In an era where there is an app for every possible purpose, there is a category that has been gaining popularity: apps that allow you to unplug from using your smartphone and other apps We reviewed several such app blockers and find people use them to spend less time on their phones and generally, increase productivity.
If you happen to sink an inordinate amount of time on your smartphone, we have shortlisted 5 applications that help keep you focused.
Price: $2.99 on iOS, Free with in-app purchases on Android Launched: 2015
Offtime tracks device usage and helps you to monitor your usage habits. If you find yourself constantly distracted by a particular application, you can set restrictions to access it. For Android users, it also allows you to block calls, texts and notifications that may disturb you for a chosen period of time and choose the selected people who can still get through to you during your downtime. If you do better as part of a group invite your friends to a shared Offtime session.
Similar to Offtime, Moment automatically tracks your iPhone and iPad usage, helps you create daily limits on phone usage and sends you reminders when you approach those limits. The overall goal of Moment is not to get you to put down your phone completely but to create a healthy balance in your life, as such it does not have the feature of blocking applications.
Price: Free, with in-app purchases on both Android and iOS Launched: 2015
What’s unique about Flipd is its two different tracking modes. You can refrain from using your phone using a gamified “casual lock” setting that requires self-control on your part, or a “full lock” setting that allows you to lock yourself out of your phone and hide your applications. There will still be access to some basic functions such as calls and texts, but your social media applications will stay hidden until the timer runs out.
Price: Free, with in-app purchases on Android only Launched: 2016
AppDetox helps you understand your phone usage habits and set different perimeters in terms of how you use them. It offers the features to limit your number of application launches, usage time and restrict accessibility according to your set time range. Afraid of breaking your own rules? You have the option of setting a password to protect your rules with a PIN number as well. Though this requires some form of self control as well, an alternative solution is to ask a friend to set your password without telling you what it is.
Price: Free for trial period, or sign up for their monthly plan at $6.99/month or yearly plan at $2.42/month, available on Android, iOS, Windows and MacBook Launched: 2011
Through the use of a VPN profile, Freedom helps you block select applications and websites for up to 8 hours. It also features scheduling of recurring sessions on your devices to build productive habits. Similar to AppDetox, it allows you to enter locked modes to prevent you from modifying your Freedom sessions.
We have also reviewed reams of user feedback on these applications and many users commented that they can bypass the app restrictions by simply deleting it. As such, these applications do not offer an absolute solution to manage your phone addiction and they are most suited to users who are determined to improve their productivity and exercise some self control.
In light of this, it may be more useful to work on users’ motivations towards using their phone excessively instead of just depending on these applications but using them is definitely a start to a more phone-free lifestyle.
Among the list of blocker apps, our favorite is Freedom as it is easy to use, works as described, available across both mobile and desktop platforms and fulfills its purpose of preventing distractions by time-wasting apps and websites.