How do you stay off your phone? Correction: How can you stay off your Phone? That may sound rhetorical but we are serious and people have become addicted to their smartphone. Look at our lives from the moment we wake up and go to bed, we have our Phone in our hands most of the time. Now they’ve got waterproof Phones and people are taking them to showers now.
But why do we have this habit of checking Phones every other minute?
According to Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, any habit can be broken down into three parts – Cue, Routine, and Reward.
1. Cue: It is the trigger for a habit, when you’re bored or trying to do something important but can’t focus, your mind drifts to a place that is more rewarding. Phone, in this case, is just in your proximity and you just grab it for one quick look.
2. Routine: Now, that you’ve actually held your phone in your hand now, it’s just your old routine of checking apps in order. For example, I always check for the important emails on my phone first, then I move to Instagram and browse a couple of things there and then move to Whatsapp maybe for a quick text.
3. Reward: It’s the final nail that makes a habit hard to quit. The reward is Dopamine and serotonin, every time. These are the happy chemicals that your brain releases to reward itself for doing a good job. It gives us a feeling of joy and contentment and your boredom is gone temporarily.
Now, the best way to break a habit is to break the Cue, in this case, make it difficult for us to check the phone by using apps that temporary block other apps on your iPhone and Android.
The Problem with Do Not Disturb Mode
Android and iOS both come with a built-in Do Not Disturb Mode but it’s not practical. It only to silent the notifications and doesn’t actually prevent you from getting into apps. The apps in the list below are the apps to keep you off your phone.
Apps to Keep You Off Your Phone
1. Digital Wellbeing
Digital Wellbeing is a Google-built product to tackle smartphone overuse. It is present under the Settings menu on all Android-Pie devices. Digital Wellbeing provides you a screen-time window which is 6 hours by default. You can change it to any number according to your convenience. If the particular limit is reached, the phone becomes inaccessible until the next day. In case your Android is on a lower version than Pie, you can try ActionDash. It is a digital wellbeing app for all Android Phones.
Experiments by Google has rolled out six different apps that complement the Digital Wellbeing on your Android. You can read more about them on their website here. These apps get creative in limiting your Screen time by implementing features like showing a huge Counter on the screen that shows the number of times you unlocked your phone. Another app We Flip makes it multiplayer where your entire family has to stay off the phone and if anyone breaks the rule, everyone gets a notification and the session expires.
Pros: Deeper App customization, Insightful data, etc.
Cons: Monitors only on the basis of screen-on time.
2. Forest: Temporarily Block Apps on iPhone and Android
This app takes control of your smartphone and decides when it is time for a break. Once you start the app, you need to set a time. Suppose, 20 mins and now you have to set your phone aside for that time. Meanwhile, a digital plant will grow in the app. In case you feel the urge to pick up your phone, you can do that.
But if you open an unauthorized app, Forest sends you vibration and notification to keep your phone down or else your digital plant would die. It’s actually effective because you at most times just need a nudge to keep from opening an app and this app gives you that. And also, who wants to see a plant die?
Pros: not very intrusive. Intuitive GUI.
Cons: keeps you out of the apps with notifications only.
3. Siempo: the Best free app to limit screen time
Unlike other apps that restrict you from using other apps, Siempo is a launcher app that replaces your Android’s home screen. Once you install the app, it asks for the apps that distract you the most, and then place them further away from the home screen. While all the useful apps like messages and emails will be on the first screen.
One interesting feature of this app is when you set a time period for an app to be used, instead of blocking the app it displays a dialog box that blocks the screen and grows progressively over time. This lets you think about your choice and you can actively break a habit
Pros: Minimalistic Design and intuitive approach in blocking apps
Cons: No option to customize or add essential apps which can be annoying when you can’t access it.
Download Siempo on Android (Free, in-app purchases)
4. Stay Focused: App that locks the phone while studying
Stay Focused lets you filter the apps and put a lock on them. This is to stop you from impulsively using your phone. It is a bit more advanced than the previous apps. For example, It has a strict mode that prevents you from uninstalling the app altogether. This means you have to control your impulse and not use your phone at all. It is a great feature no doubt but you should keep in mind the consequences of enabling super strict mode.
You won’t be able to access the apps that you listed here. And there’s no way to reverse that until the timer runs out. It also blocks notification from those apps and you will receive them the next day. Additionally, it shows you the timeline of your daily and weekly app usage. This gives you an idea of how to curb those habits and be more productive.
