “to reduce stress and increase calm in an increasingly stressed-out world.” They are the same San Francisco-based folks who brought us a website allowing users to decompress by staring at moving clouds and listening to soothing music in a “guided calm.”
Keep in mind that this app doesn’t do anything revolutionary. Counting the number of times you wake up your phone from its sleeping state is not that different from fitness wearables, which, if you really think about it, are glorified pedometers. When it comes to its core competency (steps, not sleep), my Fitbit Flex doesn’t measure much more than a $20 pedometer. But the sleek user experience, social component and digital log of how many steps I take make it far more compelling to use than a boring LCD pedometer. And Checky is trying to make us aware of something we’re in denial about doing as often as we do.
True, there have been studies showing that taking microbreaks throughout the workday to use your smartphone could make you happier. But when do those microbreaks add up to a macro problem?
Maybe it’s time for some smartphone supervision.