Are you spending too much time on your phone and too little engaging with the real world? If Google Digital Wellbeing won’t work on your phone, these alternatives may cure your addiction.
There has been increasing concern that we are spending too much time on our mobile phones and that is detrimental to our health, both physical and mental. Look around in cafes and you can often see people sitting together but they may as well be miles apart because they are staring at their phones instead of talking to each other. Digital interactions have replaced a lot of real interactions.
We often spend our leisure time playing games on our phones, tablets, or computers instead of going outside and taking part in real sport in the fresh air. We spend hours each day staring at our phones, checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social apps instead of engaging in real activities.
At one time we used to slump in front of the TV and switch off our minds, but today we slump with our phones in our hands. Are we addicted to our phone?
It just isn’t good for you!
You might think that you are not spending all that much time using your phone, but your estimate of the time spent and the apps you use could be wrong. You might be spending far too more time doing unproductive activities that you think. How can you tell? With a phone usage monitor.
Apple built a phone usage monitor into iOS and iPhones and iPads can tell you how much time you spent on the device and which apps you use the most, but what about Android phones?
Monitor Android phone usage
Google has developed its own phone monitoring service and it is called Digital Wellbeing. Right now, this is only available on a couple of top-end phones running Android 9, which means that the majority of people do not have access to it.
This could change in the future and if you are reading this in six months time then maybe the app will work on more phones and older versions of Android. Don’t worry if you cannot run Digital Wellbeing, or if you don’t want to run Google’s app because, well, it’s Google, the company that tracks everything you do in order to sell more ads. There are alternatives to Digital Wellbeing.
Your phone already monitors your activities to a certain extent and it logs app usage and time spent using them. The following apps read the information that is stored and when they are first used you must give permission for them to access the data.
Action Dash: Digital Wellbeing & Screen Time Helper
Price: Free | By: Action Launcher | Size: 6 MB | Android: 5.0 and up
Action Dash starts with a great dashboard that shows weekly and daily usage statistics in a circular graphic with icons showing the most used apps. It displays the number of times the phone was unlocked each day and the number of notifications.
The time tab shows the number of minutes you spent staring at the phone’s screen and the time spent in each app. This information is available as a daily summary or an hour by hour breakdown. It shows the times you most use your phone.
The number of times each app is launched is available, both as a a daily summary and hourly breakdown. There is a similar view for notifications and phone unlocks.
The information the app makes available about your phone usage is comprehensive and useful. There are simple charts and lists everywhere and everything you need to know about your phone usage is at hand. Best of all, the phone usage information is presented in a very clear and easy to read display.
The one missing feature is the ability to limit app usage or at least warn you if you are spending too much time in an app. The usage tracking is excellent though.
The app is ad-supported, but they don’t get in the way and there is an option to add extra features and remove adverts for a small payment.
Usage Time – Phone Usage Manager
Price: Free | By: Agooday | Size: 4 MB | Android: 5.0 and up
Usage Time has a straightforward home screen that makes it easy to see usage statistics. A circular widget at the top shows the total time spent on your phone and the apps that you have spent most time using.
A chart in the bottom half of the screen shows daily phone usage times for that last week so you can see which days you used your phone the most. Tapping a day updates the usage display in the top half of the screen, which makes it easy to see a daily usage breakdown.
The number of times the phone was unlocked and the number of notifications displayed is also shown.
This home screen summary is useful, but you can also switch to a screen that contains detailed information. It lists all apps that have been used, how many times they were used and the total time spent with each one. The list can be sorted by usage time, last used or frequency.
A useful feature of this listing is that you can choose to show today, the last 7 or 30 days, or use a custom date range. This makes it easy to check your usage over various time periods.
Another useful feature of the app is Downtime. A schedule can be selected by setting the start and end time, like 8 PM to 8 AM or whatever suits you. You then choose which apps are allowed during this time and which are not. It could be used to focus on work or to switch off in the evening and avoid using your phone unnecessarily.
If you are tempted to use an app, a message appears on the screen reminding you that this is scheduled Downtime, but gives you the option to go ahead and use it anyway. It can therefore easily be ignored, but the reminder is helpful.
The app is ad-supported and there is an annoying full screen ad when switching views. However, it is very cheap to remove ads.
StayFree – Phone Usage Tracker & Overuse Reminder
Price: Free | By: Burak Kuyucu | Size: 6 MB | Android: 5.0 and up
StayFree is a highly rated app on the Google Play Store and it does the job of tracking your phone activities very well.