Pros: usage stats and app usage data for better insights.
Cons: the usage time is limited to 60 minutes for the free version.
Download Stay Focused on Android (Free, in-app purchases)
5. OFFTIME: block apps at certain times on Android
Offtime, helps you unwind and stay away from your phone. To do this just give the app required permissions and set a list of apps that you don’t want to block like Google Chrome or Skype etc. When you start this app, it takes up the screen and shows you a timer for which you can’t use your phone. The feature that sets it apart is that the app can make itself the Admin and control every aspect. It even stops you from turning on the screen until the timer runs out. You get insights into your usage and activities when you turn this feature on in the app.
When you’re locked out of your phone and you try to open any app that isn’t whitelisted. You get a stern message from the app and you can’t even open the app.
Pros: Robust design, no way to fool the app to get into apps.
Cons: There is no option to set a profile for specific apps.
Download Offtime for Android (Free, in-app purchases) and iOS ($2.99)
6. Help Me Focus
Help Me Focus is an app blocker with many advanced features. It not only lets you block apps to keep you off your phone but it can also create a profile. Now in this profile, you can select days and the time slot when the app would run and block apps and notifications. The profile automatically deactivates once the time slot is over. This makes the whole process automated and you can focus on more important things.
The app has an instant block button as well to permanently block apps. And in case you still can’t resist the urge to check the notifications, there is an inbuilt failsafe which is known as the super strict mode. It prevents uninstallation of Help Me Focus and modification of the profile when it is active.
Pros: Automatic app blocking process, super strict mode.
Cons: You can still see the muted notifications in the app.
Download Help Me Focus for Android (free)
7. Freedom: Block apps at certain times iPhone
Freedom is more of a content blocker that blocks most of the websites on Safari. However, you can block apps too in the paid version. It is available only for iOS now and has a very simple UI. You start a session by setting the time period and choosing the websites to block. You can customize or make a new blocklist for your content that needs to be blocked. There is a locked mode when enabled would prevent you from stopping the sessions and making it harder for you to quit the app.
Pros: best for blocking social media websites in Safari.
Cons: can’t really control and stop other apps.
Download Freedom on iOS (Free, in-app Purchases)
8. Flipd: App that blocks social media while studying
Quitting is easier when you have your friend to join you. Flipd takes advantage of this and lets you create pacts with your friends to quit your phone together. You log in with your social media, look for your friends and do this activity together in a group. In case you want to do it alone, there’s also that option in the app. Flipd also has a paid version that provides greater insights into your activities.
Pros: you can create groups and compare your progress.
Cons: can’t set a timer for more than 30 minutes in the free version.
9. Space (Android/iOS)
Unlike other apps, Space doesn’t believe that filtering an app will help you, you would soon find an alternative habit. Like when your toys were taken away during study time, staring at the wall seemed more interesting than actually studying. Or you have a habit of compulsively turning the screen on to check if there is something a new notification.
What Space does is, it lets you set a time limit for the usage of your phone and also the number of times you are allowed to turn on the screen. Once you set this and turn it on, the app silently counts everything in the background. Let’s say you’ve reached the maximum number of unlocks per day, it’ll send you a notification that you’ve run out of unlocks. You can also compare your progress for up to 60 days with your friends.
Pros: intuitive layout and approach.
Cons: not very effective at reducing app usage time with non-intrusive notifications.
What Daywise does is it hoards the notifications from the app and releases them regular intervals of time.
It categorizes apps into 2 sections – Instant apps and Batch apps. Instant apps are allowed to send you notifications at any time. These are your calling and messaging apps. But, the notifications from Batch apps will reach you at a certain pre-defined time. And, this time could be your lunch hours or regular break time. Furthermore, you can add exceptions for people in the batch apps. The basic fundamental of this app is to provide you notifications at a particular time so you can better concentrate on your work.
Pros: Different approach, customization of notifications, etc.
Cons: Doesn’t work for media screen-on time, etc.
Download Daywise on Android (Free)
Which is the best App to Keep You Off Your Phone?
We presented you with a list of apps to keep you off your phone, the apps listed on this page help you break the habit by either suggesting you keep away from the phone with notifications and stats, others are more controlling and block your access to apps.
Alternatively, you can also lock the app with a big password and save it in the password manager, every time you want to open the app, you will have to access the password manager first.