Eleven hours and 28 minutes. That’s how much time I spent on my smartphone last week.
That’s longer than some part-time jobs. While your usage may be as much or higher, you need some context before deciding to swear off your smartphone and join the Amish. Games that are worth playing take a while, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re foregoing something else important. And if some of the time was spent reading an article or book, well that’s (probably) not frying your brain.
New Android app QualityTime excels at digging deeper into your smartphone habit. It quantifies your application usage, not only helping you know which apps are burning up your screen time, but also forcing you to take a break if needed.
QualityTime isn’t the first to try this, but it’s the best-looking and performing so far. It takes advantage of the specific kind of background data Android accumulates while you use your device—there are much greater restrictions on developers’ access to this data on iOS.
Good design makes you want to use it
The first thing you’ll probably notice with QualityTime is how well it’s designed. While not necessarily Material Design, it’s very clean and really helps you focus on the content.
The interface strings app icons into a timeline, grouping them together and highlighting how long you used apps in that block of time. Touching one of those groups drills down even more specifically, down to how many seconds you used each app.
Touch an app icon for a graph showing your usage of that specific app over time. If you find it’s something you want to back off, then you can set a usage alert that will send you a push notification to pester you after a specific amount of time.
As you use QualityTime more, the app will collect enough data to compile weekly and monthly breakdowns of which apps you spend the most time with. The app is free to use, and you can see 14 days of usage data without signing up for an account. If you create a free account, you can see six months of data; the developers plan to offer an optional paid account to expand that beyond six months, according to their FAQ.
Time to take a break
QualityTime isn’t just about giving you information. It also has a nanny mode that will actively block you from using other apps on your phone. Select the “take a break” option from the menu at the bottom of the screen and choose how long you want to go on a digital diet. Once this is enabled, you’ll see a countdown with an option to make a phone call or override the downtime if you need to break your self-imposed phone fast.
Even if you close QualityTime and try to launch another app, the break mode will override your choice and kick you back over to the countdown screen.
Be more strategic with your home screen
The biggest highlight for me was how QualityTime’s analysis helped me to better arrange the apps on my home screen. For example, I found I was using Falcon Pro 3 significantly more than any other social media app. So there was no need to keep it buried inside of a folder labeled “social” when I was barely touching Facebook and Instagram.
One oddity I noticed was that when the break time was enabled, the app would disappear from the multitasking menu after time expired. It made for a rather odd workflow, as I had to find the app on the home screen instead of just cycling through the multitasking cards. This occurred on a Nexus 5 running the latest build of Lollipop, so your experience could be different.
The information is valuable, though time will tell if it becomes essential to hold on to this app or if the data’s relevance will start to fade. However, if you’ve wondered how you spend your waking hours on your phone QualityTime is a good way to dive into the problem and find out.
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