The home screen is a little dull and where some apps show interesting charts, StayFree uses a simple list of apps that are ordered with the most used at the top. Well just under top, the top item is the total time spent in all apps. The number of times each app has been used is displayed, the time spent in each app is shown and you can see the total time spent on your phone today.
Tapping an app in the list enables you to set an alarm that is triggered after using it too much. You choose how many minutes or hours a day you want to limit yourself to and then StayFree will warn you when that limit is reached. Apps can also be taken off the monitored list so they are not tracked.
Tap an app and you can choose to view its history as a colourful bar chart showing the number of minutes it has been used over the past week. There are Daily and weekly pie charts showing app usage are also available to Premium app users.
More features for Premium users include no adverts, a home screen widget and a block mode that prevents you from over-using apps. However, the app promotes subscriptions, which add up to a significant amount over time.
The app is pretty good in its free form and the time limits for apps is a useful feature, but the Premium version is more expensive than many rivals.
Your Hour – phone addiction tracker and controller
Price: Free | By: Mindefy Labs | Size: 8 MB | Android: 5.0 and up
Your Hour is a great app for monitoring and limiting your phone usage and it has more features than some rivals. It is packed with nice little additions to use monitoring that you might not have thought of.
The home screen shows a circular clock-like graphic with usage bars going around the circumference. In the centre is the time left. This app not only monitors your phone usage, it tries to limit it as well and the time left is one way to do this.
In the app settings you can set a daily usage time limit, which can be anything from 15 minutes to six hours. There is also an unlock limit that ranges from five to 100 times a day. This enables you to set targets and try to reduce the time spent staring at your mobile. A floating timer is also available and if you want it, it will display the time spent in an app as a tiny floating widget on the screen. This is excellent and very useful.
Also on the home screen are the total usage time and unlock count. Swipe up and today’s phone usage as a bar chart showing usage per hour is displayed. It shows the times of the day when you spent most time on your phone. There is also a seven-day usage chart.
There is a fascinating timeline that displays every interaction with your phone today starting from the first time you picked it up. For example, at 7.09 you unlocked it, at 7.10 you checked Facebook, at 7.20 you… and so on.
If this is too detailed, there is a simple app list that shows how much time you spent in each app. Tap an app and its details screen appears, which shows today’s usage, the last seven days, average usage per day, total usage, number of times launched, charts showing usage over the last week, and launch count charts.
There is a lot of detailed information about each app’s usage, but it is all presented in a clear manner and it is easy to understand. Time limits can be set individually for apps.
In addition to monitoring the time spent using apps, you can start challenges and these can be basic, intermediate or advanced. A basic challenge is to not use your phone, except for calls, for one hour. Select an app and don’t use it for the next two hours, or select an app and use it for less than 20 minutes today. The idea is to help break your phone addiction.
This free app has a lot of features, but even more are available in the Premium version. which is reasonably priced.
App Usage – Manage/Track Usage
Price: Free | By: Sam Lu | Size: 5 MB | Android: 4.1 and up
App Usage has a number of unique features and this makes it one of the more interesting apps here. For example, the Overview screen is a calendar and your phone usage is displayed on the days of the calendar. Although it enables you to see usage on any day, a bar chart is more useful and there is a standard bar chart view that shows phone usage, which is similar to other apps.
There is also a Timeline View. It shows which apps you used, when you used them and for how long throughout the day. Everything is listed and it makes interesting reading. Apps can be tapped to view the history. A Detailed view shows tiles for every app used today with times and percentages. Tapping a tile opens the detailed view for that app.
The app shows several other views, like daily and weekly statistics, check device history, notification history, and installs history, the battery history and battery drain over time, and a heatmap showing hotspots at times you used the phone the most. They are all different ways to view app usage.
An over-use reminder can be enabled and this lets you select apps for which you want to limit usage and those you want to allow unlimited usage. A daily time limit can be set and if you over-use an app, a reminder is displayed on the screen. There is also a device over-use reminder and another if you check your phone too much, basically an unlock counter.
The app is free, but as usual there is a Pro version that ads more features and removes ads. There are several payment options and annual subscription is good value, costing little more than a good cup of coffee.
The best of these four phone usage monitors is Your Hour. It has a great rage of features for monitoring phone usage and displaying detailed statistics. It has features for limiting the time you spend on your phone in general and also in specific apps. The challenges are useful for encouraging you to spend less time on your mobile.
Coming close second are Action Dash and App Usage, which are notable for their good range of charts and displays showing app and phone usage. You could spend a lot of time just analysing the data.