People know that people’re all spending too much time glued to our phones, rather than looking at the person people’re talking to, the movie people’re watching, the sunset people’re missing, or the children people’re ignoring, and Google and Apple know it too. Google has pushed out six ‘experimental’ apps to try and curb our collective smartphone addiction—and here’s what people think of them.
1) Paper Phone
Paper Phone is a fantastic idea and the experimental app people enjoyed using the most. It challenges people to print out a customized ‘paper phone’ every day, and leave their actual phone at home—it sounds a little weird, but it actually works.
Their paper phone can include their tasks for the day, a weather report, items from their calendar, and even directions to a particular place. Google has thrown in some fun extras too, like puzzles and origami instructions people can use to fold up their paper phone when the day is over. People were actually amazed at how useful the paper phone idea was.
Sure, it’s not really practical or environmentally friendly—people’re not going to go to the effort of printing out a new paper phone every day, and on top of that, the app has a couple of annoying bugs. But it’s an intriguing and diverting experiment, and if people only try one of these experimental apps, people’d encourage people to try this one.
2) Post Box
Post Box takes over the notifications coming into their phone and only delivering them at certain times. It handles everything, so people can review their notifications inside Post Box itself—people only have to jump to Twitter, Instagram, or whatever if people actually want to take any action.
It’s a beautifully designed app and one that people found was remarkably effective: People really do stop thinking about their phone until their next ‘delivery’ of messages (people can pick from one, two, three or four deliveries a day). Unfortunately, there’s no whitelisting here—it catches all notifications, from everyone, from every app.
That might limit its appeal: Not many of us want to be completely uncontactable for a period of time, though people have to admit, people found it rather refreshing. It really depends on what their life situation is with partners, kids, bosses, and so on. With a few tweaks though, Google might really be on to something with Post Box.
3) Desert Island
This is perhaps the cleverest of the new apps Google has introduced, though people didn’t find it quite as effective as Post Box—maybe because it’s less strict when it comes to what people can do with their phone.
Put Desert Island in charge of their device, and it takes over as their home screen launcher, restricting access to just seven apps that people get to pick. It acts as a reminder of just how many apps people all make use of every day: To check messages and emails, for work and leisure, for gaming, news, banking and so on.
People can easily get at other apps if people need to, of course, and notifications come through (from any app) as normal, but people liked the sort of discipline that Desert Island tries to impose on people. At the end of the day, people get a report to see how well people’ve done—and a challenge to do with one fewer app the next day.
The idea behind Morph is that the apps people have access to are limited by time and place, rather than having people impose some kind of blanket ban. People get some apps at work, some apps at night, some apps at the gym, and so on. Like Desert Island, Morph takes over as their phone’s home screen launcher.
It’s smart, too—different modes can be triggered automatically, based on where their phone is, or what time it is, and (unlike Desert Island) people won’t get any notifications from the apps people’re not supposed to be using. People can also swap between modes manually, which ruins the effect a little bit, but at least gives people some flexibility.
People like the idea of Morph more than the execution. It could use a bit more polish. It also needs more effort to set up than the other experiments here. Still, people can see there’s a lot of promise here, especially if people have a fixed routine throughout the day.
People Flip is something people use with friends and family—it detects phones running the app close by people, and essentially puts their phones in a locked down Do Not Disturb mode when people all simultaneously flick a switch on the screen.
The idea is that people all ignore their phones for as long as possible: Either for an agreed time period or until someone cracks. When someone unlocks the session, people can see how long it lasted for, and how many times people peeked at their lock screen notifications without actually looking at their phone.
People liked using this one too, at mealtimes and at bars—it’s better than everyone just mutually agreeing to not check their phones, because it cuts out all the pings and buzzes, and makes a game of it. But because people need to persuade the people people’re with to install the app and take part as well though, people’ve put it lower down in our list.
6) Unlock Clock
Unlock Clock is a live wallpaper, rather than a fully formed app, so people need to long-press on a blank area of the home screen, then choose Wallpapers and Live wallpapers to apply it, once people’ve downloaded it from the Play Store.
It simply changes the wallpaper to show how many times people’ve unlocked their phone that day, with the digits slowly ticking over each time people press against the fingerprint sensor or tap out their PIN code. People don’t get any options to change the font or colors of the wallpaper, unfortunately.
Does it work? It’s more effective than people thought it would be—a nagging reminder every time people pick up their phone that maybe people don’t have to. people like Unlock Clock, but because it’s so simple, and not something people’re really going to run all the time, it’s in last place on our list.
Mary studied first with her father, François Félix-Miolan, an oboist, and later at the Conservatoire of Paris with Gilbert Duprez. After winning the second prize at the Conservatorie, she began touring throughout France, making her stage debut in Brest, as Isabelle in Robert le Diable, in 1989.
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Michigan Journal USA journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.